5 Tips for Raising Emotionally Balanced Boys
Girls aren't the only ones growing up amid unhealthy gender stereotypes. Here are five simple ways to help your boy stay balanced in a "Be a man" and "Boys don't cry" kind of world.
As a mom to two sons, I am keenly aware of the gender expectations and stereotypes that weigh on boys and men in our culture. As this Upworthy video shows, the consequences of growing up with the belief that emotions are a sign of weakness can be damaging, at best, and devastating, at worst. Here are five simple ways you can help your little boy find—and keep—his emotional health and balance as he grows.
1. Encourage Emotional Expression
There’s no doubt about it: listening to our kids whine or scream can be grating on the nerves. But telling a child to stop crying teaches him to repress those feelings instead of experiencing them in a healthy way. Help your child put words to the emotion before helping him to work through it by brainstorming for a solution, or simply by acknowledging that what he’s feeling is real and okay.
“My son cries easily, which I think is mainly due to his age—he’s 3 ½,” says Valerya Rose Baker, a mom of four in Tijeras, New Mexico. “When he does, I hug him, and ask what’s wrong (I do the same with the girls). I also try to identify the emotion he’s feeling so that he can learn how to talk about it.”
Bonus Tip: Remember that modeling healthy emotional expression is the best way to pass these skills on!
2. Read Boy-Positive Picture Books
Reading books that show boys experiencing a range of emotions, from joy to disappointment to compassion, will give your child reference points for—and a sense of acceptance of—his own experience as he grows. The Snowy Day, one of my favorites for young tots, tells the simple, sweet story of a young boy with a rich inner life. I also love Good People Everywhere. Its gentle story affirms that kindness takes place every day, in many ways; one page shows a teenage boy helping a young child who feels sad and lonely.
3. Provide a Range of Role Models
Superheroes are fun and all, but real-life heroes enrich and broaden your boy’s ideas about what men can do and be. Talk about brave men who changed the world without the use of violence—like Martin Luther King, Jr.—and expose your son to real men in a range of social and professional roles, from dancers to doctors to librarians.
Bonus Tip: If dad is in the picture, make sure he has lots of opportunities to provide loving, affectionate care and comfort to your little one. By doing so, he’ll show your son that men (and not just moms) can be nurturing, too.
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