Teaching Boys the Truth About Manhood

Carl Jung (1875-1961) once said “We should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect; we apprehend it just as much by feeling. Therefore, the judgment of the intellect is, at best, only the half of truth, and must, if it be honest, also come to an understanding of its inadequacy.”
This statement reminds me of the male tendency to remove themselves far from emotion and “survive” in the world using only their intellect. I have had many male clients, family members, and friends who use this approach. They rarely if ever allow you to see their emotions. The biggest taboo word in the “male culture” today is EMOTION.

I have always had a natural inclination toward understanding male children and adolescents and now I have developed an interest in understanding adult men. The reason is due to the reality that our young boys and adult man are often held under strict rules and regulations of society and these rules negatively influence their identity.  
Males are held under the following assumptions without any flexibility:
  • Males must be strong
  • Males must be providers
  • Males must hide their emotions and “stick” it out
  • Males don’t fall in love, they “play” with women
  • Males don’t show fatherly love, they show strength, power, and authority
  • Men initiate discussions and become successful in society
  • If men aren’t “powerful” or hold some type of position of “authority” in the world they are unsuccessful
  • Men cheat, steal, lie, “play games,” overpower women and children, take control, and dominate
  • Men are supposed to make more money than women
  • Men are not supposed to baby-sit their children
  • Men are not supposed to clean
  • Men are not supposed to feel affection or show real emotion
  • Men are sexually driven
  • Men are supposed to be rough and tough
  • Men wear neutral colors only
  • Men have “real jobs” such as construction or positions involving the management of large teams, groups, companies, or firms
  • Men are not to show compassion or empathy
  • Males are fascinated with guns and violence
  • Boys play with dirt and look rough
If you were one of my brothers, you would no doubt add to the list that men do not use hand sanitizer! I’ve tried to offer sanitizer multiple times and I received nothing but a cold shoulder!
Our young boys are often held to strict social and gender standards that can result in great and undue pressures. Interestingly, recent research has focused on the emotional display of both male and female infants and has found that male infants seem more emotionally expressive than their female counterparts. By the time boys reach six years of age, emotional expression has subsided. Some researchers associate this change to the social model of maleness. These stereotypes are often built into our children at an early age. Other researchers believe this is because of the use of shame and the separation process. “Shame” often surfaces when a male child is faced with a challenge such as peer rivalry. The separation process involves others, especially peers, encouraging a male child to become independent because “this is what males do, males don’t cuddle with mommy!” William Pollack calls this the “shame-hardening process.”
Unfortunately, women help to perpetuate these ideologies. Some traditional traits, however, are definitely attractive and acceptable in males (e.g., strength, courage, being the “provider” of a family, taking charge). But we must learn to renew our socially influenced perception of how men should behave at all times. For example,  young boys do not have to develop a fascination with guns and weapons. In fact, an interest in guns and violence, although the interest may be viewed as simple childhood play, can lead to a strong fascination with how weapons make one feel. Weapons can lead to a fascination with power and authority, which can then lead to an interest in crime and violence resulting in issues with the juvenile and criminal justice systems. For some kids, a small taste of “the bad life” can lead to years of problematic and oppositional behavior. Unfortunately this is a truth that many fathers have difficulty believing until it’s too late.
Lets strive to encourage our boys to find within themselves the talents and qualities that reflect their full range of abilities. We have some really talented kids in ALL races and cultures. Lets facilitate a greater understanding of this reality within our boys beginning right at home.