The fact is that boys do not experience the social pressure that girls do. Girls are forced to “grow up” for many reasons, one reason being the preparation of motherhood. Boys on the other hand tend to experience less pressures to mature, having less reason as to why they have to plan their future. This lethargy tends to be a factor as to why boys seem to lack in emotional maturity.
Nowadays women have become autonomous and needing less financial support from a partner or spouse. After a certain age women have to consider whether to decide on having a family. Society creates a system where you can plan to do this at a young age. You can choose a career with a set path and time frame. Boys have some flexibility and receive less criticism if they decide not to live up to the expectations of what it means to be an auspicious person. For example, being a plumber, garbage man, or janitor are not careers girls are commonly known to choose vocations in. Of course, there is no reason why they cannot become experts in any of these professions, they sometimes pay very well. However, we can agree there is the possibility of some criticism.
The social conditioning girls experience from a young age sets precedent for them to become competent adults. A girl toddler that misbehaves creates a different affect in comparison to a boy toddler that misbehaves. Boys are sometimes encouraged to misbehave because we have created this “boys will be boys” idea.
For decades, the “crisis” of masculinity has been a concerning topic. We have a whole group of “unaffirmed” men and discouraged boys. Things have changed in regards to what it means to be a man. At one time, you would want to first become a family man and provide for your loved ones.
As institutions developed and the economy grew so did competition. Not only did we see men competing amongst each other, but also with women. As the suffrage movement created opportunity for equity and success we saw that men needed to affirm themselves in other ways. Being affirmed means you have a good idea of who you are. Sometimes this is what is missing in many people’s lives, a sense of purpose.
Leanne Payne in her, Crisis in masculinity(1985), states the importance of the father figure affirming not only the male, but also the female child. This creates and emotional separation from the mother, thus creating a self-identity. This is where Colley’s idea of the “looking glass self’ begins. We create an evaluation from our interactions of who we are. If boys are not affirmed they are known what Dr. Donald Glover calls in his, No More Mr. Nice Guy(2010), “soft males”. These are men that were raised by their mothers, “mama’s boy”. During a time where many men were absent physically and emotionally, whether at war or work, most of these boys did not know what it meant to be a man.
There was a time where boys would have a rite of passage, a test, to confirm the transition from boy to man. Men’s resentment towards their unhappiness would often time result in frustration. Because boys do not behave to the letter an exaggerated response is no surprise. So in attempts to affirm themselves, men adopt characteristics of hyper-masculinity. We would see men engage excessively in work, and unhealthy vices like drugs, sex, alcohol, violence, and gambling to name a few.
We have a huge case of the blind leading the blind. Sounds a bit harsh, but what is to say when you call it a “Man’s world”, but lack the understanding of what it means to be one. Some of the young boys that you see act up in school lack role models, mentors, and confidants in their lives. It is difficult to say what is necessary for a parent to raise their child successfully. This is because life is unexpected and the definition of things changes.
What we do know is that if you want to have a different outcome, you have to change how you go about it. The ideas of what we think is typical male behavior are not working. The repression of emotion creates an outrage due to the lack of emotional control. This is the same emotional control that women learn young. Examples of such include the emotional intelligence of recognizing your emotion and the emotion of others and becoming resilient in the face of change and/or adversity.
We excuse boys from facing their emotions at a young age because “boys don’t cry”. Any exploration of such emotions can make a boy vulnerable and sensitive. Fathers tend to withhold affection towards their sons because they believe it will make them weak. Unfortunately, their sons cannot give what they do not have to their own offspring. This creates such a pain that it creates a downward spiral.
We have seen the extremes of this on the news with school shootings. We have seen communities of men trying to speak out their outrage from groups like Men Get Their Own Way (MGTOW), Red Pill, the seduction community, and the Black pill community (Incel Rebellion) because they seek approval in unhealthy ways. They must prove that they are men. Some only express their hyper-masculine emotions, others refuse to express any, and the rest are caught in their emotions.
The best way to solve this problem is to start with the question. Ask your boys what is going on in school today, begin to have that conversation there are many ways to relate to a teenager. See if they are avoiding certain emotions and inquire where it stems from. Then suggest helpful alternatives to regulate those emotions and cultivate healthy ones. Finally, lend an ear to your boys not because everyone wants to be heard, but because everyone needs to be heard. You may not know the answer to their problems but they do. This is because happiness is idiosyncratic, what makes one person happy differs from another. Everyone knows what makes them happy.
All these boys want to make sure is if it is okay to ask the questions that no one else is asking. This way, because they are not appearing weak because they lack direction we can talk about the issues before it ever escalates. A father that is there from moral support rather is far more important than the overcompensation of pseudo masculine traits. We must accept that the definition of what it means to be a man in present time has changed. Males all ages are being socially pressured to become attuned to their emotions, to face the truth, especially in school. As the Japanese philosopher, Miyamoto Musashi, once said, “Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.”
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