Boys will be boys, as in they will need emotional support and when they are babies they will need more of it than girls. The approach to raising boys who are “tough” and need to “man up” only leads to machismo and other societal ills. So let’s raise boys with more hugs and even more care. It’s time to drop the false assumption that boys ought not to feel emotion or that they can handle distressing moments on their own. If you’re raising a human then I hope you show unfaltering love and emotional care regardless of their gender.
Gendered expectations from parents, teachers and coaches only amplify when boys start school. There’s a prevailing myth that boys are tough enough to handle the barbs of bullying, especially the smaller ones, but research tells us otherwise. A 2021 study showed that boys are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of bullying. In fact, bullied boys reported mental health problems at a rate four times higher than boys who weren’t bullied. That’s especially concerning given the long, toxic tail that bullying has for all children and given that bullying is one of several risk factors that increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
It’s ironic, but independence isn’t something you can learn all by yourself. Boys need tolerant, empathetic adults in their lives in order to become self-reliant. They need to know that we care about and value them, even when we don’t agree with their desires and decisions.