Boys Don't Cry?

There have been some comments about Gavin crying so much that sometimes it isn’t clear whether he is a girl or a boy.  It has been making me wonder if I molly-coddle my son too much and whether I need to be tougher with him.  I think a lot of it has to do with society’s gender stereotyping with ideas that boys don’t cry – or at least they shouldn’t. The expectation that boys need to “suck it up” is not healthy.  According to Baby Center:

This attitude does boys a real disservice… Boys raised with this approach can become emotionally stifled and stay that way as adults.

In recent years, girls and women have been encouraged to be more assertive and decisive…  But there hasn’t been as much encouragement for men and boys to take on more feminine traits, such as showing emotion.

Statistics have always shown that more women have psychological problems and it was assumed that this is because women were more prone to the afflictions of the mind.  It is now believed that this may be a misrepresentation because less men are forthcoming with their problems and are less likely to seek help.  I think this is largely because of the way men have been raised – not to show emotion or weakness.  Any medical problems associated with the mind are viewed as weaknesses rather than a true medical problem.

So perhaps raising our boys to believe that boys don’t cry is not the way to go.  If a boy is crying, he should receive the same attention and concern that a girl would.  We should be glad that our sons are able to express their fears and hurts rather than trying to get them to repress their feelings.

Personally, I would prefer for my son to express his feelings and be open with me when he’s scared or hurt.  However, I don’t want him getting teased at school for being a “sook” or a “wuss”.  So where do we draw the line?

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Boys Don't Cry?

  1. I think you should draw the line at bullying. Victims of bullying getting called terms like “wussy/pussy”, “wimp”, “crybaby” and “girl” can be really damaging for girls and boys. If you are concerned with your son being mistreated at school, those issues need to be discussed with teachers and the offending students’ parents. Treating others with respect is an obligation we all have to other members of society. Just because a boy is crying and not fitting into our extremely disruptive and sometimes inappropriate gender rolls such as, ‘boys don’t cry’ does not mean he deserves to be disrespected. I am a strong believer that children have a right to display their emotions and that all emotions are valid. Children feel the range from overjoyed to enraged to depressed and everywhere in between. I don’t believe any child, male or female, should be put down because they express an emotion. There are inappropriate ways of expressing emotions, for example, hitting when one is angry. Perhaps, one way to handle tears as a way of expressing sadness might be to encourage some introspection. If Gavin starts feeling the tears well up, assure him he has a right to feel sad and has a right to deal with his emotion and express it appropriately. If he needs some time for composure, perhaps teachers can work to help provide him with a place for him to cry or do whatever he needs to do to bring himself back to a functional emotional state. We all need time to ourselves, sometimes emotions can get so out of control that we need to take a step back. With that in mind, I worry that telling Gavin not to cry in front of others just to avoid public punishment in the form of bullying and name calling isn’t okay. Children need to be taught respect for others above all things and name calling is never a sign of respect. Victims of bullying often will retreat deeper and deeper into themselves instead of expressing themselves, this can lead to extreme depression and even suicide later in adolescence. I am posting a link to a website about abuse in adults, but abuse can and often does start in adolescence. Name calling and bullying are extremely aggressive measures and those students need to learn that it is an unacceptable means of expressing their anger, fear, or jealousy. There is a section of this website that lists a bill of rights in relationships. While, I believe the authors may have intended this to apply to romantic relationships it should apply to ALL relationships including those with our peers starting with our first associations in school. I would focus on making sure that Gavin asserts his rights to his emotions and make sure the teachers understand that each student should treat each other with the same level of respect this bill of rights suggests. http://www.counselingcenter.illinois.edu/?page_id=168

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  2. Thanks for your thoughts Clarissa. You’re absolutely right. We shouldn’t be trying to “toughen” up the boys as a means of protecting them against bullies, we should be doing something about the bullies.

    Thanks for the link!

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