parenting

Stop teaching your sons “Boys don’t cry”

stop teaching your sons boys dont cry vidya sury

If there’s one thing I completely disagree with, it is gender stereotyping. You know, statements like:

  • Girls are weaker than boys
  • Boys are better at sports
  • Good girls help their mothers
  • Profanity is okay for boys not for girls
  • Girls are smarter
  • Boys are lazy
  • Girls are better at lying
  • Boys shouldn’t wear skirts
  • Boys don’t cry.

I am sure you can add a lot more to that list from your own experience, regardless of what gender you are. Why, as the only woman on the sales team of one of the organizations I worked with, I remember how they were wary of allotting me the tougher territory. They imagined that I wouldn’t work late. The second shift was out of the question. They thought I couldn’t handle difficult customers. It was as though I had to prove myself at every stage.

Parenting is no exception when it comes to tackling gender stereotyping. The topic of my latest post at World of Moms is

“Stop teaching your sons “boys don’t cry”

One of the tough things about parenting is putting up with gender stereotyping, and also feeling a little guilty of supporting it, simply because we’re used to it. When we are forced to go with the flow, we use tradition as an excuse, not wanting to upset the balance. What will people say?

I remember an incident from when my son was in the first grade. He was playing in the school ground. As luck would have it, he slipped and fell. He broke his collar bone. Naturally, he howled his head off – after all, he was six years old. One of the other parents rushed over and told him boys don’t cry. Boys must be brave because boys are strong. Don’t be like a girl.

Really? Why the differentiation?

I must confess I was quite furious.

Gender stereotyping is rampant and it is annoying to see even seemingly sensible people succumbing to it. It is time we understood that every individual has her own feelings regardless of gender. Gender does not define a person and it is unfair to make assumptions on this basis. It is as ridiculous as generalizing that all women want to marry and have a family and men love sports.

I am glad that this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is around gender equality. It is time we realized that stereotyping creates discrimination.

Isn’t it sad that the rules and expectations are different for boys and girls right from the time they are born, when boys’ rooms are blue and girls’ are pink? Then at school and then at the work place?

How often do we come across families believing that women are meant to stay at home while men go out to work? Women must do the housework, sew, cook and clean, indulge in gentle activities and cry at the drop of a hat while men stay strong and protect women?

From childhood up, it is assumed that boys will play with cars, action figures and other adventure-based toys while dolls are the domain of girls. I recall the time when my son was 8 years old and wanted a doll at the toy shop, and the shopkeeper started laughing at him. Oh, of course I bought him the doll because, why not?

Above all, what is most unfair is our society discourages men from being open about their feelings. It is time to stop being prejudiced. As parents, we have the responsibility to bring up our children with the awareness that we are all first human. The attitude of parents often influences children. There’s no such thing as “this is for boys” and “this is for girls”. Boys and girls may be physically different, but they have equal rights!

Most of all, let’s stop teaching our sons that boys don’t cry.

Let’s not ask stupid questions like “are you a girl?” or tell them not to behave “like a girl”.

We often tend, as parents, to discriminate between our sons’ and daughters’ emotions. When a boy is close to his mother, he is teased for being a “mama’s boy”. I have seen parents looking embarrassed when their toddler sons start crying for something.

I think it is time we acknowledged that feelings know no gender. Let our sons grow up healthy, learning to respect everyone equally. How can we do this?

  • Share feelings at home from the time they are young.
    Tell them stories that teach them to respect feelings
    Allow them to express themselves spontaneously without stopping to think whether it is okay for boys to do it.
    Listen to them and let them open up freely.
  • Don’t belittle their feelings. We unintentionally say things like “you’ll be okay” without even listening fully to what they have to say. Some parents even go so far as to tell their sons to “be like a man”
  • Make it a habit to get together at some point every day, over dinner perhaps and later, share each other’s day.
  • Cry in front of your children. Show them it is okay to have feelings and be open about them.

There are studies to show that boys who cry develop better self-esteem and confidence than those that don’t. True that society puts a lot of pressure on boys with all the stereotyping, but we have to be the change we want to see.

Let’s tell our boys it is okay to cry! In fact, it is good for them. It helps them become aware of their emotions and understand them, taking them forward in helping them deal with them while reducing the risk of depression later. It also makes them communicate better and stay calmer.

Do you believe that boys should not cry?

I first published this post here: Stop teaching your sons “Boys don’t cry”

I’d love to know what you think. Do share your thoughts in the comments!

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachna
    March 22, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Totally Vidya. It infuriates me how we bring up our sons with these stereotypes and then wonder why they turn out hard hearted.
    Rachna recently posted…Health is wealth – Insure it today!My Profile

  • Reply
    Darla M Sands
    March 23, 2016 at 12:48 am

    I totally agree with your stance. I’m bothered that girls are expected to play with dolls, then grow up and have children whether they feel the calling or not. Boys face just as much garbage, for sure. Thank heaven for more reasonable people like yourself! As for breaking a collar bone, anyone should cry! Good grief.

    By the way, I have no idea how I stumbled upon your post from February 22nd (today!) which I found so poignant. Kismet? Karma? I won’t complain or question. Be well!
    Darla M Sands recently posted…Unlikely BeautyMy Profile

  • Reply
    Birgit
    March 23, 2016 at 6:56 am

    I think it is horrible, actually, that boys should not cry. I never understood this actually because they can hurt use like girls do. I remember when I was little, my friend, who was a boy, liked playing with my dolls. He also loved hot wheels and biking but he liked my dolls. He is not gay and has 3 healthy boys and a wonderful wife now. I find it insulting that as soon as a girl loves sports, hates dresses and anything frilly, people think she is a lesbian just like they think a boy is gay if he loves art, is emotional and hates sports. We should applaud when a child shows their emotions and enjoys something that is not of their stereotypical role. I hope you told the person off when they told your son he shouldn’t cry.
    Birgit recently posted…Music and Words Award-Thank You!My Profile

  • Reply
    Li @ Flash Fiction
    March 30, 2016 at 3:21 am

    Visiting from the A to Z list. I am blessed to come from a family where both girls and boys were encouraged to cry, laugh, climb trees, play with dolls, roll in the dirt – whatever made them happy. As a girl I went hunting and fishing with my Dad, and I know a lot of the other men frowned on the fact that a girl was allowed to do these things. I love my Dad for it, and I wish every child had parents like mine.

  • Reply
    Aniket
    March 31, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Really I agree with you and i appreciate your write up on this topic.

    In my opinion gender imbalance start from our home..When we teach to our sons such like things…
    We want to change our nation and society but we never want to change our home and our thinking..
    By god gift i have a son & daughter also but i never differentiate them on basis of genetic things…
    When i tech equivalence to my children then they will make a good society – i used to walk on this path….
    Aniket recently posted…OSSC Recruitment 2016 –232 Posts of Junior Data Entry OperatorMy Profile

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