Stereotypes

While you might kiss your sons when they are babies or toddlers, most parents tend to separate themselves physically from their sons when they grow into adolescents. Kisses and hugs for adolescent sons-especially from fathers-are seen as unmanly and even inappropriate. Boys are less likely to be comforted with hugs when they cry. Sons who enjoy affection from their mothers well into their teenage years may be labeled as “Mommy’s boys”. Affection between boys who are friends is frowned-upon even more. Boys quickly learn that it’s not safe to be affectionate with their male friends. Girls, on the other hand, are permitted to show affection in their intimate relationships with friends, siblings, and parents as they grow up.

Consequences

Human beings need touch. The consequences of teaching boys that it is wrong to show affection to the people that they are close to are numerous. In a study that examined almost 500 people over a long-term period, children who received the most affection from their mothers were the least likely to experience regular distress as adults-including anxiety, sadness, inability to focus, and other symptoms of mental illness. When researchers controlled for factors such as their level of education and socioeconomic status, the results didn’t change. Children who received more affection from their mothers were more resilient. It is believed that the feelings of security promoted by affection help children to develop a secure sense of self, one that will later help them cope with difficulties in life.

Effect on Relationships

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that men who are taught not to show affection as children do not make affectionate and caring romantic partners. They may not understand how to react in a supportive way in their intimate relationships, as this usually involves providing some form of physical comfort. In addition, men who don’t have experience giving and receiving affection may not understand concepts like boundaries and consent. They may not see affection as a necessary way of developing intimacy and trust in a long-term relationship. In addition, they may have difficulty separating affection and touch from sex.

Teaching Boys to Show Affection

Men who kiss their sons risk being perceived negatively by others-stigma and ignorance dictates that men who show affection to their sons are trying to turn them gay. Or worse, that they are pedophiles. Unfortunately, getting past these hurdles of societal perception is one of the most difficult tasks for parents. In order to show your son that it’s okay to show affection, you need to show affection to your son. In addition, you need to model tenderness and affection with your own spouse or partner. Your son may quickly understand that your behavior is not “normal” according to what he sees on TV and learns from his friends. During adolescence, he may begin to feel embarrassed for having parents who still kiss him. This is a good time to talk about the importance of giving and receiving affection. While you have less control over what he learns from outside sources, let him know that he is safe showing affection with his family.

Boys need affection in order to grow into affectionate men. This can be difficult for parents who worry how boys who give and receive affection will be perceived by their peers and teachers. Be a model by showing your son affection and showing affection in your own relationships.