Enough of Saying "Toughen Up Boy"! Show Him Emotional Support
Boys have to be tough.
Boys don't cry.
Boys don't take a hit, they hit back.
These are just a few of the many stereotypes associated with boys but are these really true?
When my son was a baby, I was constantly advised not to carry him around or else he will get used to it that it will become a problem for me and other family members. In Hindi, it was, "usko godi ki aadat pad jayegi". When he cried, the general advice was to check if he is hungry or needs a nappy change and that's it. Whether he needed emotional assurance, nobody talked about it. By the time he was 2, he suffered from acute separation anxiety where he would not just let me go out of his sight and cried to the point of exhaustion if I went out of sight. He is 6 now and there is still some amount of anxiety in him. He is not a tough one, for sure.
Boys more emotionally fragile than girls
According to a study called The Fragile Male, which was published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, baby boy’s brains are more fragile and receptive to their mother’s moods and emotions.
Once they are born, their brain is not as developed as that of a baby girl’s brain, which has been found to be more advanced by at least six weeks.
It might also come as a surprise to some that according to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association: boys are inherently more emotionally sensitive than girls.
Now, if boys are emotionally sensitive, then all the talks and the parenting philosophy of 'manning them up' goes totally against their basic nature. It will not be wrong to say that it is grossly damaging for the boys. Encouraging boys to build a tough exterior might inadvertently discourage boys from showing sensitivity and expressing their emotions sows the seeds of what can grow into toxic masculinity.
We have spent generations giving our boys more material and false entitlements over our girls, but what they require is not entitlements but emotional support, even more than our girls.
How can we, as parents, be more emotionally supportive to our sons?
- The first step is to see your son as a child rather than a boy. This will be helpful in seeing beyond the set stereotypes.
- Pay attention to his emotions. Be available to hear him out and acknowledge his difficulties. Do not deny or downplay his struggles.
- Reassure him that his emotions matter. Do not be dismissive when your son shows sensitivity. Do not judge him.
- As parents, it can be difficult to admit that you need others’ guidance when it comes to your kids, but this will sometimes be the case. Speak to someone you can trust or seek professional help.
- There’s nothing like freeing up hours of your day just to focus on him, especially when he is having a difficult time.
- Shower plenty of hugs, reason or no reason. Don't keep your son deprived of the magical power of hugs.
- Above all, care for your own emotional well-being. It takes happy and content parents to help kids grow into well-adjusted, emotionally savvy adults.
As in my case, taking a cue from Munnabhai, we gave a lot of 'jaadu ki jhappi' (hugs) to each other and that did the mending of the initial damage, to a great extent.
Also read: 5 Ways Boys Are Different From Girls
Explore the entire collection of articles: Parenting Gyaan#genderstereotypes #raisingboys