“Don’t cry! Boys don’t cry!”
“Leave it for her! Give it to your sister! Don’t you know you are a boy?!”
These are just a few of the statements we make to our boys, as they interact socially with other boys and girls (sisters or otherwise). We have inadvertently and subconsciously created a cultural pressure on boys, from a tender age, not to express their emotions. I find this strange, and quite frankly, a bit bizarre, since it is one sure way to block his first pathways to developing emotional literacy.
November 19th was “International men’s day” where men come together to speak on issues affecting them as well as how they can help the next generation. A lot of men find it extremely difficult to express themselves, this was borne out of their childhood upbringing and the culture of shame. The baggage of childhood trauma for men leaves them heavily damaged emotionally.
Emotional expression is a powerful tool, to help boys when they become men, in their family life, relationship and work.
We are quick to tell them to “shut up” and “be quiet”. They are boys; the very essence of their nature, goes against being quiet and calm, imposing this constant reminder on them, alters their psychological blueprint, causing them to develop into tight lipped individuals, secretive and incapable of properly expressing their feelings (Sound like some men you know?).
They nurse a fear of being seen or tagged as weak, so they dare not express themselves, preferring to remain emotional paralyzed by whatever it is they are dealing with. “Who wrote this crazy rule book? Twisted and flawed at its very core. We need to deconstruct and reconstruct this manual.
Do you teach your sons about emotional hygiene? How to take their emotions, scrub them out and hang them out to dry? How to get clean in their minds? No, you do not. It is the women who complain, nag and talk. Boys ought to suck it up and push through the strain. Boys are not permitted to show pain; like when you put some iodine on that wound, or administer injections at the clinic, that’s what you tell them. They need to look strong on the outside; never mind how broken and in pieces they are on the inside.
So, while the external and physical wounds heal, the psychological wounds fester. But a boy’s broken leg, is just as bad an injury, as a broken psyche; and emotional injuries, when not properly handled, take much longer to heal, and you cannot say to him “just shake it off”, for either of them.
Teach your sons empathy; allow them express their feelings, even when it means CRYING. Teach them how that men are allowed to cry.
Teach them it’s okay not to dominate!
Teach them it’s okay to fail and to lose!
Teach them, it’s okay to have women as just friends and respect them!
Teach them, to protect their women, as also to protect themselves, for their women!
Teach them, it’s okay for a woman to be as successful, and more successful, than a man!
Teach them, it’s okay to need help and to ask for help, even from a woman!
Teach them, that the future is human; its neither male nor female!
Teach them, that it’s better to be a good human, than a good man!
You will notice, I did not say, “Tell them”, I said “Teach them”. Start scripting empathy into your sons by showing them, not just telling them, and maybe you might just break the prevalent cycle, and produce a better man, than you, your father or any other man, before him.