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QUESTION: What should I say to my in laws who tell my son he shouldn’t cry because he is a boy?
“How would you address this situation? I have a 4-year-old son. Since he was very small, we have been very open about emotions… naming them, processing them, and finding ways to cope with different emotions. I am proud that my son can come to me and say, “I’m mad.” Or “I’m jealous.” Or “I’m sad.” <— 90% of the time. The other 10%, we work through the tantrum/meltdown together. I want him to know that it is okay to have feelings, and there are good and bad ways to deal with feelings.
Last week at my in-law’s house, my son was having an emotional day. It was before mealtime (so he was hungry), he didn’t get a nap (so he was tired), all sorts of factors. My FIL kept saying things like: “You are a boy! And boys don’t cry!” “When your dad was small, he learned to not cry because he was a man.” “You have to be strong and not cry.” I sat back and didn’t say anything; I was so sad for my son. I wish I would have said something, but I was in shock, and I didn’t know what to say, aside from “F*** off.” And that wouldn’t have gone over well.
My in-laws are from a culture where it is disrespectful to speak up against the older generation. I don’t want my son to ever think he has to be an “emotionless male.” What can I say/do the next time this happens and still keep the peace? Is that possible?”
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The following top answers have been selected by a moderator from hundreds of responses to the original question.
“You’re the advocate for your child. Stand up for your son and tell them how you feel.”
“Point out to your in-laws that they have their culture, the way they raised their son, and you have your culture, the way you are raising your son. Tell them times are different and cultures have changed.”
“Ignore them and keep talking to your son. Let him cry that’s his way of communicating. I was told the same thing about my son but I told them you raised your children. This one is mine, I will raise him the way I want to.”
“You don’t have to say anything to FIL. FIL: ‘Boys don’t cry! Boys are in control of themselves! You need to stop it right now!’ You to your son: ‘Aww, buddy. I see you’re having a hard time. Is there anything I can do to help you with that so you don’t feel so sad right now?’ He got his chance to raise his son, and now it’s your turn to raise yours. That’s just facts. There’s no disrespect in stating facts.”
“You step up and tell them politely to stop telling your son that because it is not how you’re raising him. Men who are told this and taught that they cannot show emotion are the ones who end up with depression and other serious mental issues. It’s not ok.”
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