Of Boys and Dolls
If I could have one wish, it would be to give every boy in the world a doll. As a second request, I’d also ask for parents to never take it away from them. I know this may sound like a strange thing to ask for but I really think it would be an easy way to reduce the negative impact some men have on women and children. Misogyny, violence and other forms of abuse are anything but imaginary. They are very real problems and the toys children play with today can prevent these issues tomorrow.
How? Well, here’s the deal with dolls: They are powerful empathy building tools. They are a major key towards building more compassion and care in our future — especially amongst boys.
Girls already have this area down pat. They love to take care of their dollies, feed them, bathe them, clothe them — and it’s a pretty beautiful thing to watch, right? This is because at the age of one, toddlers start to mimic their parents significantly. They see their parents caring for them so they begin to care for their dolls in similar ways.
Boys have the same instinct to copy their parents. They too want to care for their dolls in the same ways girls do. This is great because that means they are practicing for parenthood. They are practicing the act of nurturing and caring.
Only a funny thing happens later on: they stop caring for their doll and start treating it as an extension of themselves. Suddenly, they start to use dolls for fighting and ‘being tough’ (read: doing triple back flips off the couch). This is largely due to society, and even some parents, unfortunately, saying that dolls aren’t for boys; that caring for toys is ‘girly’. Isn’t that sad?
Why in the world would we want boys growing up believing that feeding, comforting and caring for someone isn’t a masculine thing when it totally is.
In the States, over 24 million children live in homes without their biological father. Worse yet, those who stick around feel unequipped for the big task of fatherhood. Surveys show that fathers around all around the world feel that they do not have the information they need to prepare them for fatherhood. Many new and expectant fathers describe a frustration at the lack of inclusion, involvement, and information.
For children, play time is about practicing behaviours today to navigate the world tomorrow. Dolls could be the fuel we need to have a generation of compassionate and responsible men who care for everyone and everything — equally.
If you're still on the fence regarding boys & dolls check out these wonderful articles written by really smart people to convince you otherwise:
Why boys should play with dolls by Rebecca Hains from The Boston Globe
Why boy really need boy dolls by Karlyn Crowley Ph.D. from Psychology Today
Why Every Boy Should Have a Doll by Julia Pelly for Parent.co
If you want to dig deeper into some of the supporting material that helped inform this blog post you can sink your teeth into the following sources:
What Your Child Learns By Imitating You by Chana Stiefel from Parents Magazine’
Creative Play for Your Baby by Christopher Clouder & Janni Nicol
Data on the extent of fatherlessness by The National Center for Fathering
We need to teach our sons to be better fathers by Peter Morris from The Washington Post