Can We Just Let Little Boys Stay Soft?

by Christine Organ

Let’s talk about little boys.

I don’t know about you, but the little boys I’m close to are some of the most sensitive, caring, gentle kids I know.

They look out for one another. They protect each other and take care of each other. And not just other boys, but all people.

They are comforting, accepting, and forgiving. They are kind and vulnerable. They get scared and ask for help. They are big and open with their love and their emotions. They wear their hearts on their sleeve. They cry — a lot.

Sure, they can be wild and impulsive and loud (so very loud!), but there is a softness in them that is sweet and tender and fragile (so very fragile).

This afternoon at the pool, my older son was hurt by an older kid and not one of his friends told him to toughen up, to “be a man,” or not to cry. Instead, they comforted him, protected him, looked out for him.

At what point does this change? At what point do our little boys get the message that they need to be hard and not soft, that they need to be fearless instead of brave, that they need to be tough (and that tough boys don’t cry)? And even more importantly, how do we stop those messages from hurting our boys — those same boys who will one day be men raising more little boys?

Let’s stop with all that “man up” nonsense. Let’s stop telling boys to toughen up. Let’s wipe away their tears and rub their back instead of telling them to stop crying. Let’s celebrate their softness and gentleness. Let’s teach them how to understand and trust their emotions. Let’s praise them for looking out for others, for being kind, for being a good friend, and showing empathy.

Let’s help them stay soft. We will be doing them, and the world, a huge favor.