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From boys to compassionate, resilient men



Outmoded gender roles are a no-no

Outmoded gender roles are a no-no


Writing for Fatherly, Andrew Reiner, author of Better Boys, Better Men, shares multiple studies that link increased mental health problems among boys and young men to outmoded gender expectations. As maturing individuals, males are still expected to always appear strong, invulnerable, capable, independent. Tough it out. Man up. Take it like a man. Boys don’t cry. These pressures can, and do, lead to despair and a devastating sense of isolation, which, in turn, leads to depression, anxiety, even suicide.

Reiner urges parents of infant boys to be mindful of giving them the same emotional attention as girls. Interestingly, according to Reiner, parents most often don’t even realize they’re depriving baby boys until someone points out that they sing more to girls, hold them more, use bigger words, share vulnerabilities, and offer tenderness. He says parents fear raising “incompetent” men, softies, often whether they know it or not.

Reiner espouses “a masculine identity that permits access to the full range of their human emotions.”

He writes: “Boys ages eight through 15 want to think of themselves as ‘helpful, kind, smart,’ among other qualities. They describe a ‘good man’ as helpful, nice, caring. Perhaps the thing boys want above all else was summed up in the ‘State of Gender Equality…’ report: Nearly half of the respondents wanted permission to learn about the ‘right to feel any way you want, and it doesn’t matter what people think.’”

READ MORE: Toxic phrases to avoid saying to boys

Reiner implores parents – and society – to ditch the impulse to disconnect boys from emotions. According to research, boys actually do better when provided with a ‘relational anchor’ that helps them keep anger in check, offers aid to keep them from turning inward, and self-harming.

Crucially, he gives concrete advice to parents and caregivers: “It’s not that boys don’t want to talk about what they want and need from us,” he writes. “We are often the ones that don’t want to talk about it. If we want to raise compassionate, resilient men who are accountable to themselves, to others and who can rise to the changing needs of a culture that values emotional honesty – if we really want to raise competent men – then we need to listen to and understand boys.

We can start by meeting boys where they are and following their lead, not ours. They’re waiting for our permission to grow into the type of men they want to be and that we need them to be.”



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