“Boys get unfairly labeled as morally defective, hyperactive, undisciplined or ‘problem children,’ when quite often the problem is not with the boys but with the families, extended families, or social environments, which do not understand their specific needs as human beings and as boys.” – Michael Gurian
I am honored, first and foremost, to be a mother of two wonderful young men, ages 16 and 12. Like any parent who is raising children during such tumultuous times where every day one’s news feed trumpets the latest sexual harassment claim in Hollywood, another mass shooting by an angry male, a male president who just “grabs them by the pussy,” a male narcissistic CEO who doesn’t give a royal (fill-in-blank) about their employees…..the list goes on and on and on. I have to say, it’s mind boggling and bewildering to navigate what appears to be a really dark time in the U.S. and to know what the heck you can do as a parent, to not only protect your son from the toxic machinations out in the world, but to also inculcate and teach healthy emotional intelligence to our impressionable young men.
We owe our sons some guidance and instruction on what healthy communication looks like, whether you are a president, a student, an employee, a CEO, a neighbor, family member, dating partner, friend…we need to teach emotional intelligence. Now, more than ever, those lessons are paramount.
I will be writing a series on boys’ social-emotional health. This article today attempts to begin to unpack what emotional intelligence is and why it’s so important, especially for our young men. Boys in the U.S. are often raised with outdated gender norms whereby they receive the messages “Boys don’t cry!” or “Don’t be a sissy!” or “You are acting like a girl. All drama!” Apparently boys are not allowed to show any emotion but anger, lest they get categorized as a full-on wimp (or another less savory and most definitely not PC descriptive noun). Yes, even in the year 2018, boys and young men receive these antiquated and insulting messages – through social media, through video games, socialization, sports, TV and movies, religious institutions, and sometimes in schoolrooms and at recess. But mostly, boys get this message from the people that are raising them that it’s not okay to show vulnerability and empathy — that somehow revealing those key components of emotional IQ will render their sons emasculated and weak.
I can attest to the fact that when individuals, whether they are male or female, possess and demonstrate over sustained periods of time the key ingredients of empathy, vulnerability, reciprocity, accountability, compromise, authenticity and integrity, they are exhibiting healthy communication and contributing to peaceful exchanges with other human beings. Devoid of these crucial components of high emotional IQ, individuals can cross the threshold into narcissistic, self-serving, and toxic interactions with others. In addition, studies show that with high emotional IQ, people have the greatest potential in love, work and family relationships. Whether you are a male or female. It’s long overdue to let go of antiquated notions of toxic masculinity and instead embrace what is necessary for our planet to continue to revolve (and evolve) safely on it’s axis – emotional intelligence.
Excellent books on raising boys:
- Wiseman, Rosalind (2013). Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World.
- James, Stephen, and David Thomas (2009). Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys.
- Brewer-Hartley, Elizabeth (2001). Raising Confident Boys: 100 Tips for Parents and Teachers.
- Kindlon, Dan, and Michael Thompson (1999). Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.
- Gurian, Michael (1996). The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors, and Educators Can Do to Shape Boys into Exceptional Men.
- Buchanan, Andrea (2005). It’s a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons
Retrieved from February 26, 2018: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/debunking_myths_boys_emotions
Retrieved from February 26, 2018: http://theweek.com/articles/736174/5-researchbacked-ways-deal-narcissists
Retrieved from February 26, 2018: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/11/donald-trump-narcissism-therapists