Recently when I heard the popular children’s rhyme “What are little boys made of”, it walloped me. If any of you mommies haven’t heard this rhyme, the next lines go – “Snips and snails and puppy dogs tails, that’s what little boys are made of.” Further, the rhyme brings a comparison of little girls with sugar, spice, and everything nice.
As a child, I too must have recited this one because I was fed with so many rhymes. Now as a mother of two, when I heard the rhyme, I felt clogged for some time. The meaning of snips and snails has been debated for centuries now, but it certainly does not equate a boy with sweetness. Deep down boys are meant to be inherently tough and strong. The idea of boys being men right when they are babies has percolated into our sub-conscience for long now.
Whether it were in the rhymes two centuries ago, contemporary culture, or ‘traditional wisdom’, it required boys that be bold, strong, and challenging. Never being able to vent out their emotions has always been the ulterior part of the upbringing.
We tell our boys right from their infancy that ‘good boys don’t cry’. It’s a shame we don’t want our boys to have an emotional outlet. Babies know little about communicating their needs to you. When you don’t understand what they need, or when they want to tell they are tired or hungry, they will succumb to crying. They cry when their neighbor snatches their toys. They cry because they are afraid of a stranger. They cry because they just want to be with their mothers. So when you ask them to ‘be a man’ so early on in life, you are not conducive enough to allow them to grow with broader perspectives of being a man.
So, does that mean boys do cry, and they could cry more than girls? In a scientific paper called, “All Our Sons: The Developmental Neurobiology and Neuroendocrinology of Boys at Risk”, Dr. Allan Schore, a clinical psychologist from UCLA, says that baby boys might be more prone to stress than we have known, and therefore they might need more mollycoddling and TLC (tender loving care) than baby girls.
Dr. Schore explains the differences between the female and male brain development in the first stages of life. One primary difference is the rate of development of the right brain area which is slower in baby boys than baby girls. Also, the self-regulating stress hormones are low in baby boys when they are in the mother’s womb. Therefore, baby boys are more susceptible to the influences of environmental, social, and physical stressors, while baby girls are more resilient to these stressors.
Dr. Schore also believes that baby boys are prone to neuropsychiatric disorders early in life due to slower development of the right brain area. They display intense reactions to negative stimuli and tend to show frustration at six months. Girls are inclined to such disorders much later in life and show frustration only at 12 months.
One way that parents can address the issue is by being ready to respond to their baby boy’s needs. Parents also need to shed inhibitions about showing their attachment towards their sons, according to Dr. Schore. He believes that TLC in boys could affect the regulator of the right brain which is immature in their first year. The regulator helps in the socio-emotional development.
With this, there is finally some scientific backing into putting a stop to gender stereotype being bombarded on our children. For Heaven’s sake, let’s stop asking boys to be tough at a tender age. Let’s be quick to respond to our little ones irrespective of son or daughter.
With studies like these, we are reminded not to apply gender stereotypes so early on. It’s probably time you rush to your little angel when he cries instead of telling him that boys don’t cry.