Shortly after boys enter into their second phase of life, which is around 7-years-old, they realize the world is made up of hard lined rules. As each year passes they lose a little bit of their playful spontaneous side to meet societal expectations. With this partial loss of the innocent self comes automatic behaviors that they’ll develop to keep themselves in check. When these automatic messages such as, I will be a good kid, get stressed or stretched to the maximum they may feel out of control or out of touch.
In the ‘old days’ boys were allowed to play until dark and generally had no homework until they were in middle school. In addition to developmental life changes, we’re seeing more rigorous standards placed on younger kids in the school system. With the raise of early childhood diagnoses common amongst boys such as ADD, ADHD, Sensory Processing Issues and Autism, we need to be even more equipped as parents to be our kids best advocate. That means taking time to teach them ‘they’ are ultimately in control, they are fully competent, and have resources to help them through tough emotional times. Like adults, we all need support systems and that’s the core message all kids need to know, especially boys.
Boys can be easily stereotyped as tough, shut-off, stoic, hyper, rational minded and untouched by deep emotions. If there’s any one-core element to life that I want my boys to know is that hope is possible and even teachable. Boys fall prey to maintaining the male ‘status quo’ by choosing to consciously keep their mouths shut when they have a strong need for emotional expression. Boys may even shut down and are unlikely to express ideas they stand for that may reveal a more feminine side. If we instill hope and encourage healthy emotional expression throughout their childhood and adolescence, they’ll grow up to be strong, feeling, flexible, compassionate and expressive adults.
Men by nature are problem solvers. They are great black and white thinkers and are efficient decision makers who don’t need to operate from emotions. Yet when men seek companionship, they seek a partner who is emotional and sensitive. We’re attracted to others who posses qualities we don’t have but desire to be around. If this is true, then it behooves parents to raise our boys with the idea that full emotional expression is healthy and attractive. Young men need to know that it’s okay to have an opinion that accompanies a strong emotion.
Let’s teach our kids that all emotions are apart of the human condition so when they feel sorrow and feel the need to cry it’s okay. Real men cry. Real men recognize their emotions and also know when to feel them or to appropriately process them. Parents who are in touch with their feelings can seamlessly teach their children emotional control and boost emotional intelligence. When we raise our boys to accept that all emotions are okay, then they raise their kids with the same ideals.
The world needs more men who cry.