Boys Don't Cry...

Jolene Benoir

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Boxed in: the fragility of men

As I was reading this, I was saddened. I also felt more than a bit culpable. It's not just men who reinforce certain behaviors. Women do, as well. There's danger in assuming that any one person was raised in a certain manner let alone an entire sex. I think the over-arching question is: "Is this the norm?" Certainly we can point to men whose fathers (and mothers) who have damaged their sons beyond belief. We can also point to those who have gone out of their way to nourish their sons.

Two things stuck with me in this article. They give me great pause.

Porter used his own parenting to illustrate the point. When his daughter Jay was little, she could come crying to him anytime she liked and Porter would comfort her. “Daddy’s got you,” he’d say. With his son Kendall, the opposite was true. Whenever he heard him cry, a clock would start ticking in his head. His son had about 30 seconds to stop before he’d start saying to him, “Why are you crying? Hold your head up. Look at me. Explain to me what’s wrong. I can’t understand you.” And then through sheer frustration, together with a sense of responsibility for building his son into a “man”, Porter would say, “Just go to your room. Go on, go to your room. Sit down, get yourself together and come back and talk to me when you can talk to me like … a man.” His son was five years old.
And, this:

I can remember speaking to a 12-year-old boy, a football player,” Porter finished, “and I asked him, ‘How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach told you you were playing like a girl?’ I expected him to say something like, ‘I’d be sad, I’d be mad, I’d be angry,’ or something like that. No, the boy said to me, ‘It would destroy me.’ And I said to myself, ‘God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?’
Both of those events raise so many questions about what it means to be a boy, how one is expected to act, and how we reinforce or don't reinforce certain behaviors when we sometimes don't even realize what it is that we are doing in terms of their development. Every parent has their weak moments, no matter how well-intentioned they may be to avoid certain behaviors. Now that's, most definitely, not a copout, more of an acknowledgment that what we learn as children sometimes rears its head when we raise our own, sometimes even unconsciously.

What say ye, VVO? Do you have methods to avoid repeating behavior? Do you think this is mostly bunk? Do you believe that what we reinforce for gender norms can last a lifetime? No, yes? Finally, if "playing like a girl" is awful, does that actually translate into seeing females as inferior or is it more complicated than that?

ETA: Fixed quote
 
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Katheryne Helendale

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I am probably guilty of doing a lot of things in raising my sons as were done to me by my parents. But I can honestly say that I have never instilled in them the whole "boys don't cry" mentality. I think it is this mentality that has given rise to the toxic masculinity we have seen in our society over the past several decades or so.

As for the "you (whatever) like a girl" trope, I wish it would die a horrible, gruesome death. I have never heard that saying in any way that could be considered positive. It is absolutely demeaning to the entire female gender, as it pretty much states that girls are inferior, so never be like one. Even if we are one.
 

Jolene Benoir

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I am probably guilty of doing a lot of things in raising my sons as were done to me by my parents. But I can honestly say that I have never instilled in them the whole "boys don't cry" mentality. I think it is this mentality that has given rise to the toxic masculinity we have seen in our society over the past several decades or so.

As for the "you (whatever) like a girl" trope, I wish it would die a horrible, gruesome death. I have never heard that saying in any way that could be considered positive. It is absolutely demeaning to the entire female gender, as it pretty much states that girls are inferior, so never be like one. Even if we are one.
I didn't do that with the boys directly, either, that I remember, but I'm not 100% sure that I didn't end it if immediately if they did it with each other, each and every time it may have occurred.

That's something that wasn't even discussed in that article; peer pressure. I think in middle school and high school those are HUGE influences.
 
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Shiloh Lyric

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It's hard sometimes. I have a girl and a boy, and I've always attempted to NOT treat them too differently based on their gender, but instead treat each based on who they are as people. I've tried to make sure that each feels comfortable enough to express their emotions and not feel that they're not entitled to however they feel. And we've tried to deal with those emotions, if they're becoming too negative or destructive, in positive and open ways. But, once they hit a certain age, it's a little more difficult to always know what's going on inside. And that's WITH an open, trusting relationship with them. That's when you hope that 'outside' influences aren't taking over and their thinking is changing.

However, my son never really has been 'toxic' boy or, now, teen, though. A lot of that is just his personality. I remember when he was in the 3rd grade, so about 8 or 9, and was telling me how one boy liked a girl, but she didn't like that boy, she liked another boy. The first boy was upset because she didn't like him. And I'll never forget what my son said "I told him it's HER choice who she likes and he can't force her to like him. He shouldn't be mad about that. Another girl will like him someday, too". His attitude has never changed about that. I hope I've been able to reinforce it, also.