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Sons Need to See Dad’s Soft Side Too!
This can be particularly true for African American men who have been hyper masculinized by the media and stereotypes. You know the images, the Mandingo warrior or gangster thug. The media perpetuate these gender stereotypes for black boys too and that’s a problem. Consider that many black boys see hip hop artists, sports figures, their own fathers and “super hero” characters as models for how men are suppose to behave. If these role models restrict the range of their emotional expression to anger, pride, or simply stoic expressions we get generational cycles of masculinity being limited to these stereotypical expressions of manhood. Simply, young boys emulate what they see on television and inside their home. What would happen if black boys commonly saw adult men expressing a range of healthy emotion? Boys exposed to men expressing all emotions are likely better equipped as men to express a range of healthy emotions.
Research from notable psychologist, Harry Harlow suggests the significance of caretakers’ warmth and comforting in their expressions of love allow children to feel secure and safe. Children raised with unconditional love during development are likely to become more comfortable with the exchange of loving emotions. Love begets love. Children accustom to being told they are loved develop positive ideas about love and learn that love should be expressed, shared, and supported. These children learn that sharing positive regard for others is normal. And if cemented in early in their development, positive regard becomes a core part of personal values and self-concept. It’s hard to recruit boys into gang activity if they have positive regard as a core value.
If we needed yet another reason to expose our black boys to consistent expressions of love, consider that it promotes self-confidence and improves self-esteem. African American boys raised under the umbrella of positive emotions learn that mistakes do not jeopardize their admiration or value in a family. They learn that while behavior may be corrected, a parent’s positive regard is constant. So hug your son and let them know they are loved and highly valued!