Mom Explains Why Her 8-Year-Old Son Doesn't Need to 'Man Up'

Writer Jaime Primak Sullivan wrote a Facebook post about an incident in which she was accused of "babying" her son — and why it's so important not to force boys to "man up" — and it resonated with parents all over the world, with more than 2,000 shares and 12,000 reactions.

Jaime Primak Sullivan

"You need to stop babying that kid."

Primak Sullivan was at her 8-year-old son Max's school basketball game when she saw him get hit in the face with the basketball. She saw "his eyes widen and then squint from the pain": He "couldn't catch his breath." Max headed toward her.

"My feet couldn't move fast enough," Primak Sullivan wrote. "As soon as we connected, I got down on one knee. 'Catch your breath, buddy.' He tilted his head back. 'Max, breath. It's OK.' He finally took a breath, and I wrapped my arms around him as he cried into my shoulder."

That was the moment when another parent decided to intervene: "You need to stop babying that kid," the parent told her. Primak Sullivan was furious — but it had nothing to do with feeling like her parenting skills were being critiqued. Rather, it was a much bigger issue.

"This notion that boys can never hurt, that they can never feel, is so damaging to them long term."

She explained:

"The belief that any signs or gestures of affection will somehow decrease their manhood — this pressure to always 'man up' follows them into adulthood, where they struggle to fully experience the broad scope of love and affection. The only emotion they healthily learn to express is happiness, then we wonder why they are always chasing it.

"They're taught that sadness is weakness, that talking about their fears or shortcomings makes them less than. They don't mourn properly. The struggle to grieve. They're afraid to cry. It all spills into the way they husband and father, and I hate it."

Being taught that "sadness is weakness" is one of the many ways we enforce toxic masculinity.

ATTN: previously cited a New York Times Op-Ed that argued "boys are taught to suppress or reinterpret outward emotional displays — be they psychological or physical — in the pursuit of fostering an 'I-can-take-it' manliness."

Teaching boys to "be a man!" by suppressing their emotions doesn't do them any favors for long-term growth, ATTN: reported:

"Teaching boys that natural emotions are somehow unmanly and should be repressed can have obvious psychologically damaging impacts. But suppressing emotion can also have more tangible, dangerous outcomes, leading to potential outbursts of aggression, and even shorter life spans."

It is healthier to encourage boys to show emotion and unhealthy to shame them for crying.

Watch ATTN:'s video below about why showing emotion is a strength.