Teaching Boys to Cope with Feelings
Bullying can cause problems for your child at school—but what if your own son is the bully? Talking to your son about his emotions could be the key to understanding this behavior.
Harvard psychologist Dr. William Pollack, author of Real Boys' Voices, says boys are desperate to reveal their true feelings. Many boys wear a "mask," often hiding feelings of sadness, loneliness and vulnerability. Dr. Pollack says that, for many boys, self-worth is tied to their body image. They worry they are not masculine enough.

Parents don't realize how they teach their boys to bury emotions. Simple phrases like "Big boys don't cry" create a lifelong effect, according to Dr. Pollack. Many boys feel they can't express their sadness, so instead they get angry.
Dr. Pollack says that the "code" that goes along with being a boy includes traits such as being macho and never weak. Instead of repressing his sad feelings, though, you can encourage your son to express his emotions in a healthy way.

  • Give your son time for undivided attention and listening space.
  • Don't prematurely push him to be independent.
  • Let him know that "real" boys and men do cry and speak.
  • Express your love as openly as you would to a girl.
Boys want to discuss their feelings, but they generally express themselves while engaged in another activity, such as fishing or drawing, Dr. Pollack says. He calls this "action talk."

When you are talking to your son, you should:
  • Avoid teasing and shaming.
  • Share your own experiences.
  • Keep your statements brief.
  • Don't press for fast responses.
  • Really listen when your son finally decides to talk.
The majority of schools have a zero-tolerance policy for bullies, but this can often lead to more violence. To help their sons, parents can take steps to find better ways to deal with their feelings.

  • If your son is a bully, teach him healthy ways to express pain.
  • Create safe, shame-free zones where your son can go to retreat and talk about his feelings.
According to Dr. Pollack, "bad boys" are often "sad boys," and bullies are often the most depressed. If you suspect your son might be depressed, watch out for these warning signs:
  • Increased impulsiveness and depleted mood
  • Increased withdrawal from relationships and problems in friendships
  • More angry outbursts and aggression
  • Increased risk-taking
  • New or renewed interest in drugs and alcohol 
  What to do if your child is being bullied  

Signs of childhood depression


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