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The powerful subconscious ways we suppress boys emotional growth and why

I’m thrilled to be welcoming Emet, our third  son into the world. And as I do I’m reminded of how skewed we all are about little boys and little girls and our expectations of them.
When people hear I have three sons they often jump to the conclusion that it must mean wild, dirty, aggressive behavior. Sure, sometimes it does. Often it’s my daughter leading the wild way!
I don’t deny for a minute that there are gendered tendencies (on average men are taller than women. Perhaps on average boys like playing with cars). But I don’t see how these expectations serve us when it comes to individuals – who often don’t fit into that “averaged out” box (some men are shorter than some women)…
One of the main disservices I’ve seen that we (including myself) do to little boys is to encourage them to be tough, to suppress their emotions and to harden their little hearts.

Here are 10 things I’m working on becoming more conscious of within myself, about how I speak to and condition my little boys. I’d love to hear your additions and edits in the comments below.

  1. Boy’s Don’t Cry

    We tend to shut down boys emotions much quicker than girls, or take them far less seriously. Hence our emotionally stumped men.

    “It’s OK to cry”
    “Awww. that was really disappointing/ that hurt/ you’re sad!”

  2. Like a Girl!
    “You’re throwing like a girl!” 

    We teach little boys that being like a girl in any way is bad. And then we’re surprised when men act superior to women.

    Instead: “Nice throw! Let’s shoot it harder this time.”

    We teach little boys that being like a girl in any way is bad. And then we’re surprised when men act superior to women.via @ParentingJunkieTweet This

  3. Be a Man!

    Little boys are not men, let’s not rush them into growing up. Let’s allow them to embrace their full childhood!

    Instead: “It is hard, I understand! How can we solve this problem?”

  4. Suck it Up!

    We expect little boys to suppress their emotions and to be toughies. But ‘sucking up’ feelings doesn’t make them go away, they simply resurface through challenging behavior.

    Instead: “Do you need a hug?”

  5. You’re So Wild!

    Just because a kid is a boy we immediately peg their enthusiastic, active behavior as “wild”. This doesn’t serve their self image as focused, regulated people who are also excited at times…and it shames them for needing to move their bodies which is natural!

    Instead: “I can see we need to move let’s get outside!”

  6. You love sports!

    Men grow up feeling that if they’re not star athletes and ripping it at the gym, they’re not “worthy”. Some might love this, but for others – competitive sports isn’t their thing. Let’s let them decide.

    Instead: “What do you love playing?”

  7. You Love Math! …

    Math is awesome. And hopefully all kids learn to love it. But let’s not shove boys into a STEM box that they might not want to fit into. Boys can love art, dance and music as well…

    Instead: “What do you love to explore.”

  8. You Can’t Be a…

    Teacher… nurse… florist…
    When little boys express interest in typically ‘feminine’ domains they’re often discouraged. And then we’re surprised that they’re underrepresented in these workplaces.

    Instead: “Cool! What makes you interested in nursing?”

  9. We Don’t Have Boy Toys!

    Guys. There’s no such thing as “boy toys” or “girls toys”. There’s just “toys”. Sure, on average there may be tendencies according to gender, but why exacerbate that by  labelling?

    Instead: “We have some awesome toys for you.”

  10. Let the Girls Do That.

    Boys need to know they’re expected to care for others, to clean up, to nurture and empathize. Don’t expect the girls to do it for them and neither will they.

    Instead: “Encourage boys to step up to caregiving roles.”

    Have a Girl in Your Life? | 10 Things to Stop Saying to Girls

I want my sons to know that…

  • He can feel sad, disappointed, hurt and vulnerable and he can express these feelings in whatever way is true for him without being judged or ridiculed.
  • He can express his artistic, feminine, nurturing side and doing so only compliments his masculinity
  • He is expected to care for our home, our family and our community and to be nurturing and empathic to the people around him.
  • He is allowed and encouraged to explore any type of vocation, hobby, interest or topic that calls to him.
  • His high energy and need to move are celebrated and catered for, not a burden to be tamed.

What is your favorite of these 10 things? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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8 Replies to “10 Things to STOP Saying to BOYS”

  1. When my son is upset with his granfather, he comes to me for a hug.
    His granfather feels criticized and says: ” Oh , go to your mummy. Mama’s boy.”

    This hurts.

  2. I find other family members constantly trying to make my 3 year old be more masculine, like “boys don’t cry” and “throwing like a girl” (or anything else like a girl). He is a really tenderhearted boy, and I know that he could do some great things if he’s not pushed into the gender binary that he has to be a masculine boy in order to be perceived as a true boy/man.

  3. My son shows introverted tendencies, which is not surprising to me, given that my husband and I are both introverts. I have done some reading on introverts, and can now fully embrace this part of my personality and the need for introverts in this world, but whenever my parents see my son displaying these characteristics, e.g. preferring to stay and play at home a lot of the time rather than going out, or feeling overwhelmed and shy when there are lots of kids running around in a playgroup or park situation, they say things like “We need to toughen him up. We don’t want him to be a sissy.”

    1. Introverts can be misunderstood in our extrovert-obsessed society, he’s lucky to have a mama who understands this about him. I have a son who’s similar temperament and I learn so much from him xxx

  4. Raising a little boy in Balkans, so number 1 and 2 are heard waaay to much in our society. I never tell those things to my boy myself, but everyone around, including my husband, do. I have to tell you that I stumbled upon your videos some time ago now and have already applied many advises (currently working on “stop saying `stop whining` to a child that’s whining” 🙂 ). Thank you very much for that! I also loved the observation on toys in this text and couldn’t agree with you more on offering all kinds of toys to all children. I actually bought a beautiful hand made boy doll guided by one of your previous videos and offered it to my son, he still prefers construction vehicles but I still love the doll, so we’re good 🙂
    Congratulations on your new family member and all the best from our family to yours! Looking forward to learning new approaches from your videos and your online community.

    1. Thanks for sharing that Jelena! Awesome to hear you’re seeing good results! My boys also prefer typically ‘boy’ toys most of the time but I love catching them playing house, dolls etc… <3

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