We hear a lot about toxic masculinity these days. To be clear, there is a sure difference between masculinity and that which is toxic.
Masculinity (“possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men”) is a good thing as long as it embraces the freedom of self-expression and promotes positive qualities in men. It becomes toxic when the arrows passed down from society’s parents are dipped into the poison of impossible standards, unhealthy emotional practices, and misogynistic ideals. This negative influence happens every single day, and it’s mostly occurring right under our noses, oozing out of our ignorant mouths.
If we want to raise healthy men, we need to stop polluting our boys with these classic sayings.
This archaic saying implies, first of all, that the boy is not a man (an ambiguous concept anyway). And, secondly, to be a man, he must suppress his feelings and emotions–an unhealthy practice for the mentally resilient.
If you’re saying this (or anything like it) to your son, consider reading my post, Are You Man Enough?.
“You’re too sensitive!”
Sensitivity is an amazing attribute, especially in boys. It should be embraced, encouraged, and nurtured, not denied. I get it–it’s hard–“he cries a lot,” but explore ways in which you can encourage his sensitivity while teaching him of the grand responsibility that it is.
Fred Rogers said, “I feel that if we…can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.”
“That’s for girls!”
Whether it’s art, music, dance, gymnastics or playing with dolls, there’s no need to separate children into the harsh categories of blue and pink. Kids are kids. A pivotal part of childhood is exploration–figuring this world out–and, if we place too many boundaries around the curiosity of boys, we’ll create tentative men who don’t know their place in this world.
“Big boys don’t cry.”
Yes, they do. Crying is an appropriate release of emotions, and we should be teaching our sons it’s okay to let it all out. If the kid is crying at inappropriate times, there are other ways to go about teaching emotional responsibility. Saying “big boys don’t cry” is a lazy parenting move. Try teaching him the value of voluntarily stepping away from a difficult situation to rest, reflect, and reset. Or say something along the lines of “Are you sad? It’s okay to be sad. Can you tell me why?”
“You must win.”
This, in sports or anything else for that matter, weighs down our boys with impossible standards and communicates a “win-at-all-costs” mentality. It teaches that power is everything and that there is no benefit in trying if you’re going to fail anyway. Praise the effort and pick them up when they fall.
Read my post, Do You Have A Fixed Or A Growth Mindset?.
“You play like a girl!”
Is that really all that bad? Saying things like this teaches boys to undervalue and disrespect women while enforcing their own insecurity. It’s simply a worthless statement.
Don’t revert to lazy quips and archaic sayings. There is bravery in tears, strength in weakness, and victoriousness in failure. We are teaching our boys how to be men, and that is a great responsibility.