To cry is nature’s way of allowing the body deal with pain and hurt, and it is no respecter of gender.
As a mother of 2 boys and a girl (all under 7 years)…my deepest concern is that I bring them up the best way I know how so as to make them more stable adults in every area of their lives.
I noticed early on that my first is a clinger…a very sensitive boy. His sensitivity drove him to cry at times to the point that he became known as a cry baby. As he got older, I started telling him to zip it. You know why? You guessed it, because he is a boy. So, in wanting to be “a boy”, when he became hurt, he tried so hard to hold back his tears and ended up with a scowl on his face. He would then retreat into himself sulking until he snaps out of it.
My second? Well…He is slightly different. A bottler, he appears to be a tad less sensitive from his brother … and he expresses it differently. He bottles to the point that aggression comes easily to him. He has heard us say to his brother several times…that boys do not cry, (I suspect) so that when he finally cries, you can see in his face…he hates it. … And I realized that, yeah, he was displaying attributes that one would equate to be okay for “a boy”.
If you are a parent to boys, then I am sure you get where I am coming from?
As for my daughter, that is another kettle of fish. Helping girl children deal with their own emotions will be treated in a separate article.
In the course of my parenting journey and researching for WellBaby, it dawned on me that my approach and that of so many parents has been wrong. So wrong.
You don’t think so?
Okay. Let us first establish what Crying is.
Crying is a release. Nature’s process where you shed tears in distress, pain or sorrow. It is also defined as shouting or screaming in fear, pain or grief.
What that means, is that it is as natural as say, needing to relieve your bowels when occasion demands. Implication being that it isn’t gender specific! So…What happens when you try to stifle it? Exactly!
Emotions have to be released one way or the other. If not released via tears which is most times the default setting, then they begin to manifest in unsavoury ways in the long run.
One of these unsavoury but logical ways is violence. Physical violence. Verbal violence. Mental violence. When a man insults and shouts to get his way across…he is trying to project what the culture says a man should be. When a man slaps here, boxes there, kicks and beats…well he is a man. Strong. Aggressive. Assertive.Bold. Proud.
Note though that this violence can be directed at self as well. Little wonder then the highest number of suicide and mental illness (such as depression) victims are men. Living in denial of self brings with it a truckload of issues.
A FEW FACTS
- 3 out of every 4 suicides are by men (reference: ONS)
- Suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 (reference: ONS)
- 87% of rough sleepers are men (reference: Crisis)
- Men are 3 times more likely to become alcohol dependent about 8.7 men as against 3.3% women (reference: HSCIC)
- Men commit 86% of violent crimes (reference: ONS)
- Men are more likely to use and die from illegal drugs (reference: Information Centre)
- Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women (reference: IAPT)
More and more it is becoming apparent that it is unfair to allow our boys…and girls grow up under this narrative.
Crying is not the sole exclusive of girls. And no, it does not evoke weakness.
The ability to stay true to one’s feelings and not be afraid to express it in a healthy manner is in itself a stronger strength. Pun intended.
When we say, a boy should NOT cry when he has suffered a loss. When he has experienced failure. When he is sad. Even when he is happy. We unintentionally bully our boys into culture’s definition of what masculinity is. Without first appreciating that they are first human beings before they are boys. We then are building up men with serious emotional and bonding issues.
Once as parents, we realize that we hold in our hands the future of the next and present generation, then we will tread more carefully. Or else we keep feeding the flames of depression, suicides, psychological abuse, domestic abuse and violence. And we keep expecting our daughters to take it…because…they are men and that is what they do.
This conversation starts with us. It is a huge responsibility. But then, no one ever said parenting was easy. We make mistakes. We fall. We rise. The worst we can do is never to try. Or to conform to society’s perception without a full grasp of what our children are about.
A man or woman is a result of the nurturing they got as children. Be it good or bad.
I encourage my children to cry, when they need to. I do not belittle their hurt. I try hard not to take away the validity of their pain. They need to feel their pain is valid to me. Even when I discipline them, I allow them cry it out. Except when they disturb the neighbors and then I demand they tone it down (lol). Then after the release, we look at possible solutions.
However, I am smart enough to realize the importance of maintaining balance.
Knowing children for who they are, there is a tendency for them to want to manipulate you with their tears to get things to go their way.
DO NOT feed that mentality! I beg you!
Children are never too young to learn. They are smarter than we give them credit for. They soak up everything they see and hear. Then they try to push boundaries…just to gauge our responses. Do not be ensnared by their ways. It is not about being heartless or weak. It is about being a parent.
Teach them not to use tears to get what they want. That is when crying becomes a weakness.
I have told my children, it is okay to cry. When hurt. When angry. But it is not okay to cry because you want favors. Or you desire something. And that is the truth. You need to learn how to know the difference and let them know you know when they are being naughty with their tears. Teach them to verbalise their needs, desires or wants…not cry.
You want to develop in them a sense of inner strength and value for self reliance. Instill in them a desire for logical problem solving and taking responsibility for their actions. Good or bad. An acceptance that in life, yes sometimes shit happens. We do not want to have lazy adults as children. Imagine the havoc on the society, in their own homes.
Hey, life is flexible…don’t be a robot with your children. Once in a while give in to their tears, but DO NOT make it a habit.
At the end of the day, I want my boys to grow into full human beings. There will be moments of physical and emotional pain, failure, loss, sorrow, heartbreak, betrayal. As much as we want to wish these away for our children…again shit happens. I want to know that if and when they do get to experience these vast emotions that come with being human; they are ready to deal with each appropriately as well grounded individuals and not cry babies.
I want the lucky (yes, lucky) ladies who end up with my sons to know that they got the real deal. Men who are strong and comfortable in who they are. Men who empathise and are compassionate. Men so in tune with their feelings that verbalizing and expressing them positively is not a challenge. Men mature enough to deal with disagreements in a respectful and non violent manner. Men who love in the true sense of the word. Men responsible enough to apologise when they are wrong. Men who know what true and deep seated happiness is. Men who understand loyalty and appreciate different points of view. Men who will not succumb to unhealthy bouts of depression. Men who can rise to the occasion in the midst of challenges. But above all, men who will further raise their own children in the exact same way.
Sounds like a tall dream right? But it is possible. It starts from me. From you. Right now. When next your boy child comes to you in tears. What will you do?
What do you want? For your sons? And their families?
Happy Parenting folks!!