Redefining Manhood: How to Promote Healthy Masculinity Among Boys
How Do Gender Norms Influence Masculinity?
- Lack of emotional sensitivity
- Cardiovascular problems
- Harsh discipline at school
- School dropouts
- Substance misuse
- Early mortality
- Risk of becoming victim to crimes
What Are the Mental and Emotional Effects of Rigid Gender Norms for Men?
- Display muted emotions.
- Show a lack of empathy.
- Experience aggression that tends to persist over time.
- Engage in abusive behavior toward loved ones.
- Experience higher rates of mental illness diagnosis.
- Receive a misdiagnosis of psychological disorders.
- Avoid seeking professional help.
How to Address Harmful Masculinity with Boys
- Focus on the future. Ask questions like, “What kind of man do you aspire to be?” This type of question avoids reinforcing the harmful ideas that boys aren’t worthy or good enough.
- Ask what’s right, not what’s wrong, with you. Some boys may feel defensive about being in a counselor’s office, which is an area of vulnerability and not necessarily a desired place to be. Validate help-seeking behaviors that may open up a better dialogue.
- Create a safe environment. If a boy is tentative about expressing himself, the first question shouldn’t be, “How do you feel?” Counselors can ask other questions that can build up towards approaching emotional expression, rather than going directly at it.
- Recognize that it might be hard to share emotions. Be non-judgmental and avoid shaming anyone for feeling apprehensive about sharing their emotions.
- Reach out. Counselors can look for ways to be a voice for boys. Particularly with boys of color, counselors need to be more encouraging and not discriminatory.
- Talk about healthy masculinity. This is a conversation many boys and men never have. It can help them target what parts of masculinity are positive.
- Express a full range of emotion and feel validated.
- Be vulnerable and seek help when necessary.
- Treat people equally and respectfully.
- Listen to and value women and girls.
- Serve as role models for their male peers.