Themes Covered:  

Navigating the Depth of Boys’ Emotions

Teaching boys to embrace, and name their emotions, is an important part of raising godly young men.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Key points

  1. Boys have a rich emotional world:

    Often, boys are not fully in touch with their range of emotions. But there’s a depth to their emotional world that needs exploration.

  2. Suppression of deep-seated emotions:

    Societal expectations often lead boys to suppress their emotions, with anger being a culturally acceptable outlet.

  3. The role of distractions:

    Distractions, like smartphones and other digital devices, can interfere with boys’ emotional processing. This generation often lacks quiet, undistracted time needed to understand their feelings.

  4. Importance of understanding emotions:

    Teaching boys to recognize, sit with, and understand their emotions is critical. Emotions are signals that indicate underlying perceptions, beliefs, experiences, and relationships.

  5. Encouraging curiosity:

    Rather than suppressing emotions, we need to teach boys to be curious about them. This exploration can lead to a deeper understanding of oneself and others.

  6. Emotionally healthy boys:

    Raising emotionally healthy boys involves guiding them to navigate their full range of emotions and not just the culturally sanctioned ones. This is vital for their emotional maturity.

Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family sat with Mark Hancock, CEO of Trail Life USA, and plunged into the surprisingly rich, yet often unexplored emotional landscape of boys.

“I remember talking to a young boy,” Dr. Huerta began, “And saying, ‘So, what do you feel about that?’ He goes, ‘What do you mean, Mr. Huerta, what do I feel?’ He was talking about this emotional world that he wasn’t very much in touch with… but really, boys have such a rich emotional world that needs to be tapped into…you guys have talked about the emotional world the importance of an emotional world that a man has.”

Encouraging Exploration of Boys’ Emotions

Mark Hancock, having been a leader at Trail Life USA for nearly a decade explained, “We wanted to draw out emotions in our sons. We’re saying you need to be in touch with your emotions,” Hancock stated. This urgency stemmed from a disturbing trend they had noticed. “We tell them they need to be in touch with their emotions. Because, all of them lead to anger. That’s the outlet that seems to be culturally acceptable. In fact, it’s expected of boys that they’re going to be angry.”

Hancock exposed the pressure boys face to conform to those expectations, which often leads to pushing down, or suppressing, their emotions. He is concerned about the distractions that are readily available to boys. “We start to feel something; we pick up our phones and we scroll through something or we do something else… what this generation is missing is quiet.”

Boys need to be coached, to be able to stay in their emotions. It’s okay to be sad, or have hurt feelings. To ask themselves, “What am I feeling right now?”

Raising Emotionally Healthy Boys

Both experts agreed that teaching boys to explore and understand their emotions could provide a much-needed antidote to the dangerous trend of emotional suppression, and the anger that it leads to.

“Emotions are simply signals of something that’s there,” Dr. Huerta said. “By exploring the emotions and the thought bubbles that generate them, boys can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and others.

This process requires patience, curiosity, and compassion, steering away from cultural expectations and towards a more holistic and healthier comprehension of emotions.

The Rich Emotional World of Boys

Emotion, Huerta suggested, is a complex interplay between perception, belief, experience, relationship, and even the impact of culture. The task ahead is to encourage boys to navigate this emotional landscape with courage and openness.

It is a call to allow boys to feel their full range of emotions, not just the culturally accepted ones.

This, according to these leaders, is the path to raising emotionally healthy and mature boys. “Let’s be curious about those rather than telling them to suppress that,” concluded Dr. Huerta, underlining a sentiment that could reshape the way we guide the emotional development of boys in our society.

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