I’ve heard the phrase, “Men don’t cry”, so much that I’m always in shock whenever I see a man cry.
I don’t know why I react this way. I cry once in a while myself, so why does it seem strange to see a man cry?
It is a common trend in our society that the expression of weak emotions such as crying is for women and hence, a man has no business crying. We often, either explicitly or implicitly, groom our boys into this ideology.
In society today, there are certain behaviours attributed to the male gender. They include anger, doggedness, dominance, aggression, and many more.
We accommodate these behaviours, even when they tend to lead to social vices because we do not want to raise “weak boys” or boys, who in the eyes of society, are considered soft.
We groom our boys to block out emotions that make them human and embrace emotions that enhance their animalistic nature. Perhaps, this could be because we do not understand what emotional health is.
What is Emotional Health?
Emotional health entails being aware of, understanding and managing one’s emotions. This is not something that you stumble upon. Having good emotional health results from years of discipline and training throughout childhood.
Why Emotional Health is Important for Boys
Children learn almost everything they know as they observe parents, relatives, and society at large. Oftentimes, society promotes certain emotions for the male child over others through daily interactions, movies, or social media. These preferred emotions take dominance over other emotions and are considered more important.
The aggressiveness, masculinity, toughness, and show of strength the boy child is exposed to eventually causes him to gravitate towards neglecting or silencing other emotions. He begins to see crying, expressing sadness and concerns as a sign of weakness.
The idea is that a man doesn’t show any weakness. Well, the truth is, as humans, all emotions are present and can manifest at any time. If it is concealed, it will burst out someday. That is why we hear of suicides and physical abuse. Those are bottled-up emotions finding expression.
There is, therefore, the need to strike a balance when training boys, to avoid a misconstrued idea of masculinity developing in our male child, thereby ruining society in its wake.
What To Do As Parents
Allow Your Boys to Cry
It is a known fact that children learn by observation. As a parent, whatever you say is good is often what the child believes is good.
Be careful of how you react when your boy child is hurt and he cries. Frowning at him might send the message that he shouldn’t cry.
Every human feels hurt and crying is usually the best way to be relieved of that emotion. So let your boy child cry as much as you let your girl child cry.
Express genuine sympathy for his pain and attend to him. Fight the temptation to dismiss his feelings or treat them like they are nothing. Doing so will make the child begin to hide his emotions and not talk to you when something is wrong.
Listen When Your Boys Talk
Make the home comfortable by encouraging everyone to express how they feel. Express how you feel frequently and encourage them to do so too. You can start by asking engaging questions and listening to their replies. Be a good listener and empathize when there is a need.
Encouraging your boys to talk will help them explore their emotions and better understand why they feel the way they do. It will help them observe the effects of those emotions on others.
Lead by Example
You cannot teach something without first practising it yourself. Be that emotionally healthy man and woman you want your boys to be.
Express your emotions too. Allow them to see that vulnerable side of you, just as they see the strong side. Treat other people right.
Refrain from using abusive words around the house. Let what your children see you do be what you expect from them. Set a positive example for your boys.
Limit Their Exposure to Violence
It is important to regulate their exposure to violence. Violent movies and shows should be avoided if possible.
No matter how interesting the movie is, do not watch such in front of your boys. Refrain from fighting in public and the home. A father who goes about fighting cannot influence his boys positively. The same goes for the mother.
Discuss Heroes and Their Values
In your interactions with your children, always introduce them to heroes who lived valuable lives.
Discuss those heroes and their impact on society with your male child. Listen to his opinions and correct wrong impressions. Buy books, autobiographies, and movies featuring these heroes and have them read and watch these movies.
Do Not Make Fun of Them or Their Interests
Your male child may prefer to grow flowers and vegetables instead of woodwork and engineering.
He may prefer to cook with his mother, instead of doing other male stuff. Do not ridicule him. Do not make fun of his interests or belittle them.
A home should be a place where children can fully express themselves. If you think his interests are not suitable, you can gradually introduce him to other things without making him feel less like a boy.
Spend Time With Them
Spending time with your children cannot be overemphasized. It is a necessity. Parents who are too busy often raise children who are estranged from them.
Be actively involved in your son’s life. Be there at every stage, cheering him on. When you’re always there, you’ll be able to detect when something is wrong and correct it before it is too late.
Boys are delicate beings; strong on the outside, yet tender on the inside. They require special care and attention. Boys are expected to grow into men and take responsibility for their families. They can’t do that if they are not groomed right. Being emotionally stable is one way to ensure they live healthy lives.