We, adults, have been doing our boys a great disservice in terms of emotional support, and that’s no secret. Society has been telling us that boys have to be “tough” and “strong” for so long now, and showing emotions is “weak” and “feminine”. This results in them not knowing how to express emotion like displeasure and sadness, because we’ve been teaching them to suppress these emotions. And as we all know, bottling up your emotions is NOT a good thing.
According to research, boys actually need more emotional support than girls. However, because of societal expectations and gender stereotypes, we are (often) not giving it to them. It is scientifically proven that boys are more emotionally vulnerable while still in utero, as there are biological differences between the ways boys’ and girls’ brains develop.
For some reason, though, we’re not talking enough about these differences – and if we continue to do that, we’re putting our boys in danger.
A study conducted by Sebastian Kreamer called “The Fragile Male”, males are at a disadvantage from conception, long before the social constructs even have a chance to have an effect. Male embryos are more vulnerable to maternal stress, and according to his study, male fetuses are more susceptible to things like cerebral palsy. Male stillbirths are more common, and they are more likely to be born prematurely.
Boys can sometimes seem like feral creatures: they’re constantly moving, they’re loud, they’re rambunctious and they can be very exhausting, even in those early months. However, Dr. Allan Schore of the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine points out that infant boys should form a positive relationship with their parents or caregivers on their development and emotional strength.
“In light of the male infant’s slower brain maturation, the secure mother’s attachment-regulating function as a sensitively responsive, interactive affect regulator of his immature right brain in the first year is essential to optimal male socioemotional development,” – he says.
Jessica Raven, the executive director for the Collective Action for Safe Spaces says that young boys are taught early that expressing their emotions is taboo. This can cause long-term harm to their relationships with other people, no matter the gender.
Subscribing to these antic beliefs about ‘how a boy is supposed to handle his feelings’ leads to them not having a proper outlet.
If we do not acknowledge that boys have feelings, and if we don’t give them the proper avenues to explore those complex emotions that make them human, we will only set them up to keep repeating the cycle of toxic masculinity and oppression. There’s enough scientific evidence now that these things are VERY real, and it’s very important to raise a healthy, well-rounded boy.
Stop trying to make your son ‘a tough guy’, and try to give him the space to be an emotionally secure, fully-formed person.