David Robert Bliwas
David Robert Bliwas

By Gayle Allen and Deborah Farmer Kris 

When searching for toys for their kids at chain toy stores, parents typically encounter the following scenario: toy aisles are color-coded pink and blue. They shouldn’t bother looking for LEGOS, blocks, and trucks in the pink aisle, and they certainly won’t find baby dolls in the blue aisle.

While parents, researchers, and educators decry the lack of STEM toys for girls — and rightly so — what often goes unnoticed is that assigning genders to toys harms boys, as well. Too often children’s playrooms reinforce gender stereotypes that put boys at risk of failing to gain skills critical for success in life and work. The most important of these? Empathy.

Meg Bear, Group Vice President of Oracle’s Social Cloud, calls empathy “the critical 21st century skill.” She believes it’s the “difference between good and great” when it comes to personal and professional success. Researchers at Greater Good Science Center out of the University of California, Berkeley, echo Bear’s assertion. They define empathy as “the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

Why is empathy important? First, empathy breeds courage. In a recent study of nearly 900 youth, ages 11-13, Nicola Abbott and Lindsey Cameron’s, psychology researchers at University of Kent, found that participants with higher levels of empathy were more likely to engage in “assertive bystander behavior.” In other words, they were willing to stand up to a bully on behalf of someone outside their peer group. This kind of courage can be life changing for a victim of bullying and prevent the damaging effects of social isolation and exclusion that often lead to anxiety and depression.

Empathy also yields happiness. People with empathy have stronger interpersonal connections and are more eager to collaborate, effectively negotiate, demonstrate compassion, and offer support. They’re team players, and employers recognize this. So important has this skill become that a research team in England, after engaging in a six-month review of its schools, submitted a report that placed empathy in the top three of important outcomes for its students. Similarly, employers, when asked to compile a list of the “20 People Skills You Need to Succeed at Work,” placed it fifth.

Empathy drives thoughtful problem solving. Empathic problem solvers put themselves in others’ shoes in a way that allows them to design life-saving baby warmers, easily collapsible baby strollers, and energy-saving car sharing services. In addition, they’re often willing to work with others to solve persistent and, at times, larger problems. Rather than hoarding their knowledge and expertise, they open themselves up to what Greg Satell calls cognitive collaboration, in order to serve patients, clients, students, and even their respective fields, more effectively.

It’s clear we need to cultivate empathy in all children, but gender stereotypes — often reinforced in playrooms — risk leaving boys, in particular, with a social deficit.

What Parents Can Do

Play with dolls. Parents will find that boys can be  just as interested as girls in playing with dolls. Just watch little boys when they interact with an infant: they want to pat the baby’s head and see the little toes, and their faces show distress when that baby starts to cry. Recognizing the importance of young children’s interactions with babies for building social skills, organizations like Roots of Empathy do just that. They bring babies into elementary school classrooms as part of their empathy building, evidence-based programs. Don’t have a baby at hand? Dolls allow young children to simulate dressing, feeding, calming and caring for babies – particularly if adults participate and model this care. For parents of boys, it’s worth a trip to the pink aisles to find one.

Pretend play helps children self-regulate, develop a strong “theory of mind,” and integrate positive and negative emotions. When kids adopt different personas, they face dilemmas and solve problems “in character” – in essence, they’re taking empathy for a test drive. Play researcher Dorothy Singer, Senior Researcher at Yale University’s School of Medicine, contends that make believe helps children “be anyone they wish.” Through it, they “learn how to cope with feelings, how to bring the large, confusing world into a small, manageable size; and how to become socially adept as they share, take turns and cooperate with each other.” Parents can expand boy’s empathic skills through pretend play by blurring the traditional pink-blue boundary lines. Toy kitchens should co-exist with trucks, doll houses with action figures.

Read together. Researchers have shown that reading fiction promotes empathy. Children’s book author and illustrator, Anne Dewdney, echoes that finding when she argues that, “When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes.” Sadly, studies reveal that parents in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain spend less time reading and telling stories to their sons than to their daughters. In fact, in as early as nine months, researchers found a gender gap in literary activities. To address this, turn to picture books as empathy primers. Together parents and boys can look at a character’s body language and facial expressions and then identify corresponding emotions. Parents can pause while reading to ask: How do you think that make her feel? How would that make you feel? What would help him feel better?

Empathy, “an understanding that other people have feelings, and that those feelings count,” is a learned behavior. For boys, as for girls, that learning begins in infancy. As University of Wisconsin’s Carolyn Zahn-Waxler aptly notes, “There is no gene for empathy.” Parents play a key role in nurturing empathy, from explaining others’ feelings to encouraging prosocial behaviors with friends and siblings. Playroom toys and forms of play are equally important. Given all the benefits associated with empathy for success in life and work, it seems like now, more than ever, we need to mind the gap.

Gayle Allen spent nearly two decades as a teacher, school leader, and founder of two professional development institutes. She holds an Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she focused her research on teacher learning. Gayle currently serves on the advisory board for BioBuilder Educational Foundation. She blogs at Connecting the Thoughts and tweets @GAllenTC.

Deborah Farmer Kris has taught elementary, middle, and high school and served as a charter school administrator. She spent a decade as an associate at Boston University’s Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character researching, writing, and consulting with schools. She is the mother of two young children.

Why It’s Imperative to Teach Empathy to Boys 25 June,2014MindShift

  • Joshua Freedman

    It might be useful to also consider empathy as something “hard” — not at all the same as “being nice” or even “kindness.” Empathy is an intensely practical skill that’s based on UNDERSTANDING. For families that value boys being strong in body & mind, remember empathy is actually the basis of good leadership.

    Here’s a study we just conducted on 1000s of leaders — empathy is key to being great: http://www.6seconds.org/2014/06/04/talking-about-great-leaders/

  • Thom Markham

    Empathy is practical because it’s a crucial necessity in a diverse world. But it’s not a ‘skill’ and can’t be engineered. It’s an outcome of a tolerant, wise upbringing and a tolerant, wise system that matures young people–boys and girls–rather than stressing competitive fears and self-glorification. Turning boys into girls is not the answer. The problem with boys (and men, and a lot of girls) comes out of the NFL state of mind that drives so much thinking in our society. It’s a societal shift–and it’s happening, fortunately.

    • davegeorge

      “NFL state of mind?”

    • Playing with Plato

      You’re right about what makes empathy, and the article definitely leaves out some very important things about empathy but I don’t think it argues for turning boys into girls. I played with dolls on occasion as a boy. I especially loved those super
      girly ponies with the glittery stars on their butts. I pretend played
      with a girl that I was her pony named Blaze. By the “don’t turn boys into girls” people’s accounts, I
      should be wearing assless chaps in a pride parade somewhere. But I’ve
      had tons of girlfriends, was the Captain and Defensive Player of the
      Year of a football team and most guys would eat their own fist in front
      of me before fighting me. But I don’t think one should insist dolls on their male children, just don’t take them away if they’re into them. Far more effective ways to develop empathy in a child is to display one’s empathy for the child, and I think girls experience that a hell of a lot more than boys. I’ve been teaching for 2 years now and all my coworkers talk about how much they love their girls and how much they just want their little boys to just die and not come to school any more. It’s gross.

    • itzj

      It’s not about turning boys into girls. It’s about allowing boys the freedom to experience and express all emotions, not limiting them to a few acceptable ones. It’s about getting rid of the notion that certain jobs are for certain genders only. And it’s about expecting fathers to be caring and nurturing rather than the tough disciplinarian who only does the outside chores.

  • megbear

    Thanks for the shout out.

  • momsgoneglobal

    Parents and educators need to model and teach compassion and empathy to BOTH genders. Just because (some) girls play with dolls does not mean that they will grow up to become empathetic adults.

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  • Robert Fox

    Its amazing how this issue gets recycled into the headlines every so many years and then later a new study shows results to the contrary. Yes, it is important to raise children in an environment that teaches/shows empathy. But the implication that gender differences need to be minimized is rubbish. Competition can be useful in driving home a desire to succeed, to lead, to innovate,…etc. – that isn’t a bad characteristic.

    • KBQ

      Its amazing how this issue gets recycled into the headlines every so many years and then later a new study shows results to the contrary.

      From what I could gather, the thesis of this article was the following:

      Too often children’s playrooms reinforce gender stereotypes that put boys at risk of failing to gain skills critical for success in life and work. The most important of these? Empathy.

      Your remark implies that there are studies that demonstrate that some part, or perhaps all parts, of this assertion are untrue. Do you have any references to support this claim?

      But the implication that gender differences need to be minimized is rubbish.

      Where in the article did it say that gender differences needed to be minimized? Also, which gender differences do you feel the proponents of the article’s thesis are trying to minimize? If the differences you have in mind are anything like the supposed difference between girls and boys in STEM subjects, we probably shouldn’t devote too much time or energy towards emphasizing them.

      Competition can be useful in driving home a desire to succeed, to lead, to innovate,…etc. – that isn’t a bad characteristic.

      Which part of the article suggested that competition should be discarded during the process of raising children? And where did it say that leadership, innovation, and the drive to succeed were negatives? A bigger emphasis on empathy and teamwork does not exclude the teaching of the characteristics you mentioned as well.

      In my own professional experience, I’ve found that adopting a working style that takes others’ needs and positions into consideration is actually more of a help to being competitive and innovative (as an organization) rather than a hinderance. Within the structure of a company, the different members of a team perform different functions. Each team member has their own area of expertise, and it’s imperative for each member of the team to know where his or her strengths end and another team member’s begin so that the best knowledge and skills that the organization has to offer can be brought to bear on any given task or problem.

  • Anthony Freeman

    Never realized there was a cheat code to raising decent, caring young men. Just give them dolls? This article does a good job of WHY it’s important for children to have empathy. As for the HOW to do go about doing that…very lazy. I’m sure there is or at least should be books written on the subject. But “give them some dolls and read them some stories”…I don’t think you’re helping anybody. “Pretend play?” You mean the thing they naturally do during every minute of their childhood? Do you even have kids?

    • lexlibris8

      Good analysis Anthony. For example, why wouldn’t it be BETTER than dolls to give your kids a pet? If my kids wanted to play with dolls I would play along and encourage it, but I wouldn’t force the boys to play with dolls. I have three kids, two boys and a girl. In my experience only the girl had any interest in dolls. Pets have got to be better than an inanimate doll in teaching empathy.

      • JRC

        The article doesn’t describe it’s point about dolls very well. It’s the caretaking of a doll in pretend situations that is important. The theory is that if you give a child access to dolls when they are young they will model behavior that they see in their parents. This type of roll playing behavior helps them learn empathy. Having pets, although a wonderful thing for a child, does not allow children to act out feelings and social situations in the same manner that dolls can.

        • JRC

          And to add…children do learn empathy. They learn through watching their parents. So, parents can model this behavior through their interactions with their children, first and foremost, but then if they want to interact with their children through play with dolls they can model it that way as well.

          • Anthony Freeman

            Agreed. That was kind of my point. Children will learn empathy from their parents, whether it’s them treating a doll like they see you treating another child, or whatever else. If you’re a parent that doesn’t have empathy yourself, your child will likely not either, no matter how many dolls and stories you provide them with…unless they pick it up from someone else. There are some things that don’t need to be made into a science, or a system, where you have to do x, y, and z to achieve a desired result. Parenting, in my opinion, the thing we as humans have been doing naturally for as long as our species has existed…is one of those things. If you want your kid to be empathetic, you’ll have to be empathetic yourself and teach them by example. It’s that simple. Love your children and teach them right from wrong. Hasn’t failed me yet, but my kids are still very young. The kind of people that follow the kind of advice in articles like this would love to turn “loving and teaching your children” into a bureaucratic system of boxes they can check off to reach certain metrics that tell them that their children have achieved a satisfactory level of emotional maturity. My mom was a child/family therapist in the 80’s that loved these kind of studies/ methods. Probably messed me up more than helped me grow. I do remember having a doll at a very young age. Pretty sure I didn’t care for it like a baby. I did just fine caring for my younger sister and pets, though. Probably had something to do with the love and care my parents showed me and her, not the doll thing, or the stories I was read.

          • FacelessNameless

            Good god, you honestly think that people who are proactive enough to read this article and take things to heart are the type of people who just approach parenting as a series of check boxes? No article which briefly touches on a topic is meant to be A Complete Guide to All Things Parenting. It’s meant to open your mind, give a different perspective, raise questions. You say in one breath that your parents taught you emotional security and in another how your mom screwed you up. Maybe you should open your mind a bit and explore yourself a little before calling everything here wrong.

        • lexlibris8

          Hard to believe roll playing with an inanimate object is better at teaching empathy than taking care of a pet or playing with family and friends. The fact the article mentions only dolls and not the other ways of learning empathy suggests the author does not really know the subject and is writing from a very narrow (unempathetic?) perspective.

          • Rebecca

            I think the negative stigma attached to boys having dolls is both irrational and harmful. And boy children do get less affectionate attention, on average, than girl children (reading with a child is one of these). This article isn’t promoting dolls and reading, it’s merely promoting equal treatment of boys and girls (so they may have equal advantages once they become women and men). I’m pretty sure the main point of the piece was spelled out in the very first paragraph.

      • anon

        Dolls are a MUCH BETTER AND CRUELTY-FREE alternative than a pet. Children are way too young to handle the responsibility of “owning” a pet. Billions of pets are euthanized every day because so many parents decide to get their kid a little puppy, kitten, bunny, etc and the kid proves incapable of caring for it and grows out of it by then.

        • lexlibris8

          I disagree. It is much easier and better to teach empathy by: how you treat other family members, how you treat friends, how you treat strangers, and how you treat pets. Properly supervised, having pets does kids a world of good. Playing with dolls is last on a long list of means of teaching empathy. The fact the author listed doll as the primary means of teaching empathy shows a lack of understanding of the subject and or a lack of empathy with how other people (boys) learn empathy.

          • Rebecca

            The author didn’t identify doll-play as a primary means. The way I took it was that dolls ought to be accepted as an additional means. It’s unnatural to deny one’s self the pleasure of playing with a doll or pretending to be caring thoughtfully for a baby. Historically, apparently, boys have been discouraged from doing this – and the author very plainly laid out why such restrictions don’t make sense anymore.

        • lexlibris8

          My kids and pets did GREAT together. Very positive experience all around. And a lot of good learning on how to treat those less powerful than yourself.

      • Ultima Thule

        I would IMMEDIATLY SHAME a boy, if he would start to play with a doll …

    • Christine

      I agree with you here. I think what the author doesn’t understand is people have different personality types, and some are better at relating to the feelings of others while for some, emotions are an enigma. You can teach RESPECT for the feelings or others, but empathy is something different and for the most part, you’re good at it or you’re not. Toys aren’t going to change that.

      • itzj

        Yes there are different personality types. But something I have noticed, and am fighting hard against with my son, is that most of the boy options whether they be toys or clothing are only available in aggressive and violent options. Look at boys clothing for example. Do they have a majestic tiger in the jungle? No, it’s the fierce going to eat you tiger. Normal bugs? Nope they’ve got to be threatening in some way. And forget about cats on anything, boys must only like dogs. I already feel the oncoming battle to keep him protected from violent toys. From all the messages that try to tell him that only happiness and anger are acceptable male feelings. It is really sad that I’m finding it much easier to raise a strong girl than a gentle boy.

        • FacelessNameless

          Precisely my point that culture informs boys and girls of their role in life, and sets expectations of behavior. This is not biology playing out, this is the society we are a part of. It’s perplexing that we have so many examples of people who don’t fit the gender mold, yet there are still people to insist on the cliches as being a pillar of what’s natural. There are plenty of examples to the contrary, so defining a behavior as belonging to one sex over another seems pretty unreliable.

    • Diane Cleland

      I wholeheartedly agree Anthony! I have 2 girls and 2 boys. They all have access to and play with their toy kitchen. I read to all of them TONS! And, all of the children owned dolls. I taught how to care for, to be gentle with, and to nurture the baby. Despite my best efforts, my 5 yr old son does not like the warm fuzzy books. He only wants adventure, funny, or nonfiction animal books. He never wanted to play with the dolls. If he did, he tried to make his sharks attack them. We redirected him, but it didn’t matter. We have a pet and a baby so he has plenty of chances to by empathetic. But, the only time I really see his empathy is with his baby brother. We constantly model it with each other and encourage ANYTHING he does that is mildly empathetic. If he hurts someone, we ask the child how that made them feel and ask if he would want them to feel that way. He doesn’t really seem to care. I would love to see some better examples of HOW to teach this because these other things just aren’t cutting it.

      • Randy

        He is being a normal boy.

        • Randy

          I was raised by a single mommy and three sisters. I had other boy friends that I could play cops and robbers, cowboys and indians with, and even now I am involved in extreme sports, but I have huge amounts of empathy and emotion for the planet and its inhabitants. I can atribute that part of character to the women in my life, but it does not help me in many real world situations, with other male co-workers, etc. Guys are the way they are and there is nothing wrong with that. Why are we trying to change them and why can’t we let boys be boys? Reality is, especially prevailing in ‘merican society, sociopaths do very well for themselves, and maybe that says something about the true nature of how things work in this savage world, but for some reason people have this perfect image of how they want things to be and they project it on others.

          • Lololulu23

            It does not help you in real-world situations? Really? In the contemporary real world, men and women interact in common spaces, including the workplace.

      • Marc Thibault

        He’s acting like a boy. Why would you want him to feel bad about what he is?

        • Diane Cleland

          I’m sorry that I was not clear. I have no problem with the fact that he doesn’t like warm fuzzy books, doesn’t play with dolls, and is a rough and tumble boy. He is a boy. I LOVE that, and think it is a wonderful thing. He plays with Legos, catches bugs, has sword fights,collects rocks, plays cops and robbers, wrestles, climbs trees, and is always being a dare devil. Again, I love and encourage all of these things. I was just agreeing with Anthony that simply buying different toys, reading to them and encouraging pretend play does not create an empathetic child on it’s own. I don’t want to change any of those things, but I do think encouraging empathy is a good thing and would love more ways to teach it that can actually work.

          • Ricky Vaughn

            Diane, stop trying to teach your boys kindness and empathy before teaching them the difference between right and wrong. Kindness and empathy are useless without a moral compass to determine who is deserving of kindness and empathy (hint: it’s not everything with a pulse).

        • FacelessNameless

          Why are these traits reserved for boys? My daughter, my friend’s daughter and my niece all play in nature, are extremely active, can’t sit still. Why do guys always try to claim that they are the only ones to need that. Whatever. Stop with the double standards already.

      • Jan Soderstrom

        I think we are too quick to fall into the “boys will be boys” routine. We do have higher behavior standards for little girls than little boys,and I think it hurts boys in the long run. Boys are less socially mature, at practically every age,up until late teens. Girls are outperforming boys on entrance exams for college, grad schools; and medical, dental, law and vet schools. Some schools are even considering lowering standards for men so the ratio of men to women will be more equal.
        Women comprise roughly 50% of our population but the majority of people in our jails and prisons are men. We really need to change the way we raise boys and this may be one of the ways to do it.

        • Diane Cleland

          Jan, I honestly don’t know where we disagree on this issue. I am trying to teach empathy to my son. I agree that it is important. I just think that boys and girls are VERY different. When I was in college I wrote a paper called Teapots for Boys. I believed beyond a shadow of doubt that if boys were exposed to “girl toys” in a non stereotypical (color neutral) that they would enjoy them just as much as the “boy toys” and vice versa. I talked about it with anyone who would listen and said how it was such a shame that our society pushes these gender roles onto children. I shook my head at parents in the preschool where I worked because I felt like they were forcing these gender differences onto their kids. (One boy in particular was told that pink was for girls and was made fun of by his dad for liking it. I still disagree with that situation.) And then, I had kids. My first was a girl. We bought her all different kinds of toys that would encourage engineering, creativity, and role playing. Some toys were your typical “girl toys” and some were “boy toys”. Even though she was shown how, she showed little interest in building things. She didn’t like the trucks and barely touched them. And she would only use the toy drill as a hairdryer even though she had seen my husband and I both use a real drill for drilling. However, she cradled her dolls and sang sweet songs to them. She always played house and spent hours a day pouring over books. Next, we had a boy. At first, I didn’t want him to have guns and swords. It didn’t matter, he picked up sticks and made them into guns. He used my daughter’s toy broom as a sword. He was physically “rough” with others. I recognized that he needed more chances to use his muscles. We went to the playground daily. I let him hang from the monkey bars, and climb lots of trees. I asked him to help me carry in groceries. He joined gymnastics. It’s what his body craved. We set aside rough and tumble time for when daddy got home. They wrestle around on the floor, and he LOVES it. He now has bows and arrows, guns, and swords and I am fine with it. I am going to let him pursue things that interest him. Just like I’m going to let my daughters pursue things that interest them. As for setting higher behavior standards for girls, I would disagree. I have experience teaching preschoolers, first graders and third graders. I, along with my colleagues, expected the same behavior from all of our students. This is where I failed. This is where, in my opinion, many schools are failing. In many classrooms, all boys and girls are expecting to learn in the same way. If they don’t, and boys in particular are fidgety, they get kicked out and sent to the office or to another class to do some work. The problem is, that in most cases, boys and girls process things differently. I learned this lesson the hard way when when I homeschooled my 5 yr old son this past year. I taught him the way I had been trained to teach and the way all of the teachers I knew taught. He struggled a LOT! After a year and a half of working on the alphabet every day with lots of hands on activities, he only knew about half of his letters, while his 3 year old sister knew them all. Then, I came across some DVDs that incorporated song and movements with each letter and it finally clicked. He needed the movement to help him learn. Now, I teach him to spell by having him do jumping jacks and sit ups to spell the words. My older daughter likes that too, but she is just as happy making them into a rainbow of colors. He is not. I don’t think we need to change boys. I think we need to change the way we teach. Every child is unique and has different interests and different learning styles. I think if we focused a little more on recognizing these differences and finding ways to help these kids instead of punishing their fidgeting, boys would do better in school.

          • FacelessNameless

            You had a boy and girl who behaved differently from one another, yet that doesn’t mean that all boys and all girls fit that mold. Kids pick up on environmental influences and there are studies that prove that people treat boys and girls differently. As a teacher, please don’t be one of them.

          • Ingrid

            Interesting to read and I agree. Essentially we do all (especially teachers and child leaders) need to be open and not put gender based stereotypes on our children. I do think these biases and stereotypes are extremely harmful to both sexes. But … I also see what Diane is saying. My son liked his dolly and stroller for a couple days and then he threw the doll behind the door and loaded the stroller up with rocks and wheeled those around the neighborhood. “Wheel” was his first word even though I can’t remember ever pointing a wheel or vehicle out to him. My daughter on the other hand, despite her brown, blue and orange hand-me-downs and plethora of trucks and bulldozers, has a penchant for “spinny dresses” and endlessly plays dolls. Let them be who they are but I think we do have a responsibility to model and show both sides. I just offered dance classes to my son (he isn’t interested but I offered). I don’t want to make assumptions and I do want my son (and my daughter) to have great empathy, to show his emotions, to have words in his vocabulary that describe his emotions … as I want my daughter to feel her strength and know that her brain and her abilities are far more important than what she looks like.

          • FacelessNameless

            Social influence is also apparent within the social circles of children. When the herd mentality influences girls and boys in specific ways, they tend to follow those paths too. My kids started showing exceptional differences when placed into social environments. Though also, pink wasn’t popular until they were told so, but once it became popular, all the kids wanted it, boys and girls.

          • Sarinha

            I agree with FacelessNameless…I would just add that I don’t think people have different learning styles is a novelty, but I do think that ascribing these different capabilities to gender can be very damaging.

          • Jan Soderstrom

            Diane, I think we agree on most everything, actually. I do think that there are inherent differences between boys and girls, and studies have shown that male brains and female brains do process things differently. From an anthropological standpoint, men were the hunters and gathererss, and women were the nurturers and teachers of the young. I think a lot of what you found as you raised your children is normal and expected. I had trucks and dolls as a young girl but vastly preferred my dolls. I hated those tests where I had to look at a lot of gears and figure out which direction they were all turning.
            In modern society, gender roles are more blurred. We have stay at home husbands and female executives. Teaching and nursing are no longer just for women, and construction jobs are no longer just for men. I think we need to teach our kids strength of character and that involves the strong traits of both sexes.

          • Playing with Plato

            Men have always played the role of nurturer and teacher as well. Some men are shit, and don’t. But the vast majority of men do more than hunt deer, make fire, hit stone with hammer lol. And teachers were almost all male before the state took over education and made it a place for tamed puppies with no ingenuity and males got the hell out. Men are great teachers. Socrates and Mr. Miyagi (obvious joke) come to mind when I think teacher. Can’t think of any great female teachers in history or even in my own life. Well, I did have one at my University, but until her, they were mostly just abusive and lazy. Actually one more in middle school. But the male teachers were much more exciting and empathetic towards me. But that isn’t a “blurring” of gender roles. The sharing of knowledge has always been as masculine as eating red meat off a stripper’s ass in a gun fight. Can’t tell me teaching is a female thing. Regurgitating what the government tells you in exchange for stagnant government hand outs, yeah, that might be a female thing, but I’d hardly call that education

          • Simone

            “…men were the hunters and gathererss, and women were the nurturers and teachers…” Or so they believed in the 19th century, mostly based on contemporary ideals and ideas of gender roles, rather than actual evidence. Most likely the truth was more nuanced and varied, but there is no way to know for sure.

          • Simone

            Also, reputable studies of male vs. female brains show that there is little to no difference, unfortunately this isn’t very exciting, so it doesn’t really get any time in the media. It is much more exciting to report the studies that show a difference, even if they are highly questionable.

          • Ultima Thule

            You don’t need to read “reputable studies” to know, that the differences are FUNDAMENTAL.

            Boys are physically very different from girls, but the psychological difference is much stronger.

          • Alexander Yuki

            I definitely agree with your comment, Diane; it brings back memories of a time when I was in elementary school. I was usually a lonely boy who liked to learn especially in science. I was so obsessed with astronomy, and I did nothing but read books and more books about it. However, that was a decade ago. If there is one memory I will never forget, is the memory when I was still 3 years old. There were two cups with different colors on them. One cup was red, and the other cup was blue. I choose the red cup, and I can still remember one of my parents telling me not to choose that cup, because it is a girl color. I didn’t feel disappointed, because I did not understand the phrase of what they were trying to tell me. Today, however it seems pretty unfair, because it reflects the way how stereotypes can be portrayed through almost anything one feels it’s different between a gender. As time went by, I grew up differently and learn more about myself when it comes to emotions. I begin to realized that I might have a gift to become a nurturer and a psychologist. The evidence of my past is balanced between myself sharing a part of my personality in both male and female characteristics. One part of this evidence was that I was more capable of admitting my feelings toward other people who I feel they would usually care about me. I generally ignore men who believe emotions are for the weak. So I intend to share them with females, usually in a mature age. Other people say I have a gift because sometimes they believe that I’m too kind to show compassion as a boy. The gender stereotype, however is bringing an impact in the way I feel about myself, because it hurts me to see some boys being taught that kindness is typically not for them, and that they should be into fighting, riding, sports, and sometimes empowerment, etc. And this brings an impact to boys who usually have potential to learn well and do well in school because some of them want it in a steady way of being influenced. I’ve seen girls being convinced from their parents with certain activities uniquely for girls, because they’re girls. Boys on the other hand, are not showed or convinced to learn because parents feel that they can probably handle education on their own. As for toys, I’ve been through a time when my little sister was very lonely and that no one would play with her. I volunteered to play with her (and yes you will be shocked that some of her toys were pink). This might seem crazy, but I never seemed to panic or anything, I was very matured and I helped her with her homework. This made me cry, because no one influenced me to be taught during the times I were her age. I was alone too, at that time 🙁

        • Ricky Vaughn

          With a Swedish name, why am I not surprised you want to neuter boys. Sweden has signed a suicide pact with its radical Islamic immigration policies. Until the men of Sweden take back power the indigenous Swedes will be slowly bled to death.

          • Jan Soderstrom

            How you can connect a surname of a grandfather and great grandfather I never knew to current Swedish politics is beyond me.
            Showing kindness and empathy does not neuter anyone–boys or girls.
            Go troll somewhere else.

          • Ricky Vaughn

            Boys don’t need to be shown kindness and empathy – they need to be taught the difference between wrong and right. The Swedish disease – the need to show kindness and empathy to everyone regardless of if they deserve it – is unfortunately genetic.

            We have raised a generation of morally vacuous, rudderless boys due to the exaltation of kindness and empathy above basic ideas of morality.

          • Fabulous Redhead

            Kindness and empathy ARE basic morality.

          • Ricky Vaughn

            No, they aren’t. Morality is the determination between good (right) and bad (wrong). There are instances where showing kindness and empathy is bad. I suggest you look into Barbara Oakley’s work on pathological altruism.

          • d Monaco

            Boys need to be shown empathy and taught right from wrong. Why separate them? The point of the article is to illuminate EMPATHY. It’s a character that people are losing over time because they’re so caught up with their iPhones and computer and video games. Boys need to be taut how to relate to others, read their emotions and be socially and emotionally intelligent. That’s the point of this piece– not gender differences.

      • Please visit the Facebook page of Doing Good Together and the web site of the DGT™ Big-Hearted Families™ project. You’ll find a lot of tips, activities, and encouragement for your mission to help your kids practice daily kindness! Best of luck to you in your awesome endeavor. https://www.facebook.com/doinggoodtogether

    • Playing with Plato

      It’s all about touch, gentle talk and EYE CONTACT when they’re babies. Free play in nature is also huge when they’re a little older. But, as expected because no one actually cares about boys, this article failed to mention that the number one way to develop empathy in a kid is to demonstrate your empathy for them. Boys are kicked out of class and treated like broken girls for the most part. Their preferences and their feelings are not taken into account, so we develop more of a dog eat dog mentality. Little girls are a lot cuter so people give a shit when they talk or express an interest. It’s a lot easier to care for others when you’re cared for. But, as I said, we wouldn’t want people to acknowledge that because how would we convince them of patriarchy?

      • Ricky Vaughn

        This is a huge problem – in mixed sex classrooms girls generate more empathy from authority figures. This antagonizes boys who tend to think they should be judged on ability and performance, not how well they can brown nose the teacher.

    • Lynne

      Anthony, very well said. I agree. very lazy in the HOW. And the correlations in blurring the gender lines is also silly. My son is all boy, wanting his BB gun, his pet tortoise, legos, and stuffed animals, yet he is one of the most empathetic children I know. It’s all the conversations we have had with him, along with other parts of his life where he has learned great empathy for other who have less than him, or are hurting in any way.

  • Denise

    We have found a dog (pets of any kind) has been wonderful for our boys to learn about hands-on caring and nurturing.

    • lexlibris8

      Spot on Denise.

  • davegeorge

    These people are (as many do) confusing empathy with compassion. One can conclude from the definition in this article that a “psychopath” is terrific at empathy which would explain why so many successful people are psychopaths. Psychopaths rely intensely on their ability to read and manipulate the emotions of others. It is how one internalizes those observations that makes a difference. I’m so tired of reading psuedo-scientific garbadge based on conjecture and weak inferences reliant on highly biased survey data.

    • UltraModerate

      Spot on.

  • krosewolf

    I think this article is informing people about the importance of empathy. My children are 23, 26, and 28. The oldest are boys. They loved toy kitchens and even had the “My Buddy” doll, so I think we, as a society understood that over 20 years ago. Having a pet as previously mentioned, is also excellent!!!

  • Jones

    1) Having taught and done therapy with numerous children between 2nd and 12th grade, I can attest that empathy is a skill. It’s not always something that develop in all households, unfortunately, but it’s definitely a skill they can learn.

    2) Regarding pretend play: Yes, children do this naturally, but it seems to be beaten out of many boys in favor of competitive play.

    3) Seems like the suggestion to give boys dolls has riled a lot of people up.

    • Caroline Wiser

      poor males here think their penises are gonna get chopped off by playing nice. sad.

  • Amanda Van Mil

    I so appreciated how this article had great research up front and then gave several very easy-to-incorporate tips in the second half. Many busy parents might brush past a more extensive explanation of tips. I was especially disheartened to read that as early as 9 months boys are showing literary deficits when compared to girls.

    • Playing with Plato

      No, boys are being read to less than girls was the difference. But I think at the end of it all, when you compare the literary skills of the genders… well, c’mon, how many Shakespearettes can you name me

      • itzj

        You are referencing back to a time where a woman would not be allowed to foray into such an endeavor. Or are you forgetting that we were largely only valued for our ability to procreate and keep a home?

        • Playing with Plato

          I’m pretty sure woman are allowed to write. The latest piece of literary brilliance was… “9 secrets to a thinner waist line?” or was it “How male sacrifice for females is actually just patriarchal oppression?” If it isn’t male-dehumanizing, manipulation of the language, it isn’t female literature. Save Ayn Rand, women can’t hold a candle to men’s articulation of emotion and the human experience.

          • Caroline Wiser

            you’ve just shown the extent of your own misogyny.

            your lack of insight and intelligence is depressing.

            i hope you don’t procreate to have sons. you’ll just be populating the world with more jerks like you.

          • Playing with Plato

            Nope, didn’t see a good female author mentioned there. Just more little insults from a little girl. Who’s the jerk? Sorry, I thought I referenced reality to make a point about it. Was I wrong?

          • Caroline Wiser

            yes, you were wrong. and you’re still the jerk. you sure do need a great deal of reassurance for being so cocksure.

          • Caroline Wiser

            and if you think ayn rand is good reading, then you’re reading the wrong books.

            ew, i can tell you think you’re supa dupa special.

            i bet you ain’t, son.

          • Playing with Plato

            Nope, still haven’t seen a reasoned rebuttal to my point. Just more desperate boos from the cheap seats.

          • Caroline Wiser

            what IS your point? that you’re an angry teacher that thinks boys are ignored? bc that’s essentially what you’ve been saying on this thread?

            first of all, that’s not true. boys actually get MORE attention during elementary school.

            you thought this column was trash? why? why would you be against facilitating a social transition that made it socially acceptable for males to express a wider range of emotion and experience empathy? why is that so threatening to you and your perceived masculinity?

            you sound like a totally angry sexist, and it’s lame.

            1 in 4 women in america experience some form of sexual abuse at the hands of a male. that’s not conducive to dudes being empathetic, now is it?

            maybe we’re trying to teach empathy bc we don’t want a new generation of males perpetuating those statistics.

            all in all, you’ve been a punk. and that’s ok…just don’t take out your frustrations for being marginalized as male, middle class, and white on women.

            calm down.

            i wouldn’t want my child’s teacher to be as blatantly sexist as you are. children can’t control their gender, and neither can adults….we need both…and we don’t need one being superior than the other.

          • Playing with Plato

            If boys get more attention, it’s disciplinary and nonempathetic. I remember on several occasions being told to be quiet, then a girl being rewarded for giving the answer I had already given. But, I would of course be for a transition that makes us a more empathetic population but this article is grossly insufficient. Emotions are no threat to my masculinity. I don’t know why you insist on these presumptuous questions, but whatever. Here’s how I feel, which I’m sure will be outright dismissed, but here you go.

            This article left out the most important stuff. Presence of the father, free play in nature and PARENTS AND TEACHERS WHO DEMONSTRATE EMPATHY FOR THE CHILD. It’s all about touch, gentle talk and EYE CONTACT when they’re babies. Free play in nature is also huge when they’re a little older. But, as
            expected because no one actually cares about boys, this article failed to mention that the number one way to develop empathy in a kid is to demonstrate your empathy for them. Boys are kicked out of class and treated like broken girls for the most part. Their preferences and their
            feelings are not listened to or taken into account, so we develop more of a dog eat dog mentality. Little girls are a lot cuter so people give a shit when they talk or express an interest. It’s a lot easier to care for others when you’re cared for. And it’s not only easier to empathize with others when others have empathized with you, but that’s literally how the complex, multi-layered, neurological system that is empathy develops. And little boys are not empathized with.

            That is truly terrible that 1 in 4 women are victimized sexually. That’s beyond bullshit and I truly am sorry that’s something you have to think about. I thank my lucky stars every day that I was born male. I accept my privilege, trust me. There’s not a whole lot I can comment on that that would be worth anything. It feels weird to even say anything like, “I always cross the street instead of follow a woman at night.” Which I do, but it still doesn’t solve the fact that women actually have to worry that the stranger behind them might be that type of bastard. But, it’s important to me that you acknowledge that I am not against people beccoming more empathetic. My point, as ellaborated on in the previous paragraph, is that the article leaves out how to actually do that seemingly in favor of the all too common, shallow, write-some-bullshit-that-lets-girls-tap-themselves-on-the-back-for-ten-minutes nothing solution. I’d be more in favor of a strategy that works is all.

            I’m not actually sexist in practice with my students. They all get a fair shake, though I definitely make a greater effort to be personally involved with my male students. Believe it or not, most monsters start out as abused or neglected young people and like it or not young males are not being showered with the type of empathetic love that young girls are. That’s a fact. That isn’t a justification. That’s a prescription. Show young males empathy and they’ll develop it. I played with dolls as a kid. I have no problem with boys playing with dolls, but toting it as some kind of acceptable replacement for actually listening to and demonstrating empathy for boys is beyond absurd.

          • itzj

            I was referencing the time of Shakespeare. Clearly you would have fit better back in the time where woman were oppressed. Need I remind you that women had to use pen names to be taken seriously. Sounds like it’s time for you to pick up some real books.

          • Playing with Plato

            I know you were. Then I pointed to a time when women are allowed to write in which they’ve seriously redefined superficial. I can name some males since women’s lib that continue to drill deep into the human condition. How about Safran Foer or Foster Wallace. Anyway, I just thought it was funny that you took, “Sadly, studies
            reveal that parents in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain spend less
            time reading and telling stories to their sons than to their daughters,” to the laughable conclusion that females are better with the spoken word than males. We do it better with less. Sorry

          • Caroline Wiser

            First, on what grounds are you making the claim that women are restricted in their aesthetic capacity to superficial expression? It seems to be a function of your breadth of reading, meaning the reading you’ve actually done. Which female authors have you read
            ? You’ve only mentioned Ayn Rand, which no respectable literary critic or student of language would consider remotely noteworthy of serious literary attention. She’s an ideologist first, a crank novelist second, and a crap philosopher third. In order to make a valid claim about the degree of superficiality across the sexes, you have to have sufficiently sized sample of reading that includes representative sets of male and female writers. So…what is your sample?

            Better with less? well, to be fair, prose is typically more winded than poetry, and it’s not even a debate that women are good, although i would not say disproportionately, at poetry. You mention, for example, Foster Wallace. Brilliant man. Personal fan. His best works are massive. Winded. Brilliant, but winded.

          • Playing with Plato

            I guess I am a misogynist. Sorry, I have standards. Don’t worry, my sons won’t be bothering you.

          • Caroline Wiser

            your original claim is about great literary figures (ie shakespeare)…the point was made that for most of this time, the educational rights of women were largely suppressed, thereby preventing a large flux of female authors from entering this canon of literature.

            but after this is pointed out to you, you immediately make a claim that women can write today. you completely dodged the argument. the reason there were no “shakespearettes” has no demonstrable relation to any innate capacity for women to express themselves in literature.

            in order to further you contemporary argument, you would have to demonstrate that the great literary figures of today do not include women OR that men are disproportionately represented, which you have not done.

            i feel, although i don’t know for sure, that you simply don’t read women.

          • Brenton Yeates

            Ayn Rand is a pretty remarkable woman (scratch that, person) and should be carried on the shoulders of feminists rather than tossed into the gutter. She fled Soviet Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution to pursue a writing career in America, was a playwright in Hollywood before she could find a publisher for her novels, and merged philosophy and fiction in a way that was palatable for a popular audience… all with English not being her native language. Placing her politics aside, that’s quite an astounding set of achievements, especially considering this was the 1950’s.

          • Caroline Wiser

            that’s fine, but beside my point. this argument is specifically about the capacity for women to express themselves in literature to the degree or greater than men. Ayn Rand has little emotional content to express. she’s a propagandist, an admitted ideologist who writes novels to express her moral philosophy undergirding capitalism. she is not an example of high literary merit, however much merit her life itself may command.

          • Brenton Yeates

            Lots of literary figures had political agendas, that doesn’t disqualify them from anything. People still hold Sartre up and H.G. Wells. But to your point, I agree that women have a lot to offer in literature, philosophy, and just about any other human endeavor, and more than a few of them are my favorites. I really don’t know if you’ve read Rand but I think her work is up there pretty high in terms of modernist fiction.

          • Caroline Wiser

            I probably read too much Rand.

            Political agenda or not, she’s not a horrible writer, but she’s no Wells or Sartre, that’s for damn sure

  • pkin

    Kind of stunned at the number of negative comments about this article either 1) denying empathy can be taught, 2) trashing pretend play with dolls 3) calling the article sexist because it correctly points out that there is a problem of violence in our society perpetrated by men. 2,3 are silly. Here is an example of a K-12 approach teaching empathy: http://www.cmeeharley.org

    • Caroline Wiser


    • John Suni

      “calling the article sexist because it correctly points out that there is a problem of violence in our society perpetrated by men”

      Yes, there’s a problem. But that problem has everything to do with dysfunctionality and nothing (or very little) to do with masculinity.

      100% of slaying of pregnant women to cutout and steal the baby is done by women. Does that mean there is a “problem” with femininity?

  • Joel Simwinga

    I don’t like these broad, frankly accusatory statements about male child development. Yes, gender roles are shifting, but the notion that young men today have an “empathy deficit” is at the very least dubious. My experience has been that we millennials – and even more so, the young men in Generation Z – are FAR less traditionally masculine than the masculine stereotype that articles like this trash… It seems to me that the problem is not with actual current young men, but with an antiquated stereotype of masculinity that is ceasing to be relevant. To what would be Nietzsche’s distraught and disgust, I haven’t read any articles arguing that men should be MORE traditionally masculine and dominant rather than less. My takeaway is that there is a lot of dead-horse beating, a lot of late finger-wagging going on. Young men have naturally become more effeminate through shifting societal pressure (effeminate television programming, effeminate female-led public schools). For goodness sakes, there was an NPR segment last week during which educators were talking about the incredible gender equality of the younger generation and how men are struggling to redefine ourselves having been stripped of privilege and bull-headedness. On a separate but related note, it’s honestly pretty wretched to be told that your entire gender is lazily complicit in a supposedly dominate “rape culture” perpetrated by a vast minority of college men whose own activities probably are repugnant to even them. I’m a feminist. I believe 100% that gender is a fluid social construct and that women have faced immense oppression for thousands of years. The fact that headline as “Why It’s Imperative to Teach Empathy to Boys” conjure up visceral disgust tells me that there is something amiss. I think that this fearful disposal of masculine values is misguided and ill-conceived. Do young men lack empathy? Or do young American men and women lack strength of will? Today’s American children are already hand-holders, but are they tenacious? Do they have the nerve, wit, resilience, candor, grit, self-reliance, self-doubt, and strength to live good lives?

    • Brenton Yeates

      It’s a curious thing we do as a society: women are having difficulty integrating in the workplace? We’ve got to do something to change this competitive, male-dominated corporate culture so as to be more accommodating to females! Men are having difficulty succeeding in an educational structure largely designed and administered by women? We have to change men to become more empathic so they too can succeed in the institutions we’ve designed! Does anyone else find the first scenario utterly patronizing and the second just a bit unsettling?

      • FacelessNameless

        So, it’s always you against me, eh? Can’t make it the better for us all? You hate racial minorities too?

      • Joel Simwinga

        I think that’s a too-large oversimplification. Gunning to teach young people the values of a subjugated population doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. I think it is highly likely that the ‘male’ ‘corporate culture’ values that you reference are values that happen to be very conducive to success, but women have been shamed and dissuaded from adopting them. There is no necessary causal link between dominant corporate culture and penises, but there very likely IS a causal link between dominant corporate culture and economic success. Why don’t we feminists and academics focus on supplying women with the tools of power and agency that men have had the freedom to employ all along, end the double standards? Vocationally, yes, but at a more fundamental attitudinal level as well: sexually, domestically, socially, commercially, etc. If men experience some growing pains in the process, I really don’t think that is the concern. Men are doing worse in school than women, but are still making more money and are consistently perceived (erroneously, clearly) by employers and professors as more competent. Let’s focus on changing attitudes informed by the legacies of sexism. If women continue to outperform and attain dominance as a gender, than the chickens have come home to roost.

        • Brenton Yeates

          It’s a simplification, sure, but this is the internet and we have to speak in generalities. I don’t particularly find it troubling that women make less than men, because those are large aggregates that don’t control for things like hours, experience, and line of work. The more you control for, the more you see gender parity. And frankly, if women make more than men in some sectors of the economy–and they do–that doesn’t strike me as some type of social injustice that needs immediate redress, and it’d be silly to think it did. I’d be willing to talk about institutional barriers to entry in certain fields, but from the looks of it women are slightly ahead of men in attaining degrees and so on. Again, I don’t see gross inequality here either, just a curious thing that’s going on. But if it’s really boys and their well-being we care about, my other point about the lack of positive male role models in a previous post is the real issue, not a lack of diverse or gender neutral toys. That’s just convenient (and profitable!) misdirection on an issue that deserves a better class of analysis.

    • Guest

      you poor, poor white male. life is so hard for you.

      this rant made me nauseous.

      • Fen

        Did you clutch your pearls and faint too? Poor helpless female.

    • Caroline Wiser

      yes, young men, in general, lack empathy. and it’s society that permits this.

      • John Suni

        “yes, young men, in general, lack empathy.”

        Wow, what a ridiculously stupid and bigoted statement.

        I guess “all women are overly emotional” too right? And it’s society that permits this right?

  • David Perry

    You can’t teach empathy. You can only teach about empathy.

  • Tom

    I learned to be empathetic myself around in junior high when I used to make fun of people all the time. So, one time I make this girl cry. Then I realized that I shouldn’t make fun of people.

  • Libin Daniel

    This was a deplorable article with a horrible premise that men and women are wired similarly and that gender neutrality is a good thing. Sorry to burst your bubble, but a dose of common sense will tell you that it is not. Asking a guy to talk about his feelings shoots his cortisone levels (stress hormone) through the roof, whereas in women, that is not the case. It is proven. That is just one case.
    Men think differently and do things differently. Gender neutrality is only going to disappoint both men and females. There is a reason women are attracted to strong, muscular men from days of old. Even the oldest pictures portraying men are that way. So, unless you would want men to turn into people who would love to listen to you all the time while working on something else (multitasking), jump and shriek when they meet you, and hug you and say OMG when they see you in a public, I suggest that you listen to same age-old wisdom.

    • itzj

      Really? You think that little of men? Have you ever considered that the particular man you reference as having his cortisol levels rise in regards to emotion likely does so because as a child he would be mocked or disciplined for doing so? Furthermore, as a woman, I would choose the academic, nurturing man over the muscles every single time. And lastly, I take offense at your description of women. Lumping us all in with some airhead, teenage girl image is offensive.

      • Libin Daniel

        The particular men were randomly selected. If you are going to believe that all of them came from a bad childhood, fine. But, that will be a poor conclusion on your part.
        I don’t think little of men and women. The ironic part is you think little of men, and hence an attempt to neutralize the differences, because you, among others, are not willing to live with differences.
        Empathy does not mean you have to be nice or treat them with sympathy. Empathy means you understand the other person, and then help them, IF NEEDED. Boys don’t need to play with dolls to understand that. They can get that in a baseball, soccer or any other ‘stereotypical’ boys thing that they do.
        As for the description of women, it was a hyperbole. Obviously, all women don’t behave that way. That was a superlative to get that point across. There is no reason for you to take offense to that, unless you are going to be really sensitive about the issue.

        • itzj

          I do not think little of men, but I do think they are being limited in our society. It sounds like you are threatened by boys learning empathy through non stereotypical activities. I played on sports teams for years and I would not consider that a good place for learning empathy, other things sure but not empathy. I’m curious to understand what it is about sports that you think enables empathy.
          There are differences between all individuals, but I don’t think either gender should be forced to fall into stereotypical roles or emotions. With my son and daughter I am choosing to limit their exposure to stereotypical ideals while giving them exposure to a wide range of toys so that they can develop into who they want to be. Not who they feel pressured to be.

          • Libin Daniel

            Yes, I agree that they are differences, and that is why I have a bone to pick when the blog post suggests as playing with dolls a way to bring empathy to the boys.
            As I mentioned in a different comment, making sure that the difference between empathy, sympathy, emotion and feeling is understood is important. You can empathize with someone, but that does not mean you take action. You understand the reason behind their actions, and thus, you are able to better understand why a person does what he/she does.
            That kind of skill can be gathered in a sports situation, when you have a hot tempered player. That is an opportunity to empathize and move on. However, not everyone behaves that way. Yes, you are right. But, what I am saying is playing with dolls will not make you start empathizing any better!
            Men are good at empathizing, in its strictest sense. However, when you ask them to empathize and take action at every misgiving that they come across, or just to be ‘nicer’, then that is not empathizing. That is just people wanting ‘boys’ to be nicer and not playing it rough.

            However, that is where I differ. I would continue to want young boys to wrestle, rough it up, and young girls to be playing house, and holding hands. Because, I believe that each gender has a purpose, and we are not in a position to reverse them, or even alter them, beyond a point.

            Plus, if you think men are lacking in empathy, explain military to me. They are more than willing to give up their lives to protect you, and it has been predominantly a man thing to do. I am not saying women are not good at it. I am just saying that the fact that military is existent and a much needed entity should tell you that boys empathize. Military is needed when times are rough for us, but military is also needed and used when fellow human beings are in trouble, and the United States military has empathized quite a few times, in that regard.

    • FacelessNameless

      You live in a fantasy land if you really believe those points you just wrote.

      • Libin Daniel

        My fantasy land comprises of what the society has been doing, for ages, and facts that are recorded.
        I don’t jump on the bandwagon where people discount everything done before them as just wrong, and then they try to reinvent the wheel.
        Yes, things done in the past might be improved. But, it is better to start off where they left and work with it, instead of uprooting the whole darn system and coming up with something.
        Logically, you have a higher chance of failure, because, you are trying to go against evolution and come up with your own set of rules that you ‘think’ will work. Who is in fantasy land, now?

        • FacelessNameless

          So you think societal behavior has nothing to do with being constructed by those in control (government, money, privilege) and it’s all just natural? We are a civilization which means we have had to become civilized about certain aspects of ourselves and our lives. It’s not nature which tells us to use indoor plumbing, drive a car, or go to school. That’s society, and that’s due to our advancement as a culture. If you honestly think society has had no impact on our behaviors, how do you explain the world we live in? Why do we use microwaves, watch tv, go to fast food? Because there is nothing natural about that. Why do you dress like you do? Why does marketing work? It’s working well on you if you question nothing about why we behave the way we do and consider that maybe we aren’t behaving so natural as a species after all.

          • Libin Daniel

            No, I don’t think it is all natural. That is why I emphasized on learning from the past, which was made of civilization and society. When I used evolution, I did not mean natural phenomena, I meant the evolution of society and civilization. Throughout that ‘evolution’, men have been roughing it up, going to war, and providing. If you are telling me that now we need boys to play with dolls to empathize, then I definitely think you are on the wrong track. I completely believe that society impacts the behavior, and hence my strong willed objection to promoting gender neutrality. It is a slippery slope and the consequences are going to be fatal to civilization. Don’t forget that out of the two genders, only one has the potential to beget the next generation. If you keep promoting gender neutrality, that goes against the natural law and against years of societal reforms.
            Our generation is lucky to have enough power (and technology) to change the course of important humanitarian subjects, however, we have the moral responsibility to realize the effects of our decision. Leading gender neutrality to something as a ‘good cause’ is only going to screw us over. Imagine a time when neutrality and equality gets too hyped up, and men and women are not doing their parts as parents. First of all, we won’t have a future generation. Second of all, the gender roles are going to be so confusing, that this blog post on bringing empathy to boys will be the least of our concern.
            Speaking of empathy for boys and men is a massively generalized brushstroke. It is a very personal skill, and you definitely don’t need dolls to get empathy. Watch Band of Brothers, and then tell me that men are not empathizing. There is difference between empathy, sympathy, emotion and feelings. Get that right first!

          • FacelessNameless

            Do you honestly think people will stop procreating because they are treated equally? Some European countries are much more progressive in equality and they’re not dying off. Rather you like it or lot, women are not substandard to men and we expect equal treatment and we will continue to demand it. If we have managed to come so far, the least men can do is stop promoting repressive, Macho, cave man like behaviors to boys. That’s all this is about. No one is trying to make everyone act the same. We are asking to treat people the same, teach people the same, and ultimately let people be who they already are and not stereotyping them into some role they don’t belong in. In order for people to have tolerance for others, they need to accept that we are not all the same and live and let live. So go ahead and live in the past, but your lack of understanding or ability to not see people except in black and white isn’t going to help you. We are many shades, many colors, as people, who have evolved to understand that we don’t need a script to live lives. It’s iur right to live as we determine so my boy, my husband, my father, my brother, my friends, can all be fine and accepting people who happen to be men but who have their own agency to determine what that means to themselves as an individual, just like us ladies have been learning for the past several decades, working through oppression. Essentially, you can be a part of the discussion or pretend it doesn’t exist, but people are changing and it’s for the better in many ways.

          • FacelessNameless

            It sounds like, from this outlook, women have been forced to bear children while men kept them at home and otherwise created society. By this definition of how society was constructed, you’re essentially promoting servitude. That is completely immoral to suggest this is “how it should be” as you sit on your man throne.
            If you honestly believe that women only have babies because they are forced, and that this is something we should hold on to, well, you have a lot to learn about the world, and I hope you do learn something about the mystical female you don’t seem to be in touch with at all.

  • Playing with Plato

    This article left out the most important stuff. Presence of the father, free play in nature and PARENTS AND TEACHERS WHO DEMONSTRATE EMPATHY FOR THE CHILD. It’s all about touch, gentle talk and EYE CONTACT when they’re babies.
    Free play in nature is also huge when they’re a little older. But, as
    expected because no one actually cares about boys, this article failed
    to mention that the number one way to develop empathy in a kid is to
    demonstrate your empathy for them. Boys are kicked out of class and
    treated like broken girls for the most part. Their preferences and their
    feelings are not listened to or taken into account, so we develop more of a dog eat
    dog mentality. Little girls are a lot cuter so people give a shit when
    they talk or express an interest. It’s a lot easier to care for others
    when you’re cared for. And it’s not only easier to empathize with others when others have empathized with you, but that’s literally how the complex, multi-layered, neurological system that is empathy develops. And little boys are not empathized with. But, as I said, we wouldn’t want people to
    acknowledge that because how would we convince them of patriarchy?

  • Brenton Yeates

    Let me get this straight… for the past 50 years women have been the primary caregivers of boys in the home, the nursery, daycare and primary school–from infancy to college or working age–and its boys that are having a problem adjusting to the rigors of adult life? Maybe it’s the educators that have failed to meet boys’ unique needs and (largely single) parents who failed to provide a secure environment in which boys can play, explore, discover and thrive. Boys have had to grow up in an environment painstakingly designed by self-annointed childhood development experts–they’re been coddled, preened, studied and vilified to death by these same folks–but what they haven’t had is any meaningful (dare I say empathic?) connection with responsible male role models. What contact they may have had is in the main strictly disciplinary, and often abusive: principals, step-dads, or temporary male fill-ins (free spirits, free love, am I right?). Now we have the same people telling us there’s a problem, when they’ve been the ones running the show, and now that “empathy” has gotten a bit of traction in the public imagination, these charlatans want to cash in yet again. With quacks like these, the only thing you can reliably count on is for the diagnosis and the treatment be miles off the mark.

  • Pamela Zavarelli Rednak

    When our son was 3, my husband and I noticed that he lacked empathy. Even though I had tried so very hard to teach him to care about others, to love animals, gave him lots of positive attention and plenty of teachable moments. He was also a shy little guy, hated any attention brought to him. He never acted out, preferred to be with only one friend at a time or by himself. To our knowledge, he loves animals. Yet when he moved out and got a dog, I noticed he seemed to enjoy scaring her, he would constantly hit her to train her. I suggested different ways for teaching. Scary because we never beat him. We know that he lacks empathy. Thought he was alone in this, but he found a mate who is the same and has zero empathy. Makes us sad. We tried to get him help, but he simply isn’t social or empathetic and yes, it scares us. We love him so much, but what a mean streak he has. Example: this year he decided he was too busy to see me for Mother’s Day and his father for Father’s Day. He said we just have to understand that he works in a restaurant and those are the busiest days. Mind you, he lives around the block from us. Broke our hearts. What kind of person does that to their parents? Swear we cherished him, disciplined him when he needed it, no spankings/beatings, gave praise, tried to showing what “walking in other people’s shoes” means. To no avail. We are so sad that he is not the son we wanted.

    • Eris

      Well I don’t know how old he is but if he is a teen or in his early 20s it’s common for a kid to rather do a million other things than be around their parents even on holidays. At least he does have a job. I was not social either and normally had only one main friend in my life at a time the entire time I was growing up. My parents wanted me to be social. They wanted me to be a cheerleader or ballerina or basketball player but I just didn’t like being the center of attention. I know I kind of disappointed them because I wasn’t exactly what they’d imagined but I was still an okay person. Held a job, never got on drugs or alcohol, got married, and had a child in spite of my social shyness and all. Maybe as he gets older he will want to reconnect. The real world is difficult and after being in it for a while makes many young adults wanna hang out back at home more often. As long as he isn’t on drugs, an alcoholic, and doesn’t have a kid of his own yet that he won’t take responsibility for, and doesn’t show warning signs of being about to harm himself or someone else then he’s probably doing fine….maybe not quite what you imagined for this time in his life but fine none the less.

      • Pamela Zavarelli Rednak

        Thank you Eris, you have no idea how much you have eased my mind! Since he was our only, of course our world revolved around him. The “Empty Nest Syndrome” has been an intense struggle for me and I miss being important to him. But what you shared, showed me that he will be okay. Such a relief! I hope that he does come back to us, we miss him so. But now, I will be thankful that he does not use drugs/alcohol, is responsible, takes good care of his dog and girlfriend, and strives to do well at his job. Thank you Eris!! Your parents would be so proud to see how you have helped this scared and lonely Mom. You are a great person indeed!

        • FacelessNameless

          Oh, I am sorry to hear that you’re having a rough time with that. i think every parent can sympathize with that feeling. And I concur that as a teen/young adult, my desire was to spread my wings rather than spend time in the nest. Just be there as a confidant and a good example to him. That’s what he will need as an adult. My best to you.

          • Pamela Zavarelli Rednak

            Thank you for your words. He is in his early 20’s and in his eyes, I have gone from significant in his world to barely a thought. I swear sometimes it feels like a devastating loss. My fault, not his. I am the one who built my life around my son’s. Both his father and I were truly devastated when he chose to ignore Mother/Father’s Day. Not even a card. Oh how I cried to my own Mother. I cried for days. I am reassured to hear other parents have gone through this and am encouraged and hopeful that he will see some good in us and will get back to including us in his life. Someday.

          • Pamela Zavarelli Rednak

            FacelessNameless, I just read your reply and wanted to take the time out to thank you for your reply. You and Eris have touched my heart with your support and kind words. Thank you. My best to you as well!

      • Pamela Zavarelli Rednak

        OMG, I just read my last sentence. Wow, I did not mean to end there. I have defined what I meant. Really we always wanted him. Just wish he could be more comfortable in his skin with us.

  • Marc Thibault

    Empathy is not learned behaviour. Ways of expressing empathy can be learned but empathy itself is in our genes and shows up in the form of mirror neurons.

    Boys aren’t poorly-socialized girls. If it isn’t beaten out of them by parents and teachers who treat acting like a boy instead of a good little girl as a disease to be treated by drugs, boys will be socialized as boys.

    As to bullies and their victims, it’s not that bystanders need more empathy, it’s that the victim needs less.

    • ricin_beans

      “Boys aren’t poorly-socialized girls” obvious, but needed to be said. It will probably fall on deaf ears with these pozzed up yentas.

    • Playing with Plato

      The latter part of what you say is spot on. But I disagree with the first part. Well, “learn” and “teach” aren’t the right words, but it isn’t purely genes. Genes are turned on and off through exposure to one’s environment. The key way to “teach” empathy to a kid, is to actually demonstrate empathy for his or her preferences and emotions, and as you say, little boys are not empathized with. Nobody cares about their feelings. I’m a teacher and you’d want my entire staff fired if you heard the callous way they talk about their boys, yet how much lazy, superficial cuteness love they have for their little girls. So it’s no wonder girls feel more comfortable sharing their feelings and take more naturally to empathizing with others than boys. By the time their adults, they have literally thousands of hours more experience having their emotions listened to and cared for. As you say, boys are treated like broken girls, and lazy/hungover teachers just don’t want to deal with boys who are being forced into a system that is designed for girls.

  • Brockhead

    I’m so fucking DONE with this “We need to teach BOYS ___”. No, we don’t. We need to teach CHILDREN these things. There seems to be this impression (in the minds of numerous female bloggers anyway) that boys are all being raised in this country as non-feeling, aggressive, stereotypical (and naturally RAPIST) douchebags. The reality is far different. And what’s the idea here? That little girls are inherently empathic? This is another jump on the bandwagon for this current female overcompensation of perceived weakness. Please…get over it…soon. And leave our boys alone.

  • Jungel Kalashnikov

    Stop trying to feminize boys. Just accept whoever they want to be. Treat your children the same and things will be equal. Women should be tougher and stop trying to manipulate and men should be more open with other men. Men already coddle women, mostly at their demand. Teach women to protect themselves and know their limitations and teach men and women to respect each others differences. It’s how humans survived and became the dominant species.

    • Caroline Wiser

      you sound angry with women. i’m sorry.

      • Brenton Yeates

        He made no less than 6 points, you made one non sequitur. If you want to debate, learn to argue on a point by point basis, don’t just pronounce something and not back it up with anything. I’m sorry too that this passes for acceptable discussion on an issue that we’re supposed to be taking seriously.

        • Caroline Wiser

          yeah, i can’t take this blatant “angry male” syndrome psycho-babble as acceptable debate. glad you deemed yourself ole ye point keeper.

          bc that’s what angry guys do. keep score.

          • Brenton Yeates

            Why must this be an us-and-them discussion? I mean, is this a constructive debate or a gender bashing tug-a-war? Seriously, your comments have been anything but illuminating and display a complete lack of empathy for other peoples points of view, however illegitimate you might think they are.

          • Fen

            Brenton, its an us-them discussion because people like Carloline aren’t really interested in constructive solutions. There must always be a #WarOnWomen to give purpose to modern “feminism” and to prep battlespace for Hillary.

            If you are looking for an honest discussion, you won’t get it from the feminists. For them, its not about equality its about power.

      • Bill98

        You seem incapable of making a point, only of hurling insults. How very sad for you.

    • Caroline Wiser

      so we should accept people for whoever they want to be, but we should also push women to be tougher and not be manipulative. how is that not contradictory, unless we assume that women want to be tougher and not manipulative? now we should also teach women to protect themselves and know their limits? what about men? do we teach them their limits? do we teach them how to avoid situations in which they would be forced to protect themselves? on what grounds do we establish their limits? are the limits different for men and women? if they are, should we treat our children equally, as you suggest above?

      I am not sure how or why you leap to a statement
      (NOT an argument, merely a statement) regarding the evolution of man. are you saying men and women are equal, especially in the limits they must acknowledge? or are they unequal and we must be aware of these limits? more importantly, naturalism is not necessarily a knock out argument for grounds for acceptable behavior.

      It seems to me you are stating (not arguing) that women need to get with the program: men are fine, but women need to buck up and stop babying men, because deep down we are all the same and evolution and stuff.

  • I was a boy once

    I wonder if boys are interested in this? If it comes naturally, if they want to, then go ahead. I do not think boys should be considered a clean slate that is just going to be interested in this just because it is forced upon them. I believe that in general boys have little to no interest in this but the exceptions should be treated good and then it is fine.

    I know personally my parents did all this to me and the things I appreciated and where all for where the stories, so much so that I grew up reading a lot. A lot more then most of my friends I noticed.

    I have heard of a study in the biological differences causing these behaviors between boys and girls regarding empathy. As girls grow up the level of empathy is steadily growing. With the boys it is also increasing to a point where it just dips over a couple of years to later start to climb again. Maybe this could explain that most boys are simply not interested in this even if presented to them by both parents and schools.

    Maybe this should be considered a problem, I am not the one to judge though when I do not know too much about this and what would be best for the boys. I mostly just know my own life.

    I remember feeling quite bad about being a boy growing up, I grew up in Sweden, and I guess it is because all the things in society that seemed to teach us that there was something wrong with us. I guess I had a problem with feeling guilt over something I could not really do anything about, that I was a boy. Today I would say it is not to be treated like it is some sort of “disease” even if nobody called it that. After a while you kind of had internalized the feeling that you by being a boy somehow where bad for all the perfect and innocent girls out there in the world.

    I have decided that in a society where there are still double standards not just when you are young but also old I do not want to be a part of this system. I will rather go my own way, not having children and pay huge amounts of taxes working my ass off called privileged straight white male. I would rather be hated for being a free, from women and feminist bigotry, straight white male instead.

    Nothing keeps me from being a friend with men and being a friend with women, except that I have mostly only been able to become friend with men as I find women to not have so many shared interests with me.

    I want equality for all but I am not a feminist I am a masculinist. Which by the way is funny because as I write this the text has a red line and it wants me to correct the spelling of the word, I guess the world really lacks people who identify as masculinists huh?

    Rights does not come free, all groups in society have always had to fight for them, I think that include men. I am afraid that otherwise the trend of half our population on a steady rate becoming bad citizens will just increase as the discrimination continues and it is considered shameful and pathetic for a privileged man to speak up. I think that society today is teaching boys and men to feel like they have no power to change their situation. Men can be under all critique but as soon as a woman is in the same situation she is always backed by society through the feminist status quo.

    I am not in this game anymore because I am enlightened, I am considering myself a MGTOW and a masculinist. I am now immune to lies, maybe not discrimination but I can see it now and that is empowering.

    A man, that was a boy. We will only get more and one day, we will be more than a problem, we will be destiny.

    Humanity 2.0 will not have any women, and not any men, only humanity.

  • Emilio Lizardo

    We also need to teach boys that it’s ok to hit girls so that girls are prepared to be front line combat soldiers too. We also don’t want him to hesitate when it’s time to push a bayonette into her belly.

  • Daisuke Serizawa

    Hatred for boys dressed up as helping them. Boys and men are not defective females.

    • Caroline Wiser

      and women are not defective males.

      • Bill98

        And there is no article suggesting that they are. This article, however, implies that very thing about boys.

        • Caroline Wiser

          no, it really doesn’t at all. but i think the very thought of getting boys to empathize has really threatened a great deal of males commenting on this piece.

          it suggested that if we don’t recognize the gender stereotypes created by toys and even interaction w/different sexes, then younger boys *might* be at risk for having some social deficits.

          this article outlines certain activities that would enrich a child’s capacity to empathize.

          so, no…i don’t understand all the males pissing and moaning about this article.

          • CareAboutMalesToo

            Typical feminist speak….dismiss valid male concerns as “feeling threatened”. And feminists wonder why it is no one cares about or respects them anymore.

        • Caroline Wiser

          and Bill98, the ENTIRE premise of psychology was basing “normal” on a male’s psychological state…so females were very commonly considered unstable bc they did not fit within the rubric of healthy behavior…

          there are thousands of articles in this vein that absolutely insinuate females were “broken males.”

          and that misinformed way of thinking still exists today. so, again…no.

          • John Suni

            “and Bill98, the ENTIRE premise of psychology was basing “normal” on a male’s psychological state”
            Citations? Because from the very get-go the grandpappy of modern pyschology had different psych evaluations (and definitions of normal) by gender–have you never heard of Freud’s theory of penis envy in women?

      • Daisuke Serizawa

        lol saying the exact opposite of what someone says is only an argument when youre about 8 years old.

  • The Advocate.

    I am an MRA chap in a thread about gender issues. Hear me roar/grunt!

  • Im_Rick_James

    What about teaching them to achieve, instead of worrying about their “feelings” – boys and girls…

  • Emilio Lizardo

    1. Stop hitting them, women hit their children three times a day, twice as much for boys.
    2. Spend time with dad.
    3. Give them lots of unstructured play.

    It’s inane to violate their gender.

    • FacelessNameless

      I agree we shouldn’t hit kids. They should spend time with both parents, and as many family members as possible. Unstructured play is necessary.

      It’s inane to define those instructions as gender-specific. What exactly is a gender violation? If a gal burps, is she violating? If a guy giggles, is he at fault? Why must we attribute gender to behavior? Does someone sit around, keeping score? I honestly don’t understand why advocating to treat children more equally is considered “violating” the “boy role.” It’s a roll that you are asking people to fill.

    • LaurieAC

      I agree- Boys learn empathy by being treated with tenderness, love, affection and empathy! Mothers and school teachers are often very shaming, negative and even abusive to sons, and boys suffer the most child abuse overall.

  • Tracey Vincent

    Children of both genders have teddies…….don’t see the need for dolls (for girls either!) Not really sure if this is good advice! I think allowing your son/s to express emotions (no big boys don’t cry nonsense), showing empathy towards them, and talking about how you (and they) feel is much better advise than offered in this article even if it seems fuzzy.

  • JohnnyT

    The bottom line: men today need to be TAUGHT empathy? Are we XYs THAT poorly adaptable to socialization and lacking in the understanding of others that these traits have to be TAUGHT to us? Sorry — call me old school, but this kind of hand-wringing social engineering just makes me groannnnnn.

    • Caroline Wiser

      you’re being socially retarded by asserting unnecessary machismo.

      yes, you do need to be taught. as long as 1 in 4 women in america are being sexually assaulted by men, i will continue to support the idea of teaching empathy to males.

      you don’t sound particularly empathetic, might i add.

      • JohnnyT

        Your “statistics” are ridiculous. Your tone is pretentious. Your name-calling is childish. Ask my three strong, capable adult daughters how I did in the empathy department. I suggest you take your anger and turn it into something more useful.

      • LaurieAC

        @Caroline, that is false information. Boys and men are sexually assaulted by women in equal numbers and women are 51% of domestic violence perpetrators. The numbers you are putting out are only crime stats, not empirical research. Boys and men rarely report abuse to authorities and the FBI didn’t even count rape against males until 2012. Boys learn empathy by being treated with empathy. If you want males to “learn” empathy, then you must be willing to treat them with empathy.

        • Caroline Wiser

          refer to links below. and of course boys are assaulted, and it’s atrocious and unacceptable.

          but 99% of sexual assault crimes are committed by males. 60% of those perpetrators are white.

          so, i do agree with you that boys must be treated with empathy — how is that not the same as teaching them? “leading by example,” as it were.

          • LaurieAC

            Caroline, your facts are wrong. I have been researching this issue for the past 20 years and I work with youth and families. 50% of perpetrators of sexual violence and rape are women. Mothers commit the majority of child abuse. Women commit 51% of domestic violence against male partners. If you are interested in learning the facts from empirical research (not disinformation spread by political interest groups), I am happy to provide you with the info. To get you started, have a look at a recent article I wrote listing some recent studies on the sexual abuse and rape of boys and young men by women:


          • Caroline Wiser

            yeah so every link i sent you had empirical evidence from peer-reviewed articles, and every single source was cited.

            so you’re incorrect, but i’m not going to argue with someone who refutes blatant truths.

          • Caroline Wiser

            you have exactly zero citations. how am i supposed to validate your claims?

          • LaurieAC

            If you go to the link to my article, I list the studies in the article. You can search for those studies online, and others. I can also provide you with lists of unbiased studies that did not exclude men and boys, empirical, not based on crime stats and hospital reports if you are interested. I am not interested in corresponding unless you are serious about learning more about sexual and domestic violence. Are you aware that the most recent Center for Disease Control study found that more men are raped than women, but to hide the info, they only reported the rape of women and they changed the definition of rape to exclude men raped by women? If you want facts, you have to avoid sources with a political agenda.

          • Caroline Wiser
          • LaurieAC

            The sources of those stats are only based on who reported to authorities. Boys and men are known not to report. Caroline, I am in the process of writing my second book. I have read and researched 1,000’s of journals, articles and stats. I also have nearly 2 decades of experience working with youth and families. Boys are 50% of the sexual abuse victims, regardless of what is reported to the police, CPS or to other biased agencies. As I stated above the Center for Disease Control’s feminist panel had to change the definition of rape when they found from random sampling that more men were raped than women. Most feminist-run studies exclude male victims, do not ask about female perpetration, change definitions, use loaded language (“were you raped?”) that dissuades boys and men from reporting rape or abuse or they just do not report the data on male victims. There is a political agenda to block funding for male victims and to deny female perpetration. I am in the field. I work with it everyday. Here’s another study: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19990727&slug=2974015

          • Caroline Wiser

            sure there are thousands of male victims of sexual violence, and it is unfortunate that these crimes are under-reported.

            but for you to say more males are victims of sexual violence than females is stretching it a bit. until you have a few bodies of pan-cultural studies and extremely large sampling sizes reflected in the data, i’m not sure i can be thoroughly convinced that little boys are bearing the brunt of sexual abuse. (not that ANYONE should suffer such an awful event)…

          • gwallan

            This document is almost ten years old. In many jurisdictions female sexual abuse of males was legal at that time. Secondly virtually no responsible authority – schools, doctors, police, child services – will take a report of that type seriously. Those victims do not report because they know damned well that the most likely outcome is to be laughed at or accused of dishonesty.

            I’m sick to death of dealing with victims who have been laughed at or called liars or told how lucky or privileged they were. Thankyou for doing your utmost to ensure that continues.

          • Caroline Wiser

            first of all, me posting collected statistics of reported sexual assaults (regardless of the age of the data) in NO way makes a joke of the victims or ensures that victimization continues.

            so now that we’ve moved passed your illogical accusations, you may want to know that i have also been a victim of sexual violence — and at a very young age.

            so for you to insinuate that this is somehow making a mockery of this sad phenomenon shows how misdirected your anger is.

          • gwallan

            “regardless of the age of the data”

            It is absolutely relevant when much of that data fails to measure things at all.

            ” in NO way makes a joke of the victims or ensures that victimization continues.”|

            Yes it absolutely does, particularly when it echoes exactly the arguments used to oppose the statutory changes in my state and others to which I referred.

          • Caroline Wiser

            so what data measures all things relevant to you? sounds like you’d have to publish your own data in order to be content. you are now being esoteric for the sole purpose of acting indignant.

            *if* you truly cared, you’d counter by posteing peer-reviewed articles that are recent and have considered the extent to which males hold back on reporting incidents of sexual abuse…

            that would help me understand. your vitriol helps no one.

          • John Suni

            “but 99% of sexual assault crimes are committed by males” That is only because the definition requires penetration. If the definition were expanded to forced envelopment (per my links above) 40% of all rapes are being committed by women against men.

          • davegeorge

            Caroline, I have a law enforrcmemt background and I can tell you first hand that all incident (report) based crime statistics are eroneous. In my experience men initiate far less violence against women than the other way around. Men simply are more destructive when they become violent. Men generally don’t even realize they’ve been a victim of domestic violence. If men were to report every time they’ve had an object thrown at them, smacked or pushed you’d have a completely different statistical picture. Conversely what qualifies as and is reported as domestic violence by women is laughable at times. Men certainly do commit the majority of sex crimes but again what qualifies as sexuall assault and the unbelievable number of claims later proved to be false skew the numbers in such a way as to give a ridiculous picture of whats going on. As a society we should certainly be engaged in rape and domestic assault prevention and punishment but the perceived “crisis” is far from it. Same goes for every other crime.

      • Fen

        Caroline, thats a myth. The study included any drinking of alcohol before having sex. Not so drunk they passed out, not too drunk to be unable to give consent.. simply a few drinks before having sex. That means, according to the study, if you have a glass of wine with a date and then have sex, he has “sexually assualted” you. Thats a farce.

        If women want the rest of us to take this seriously, they need to stop lying about the stats.

  • For anyone struggling with the HOW involved in teaching empathy, please visit our (soon-to-be-updated) website or Facebook page of Doing Good Together.™ We make it a mission to encourage families to teach kindness and service to kids. Above all, we offer IDEAS, specifically with our Big-Hearted Families™ project, that offer opportunities, activities, and conversations that can be used to “practice kindness” on a daily basis. http://www.bigheartedfamilies.org/be-inspired/the-science-of-growing-caring-kids/

  • Pingback: Why It’s Imperative to Teach Empathy to Boys | MindShift | Loss, Grief, Transitions and Relationship Support()

  • FacelessNameless

    it’s apparent how ingrained your anger is when an article about helping boys is met with a message of no one caring about boys.

    • Playing with Plato

      Really? An article that leaves out how to help boys is about helping boys? I don’t follow. Perhaps if you’d care to explain? Or just leave passive aggressive insults? You’re choice

      • Caroline Wiser

        the article was pretty clear on how to help boys…

        so, it sounds like you have daddy issues AND you hate women.

        i’m sure the ladies will love you (and if they don’t, you seem like the kind of guy who wouldn’t care — you’d take what you deemed was “yours” regardless of another’s consent)

        • Playing with Plato

          HAHAHAHA this article is completely retarded. “Sounds like you have daddy issues” isn’t exactly the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard. Btw, my only daddy issue is the tone of voice girls call me it in. I can assure you, I don’t hate real women. Morons that try to treat boys like broken girls and waste their time stroking their weak egos with male-dehumanizing bs… yeah, I do kind of hate them

          • Caroline Wiser

            omg, your anger makes me feel dirty. i can totally see hate crimes in your future.


          • ricin_beans

            Notice how the feminists here are engaging in all kinds of hysterics and spurious accusations? This is what they want to turn boys into.

        • John Suni

          “the article was pretty clear on how to help boys…” help others & pedestalize others before themselves.

          There, I finished your run on sentence for ya.

    • Playing with Plato

      You literally just demonstrated exactly what I was talking about about not empathizing with males. You didn’t address a thing I said, just dismissed my points as coming from “ingrained anger.” Well, if that were true, do you think the right thing to do to someone with “ingrained anger” is make fun of them for it? No, I don’t think so, I think you just couldn’t deny what I said logically so you decided to nip at my ankles like a straight up bitch. Congratulations

      • FacelessNameless

        You say that girls get more attention because they are cuter. Way to objectify even a little girl for her later role in life – eye candy. You go on about how no one cares about boys, yet the article is completely focused on different perspective of helping boys. Just because I suggest you have anger (based on these above points) I am a bitch and making fun of you. I refer to my original claim of your anger.

        • Playing with Plato

          Oh my god, to say that adults treat girls better than boys because they’re cuter is not an objectification of little girls, you manipulative little douch bag. It’s an indictment of the adult’s failure. And have you really still not gathered that my position is that this article FAILS to suggest anything helpful for boys.

          Let me put it another way.

          A guy writes an article that says the way to improve your golf game is to do a lot of jumping jacks. Someone else says, no that’s wrong, it would be better to practice your golf swing. You then come along and say, “you obviously have anger issues if an article about improving your golf game would make you suggest the article isn’t about that at all.”

          No, I said, you dismissed my point “like a straight up bitch” whether you are or are not in your daily life, I can’t be certain but your certainly demonstrating a deficiency in your empathy skills in this conversation because you aren’t even responding to what I’m saying. Basically I make a point and you respond to something else. That’s lousy empathy 101

          • FacelessNameless

            I’m responding to exactly what you’re saying and you’re calling me a douche and straight up bitch. You lack both empathy and cognition.

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  • Simone

    But what you’re describing *is* patriarchy. Boys have to be tough, get treated roughly and take it without showing emotion, if they manage to fit into this mold, they are rewarded with certain priviliges when they grow up, but there are also negative consequences – they make more money and have a dominant voice in the public space, but also get sicker, die earlier and are more prone to addiction and suicide. Girls may be cute, but only as long as they’re quiet and well-behaved. My point is that the sword cuts both ways, and the current world order is harmful for both men and women.

    • Playing with Plato

      Congratulations! I have officially heard a thoughtful patriarchy argument. Well put

    • fearcutsdeeper

      Thanks for acknowledging men are hurt by patriarchal systems

    • Playing with Plato

      Actually wait a minute. It is a good point, but let me ask you this: “Boys have to be tough, get treated roughly and take it without showing emotion, if they manage to fit into this mold, they are rewarded with certain priviliges when they grow up” Who does the rewarding? Don’t women play a role in shaping this? Aren’t they selecting the tough men and shunning the men who show emotion? Obviously your the answer you tell me will be that women want emotional men, but come on, are you gonna tell yourself that bs?

      • Rebecca

        I can’t speak for other women, but as a girl I learned being nice is akin to being weak, and that being weak is akin to sin. Being interested in a nice boy could illicit threats of violence from “tough” boys who were jealous or merely amused.

        Showing emotion is not the same thing as being empathetic or ‘being nice’. I’ve known many men who showed emotions but did not know how take other peoples’ emotions into consideration. Empathy facilitates interpersonal skills, and interpersonal skills are very attractive. Emotions aren’t the attractive feature – the capacity to experience and express emotions constructively (based on an understanding of the listener) is the attractive feature. 🙂


    • candom rommenter

      That’s not patriarchy as feminists describe it, namely a system set up by men to benefit men and oppress women. If the system can and does marginalise and harm men who don’t conform to it then it is not set up by men for men. There is not such thing as patriarchy as feminists describe it. Also women get perceived advantages by conforming to social norms also , so you may as well have left the ‘privilege’ bs out.

    • Ultima Thule

      Exactly. The differences between boys and girls are REAL and NEEDED!

      There is only ONE THING we need to do: throw away all that feminists bullshit to the trash.

      Boys SHOULD NOT be delicate and feminine. They should be TOUGH and they should not cry !

      It is so obvious …

  • Scott Thomas

    Teach boys to be respectful and honorable and the empathy will come.

  • grevyturty

    Because only boys need empathy. Unbelievably irresponsible tripe. What are the “author'”s credentials again?

  • LaurieAC

    There is no way to “teach” empathy. Boys learn empathy when they are treated with empathy by their parents, loved ones and other adults in their lives. Empathy is a
    behavior that is learned through having received it. If we want to grow empathic boys, then we must respond with love, affection, nurturing and warmth to boys’ needs, feelings and expressions. So often I see parents, teachers and community members react to boys, especially teen boys, and their needs and feelings, with sarcasm, anger, irritation, shaming and even outright cruelty. I have actually had mothers in my professional practice who hit and scream at their sons, saying they want them to “respect women”! My son is one of the most empathic people I know, but that didn’t come out of no where- It comes from what people like to now call Attachment Parenting, or, the way humans were meant to parent- by meeting children’s developing and changing needs and responding with empathy.

  • itzj

    First I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts. Though we clearly hold different views, I am still interested to understand your conclusions.

    Dolls are especially good for young boys, toddler and preschool age, because it allows them to practice caring and work through a lot of the motions they see in their families already. They may not dress them up, but the motions of feeding, putting to bed, engaging them in play or chores are all important. It allows them to mimic the roles they already have with their care givers and think about how their dolls feel, but they can do it on their own pace. Think about any of the times you’ve sen a toddler want to help with chores or cooking. It’s the same kind of thing. Is it just that dolls are stereotypically girls toys that bothers you or males in any caretaking roll?

    I do disagree with pushing girls to one type of activity and boys to another, but we can agree, I’m think, that these are personal beliefs. Our daughter plays rough with her father and our son plays kitchen and also helps in the real kitchen. But we have different goals.

    I actually think that the military does not encourage empathy. In fact I think it does just the opposite. How can you prepare someone to kill others? To make attacks that will also kill civilians? To use weapons? To torture in the name of interrogation? Empathy is what pushes me to pacifism. I would have to have it squashed out of me to ever associate with the military.

    • Alexander Yuki

      Oh my goodness, at some point I’m happy that I agree also. However, what some people don’t understand is that when this page mentioning about boys “playing with dolls” is that they already think they are trying to feminize boys. As for myself I been through tough situations on being picked on. And for what?! I mean I was kind, I lack the conversations that had the word “sports” “battling” and “military” in it.

      I know the genders are crossing over differently then back then, but that doesn’t surprise me. When I was a young child, my psychologist identified me as a person with a slight autism (almost unnoticeable) and I agreed, because I spent expressing myself and becoming more open to anything that does include to both male and female activities.

      There was no significant change about my personality throughout my childhood. Thus, I still began to think that if I had some autism, then it would explain why I engage myself to be completely sad and lonely all the time without hiding it, wouldn’t it be?

      No, I have been judged a lot, being insulted because my peers as well as some adults looked at me in a blank stare, and because of how I like to treat people. By the way, I have engaged in playing with dolls and never said anything, it’s sounds weird but it never bothered me.

      My parents never had time to spend with me. I was less sensitive compared to other boys but couldn’t stop admitting

  • So if empathy is not a gene, then why are women presumed to be “natural nurturers”? Well, feminists insist it’s a social role. So in that vein, wouldn’t girls also need to be taught empathy just like boys? Thus, why does the author single out boys? After all, girls are just as capable at bullying/non-empathic behavior as boys. It may not take the form of pantsing the geeky kid at lunchtime, but arguably the way girls go at each other in the “Queen Bee” politics of social destruction that starts in earnest in middle school and goes right up through high school graduation is nothing anyone would volunteer for. Neither form of bullying is any fun for the bullied, and children of both sexes participate in it all the time. Seems *children* could use classes in empathy, not just male children.

    • gotitall

      Girls ARE taught empathy. Constantly in fact, girls get treated as though they are to be society’s empathetic little future mommies and nannies and wives and caretakers. Feminisms points out that girls and boys are the way they are because of the roles society places on them from birth.

      Little boys (and older boys as well) simply don’t receive the forced diet of “be nice, be quiet, be patient, be obedient” that little girls get.

      So yes, *children* need to be taught empathy, not *just girls* anymore. But the lovely posters of the MRA variety refer to this very act as the pussification of boys 🙁 What to do then — treat boys as humanly as we treat girls and ignore the MRAs? Or keep treating boys as boys-will-be-boys, watch them grow up and misbehave and lack empathy, just to keep the MRAs happy and still blaming it all on women somehow?

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  • Playing with Plato

    Yeah, boys like to compete and race to the right answer. We like to jump up out of our seat and demonstrate our knowledge. Nothing against girls for being more about being called on and being patient. Great qualities, just not male ones, and public schools completely favor the “everybody’s a winner” type of student. There was a recent study that “proved” little girls are “better listeners” than little boys. Here’s what they did. They told the kid not to touch certain things, then left the kid alone in the room. The girls didn’t touch, the boys immediately did. So they came to the conclusion that girls are better listeners. How about, boys are more inquisitive, independent, require logic over orders from authority. No, no, no, because we value blind obedience to authority over the type of independent thought that got us the wheel, the internet, and all the little household conveniences that FREED women from the drudges of household labor. Some thanks we’ve been reaping for the last 100 years.

    • nyan

      Now imagine being a girl in school who does those “boy” things. We get it from all angles…

      • Playing with Plato

        I’ve imagined being a girl in school. I imagine it’s an 8 hour a day ego massage. What do you get from all angles?

        • fearcutsdeeper

          Have you actually been back to an elementary classroom in the last 20 years?

          • Playing with Plato

            Are you trying to say something?

          • fearcutsdeeper

            I think you’re too convinced of your agenda to let evidence or facts get in your way.

          • Playing with Plato

            Oh, do feel free to present your facts

          • Playing with Plato

            The answer to your question is yes. I taught for two years in China. The other teachers would talk ceaselessly about how they cherished their well-behaved girls and how they just wished the little boys wouldn’t show up. I get it. Girls are easier, but we were at work and had a job to do for both the boys and the girls. When teachers approach the classroom with the selfish intent for their jobs to be easy and only focus on the students who parrot back their commands, they’re failing boys and blaming them for it.

          • fearcutsdeeper

            So working ay w school in annother country with a different educational culture gives you ample evidence to my blanket statements about the US education system?

  • Mark Neil

    Isn’t empathy one of the things Warren Farrell’s study showed was vastly improved in children with involved fathers? The irony of a system that is becoming progressively anti-father railing about the absence of one of the attributes fathers help instill in their children.

  • Fraga123

    Here’s an idea:

    Let’s teach women to have empathy. That way female teachers might stop molesting young boys with impunity.

    Let’s teach girls empathy so they don’t keep falsely accusing college students of rape, false accusations that are enabled by sexist administrators and feminist groups which ignore actual statistics.

    Let’s teach ex-wives empathy so they don’t continue to use their legally privileged a status to deprive children of their fathers while falsely claiming they have been abandoned by them.

    When this female sexist piggery ends, maybe there will be more empathy to go around.

    • gotitall

      LOL! Thank goodness this article about the needs of young boys came out… otherwise, how would you have found a way to ignore it all, selfishly twist the living shit out of reason, and use it instead as a platform to spew provably false Misogynists’ Rights Activist lies against women?

      Oh, MRAs, you are good for laughs. Laughs, and Emergency Room visits.

  • adrien

    Well said

  • Katherine irving

    This is an interesting issue, but the article fails to offer any explanation for why boys’ toys are less likely to encourage empathy than girls’ toys. Is the theory that playing with plastic inanimate humanoids teaches children that others have emotions (more than trucks and trains)? And if so, why are action figures any different? I’d like to see this argued more thoroughly.

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  • Jacob Slatter

    Where exactly is the evidence that boys suffer from a measurable lack of empathy compared to girls, and not just a measurable lack of dolls?

  • I was born as a boy and I very much wanted to do art, and learn music, but my parents thought men should have a ‘real’ career. The intention to support a family. Thus it is only my sister who was encouraged to do art. The 3 boys got pushed into ‘STEM’ subjects. I wish I too could have been an ‘oppressed’ female as a child.

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  • I’m a teacher – and, I realize I’m coming into this discussion late but: I think the real problem that this article and much of the discussion points to is a belief that boys don’t have empathy, and that they need to have it shown to them.

    This is absolutely ridiculous! Over and over again I hear this myth – and see everyone just accept it as if it were a natural law.

    And, in spite of this – as a middle school teacher who encounters hundreds of boys day in and day out throughout the year – I know that boys have just as much (and in many cases more) empathy than girls!

    I would add that the type of empathy and role-playing you’re going to see boys engage in with “dolls” is the exact same type they already engage in with action figures (also sometimes referred to as “dolls” – because that’s what they are!).

    Let’s quit acting like boys are broken and start treating them like what they are: not girls.

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  • CareAboutMalesToo

    Great, just what we need…a couple more feminists telling us to raise our boys to be girls. Sorry, but we need to STOP listing to feminists because the last thing they understand, much less care about, is the actual needs of our boys and men and how they differ from those of females. Anthony’s comments here are spot on. When are we as a society going to pull our heads out and recognize the fact that males and females are different, with different needs and different paths to success? When are we going to start listening to real science rather than feminized Swedish science?

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  • Alexander Yuki

    There are some good facts I witness several years ago. But reading this page just gave me more flashbacks through my childhood. The personality traits of what I am today really relates with a particle of this subject in this article. Boys need to be taught empathy in my strong opinion. I was never taught empathy, but I learned more about myself than anything else I could’ve learned. Empathy was always in me, and in a very strange way. And yes, I was very lonely and I still am. People see me as an overkind boy who’s probably delicate because… 1.) I like beautiful things 2.) Get sad and lonely very quickly 3.) Express my emotions towards others and just care too much about them instead of myself 4.) I play with children were sometimes I get depressing flashbacks of a time when I was a child because those days are over. 5.) Express an empathy language and react to things when they get destroyed by human business matters 7.) Get sad after I see someone go away 8.) I don’t talk like a man, because my speeches exclude technology, politics, engineering, sex, beer, and economics, etc 9.) Feel that both genders should be treated equally, even if it means for boys to be shown kindness as much as girls have 10.) I don’t like to see animals, children, and babies get hurt or their feelings being hurt, and get sad when I see stuff like that, as well as having feelings for things that are abstract and nonliving things when they are thrown out and forgotten. Why do I feel so unique? Because I’m able to protect this personality of mine and suppress its existence from the public as well as realizing what I do with such kindness (which comes back when I’m alone). But now, it seems out of control because of the gender stereotype that’s going on against boys who want to become a part of an empathy social group. I misinterpret that; what I mean is that I read blogs about children (especially boys) that is stated that they shouldn’t be taught empathy in a quality manner like girls. Boys aren’t influence to learn the way they would want to learn that is suppose to be a parent’s responsibility. Most programs I see today are exclusive and stated “female” in it. Most advertising favors influence specifically for girls only. I really don’t know what to say anymore. But the worst part is that some boys want to be shown kindness, and do things like art, music, singing, writing, nurturing. It’s that exact reason (in my opinion) that they are in this mess that’s keeping them away from success. I care for both genders, and I have a strong empathy even till now. I’m 20 years old and I still feel lonely and like a child. I write amazing fantasy stories and still have the heart of a child. But sometimes it gets so strong that I pretend some of the characters are with me because I’m sick of being judge by people and my loneliness. Maybe that’s because I love myself so much, that sometimes I pretend to actually see myself as a different person. So when I hug something, I pretend that the one thing that’s being hugged is actually me and the one that’s hugging me is myself, but in a father-figure point of view. This is because, I wasn’t taught empathy by my father, but by myself. So please, if you’re reading this, understand something: it’s not what gender your child is, whether people believe it’s weaker, stronger, different, or what we think they are, but it’s the level of compliance we put in our children (or future children) with a leading path we secure in them and showing compassion to them as well.

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  • I think the problem goes beyond reading and toys. I think boys have pretend play pretty well down. I feel the problem involves much too much differential treatment from one year through adulthood, by parents, peers, and teachers. I feel the belief boys should be strong is really big on parents and creates much more aggressive treatment from infancy to achieve this. The young male male child doesn’t realize it is just to make him strong. Instead, it creates more anxiety, fear, apprehension, and preparation for defense. This creates more acclimated layers of average stress. Stress is more correctly defined as many layers we carry with us from experiences, fears, anything that creates unresolved mental work. It creates more social emotional distance, distrust, and defensiveness with others: children, adults, teachers, etc. The whole language of interaction is filled, not with kind, empathetic, caring, feeling, and goodness. Instead, it is filled with firm commands and many times more than firm discipline for infractions the male child is completely unaware of or not learned yet. They learn from much poor modeling to be tough and see others as potential foes. They are not given kind, caring verbal interaction, and other mental, emotional social supports for fear of coddling. So, yes in this area the reading together will help somewhat. Still the much less kind, caring verbal interaction in general creates a very poor social vocabulary that along with higher average layers of fears, anxieties, and apprehensions carried with them, takes up much mental energy and hurts reading and motivation to read. It is good to provide more interaction for boys when the rule is not to interact in kind caring ways as often. I guess special times are better than no times. True empathy comes from much modeling and caring for them. This I feel leaves boys far short in those areas due to the belief boys should be strong.

  • Jeanni

    Yes, we see mothers as usual examples for empathic behavior, but what about dads, who were usually raised to be strong and assertive? What about doctors and male nurses? Hopefully there is training in that area, but it still seems rather curt and rushed. Okay, males AND females in any helping professions need to have compassion ‘down pat’. Do unto others… How do WE want to be treated? Then treat others likewise.This is also absolutely necessary for boys who show signs of bullying. It is really necessary to catch that early, and teach them to become responsible individuals, rather than followers of what other kids are doing.

  • SMcG

    Here’s a thought: Give your boys siblings and be a parent who encourages kindness and thoughtfulness while discouraging selfishness. It’s natural for girls to personify their toys. Boys tend to turn person-like toys into objects: it’s how (dare I say it?) they’re naturally wired. But they do respond to real human relationship and parental guidance and modeling how the adults in their lives treat them.

  • I could not agree more with the article: “Empathy is a learned behavior… parents play a keiy role in nurturing empathy in their sons.”
    Reading the Kelly Bear Feelings book with a child or children contributes to them developing empathy for others. The book is to be read by an adult with a child or children. After reading each page and the questions, children respond as though they are conversing with Kelly Bear, so it is easier for them to speak openly about their emotions. When the adult listens carefully and repeats what the child says, the child feels valued and accepted. The resulting adult-child communication and bonding promotes a childrern’s emotional well-being. For sample pages and more information, go to: http://www.kellybear.com/Kelly_Bear_Books/KBBooks-Feelings_Book2col.html There is a new bilingual Kelly Bear Feelings book (Spanish/English), as well. See: http://www.kellybear.com/Kelly_Bear_Books/KBBooks-FeelingsB_Book2col.html

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