I was dismayed to read about a celebrity dad recently suggesting that boys should hide their feelings. I believe we definitely should teach boys it’s okay to cry.
Ant Middleton who presents Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins made the claim to Giovanna Fletcher on the Podcast Happy Mum, Happy Baby.
He said that, if his son hurts himself, he avoids eye contact with him to prevent him from crying.
He also admitted that he would rush straight over to his daughter to comfort her, were she to hurt herself.
As well as being woefully inconsistent parenting, I feel that this approach is incredibly irresponsible.
I think it’s fundamentally wrong to teach children to bottle up their emotions. Mental health is something that needs to be taken seriously.
I think that teaching a child not to cry when they clearly need to sets a dangerous precedent.
And this is particularly important with boys. The outdated notion that they should keep a stiff upper lip instead of expressing their feelings has the potential to be incredibly damaging.
When you consider that the biggest killer of men under 50 is suicide, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a change of approach is needed.
That change being that we teach all children that it’s okay to cry and to talk about their feelings from an early age.
I’ve always been a heart-on-sleeve sort and, although I happily haven’t had much cause to cry in adult life, I still do when I need to. And I don’t feel the need to conceal this from my kids.
All three take after both me and my wife. And I’m not going to do anything to change that. They should express their feelings, particularly when they’re sad.
I don’t treat my sons differently to my daughter because emotional wellbeing isn’t gender-specific.
Some may argue that Middleton’s approach is an inevitable product of his special forces background. I dispute this, however.
To cite a very recent example to the contrary, look at how happy Prince Harry was announcing the birth of his son. He looked like he was about to shed some happy tears and good on him.
It’s worth remembering that he, too, was a soldier. And that, along with his wife, brother and sister-in-law, spearheads a mental health initiative.
Will he teach his son to hide his emotions? No way.
Educating boys that crying isn’t socially acceptable is nothing but toxic masculinity. And, far from being just another modern buzzword, it’s a serious problem.
It belongs in the dark ages yet is sadly alive and well – the example that inspired this post is by no means an isolated one. Sadly, I read similar stories every week.
The perception that crying is a sign of weakness is completely wrong. I actually think of it as one of emotional resilience.
Crying doesn’t make boys or men overly sensitive or, to use a phrase that gets all-too-readily bandied around, ‘snowflakes’.
Treating siblings differently purely because of their gender doesn’t help anyone either. As well as being sexist, it could lead to suggestions of favouritism and, therefore, resentment.
I also hate the suggestion that boys should be warriors and girls should be princesses. What’s wrong with everyone being their own person?
It’s absolutely right to teach boys it’s okay to cry.