The Problem with "Boys Don't Cry"

My oldest son has always been a sensitive boy. He feels things deeply and he reacts strongly to many things. For a boy, he cries a lot – probably a lot more than is usually deemed “appropriate” for a boy. For a long time, I have been uncomfortable about it because society’s stereotypical boy doesn’t cry, or rather, he shouldn’t – or so we’ve been brainwashed into believing. Boys who cry are sissies. Boys who cry are soft. Boys who cry are not manly. Crying is simply not a desirable trait in a boy. For a long time, I have felt a need for my son to “toughen up” and “act more like a boy”.

Then I finally broke out of the stupidity of this thinking and realised that having a son who is sensitive is not a bad thing. Over the years I have read numerous articles about the problems that men have and many of these relate back to the fact that men have issues expressing anything that suggests weakness.

For example, fewer men seek help for psychological illnesses, including depression, and the severity of their illnesses are usually more acute because of their inability to seek help. I can speculate that the reason for this is largely because more men think of psychological illnesses as being “all in the mind”, the kind that you can just “snap out of”. Besides, admitting that you have a psychological illness shows weakness and surely a man is made of more substance than that.

Similarly, although more women attempted suicide, more men actually succeeded. One article I read about teenage suicide suggested that this is because most girls attempting suicide don’t really desire to die. Boys, on the other hand, once they have contemplated suicide, have usually decided that death is the only solution and employ more lethal methods. It has been theorised that perhaps men would have fewer issues if they had been encouraged to express their emotions from birth instead of being told to “suck it up and be a man about it”.

Another problem with men and their inability to express their emotions is probably one that many women can identify with. Open any women’s magazine and there are a dime a dozen of articles talking about boyfriends and husbands who can’t talk about their feelings and the grief it brings to their partners. It has been said that men don’t talk about their feelings because they are wired differently from women. That may be true in some part, however, I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar that we are again looking at the differences between the way women are brought up compared to men.

So instead of telling our sons that “boys don’t cry”, perhaps it is time to start helping them express their feelings. Not only might you lessen your son’s risk for developing future psychological issues, their girlfriends and future wives will probably thank you for it.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

3 thoughts on “The Problem with "Boys Don't Cry"

  1. If this article has a ‘like’ button just like thhe one in facebook I would definitely click it.
    This is written in a mother or a woman’s point of view. I wonder what would a man say about it…


  2. Generally, males are more left-brain dominant, while females are right-brain dominant. Helping males learn to express their feelings is helps them get in touch with their right-brain feelings function. It brings them closer to understanding females, so is to our benefit.

    However, it may be as tough as males asking females to behave mire logically and rely less on feelings & intuition.

    Also, a female’s tear ducts are more sensitive to a male’s, so it’s easier for most of us to tear, either out of sadness or even by laughing. I’m one such example, even though I’m left-brain dominant and a less sensitive person than my hubby. Ha…


  3. CM – okay, I will have to work on a “like” button. 🙂 I would love to hear from the Dads about what they think, too…

    MieVee – Interesting sharing. Thanks! I’ve always thought of myself as being more left-brain, but since becoming a mother, my tear ducts have become super-sensitive! I can cry watching TV commercials! :-p


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