The Tenderness of Boys

Pre-school boys often show an intuitive and joyous lifeforce which they later learn to suppress. NICK THORPE looks at what happens on the road to manhood, and what we can do about it.

“There’s great native tenderness in children – in boys as much as in girls,” says the Australian novelist Tim Winton. “But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.”

Winton’s counter-cultural description of boys as “beautiful creatures” – “graceful, dreamy, vulnerable” – before they learn to wear the stereotypical armour of masculinity, always gets an emotive ripple of recognition from both women and men when we quote him at our Celebrating Boys workshops.

Why? Because in stark contrast to the Victorian rhyme about slugs, snails and puppy dogs’ tails, many of us love the irrepressible life-force and wide-openness of our own sons – particularly before they get to school age.


Mothers in particular (in most cases still the primary carers) feel the intense emotional connections their sons offer at an early age. For her superb book The Birth of Pleasure, Psychologist Carol Gilligan interviewed many women who described their four- and five-year-old sons as emotionally present and startlingly intuitive to a range of their feelings – sometimes in a way that their partners were not.

But fathers too, interviewed in the pre-school years, told Gilligan [read full article on Celebrating Boys website]

Posted on: 20 Mar 2019 in General

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