How to Boost Your Son's Emotional IQ: Advice from "The Boy Crisis"
In their groundbreaking book, The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, Warren Farrell, PhD and Dr. John Gray, PhD suggest that a key struggle for boys is the age-old social bias in favor of heroic intelligence, when in fact what young men most need to cultivate success in today’s terms is health intelligence. Simply put: it matters more to know yourself than to prove yourself.
We found this excerpt of The Boy Crisis particularly helpful in flushing out tangible ways parents can help their sons build emotional and physical well-being.
Excerpt from Chapter 24, Emotional Intelligence and Mental Health
The bad news is that the gap between your son’s heroic and health intelligence is a million or so years in the making. The good news is that, for the first time in history, with less social pressure to be increasingly proud of your son only to the degree that he is a heroic warrior or successful sole breadwinner, we are freer to help him differentiate between knowing himself and being seduced by the sirens of social bribes.
If, after this process, your son chooses to be a Navy SEAL, firefighter, or a CEO who works seventy hours a week, he is more likely to have made that decision by conscious choice—as a choice aligned with who he is rather than the need to prove himself.
Then he will be a hero who has integrated health intelligence with heroic intelligence.
The Boy Crisis
October 26 - 28, 2018
A crisis of education. A crisis of mental health. A crisis of fathering. A crisis of purpose. These are the pervasive and significant challenges facing today’s boys and young men, according to Dr. Warren Farrell and Dr. John Gray, coauthors...
- If possible, keep both parents about equally involved in your son’s upbringing—whether married, divorced, or never married. If impossible, get your son involved in the Boy Scouts, Mankind Project, or the programs described in chapter 20, “The Best Parent Is Both Parents, But . . .”
- If dad and mom have different parenting styles, treat them as a healthy checks and balances.
- Model great listening skills—if you tend to become defensive when criticized, get help.
- Roughhouse, coach, and play. Make everyday activities like shopping into a game, with fun competitions.
- Routinely get your son’s input, and then use the bond of roughhousing and playing as leverage to set and enforce boundaries.
Don’t set any boundaries you do not enforce.
Enforce boundaries sooner rather than later—repeated threats without follow-through lead to escalation, arguments, and blurting out consequences you won’t enforce, breeding your son’s disrespect and even contempt.
- Impart a sense of sacredness for family dinner nights and “The Five Essentials” in appendix A—especially these next two.
- Discuss at dinner meaningful life issues and dilemmas, and issues in the kids’ lives; make sure no one dominates, and interruption is taboo. Your advice comes last, and is discretionary.
- Make no topic taboo at dinner. Boys love to be challenged; they’d rather only half-understand a conversation than be bored.
- Use the invitation of friends (yours and his) to occasional family dinner nights to help your family develop a supportive social network and a leadership group for self-discovery.
Frame empathy as manly—as the emotional equivalent of rescuing, healing, and protecting someone.
- Frame respectfully speaking up to peers as courage—after he has the courage to listen first.
- Develop questions you ask your son about every new friend (so that no one friend is seen as being picked on). Is that friend someone you respect? Why? What does that person encourage in you that you feel will make you a better person? Is there anything that magnetically attracts you to her or him that you feel may lead you to a place (physically or psychologically) that you will ultimately regret? Do you think this person will be a trusted friend five years from now?
- Make exercise part of your son’s daily life—not as an option, but as a top priority. Be sure three types of sports are integrated into your son’s life: team sports, individual sports, and pickup team sports. Each makes a distinct contribution to his development.
- Introduce him to meditation, yoga, and prayer, and do them with him. In addition to providing your family with some quiet moments to extract deeper thoughts from the noise of life, they can also become a part of your family’s connective glue. If your son doesn’t believe there’s a God that listens, no matter—let him know that prayer has value even if only he listens.
- Set up opportunities for him to develop friendships with girls in which neither he nor the girl have a romantic interest (e.g., via school paper, student government, debating, or coed sports like tennis, ping pong, running, soccer . . .).
- Teach him to listen to music that soothes, and seek to understand why he loves the music he loves. Ask him to listen to why you love the music you love.
- Create enough pressure to teach him how to handle pressure.
Frame “failure” as a prerequisite to success—part of the gift of risk-taking and being a man.
But make sure he “gets” that you love him as a human being, not a human doing, and that “failure” as a human doing is but an opportunity to grow as a human being. Knowing that allows pressure to be part of life’s game, but not his life. (Only when he “gets” that will sports and video games in moderation reinforce that.)
- Treat the family as a team, with your son’s chores and consciousness of your needs being what gets him to “make the team.” Children don’t develop empathy from parents who are only empathetic. When we consider only our children’s needs, they also consider only their needs. Let him know the benefit to him: parents who are less stressed contribute to happier, more successful children.
Excerpted from The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It by Warren Farrell, PhD and Dr. John Gray, PhD. Copyright © 2018 by Warren Farrell, PhD and Dr. John Gray. Excerpted by permission of BenBella Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.