Not for everyone, of course. But this is one of those areas where there’s often a split along gender lines. At a young age, boys experience as wide a range of emotions as do girls, often with a higher level of intensity. How then can it be that men struggle? And not just struggle to talk about their feelings, but even to identify what those feelings are? From childhood to manhood, how are we training their ability to emote out of them?
I saw we, not just as a woman and a mother, but as a human being. It isn’t just one person at the bottom of this, because society is made up of plenty of individuals, masses of media, all telling boys that they need to toughen up, to fix stuff, to look after the wimmin-folk, not to cry, to be strong and – most important of all, to be a man.
Except that this type of conditioning belongs in the era when men hit women over the head with clubs and dragged them off to their caves to have their way with them. There was no courting, or wooing, or winning of a woman’s heart. It was about being the biggest, strongest provider and when one generally was, no hitting over the head was even required.
But we’ve moved on – haven’t we? So why do we still train boys to be the type of stereotypical man who was last needed in the stone age? And we do …
There are lots of people involved in that training – parents, grandparents, other family members be they siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, figures of authority such as teachers, ministers, policemen, random strangers in the street, society in general. The thing is even when parents do not foster this ridiculous gender split, it can be hard to be constantly correcting the behaviour of others. Especially when those others believe absolutely in their rightness and your wrongness, even harder when they’re "only joking”.
Yet, we should persist. The one place where our children can get their sense of right and wrong is from their parent(s). Part of the growing up process is that your children will receive an education from you in morals and principles, and in good manners. Part of those good manners will come in demonstrating how one can deflect others beliefs when they don’t agree with your own, but in a non-aggressive if firm manner.
Neither am I talking of brain-washing, or programming children to swallow whole one’s dogma. Children need to be encouraged, at age appropriate stages, to make judgements for themselves. To assess and analyse situations and lifestyles in order to make their own choices. Part of education is providing them with the capacity to learn, to have curiosity and not to simply follow a herd. Part of that education can be that emotions are normal, that whilst society finds them hard to accept in certain situations, that doesn’t make them wrong.
Knowing what you are feeling is important, not least because our feelings form an important part of our moral compass and can indicate to us when something is amiss. We don’t all have to wear our hearts on our sleeves, but neither do we need to be emotionally incontinent.
Be proud to be a whole and complete person, someone who can use their head, heart and gut as a reliable guide. Give your child the chance to revel in being that person – regardless of their gender.
© 2016 Caring Coaching
originally posted 26th August 2016