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The Boy Code

Updated on June 30, 2011

It Should Never Be "Boys Will Be Boys"


When I gave birth to my son, I was surrounded by friends and family that always used the quote, "Boys will be boys". That made me feel uncomfortable. Why do we allow society to dictate to us the behaviors expected of young men? Why should boys be allowed to display aggressive or destructive behaviors and chalk it up to their manly-hood? I would watch my nephews knock each other to the ground or carelessly break something and it would be dismissed because they were a boy. My friends sons would run through my house or through their own homes leaving trash, disheveling items, peeing on the toilet seat and it would be laughed away because they were a boy.

I didn't want my son growing up adhering to these beliefs. Dr. William Pollack wrote a book about the "boy code" and addresses the societal demands or expectations we have of our boys and how it is truly toxic to them. Boys are expected to be less emotional, to tough things out, to not be like a "girl" by crying about their pain or fears. Boys are often more emotional than girls when they are younger and in essence they are taught that their fears and emotions are not important. Outward appearances are taught to be most important. I read this information when my son was growing up and was determined to make sure he was heard and felt cherished for who he was.

This was difficult for my ex as many men feel that treating a boy with compassion and giving equal attention to their emotions as we would a girl will cause them to be effeminate or will make them gay. My personal belief is that we need to accept children and adults as they are; straight, gay or androgynous. That it is difficult enough to find love and acceptance in this world and treating your boys with love and tenderness will not steer them to one sexual preference or another. Treating your boys with compassion and teaching them to be compassionate will encourage them to be open thinkers and successful adults.

Research shows that girls can process emotions more effectively than boys. If a boy suffers loss, he may instead lash out in anger or be destructive because of this. Teaching your son to talk about their sorrows or fears will enable them to learn how to deal with issues and problems in a socially appropriate way; rather than using brawn over brains. As a teacher, I witness many young men who end up in the Principal's office daily. Rarely, do I see little girls being corrected for misbehavior. Little boys are often branded as trouble makers and hopeless cases if they consistently get into trouble. Little girls are called brats and catty but it is assumed they can be "cured" of these behaviors if spoken to. I have targeted and reached out to many of these so called "troublemakers" and have found these boys to be sensitive, loving children who truly have a need to be listened to. I have watched them cry and have accepted their hugs of gratitude after having given them much needed attention and the opportunity to release their anxiety or anger through discussion and tears.

We all have a need and want to be loved, listened to and affirmed. Why do we as a society find it so difficult to allow this in our boys? My son, a teenager now, wanted a beauty kit when he was two years old. He had a great fascination with wires and plugs and the pretend blow dryer and curling iron had these things. He also liked Pocahontas and is very artistic. If he expressed a desire for something that was classified "girly", I would get it for him. I realized that soon enough, he would enter school and peer pressure would force him into being callous toward certain behaviors. I was right. Pre-school brought the idea that girls had cooties or germs. Elementary school brought forward teasing because he was not a jock and he was called names suggesting he was more girl like because he wasn't violent.

I have witnessed my son and many boys ridiculed by other boys in middle school and before, because they didn't adhere to the boy code inflicted upon the bullies who are actually threatened by self confident boys that aren't afraid to express themselves. My son scored "genius" on IQ testing. He is a computer prodigy. He is sensitive, articulate and business minded. While he still is a kid; wanting to sleep most of the day, bringing in sexual innuendos into every conversation like many of his teenager counterparts do and trying to find his niche in this world, I can sit back and feel good about allowing him and encouraging him to recognize tenderness, compassion and emotion. He is a darn nice kid. He is not an over-sexed teenager with the goal to lose his virginity (like some of his buddies), rather he is choosing to observe relationships among his friends and family and decide what he can and can't live with. He has seen his parents divorce, his mom become involved with another male figure that is part of his life and he hasn't lashed out; rather has discussed with me his worries, anger about certain occurrences in his life and questioned outcomes before he acts.

I like to think that in encouraging him to recognize fears, feelings and emotions; he is turning into the kind of man that will be level headed, thoughtful and understanding. I want him to accept differences and embrace them too.

I hope that when my son decides to find a partner, that he will find someone that adheres to his beliefs that men have as much right to their feelings as women do. A father that is nurturing and can bond with his own children will in turn, raise sons that will do the same.

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