Boys are taught to “man up” by parents and men acknowledge that they have learned to not express their pain. Phrases like “boys don’t cry” were modelled by caregivers such as fathers (Brownhill, Wilhelm, Barclay, & Parker, 2002). Boys are humiliated when they play with dolls and they are expected to do well in sports (Reichert, 2019). However, parents need to understand that every child has different strengths and a child who is not good at sports, may be talented in music. It is important to view your child as a person with a different personality from others and to encourage the child to hone their skills. By not allowing boys to express emotions freely, they grow up to be men who lack emotional intelligence.
In an Asian country such as China, a real man is required to be slim, tough and independent. A child who lacks these qualities and is emotionally fragile or weak-minded is not considered a man. A seven-day boot camp exists to strengthen boys between six and twelve years old. In the camp, boys learn how to sumo wrestle, play American football, tidy their room and be independent by washing clothes by hand. They are also taught what it means to be a man and ideas such as shouldering burden and being the pillar of support for their family are instilled in them through conversations, “man’s cheer” and men’s pledge where they have to assert their strength (Paulo, 2018).
How does a society define “emotionally fragile”? Where do emotions get transferred to if boys are taught to no longer be emotionally fragile and that they should be perfectly fine to shoulder heavy burden?
Although giving boys the opportunity to learn how to wash clothes and tidy their room is good, it should not be restricted to boys alone. Such life skills should be taught to all children.
What should parents do?
All children go through a whirlpool of emotions and gender should not be the main focus when dealing with it. Below are some steps for parents to raise emotionally intelligent boys:
When parents start to listen to what their sons are saying, it creates room for boys to express their emotions. Over time, parents become the people they transfer their tensions to and the boys will be able to trust their parents, restore their own mind and have a clearer mind when making decisions. Parents need to ensure that they do not remind their sons of any stereotypical roles they think the child should conform to. Instead, this should be an opportunity for them to build a bond with their sons and to ensure he is able to acknowledge his emotions and verbalise it (Reichert, 2019).
Listening is the first step. Advocating is the second. Some boys may still be unsure about what they should do during their difficult phase. Parents should acknowledge the struggle and display empathy. Together, the parent and son can brainstorm ideas to decide what can be done. Although the first instinct for most parents is to provide advice, it is important to ask yourself what your son needs when he is opening up to you. Does he need scolding or a warm hug? Is he able to figure things out on his own? What kind of pressure is he facing right now?
As boys start going to school, they may face pressure from friends who are brought up with male stereotype. It is important for your son to develop his identity from young by instilling good values and the kind of person he desires to be in the world. A child who is accepted by his parents and has a strong sense of self in terms of values and behaviour will be able to resist conforming to stereotypes. However, the child may still be curious about why other students behave a certain way and they may show signs of adopting some behaviour. During these moments, it is important that the parent does not react negatively. Instead, they need to have a healthy conversation on the behaviour and remind the child of the values taught (Reichert, 2019).
These steps apply to both, male and female children. However, these steps are commonly seen when parents are bringing up a female child compared to a male child. It should be understood that by giving your child a listening ear, your child knows their emotions matter and you are giving them an opportunity to be able to regulate their emotions. Let’s raise emotionally intelligent boys and girls!
Brownhill, S., Wilhelm, K., Barclay, L., & Parker, G. (2002). Detecting Depression in Men: A Matter of Guesswork. 259-280. doi:10.3149/jmh.0103.259
Paulo, D. (2018). ‘Masculinity crisis’ in China leads parents to enrol kids in boot camp. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/masculinity crisis-china-leads-parents-enrol-boys-boot-camp-10869716
Reichert, M. (2019). 5 Ways To Help You Raise Emotionally Intelligent Boys. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/five-ways-to-help-you-raise emotionally-intelligent-boys
Reichert, M. (2019). Parenting after #MeToo: Changing the skewed ideals of masculinity should start at home. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/metoo sexual-harassment-boys-parenting-toxic-masculinity-a8882236.html’
In the last few editions, we focused on brain structure and how it affects a person. In this edition, we will be focusing on a social issue and why it should not be ignored. The recent statistics in Singapore for male suicides is two times higher than female (Cheow, 2019). Males resort to lethal methods of suicide because of the inability to cope with the pressure placed by society on masculinity.
Although in recent years it has become more acceptable for male characters to cry on tv shows, it is not tolerable to continuously portray them as “emotional” characters throughout a show. Media emphasises how the male has to sooner or later “man-up” after their meltdown (Kemp, 2019).
Men tend to live up to the male stereotype that stresses on toughness, self-reliance and valour due to the emphasis of “being a man” placed by society. Reaching out for help by opening up about personal feelings is often seen as a lack of control and loss of identity and independence. As a result, males are inclined to suppress their emotional turmoil most of the time which results in them making dangerous decisions (Chia, 2018).
According to a study done in UK, men face a wide range of issues that include financial distress, relationship failure, work-related stress, and even feelings of loneliness (Barnett, 2019). However, they are more unwilling to express vulnerabilities compared to women because of the pressures they face due to gender identity (Cheow, 2019).
The amount of attention devoted to ensuring that a man fits the male stereotype is seen across cultures all over the world. A study conducted in Mexico, U.S. and U.K. found that many young males were raised by parents who stressed the importance of acting strong even if they felt scared (Reichert, 2019). Another study found that male leaders who requested for help were perceived as less competent (Mayer, 2018).
What can be done?
While males and females are physiologically different in terms of muscle mass, they should not be treated differently because of gender when it comes to emotional issues. The treatment given to female and male friends who show us their tears tend to differ because of gender. As members of society, we need to look out for our male friends, brothers and partners and encourage them to share their worries. While most of us look out for our loved ones, we also tend to shove masculinity in their face and invalidate their emotions when they open up. Perhaps the time has come for us to be more sensitive to emotions and not let gender affect our view!
Barnett, D. (2019). Andy’s Man Club: A talking group fighting male suicide. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/talk-group-fight-male-suicideprevention-a8863701.html
Cheow, S. (2019). Men twice as likely to commit suicide. Retrieved from https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/men-twice-likely-commit-suicide
Chia, R. (2018). Suicide is the main cause of death for millennials in Singapore – and most of them are men. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.sg/suicide-is-the-main-cause-of-death-for-millennials-in-Singapore-and-most-of-them-are-men/
Kemp, R. (2019). Why don’t men talk about the stuff they really worry about? Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/living-with-erectile-dysfunction/why-dont-men-talk/
Mayer, D. (2018). How Men Get Penalized for Straying from Masculine Norms. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/10/how-men-get-penalized-for-straying-from-masculine-norms
Reichert, M. (2019). It Doesn’t Take a Man to Raise a Boy. Retrieved from http://time.com/5567733/mothers-raising-boys/
Did you know your brain has the ability to repair itself?
PLASTICITY! That’s what it’s called!
It means your brain reroutes its network to compensate for the loss of abilities!
Do you remember that classmate in school that wore a patch for their lazy-eye condition? Well, forcing their lazy eye to be the only source of visual information did not change anything about the eye, but, it did cause their visual pathways in the brain to develop further (Marquez, 2019)! HOW?! Because of rewiring!
People who have stroke have difficulties controlling their body movement due to paralysis. This is because the brain cells responsible for the movement for that particular part of the body is “dead”. But, a neuroscientist found a way to get that paralysed arm to work! He adopted a constraint-induced therapy where patients avoided using their working arm and could only use the arm that’s affected by stroke. After 2 weeks, they discovered that the arm became stronger! This happened because the area of the brain next to the damaged neurones started to rewire to enable the patient to use that arm (Marquez, 2019)!
Many of us would have heard about the amazing sense of hearing that blind people have (Sandoiu, 2018)! Blind people gain information about their surroundings from sound. Hence, the area responsible for sound in the brain, the auditory cortex, has intensified capacities (Times, 2019) while the area responsible for vision in the brain become smaller (Newman, 2017).
Research has found that as people age, the risk of getting dementia increases. But, there is a way to minimise that risk and it starts from young! People who take part in aerobic exercises have increased cortical thickness of their brains. This development of thickness is associated with lower risk of dementia in old age. Aerobic exercise benefits people in their twenties. Even though people in their twenties do not face the threat of cognitive decline, exercising early helps to build up these defences (Betuel, 2019)!
Our brain is more powerful than we think it is! And it is within us to develop it and harness its strengths! Start living right by exercising, learning new things and sleeping well! The brain you look after now, will look after you later on!
Marquez, J. (2019). Rewiring the brains of stroke patients. Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-04-rewiring-brains-patients.html
Sandoiu, A. (2018). The curious case of a blind woman who sees motion. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322136.php
Times, A. (2019). Studies Prove Blind People Really Have Better Hearing. Retrieved from https://www.techtimes.com/articles/242061/20190423/studies-prove-blind-people-really-have-better-hearing.htm
Newman, T. (2017). How blind people’s brains rewire to improve other senses. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316493.php
Betuel, E. (2019). The Effect of Exercise on Aging Brains Begins Even Earlier Than We Thought. Retrieved from https://www.inverse.com/article/52914-exercise-effects-on-brain-health-and-aging-start-young
In the first edition of The Psychotherapist’s Corner, we spoke about traumatic brain injuries and read some case studies. For this edition, we will go a little deeper, so you get a better understanding of how your brain functions!
The different lobes
“Use your brain lah!” – A common phrase uttered by most of us to our friends! But do you know why there’s so much of emphasis on the brain? It’s because your brain decides every action you take!
The AMAZING human brain is divided into four lobes – occipital, parietal, temporal and frontal. Damages to any part of the lobe will result in an inability to solve problems and understand information (Kalat, 2014).
In 1999, an Obstetrician Dr Allan Zarkin carved his initials “AZ” on Liana Gedz’s, abdomen after she delivered her child. When interrogation began, he told officials that it felt like he did a good job so he signed it. There were also observations about his unusual anger at work. They later learnt about his dementia in the frontal lobe, also known as Pick’s disease. The disease disrupts a person’s ability to exhibit socially appropriate behaviours. His medical license was, then, revoked (Dodgson, 2018).
OMG! I didn’t know!
Many people I spoke to had no idea how important their brain was! Think of your brain as the motherboard for your body. It is responsible for your memory, movements and even recognizing people. And all of these is possible only when you look after your brain. Looking after does not only mean protecting it from injuries, it also means you need to have adequate sleep and feed your brain positivity! What you surround your mind with, will impact the choices you make!
Welcome to the first edition of “The Psychotherapist Corner”. In this edition, we will be sharing information about your brain with you! If you have friends who play soccer, then there is a high chance you would have heard the word “concussion” before! But what exactly is concussion?
Your brain is inside the skull; however, it is not attached to the skull – your brain “floats”! It is protected by membranes, known as meninges. When something hits your head with great force, the impact causes the brain to shake. This may result in cell damage. Concussion, a type of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), occurs when the damaged cells are neurons. Symptoms of concussion include memory loss and headache. However, these signs may not appear immediately.
So, friends! If you ever hit your head anywhere and even though you think you’re fine, always get a scan done to be 100% sure! Better safe than sorry!
Four years ago, Chelsea had a seizure and fell on the ground at college. Her brain was damaged when she stopped breathing. Post-recovery, she has mood swings and is not able to control her rage. Minor disruptions such as not being able to go back to school resulted in her getting physical with her mother and punching her father (Dodgson, 2018).
In 2014, Adam was in a major car accident that resulted in a serious TBI. After being discharged, his family said he was not the same person anymore. He displayed argumentative behaviours, was childish and vulgar (Wearne & Trimmer, 2017)
How It Affects People?
TBI may result in people having difficulties in communicating, planning daily activities and problem solving. There may even be changes in behaviour where the person becomes more aggressive and either have an excessive of emotions or a totally flattened mood. (Wearne & Trimmer, 2017).
How Can We Support Them?
Recovery varies for everyone. Many have difficulties adjusting to their new lifestyle. They may not be able to live independently or achieve certain types of goals. This may add on to their frustration. Their behavioural changes may place a strain on families and friends. It is important for us to understand why there’s a change in their behaviour and to continue to provide support. With understanding, we can foster a supportive and encouraging society! (Wearne & Trimmer, 2017).
1. Dodgson, L. (2018). Brain injuries can cause some people to become violent criminals and pedophiles — here’s what scientists know so far about why that is. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.sg/brain-damage-can-turn-people-into-criminals-2018-2/?r=US&IR=T
2. Wearne, T., & Trimmer, E. (2017). Explainer: What is traumatic brain injury? Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-traumatic-brain-injury-75546