Childrearing

Lady Of The Manor: Boys Who Cry – Emotionally Astute Or Total Wusses?

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I like a guy who cries. A fella in touch with his emotions, who’s able to embrace his sensitive side, is alright by me. But there’s a fine line between being emotionally astute and being a pussy. How do you explain that to your sons?

Studies show that starting from birth, little boys are treated completely differently than little girls when it comes to shedding tears. With girls, it’s expected. With boys? Not so much. They’re programmed to tough it out, not be a “baby” or, even worse, a girl! By the time they get older, they’ll need to “grow a pair” and swallow their tears, no matter how much it hurts.

For today’s more enlightened parents, crying happens, and it’s okay. Sadness, hurt feelings, even being moved by a story or film is completely acceptable. At least at our house it is. I grew up in the ’70s, an avid listener of that seminal kids’ album, Free To Be You ’n’ Me. “It’s alright to cry….Crying takes the sad out of you…It’s alright to cry – it might make you feel better”.

At least sometimes. According to one study out of Holland, most people felt the same before and after they cried. Then again, more people felt better than felt worse. Apparently it’s the being consoled and talking it out that makes you feel better after a good weep. Or, maybe, it’s just getting what you want. My sons could win awards for their abilities to turn their tears turn on and off like taps.

We’re trying to get them to manage their waterworks. They need to know when to stop. And even, I dare say, when to start. A punch in the face is worth crying over. Reading a book about The Beatles and getting to the part where John Lennon is shot absolutely merits a tear or two. But someone changing the TV channel? Buck up, buddy, and get over it! I’m hoping that by encouraging my sons to express their feelings, without letting emotions take over the asylum, I’m helping them become better men.

New York University psychologist Niobe Way agrees. Her book, Deep Secrets: The Hidden Landscapes of Boys’ Friendships, is a culmination of 15 years’ worth of studying teenage boys and their friendships. She believes that by stifling their feelings as they mature, boys tend to distance themselves from their friends. They associate being “sensitive” with being “wussy” or “girly,” and eventually end up angrier and lonelier than their female counterparts, and more susceptible to depression and suicide.

Now that’s something to cry about. So, boys, rev up your tear ducts and let those salt drops fly. Better in than out.

(Photo: iStockphoto)