Boys Need Connection
Boys of all ages, like girls, cannot be spoiled by too much healthy love and support from their parents. Instead, boys who share a close connection to their caregivers will likely become more confident, do better in school, sports, music, and later have a stronger likelihood of avoiding substance misuse, than boys who have distant relationships with their parent(s) and caregiver(s). When boys come from families where they are nurtured and their needs are met they develop healthy attachments. No amount of appropriate bonding, attachment, or nurturance from a mother or father is harmful or leads boys to become weaklings or sissies. Boys do not need to be rushed into independence.
However, they should not be unduly restrained from it either. With all the recent constructive emphasis on attachment theory, well-intentioned parents can mistake their boy’s misbehaviour as a problem with attachment when it is actually over-parenting. I especially hear about this occurrence after concerned parents initially learn about the importance of keeping close to their kids – throughout all stages of development. Parents need to tune into the sensitivities of a particular boy while also being careful not to do things for him that he can do for himself. Over-parenting, over-teaching, and over-protection in general can smother a boy’s emerging independence.
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||"Thank you for inspiring me as I raise 3 caring and confident boys.
Tonight at your presentation I learned:
To accept and embrace their differences;
to shout less;
to talk more;
and to overcome my fear of the Play Station!
I eagerly look forward to reading your books."
Fidgeting is frequently another way that boys speak with their body to let you know that they are feeling anxious and may need help to process the discussion – remember the corpus callosum and the need for bilateral stimulation! Avoid insisting that they stand or sit still and you most likely will observe that the fidgeting helps them to relax as you maintain connection while getting information about what has occurred.
Because of gender differences in communication styles, females are often frustrated with male silence.
Male silence does not usually mean indifference or lack of desire for contact but it can be hard for many to know how to read it. Is the boy who clams up in class afraid of making mistakes? Is he distracted by personal problems? Is he stoned? It can be hard for caring adults to stay with boys’ silence, to move with it, to reflect on it, to accept it for a time, and to try to understand its purpose and significance. Male silence occasionally signals unhappiness and inward struggle, but more often it means that a boy is feeling comfortable and does not feel obliged to fill the air with words.
Most women reluctantly accept that a boy’s silence does not usually stem from a problem, but is a product of male culture and perhaps to some extent the hard wiring of the male brain.
Don’t take boys’ silence personally, but see it as a gender difference. Allow yourself to move into silence with the boy. You can still spend time together, saying little, but listening to the subtle cues behaviour can provide.
The Struggle With Emotions
Boys can think feeling talk is unmanly and they’re scared that if they allow themselves to feel and really talk about their experiences, emotions may flood them. Feeling overwhelmed can mean tears and crying. Boys – and most men for that matter – assume that crying implies weakness. “If I said what I really feel they would call me a wimp,” or “If I told my dad he’d just tell me to stand up for myself,” are typical responses boys have about discussing their emotional world.
Contend With The Boy-Code
Starting at a very young age our society can channel boys into a sort of cultural straitjacket that molds mind and enforces behaviour by confining emotional expressiveness. “Don’t cry or you’ll be a sissy,” I remember hearing adults tell boys in my neighbourhood. The boy-code requires boys to appear brave, show little emotion, not to tattletale, and never to cry. The boy-code can be summed up with three phrases: 1) Be tough and strong; 2) Don’t show your emotions; and 3) Don’t be a girl. Often, if they are to avoid humiliation and rejection, boys must embrace the boy-code for themselves and enforce it in others.
Boys Are Tender
Despite the culturally confining male straitjacket, in reality boys are emotionally tender and feel life experiences very deeply - while running, jumping, and yelling of course. In fact, boys are much more fragile than we ever thought. The XY chromosomal pattern makes males much more vulnerable to speech defects, autism and numerous other medical complications.
When boys get stuck in their emotional development and compensate with a show of hyper-masculinity they need parents and significant adults to mentor them on the road to a healthy and socially constructive manhood.