For the next several weeks, we are excited to share some ideas from our upcoming book, Are My Kids on Track? We'll be looking at some important emotional, social and spiritual milestones we want to help our kids progress toward. We'll start today with a conversation about boys and emotions.
It feels important to first dispel a myth about boys and emotions. The myth is girls have more emotions than boys. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Females can certainly express emotions differently. Many studies identify women as having higher levels of emotional intelligence and a stronger ability to read the emotions of others. Studies also reveal differences in responding to emotion, but there is no research to support females having more emotions than males.
After reaching puberty, girls do possess more of the prolactin hormone, which contributes to tears and how much people cry. There’s a difference in the shape of tear ducts in women and men, which may or may not contribute to why women are more prone to crying than men. But they don’t have more feelings; they simply tend to have a more developed emotional vocabulary, an advanced ability to express emotion, and a stronger ability to read the emotions of others.
Stumbling Block #1: Cultural Influences
A range of factors—both physiological and cultural—play a role in our understanding of the differences between boys and girls. With boys, we’ll be working against a societal tsunami that intends to educate our sons about masculinity and what it means to be a male in this world. Some days I (David) feel underwater in my attempts to fight the messages and images bombarding boys.
As I write this, I’m reminded of a YouTube video recently sent to me by a friend. The Always brand put together this beautifully crafted three-minute video titled #LikeAGirl. I’m hoping you’re one of the millions of folks who’ve seen the video. I’m also hoping you shared it with your sons, not just your daughters. The video confronts the cultural message we send to girls and boys that running like a girl, throwing like a girl, doing many things “like a girl,” is a sign of weakness. The video is a societal experimentation illustrating how pre-pubescent girls see running as simply something they naturally do, and do well. These beautiful young girls demonstrate running, throwing, fighting, and kicking with power, strength, and vitality.
Our culture will communicate countless distortions to our sons and daughters. One of the first distortions being girls have more feelings than boys. This idea can leave many boys believing they are flawed, damaged, or simply “less masculine” when experiencing strong emotions. Boys begin working early to suppress emotions in an effort to appear “more masculine,” or more in line with culture’s understanding of what it looks like to be fully male.
As a boy navigates his emotional terrain, he’ll be coached in a range of ways that are in keeping with our cultural definition of what it means to be male. He’ll feel sad or afraid in a thousand moments and hear coaches, parents, and peers say things like “man up,” or “stop crying,” or “quit acting ‘like a girl.’” Rarely is a boy given permission to just feel whatever he is feeling, and to know that in that moment he is fully masculine.
To identify other stumbling blocks a boy faces and more importantly, the building blocks to helping him achieve this important emotional milestone, check out our new book, Are My Kids on Track?