“Take it like a man.”
“Boys don’t cry.”
These are common phrases boys have always heard from coaches, teachers, fathers, and grandfathers. And yes, our boys need to be tough. So do our girls. The world is not always kind. They won’t always get their way. They won’t always win. And they will get hurt. But is there a way to raise “tough” boys who can handle life’s challenges while also letting them experience emotion? While also showing them compassion? And while also allowing them to be kids? Clint Edwards, everyone’s favorite Internet dad and the author of No Idea What I Am Doing: A Daddy Blog says yes; there is.
In a recent post that has proved itself popular with both moms and dads, Clint talks about his 10-year-old son Tristan who came out of soccer practice one day with a less than stellar report from his coach. In his Facebook post, Clint shares: “My son’s soccer coach pulled me aside after practice to tell me Tristan had a breakdown. ‘Or something like that,’ he said. ‘He started crying so he sat out for a bit.’”
And as most boys do when embarrassed, Clint says that his son “stood next to me as the coach spoke. He looked at the ground and sheepishly kicked the grass with his cleats.”
Okay, so now what? Clint knew he had to do something, say something. Should he make it better? Comfort his son? Or tell him to suck it up? What’s a dad to do in this situation?
He admits in his post that “there was a part of me that wanted to tell him to toughen up. To stop this BS and play the game like a man” and says “I assumed that’s what the coach wanted me to do.”
Clint tells Babble that as a young boy, he “was told to be tough. That was the solution to all problems.” But in his post, he shares that hearing that “didn’t make me feel stronger. It made me feel weak.”
So he decided that his son, who looked at him with tears in his eyes after hearing the coach’s words, deserved something different. Something more. He chose to buy Tristan an ice cream cone, but it was given under one condition. “You have to tell me everything that happened,” Clint told his son. “EVERYTHING. And you have to listen to my advice.”
Once Clint learned that Tristan was frustrated that he hadn’t improved after years of playing, and that it seemed like all the other kids were “getting it” more easily than he was, he knew what to say.
“It’s not about being the best right there and then,” Clint said to his son. “It’s about growth. It’s about showing up and trying, really trying. It’s about gaining skills. Your whole life will be like this: sports, school, work, family. It’s all about showing up and trying. Sometimes I feel like I’m not getting any better at this whole dad thing. But I keep showing up and trying. Life is like that.”
Clint says that “Every father since the history of ever has been faced with this decision” — whether to say “man up” or not. Well Clint, when it came to your turn, we give you two thumbs up.
In the end, he and Tristan agreed to keep trying. Tristan will keep trying at soccer. And Clint will keep trying at the whole dad thing. They both might struggle, but they’ll support each other and won’t let each other give up.
And that’s how you parent and raise a “tough” boy.