Every man has his moments when he acts like a little boy. And some have moments when they act like whiny babies.

Sometimes when my boyfriend acts like a brat, I coddle him. It’s terrible, I know. But he has these blue eyes and cute dimples and I just… Ugh. See? This is what happens when I try to put my foot down. One look at his sad puppy face and I I’m kissing his forehead and making him cookies. Like I said: Ugh.

There are other occasions, though, when I tell my boyfriend to shut the hell up and grow a pair. This is usually followed by a severe eye-roll and a jab about how immature he is for a dude who is already going gray. These eye-rolls are considerably more frequent than the babying sessions, and often much more deserved.

How do you know when to baby your boyfriend and when to tell him to man up? It all depends on the situation.

Situation: He was out late doing shots with his friends and lost his keys. At 3 AM, he wakes you up by pounding on the front door. The next day, he can’t get out of bed. He groans that he feels like he was hit by a bus and—now that he mentions it—you can’t help but notice that he looks like it too. From the safety of the down comforter, he begs for juice and a breakfast sandwich.
Reaction: Tell him to grow a pair. Hangovers suck, but so does being woken up in the wee hours of the night by your drunk-ass boyfriend. Besides, everyone knows a hangover is the drinker’s own damn fault. He’s a big boy. He can order his own breakfast sandwich and take a long shower. Maybe he’ll remember this epic hangover next time he feels like staying out until 3 a.m. doing shots.

Situation: Your boyfriend comes home from work complaining of a headache and muscle pain. At firsts, you dismiss his white pallor as a sign that he needs some daylight—or a tropical vacation. But then you realize his forehead is burning and his glands are swollen. Before you can ask if he’s feeling okay, he’s passed out on the couch clutching his neck. Strep throat can be such a buzzkill.
Reaction: Baby him. Everyone needs love and attention when he or she is really sick. One of the nicest parts of being in a relationship is knowing you have someone to take care of you. So put on a pot of tea, call his doctor and head to the pharmacy. Open a can of chicken soup and serve it to him in bed. Now would be an excellent time for those maternal instincts of yours to kick in.

Situation: His company announces impending layoffs, and he comes home freaking out. Aside from his monthly living expenses, rent and bills, he has a lot of student-loan debt to pay back each month. He’s not crying, but he’s acting weird. He trails off when he’s talking and stares into space. He’s losing sleep and he’s not eating much—even when you order his favorite spicy noodles.
Reaction: Baby him, at first. Can you blame him for being scared out of his mind that he won’t be able to pay his own rent and he’ll default on his loans? If he took the news well, I’d be worried. Listen to all of his concerns and give him all the hugs and curry he needs. But, in time, encourage him to man up and start working on his résumé. It never hurts to be prepared for the worst.

Situation: Your man landed a great new job with a huge pay raise—you couldn’t be prouder of him. But after one week at his new gig, he starts worrying his boss is too hands-off, that the company might not be the best place for him, and maybe this wasn’t the best move after all. He starts questioning his career path and spends too much time talking about the documentary he wanted to film when he was in college.
Reaction: Kindly tell him to grow a pair. One week in is far too early to draw any conclusions about a job. He needs to give it a month or two. It sounds like he is overreacting because change is tough. Does he really want to make that documentary, or is he just afraid of moving on with his career? Tell him you support his decisions, but he needs to man up and gain some perspective.

Situation: After binging on pad thai and Ben and Jerry’s over the holidays, your boyfriend has put on a few pounds. You haven’t maintained your own svelte figure, so you’re not one to talk. However, he’s started to complain about the extra weight and has taken to wearing his sweatpants far too often. You don’t want to hurt his feelings, but you’re sick of him asking you if his butt looks big in his skinny jeans (it does).
Reaction: Both of you need to grow a pair. Stop pussyfooting around and admit that he should wait until he’s back to size skinny to rock those jeans. Until then, he needs to act like a man and hit the gym. And you know what? You should go with him. You’re not looking so great in your jeans either.