Last week, my seven-year-old boy, Anas, came back home after school crying his heart out. When I asked him about the reason, he told me he didn’t win in the finals of the French spelling bee competition. I gave him a warm hug and explained that it’s okay to be sad and to lose, then I let him cry as much as he wanted before trying to calm him down or lecture him.
Ten minutes later, his friend’s mom called me to give me an advice after seeing him cry at school. “You need to teach him that it is inappropriate to cry in front of anyone because he is a little man and MEN DON’T CRY,” she said.
I never get the concept that involves deciding the way a human being should express emotions based on gender. Do we need to teach our boys not to cry and not to express their feelings the way they want? Why do we trap boys in a gender stereotype and decide for them? Some people think that expressing emotions is a weakness and teach their kids that they should suppress feelings.
Is it really okay for boys to cry?
According to studies conducted at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, babies and very young boys were just as emotional as little girls. Boys were also more socially oriented than girls and were more likely to look at their mothers and display facial expressions of joy. So, why do we force them to contain emotions?
As a mother of two boys, I would love to raise an emotionally intelligent child who will grow into a man who can express his feelings in a healthy way. Emotions will always be there and will not just evaporate if we don’t express or handle them correctly.
We always ask boys to be strong and not to cry, yet, we don’t realize that we are raising men to hide their emotions in a misguided attempt to display strength. I am against parenting my son this way. I believe it is a harmful concept for his humanity and internal peace. I also believe that every human being in this world has the right to recognize what actually triggers him and our role as parents is to help him develop healthy and productive means of dealing with emotions.
What will preventing boys from crying actually teach them?
Crying is the natural response of our bodies to emotions. When we ask boys to stop crying, we send them an indirect message that it is wrong and unallowed to express sadness, anger, and feelings in general.
Child and adolescent psychologist, Eva Lazar, explained that boys, in particular, are told that showing sadness isn’t masculine and vulnerability is not acceptable. It teaches boys and young men that in order to be a real man, we need to restrict our emotions and not express what we’re feeling.
Lazar advised using such opportunities to connect and talk to your child and let them know you’re really listening to them. Instead of telling your boy to stop crying, label their feelings for them, tell them it is okay to be sad, show empathy and validate their feelings, but don’t run to the rescue and offer help.
When our little boys cry, it is a chance to connect with them, show them that we are here for them, and encourage them to have a conversation about their feelings.