I recently talked about the Greatness Book for Boys. One of my pet peeves is when children are told that there is a certain range of interests that are for boys and another for girls. This limits the way that children of both genders can express themselves and share their talents with the world.
Just as girls who like dinosaurs or race cars are told, “You can’t like that, it’s for boys,” boys who like arts and creativity are often told “You can’t like that, it’s for girls.” One of the most touching things I’ve ever heard was when a college senior stood up in front of a large group of students during chapel and talked about the journey he’d taken learning to accept himself. He has a wonderful, fun, bubbly personality that makes him a joy to be around. But, as he was growing up, he was often told that he shouldn’t “act that way,” because being enthusiastic and caring was perceived as unmanly. Finally, as a college student, he learned to love and accept the beautiful spirit that he was born with and to see it as a gift.
He’s not the only boy who gets this message. Just as our products and media messages are telling girls that to be feminine they must focus on their looks and sexual attractiveness; these messages are telling boys that their worth lies in physical strength, material possessions and money, and often in being romantically involved with attractive females.
For boys in early adolescence, this can be very confusing. Developmentally, it’s very normal for early middle school boys not to be that interested in girls. But, when the TV shows and movies that they’re seeing depict success as a male tied to romantic relationships and with attractive females, they feel pressure. We see boys at this age being told that if they’re not involved romantically, then there’s something wrong with them.
Those of us who live and work with children need to keep sharing a different message with them. We need to let boys know that they have a set of talents that is all their own. If the world doesn’t get to see that, because they’re hiding it behind a façade of pseudo-masculinity, then everyone loses out. We need to let boys know that there is no pressure to be involved in romance until they’re ready. There’s plenty of time for that! Let them enjoy their childhood and learn to accept themselves as the amazing person they were made to be. We need to help boys embrace the beauty of their individual spirits as unique and important, whether they like sports or dance, cars or painting, dinosaurs or fashion design. If they like it, it is for boys! Let’s help them proclaim this.