Why We Need To Teach Our Boys To Cry

Tears heal us physically and emotionally and after a good bawl it has been proven that people are less stressed and calmer, overall. So why are boys not encouraged to cry?


I don’t know about the other women out there but I love a good cry. Tears heal us physically and emotionally and after a good bawl it has been proven that people are less stressed and calmer, overall.

In addition, humans are the only creatures that have been proven to cry emotional tears.

Kinds of tears

But, let’s back up for just a moment and talk about the three kinds of tears. There are continuous tears which are the tears that keep your eyes wet all of the time. There are also tears that are reflexive (or instinctual) – like the kind that clear dust out of your eyes. Then, there are emotional tears.  One of the most interesting differences in the tears is that reflexive tears are made up of 98% water. Emotional tears, on the other hand, contain stress hormones. Crying excretes those hormones and those tears also assist in the production of endorphins, our body’s natural painkillers.

Gender stereotype

When we consider these facts and look around at our culture of gender stereotypes, it is striking to reflect on the fact that boys are discouraged from doing this very uniquely human and incredibly healthy thing.  Moreover, we are surprised and disheartened when boys are aggressive, fail in relationships, or are otherwise emotionally unavailable. But, what tools do they have to become emotionally healthy people if they are not even allowed the simple release of a good, long cry? (I’m talking fetal position, sobbing, snot coming out of your nose crying. One of those sessions will leave you feeling like a new person.)

Why deny boys this right?

Why do we deny our boys this basic right?  Men have historically been considered tough and strong and brave. Crying is seen as contradictory to those traits.  That outdated way of thinking is still shaping the way many of our boys are being raised and that means they are missing out on the benefits of emotional release.

Here are a few more to consider:

  • Crying can help reduce headaches and high blood pressure.
  • Crying helps us to relax and is linked to better sleep.
  • Crying demonstrates that a person is growing while becoming more emotionally mature.
  • Crying is essential in the grieving process.
  • Crying helps us communicate and build trust and intimacy.

In short, crying is the cheapest counseling there is and it can lead to self-awareness, inner peace and improved physical health. Is there ever a time when crying becomes a problem? Sure, but a Crying Proneness Scale (administered by a professional) will help differentiate recurrent or excessive crying (which may be a sign of depression) and a “normal” tendency to cry.

Crying is not just for girls

Feeling sad is a universal and basic emotion. It is not exclusively a girl thing. In fact, prior to puberty, boys are actually more prone to depression than girls. Boys do feel sad. Period. Even if they find ways to mask it, they have all of the same emotions that females do. So, what happens to their sadness when they don’t cry? Nothing. It just sits there and festers. Girls cry all of that sadness out and detoxify as they do so. Boys just make themselves mentally and physically sick by holding it all in.

So, how do we teach boys to cry in a healthy fashion?

  • Never shame a boy for his tears but be sure to talk to him about what he is feeling and ask him what is going on.
  • Model appropriate and healthy emotional crying. This is especially important for dads because they are such vital role models to their sons.
  • Discuss the health benefits of crying as listed above and let them know that you are proud of them for releasing toxins and stress.
  • Congratulate them for being courageous enough to cry and for being willing to be vulnerable.
  • Just sit quietly with him if that is all he wants.
  • Give him some privacy if that is what he requests.

Overall, your job as a parent is to respect your child’s emotions and let your son know it is safe to feel sadness around you. When you are overwhelmed, stressed out or feeling hurt, crying can be absolutely cathartic but we shame and put down males who attempt to use this self-soothing mechanism. Thousands of years of social programming have led us to this place. So, it’s time for some re-programming.

Jessica Gray
Jessica Gray lives in North Carolina with her husband and two little boys. She enjoys cooking, but she hates cleaning house. She's deeply passionate about kids and education - her experiences working with children as a teacher have been some of the most rewarding of her life. Writing has been a lifelong passion that started with notebooks, old scraps of paper, and journals. She loves to write informative and educational pieces for kids and adults.