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Parenting: Raising Emotionally Strong Boys

I’ve always had a problem with the idea of “boys don’t cry“. There is this misconception that if we allow them to cry and express their feelings, they’ll be “sissies”. But there is a danger with this approach to handling boys. In fact, there is more and more evidence supporting the fact that rather than toughening our sons by being hard on them, boys need empathy, understanding and a freedom to express their feelings without being shamed for them.

“Weinberg found that a higher proportion of girls could calm themselves when their mother’s face displayed a ‘stony expression’ (as opposed to a warm one) — but that the boys could not. More boys would get easily distressed, they cried more frequently, and were unable to calm themselves. While we somehow expect boys to be ‘tough,’ this evidence shows them to actually be extremely vulnerable. This proves what we’ve known for years — that boys feel a full range of emotions — even those considered ‘not masculine’ like fear, shame, humiliation, and uncertainty. If everyone understood (as research now shows) that boys possess some emotional vulnerabilities that girls do not, would they raise them differently?”

Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

Co-Author, Raising Cain; Host, PBS documentary, RAISING CAIN

Emotionally Strong Boys, PBS Parents

There was an article I read some time back that I wanted to highlight…

It is titled “The Heart Grows Smarter” and it was published in the New York Times. The study it highlights supports the importance of raising boys who are in tune with their emotions and capable of establishing intimate bonds. Not only are they likely to live longer, they are also more likely to be successful in life.

“The men who grew up in homes with warm parents were much more likely to become first lieutenants and majors in World War II. The men who grew up in cold, barren homes were much more likely to finish the war as privates.

Body type was useless as a predictor of how the men would fare in life. So was birth order or political affiliation. Even social class had a limited effect. But having a warm childhood was powerful. As George Vaillant, the study director, sums it up in “Triumphs of Experience,” his most recent summary of the research, “It was the capacity for intimate relationships that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.””

Boys who grow up to be emotionally attuned men are happier, more successful, and they live longer. All you need is “the positive effect of one loving relative, mentor or friend who [can] overwhelm the negative effects of the bad things that happen”. And the magic formula for churning out a happy and successful man is the “capacity for intimacy combined with persistence, discipline, order and dependability. The men who could be affectionate about people and organized about things had very enjoyable lives.”

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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.

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