To the parents of boys: Here's why emotional support is so important
According to recent studies, parents of young boys should prioritize emotional support than those who have daughters. Here's why.
It’s no secret that girls develop faster than boys. Girls have been known to grow in height earlier; girls have always been perceived as more mature when it comes to behaviour.
Because of these perceived differences in growth and development, parents often take a different approach when offering emotional support for kids. Even as early as infancy, this disparity in development can already be noticed.
Boys more emotionally fragile than girls
According to a study called The Fragile Male, which was published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, baby boy’s brains are more fragile and receptive to their mother’s moods and emotions.
Once they are born, their brain is not as developed as that of a baby girl’s brain, which has been found to be more advanced by at least six weeks.
This advantage gives little girls a sort of momentum, which propels them forward through each stage of their development, causing boys to lag behind not just in terms of physical but also when it comes to socio-emotional maturation.
Beyond biological factors, the way parents relate to them also influences their emotional development. In general, parents with daughters nurture them emotionally, while boys are told to “toughen up” or “man up.” Though these are admirable traits worth building, parents of boys should also prioritize emotional support for kids to grow up into adults that are healthy emotionally.
It might come as a surprise to some, however, that according to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association: boys are inherently more emotionally sensitive than girls.
I have always known this to be true. As a young girl, my mother would encourage me and my brother to be kind and to express our feelings.
My younger brother was smaller than his classmates and at 8 years old, he was bullied. The solution, his teacher believed, was to teach him to “man up.” He was constantly taught by other relatives to be tougher. Our mom, however, taught him to celebrate his sensitive traits and not view them as a weakness.
Twenty years later, he grew up to be a good leader who runs his own businesses well. He is tough in his own way without being mean. This is just one case that proves just how, when it comes to emotional support for kids, boys often need it more than girls, simply because it is not usually prioritised.
Teaching boys to “man up” can lead to toxic masculinity
Encouraging boys to build a tough exterior might inadvertently discourage boys from showing sensitivity and expressing their emotions sows the seeds of what can grow into toxic masculinity.
Though often unintentional, we tend to stereotype and assume gender roles when it comes to the way we relate to our kids.
This is evident in the toys we give our kids: toys that promote nurturing qualities like dolls are given to girls while toys that promote assertiveness, like toy cars or musical instruments are given to boys.
The different ways parents offer emotional support for kids can also be seen in the different ways parents talk to boys and girls. According to a study published in Pediatrics, mothers tend to spend more time talking to baby girls, especially during the first few months of life.
When it comes to discipline, some parents tend to go easy on the girls, while they are more firm when it comes to boys. A study out of Emory University found that dads had a habit of singing and smiling at their daughters, while those with sons took a more “matter-of-fact” tone and placed emphasis on praising achievements.
How can parents be more emotionally supportive to their sons?
Nurturing your child’s emotional health means giving them the support and guidance they need to develop ways to manage emotions, which will help them navigate every stage of their life.
Here are some things to consider when trying to raise an emotionally healthy son.
Acknowledge their struggles. Being in denial or downplaying their struggles, like fears or insecurities, won’t make them go away. Acknowledging the difficulties your son is facing can pave the way for proper guidance and it can help keep these struggles from hindering his emotional development.
Validate their feelings. Reassure him that his emotions matter. Do not be dismissive when your son shows sensitivity. This is where “emotional coaching” can also come in. There is no such thing as a “bad feeling,” even those that upset them are valid and worth paying attention to.
Don’t react but reflect without judgment. Try not to be too reactive and listen intently first before offering your opinion. Listening helps kids develop emotional expression, encouraging them to explore their emotional vocabulary.
Reach out to others for help, if needed. As parents, it can be difficult to admit that you need others’ guidance when it comes to your kids, but this will sometimes be the case. Do not hesitate to seek professional help or to enlist the help of an older relative to help kids manage stress and anxiety when needed.
Spend quality time together. There’s nothing like freeing up hours of your day just to focus on them, especially when they are having a difficult time. This lessens pressure on your chance and gives you a chance to bond and communicate in a fun and relaxed setting.
Don’t pressure them to open up. Allow them to express their emotions at their own pace. Just reassure them that you’ll be there for them whenever they’re ready to talk.
Look after your own emotional health. Above all, care for your own emotional well-being. Making sure you are healthy in this department helps you care for your kid’s needs better. It takes happy and content parents to help kids grow into well-adjusted, emotionally savvy adults.