What happens in our parenting as they get older that tells boys they do not have these same qualities as girls, that they are different?
Boys get the message at home, in school, often with their family, and more than likely with their friends, that they have to be tougher than girls and not be a ‘cry baby’.
Do we talk to them about this? Do we prepare them for a world where showing sensitivity is (all too often) a trigger for being bullied?
Children are conditioned to ‘fit in’, and know that you get picked on when you are different, whether it be hair, skin or some other physical difference. In the end, anything can be used as a trigger to make another feel small and bad about themselves. Often, these differences are not something you can do anything about. It is strange to consider, how the sensitivity that is innate in all boys, can be turned into a hardness and used as a reason to bully another in an attempt to prove they are ‘big and tough’, even though they are not.
We are so used to seeing the big tough act that it’s hard to get our heads around the fact that this behaviour is something completely alien to a boy as it is to a girl.
Boys are deeply sensitive by their very nature and this sensitivity will show up when taunted for being different. Yet, it is accepted because that is what we experienced when we were growing up, and the idea also that perhaps what we have learnt around toughening up works in this world better than the sensitivity. It is generally more accepted for boys to act the opposite of who they really are.
One parent shared that their red-haired child was in his first year in secondary school and during the previous week had been pushed and fallen in the school yard, hurting his knee badly and crying in front of everyone. The next day, he saw one of his friends experience similar treatment and went to check if he was okay.
Bullies feed off reactions and know they have won if they see any at all.
This parent knew that for their son to dye his hair black would be showing his reaction not just to the bullies, but to the whole school, and how this could create even more challenges for him.
Most of us have been raised with this attitude and have accepted and lived with these beliefs for so long, as were our parents and their parents too, and so it is a fairly engrained picture we are seeing and accepting daily. Nonetheless, the lie is still not true. Just because a lie is repeated a million times, it doesn’t make it truth, it’s still a lie. But if you tell that to the boys who are being bullied, punched, pushed and beaten by their peers, they will believe the lie as much as anyone else because for them it feels very physically and emotionally dangerous to be different.
And so, we have a situation where each generation of males are believing in the ‘tough’ myth, when in fact boys and men, by their very nature are tender, sensitive, fragile, vulnerable and caring as any girl and woman.
To value and treat our boys and men as the sensitive beings they are, is a start in disassembling the myth that is causing so much harm to a man’s mental and physical health. So if we have been fooled by this ‘lie’, how do we disassemble it? Read more about how to stop this way of playing ball the the myth here.
To value and treat our boys and men as the sensitive beings they are, is to start disassembling the myth that is causing so much harm to a man’s mental and physical health. So, if there is even a possibility we have been fooled by this ‘lie’, how do we disassemble it?
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In this series of blog posts, you will find articles that discuss foundational practices in parenting. Not just articles on what we do but why we do what we do for a healthy body and a healthy relationship with others.