Safeguard Our Sons’ EQ

Safeguard Our Sons’ EQ

Feb 05, 2014

Another “Q” that parents have to contend with in raising their children is EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient). There is a need to raise our children to have high EQ and somehow instilling this in our sons is more challenging.

Statistics from the book Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson state the following:

Boys are 4x more likely to be diagnosed as emotionally disturbed.

Boys are 3x more likely to become drug addicts.

Boys are at greater risk for schizophrenia, autism, sexual addiction, alcoholism, all forms of anti-social and criminal behavior.

Boys are 12x more likely to murder someone.

70% of delinquency related court cases involve males.

80% of suicides involve males under 25 years of age.

Most terrifying shootings in schools involve males.

We have not witnessed scary school shootings here in our country like the one that just happened in a Moscow high school last Monday, the Colorado shooting last December and the Columbine massacre in 1999. What we have is the Vhong Navarro beating. No shooting or beating but still related, academy award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died due to drug overdose. 

When I checked out the perpetrators of the school shootings, I was surprised and saddened to see that these boys were talented and could have contributed positively to society. The Moscow perpetrator who shot a teacher and a police officer and held 20 schoolmates as hostage is a 15 year old described as a model A student who got mad at his Geography teacher. The Colorado High School shooter was a high school senior described as an achiever, an athletic nice young man. He was pissed off by their librarian, the head of their speech and debate club, who disciplined him a couple of months earlier. Dylan Klebold (then 17 years old) of the Columbine massacre was in a gifted class in grade school. He had a remarkable attention span and sense of order and loved puzzles, lego and origami while growing up. Seymour Hoffman was an academy award winning actor respected by his peers. Vhong Navarro and Cedric Lee are both achievers in their respective fields. The big question is why do people like them engage in destructive behavior?

It’s interesting to note that we blame so many factors in tragedies like these. Putin of Russia told the Kremlin Advisory Council that if they only raised their youth to have good artistic taste, with the ability to understand and value theatrical, dramatic and musical arts, this tragedy would not happen. Some blame the proliferation of violent Hollywood movies and games. Still others blame guns, school pressure, bullying, etc. as the culprit.

Although the above could be contributing factors, I wish to put forward the thesis of Drs. Kindlon and Thomson, the authors of book Raising CainEven if each troubled boy (or man) has a different story to tell, all their stories share a common denominator – Emotional Ignorance and Isolation. 

This is so true. Somehow we have raised our boys to disregard the development of their emotional side. Most of us believe that girls are just genetically more emotional than boys, right? But here’s the thing. Don’t we always hear mothers who have both sons and daughters say that their baby boys are fussier than their baby girls? Remember that crying is an infant’s way of expressing emotions. So are boys more expressive at the start and then something happens along the way that girls overtake them in emotional expression? Think about it.

Chances are there isno significant difference in the range of emotions between the genders. However, we do notice that as they grow up, girls are more in tune with their feelings. Is it because society expects boys to keep their emotions to themselves; otherwise, they might be perceived as not being manly? Have we trained our boys to hide their feelings in silence? Or even deny their fears in order to appear masculine?

Unfortunately, the answer to the above questions is yes most of the time, and in doing so we end up with troubled boys. If left unchecked, this may end up in aggression, violent outbursts, hopelessness, depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, and even suicide. It is imperative that we raise our boys to have high EQ; otherwise, they might end up as part of the problematic statistics stated above.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to read and understand one’s emotions and those of others. In my book Raising Pinoy Boys I devoted a chapter entitled Boys are “Emo” too (The Emotional Life of our Boys) to discuss this crucial aspect of parenting. Here are some of the things we can do to raise our children to have high EQ as discussed in the book and other parenting literature:

1. Teach them how to express both positive and negative emotions. Help them label their feelings. There is no right and wrong feeling. A feeling is just a feeling, but it is up to us what feelings we allow to linger in our hearts and what actions to take.

2. Listen to your sons with empathy and validate their feelings. Make it a habit to listen to the stories of your kids. However, there really comes a point in a boy’s life when he stops being talkative and eager to narrate the day’s stories to his parents. When you ask him how his day was, the answer is just “fine.” Here’s where we should learn how to ask the right questions that will elicit narration of events. When something is such a big deal to him, do not belittle his “emo-ness.” Validate his feelings first before you say your opinion.

3. Use conflicts to teach problem solving. I know it’s so tempting to yell at your young kids to stop it, when the quarreling gets too frequent and annoying but we should try our best to just be the referee and not the problem solver of their conflicts.

4. Safeguard against bullying. The discussion of this topic deserves an entire article but let me cite a few important points. Many boys carry the trauma of bullying that they end up hating school where the bullying usually occurs. When you see signs of bullying, immediately get to the bottom of it. It’s good for our sons to know a bit of martial arts as it increases their confidence to protect themselves. I used to have a standing order to my sons on how to ward off bullying summarized in three steps: a.) Never start a fight; b.) If someone picks on or hits you, tell teacher; c.) If teacher doesn’t do anything (because I know that the teacher cannot respond immediately to all the boys’ complaints), hit back, and hit harder! Yup, I said that, but I had to explain to them that the bully had to feel the consequences of his actions and know that they will not put up with his bullying. I also promised them that I will stand by their side should the teacher ask them if that was really Mama’s order. However, I guess the biggest factor that warded off bullying during their growing up years was their healthy self-esteem. I believe that bullying is ultimately a product of problematic self-esteem in both parties. The bullied allows the tormentor because he believes that he deserves to be treated as such, or even if he doesn’t, he feels that he does not have the power to stop it. On the other hand the bully also has a poor self-esteem because he thinks he has to throw his weight around weaker people in order to feel good about himself.

5. Give your sons the chance and space to express their physical exuberance. Traditional elementary classrooms are more suited to the learning style of girls. While the young boys find it hard to stay put, sit still and follow teacher’s orders, their female classmates easily adapt to this setting. So it is very likely that the boys will be behind girls in learning with this set up. Furthermore, since boys love to win, this environment that brings about their frequent “losing” is not a good way to start formal schooling. To compensate for this, have opportunities for your boys to engage in sports, rough and tumble play that they need in their development. A principal in a primary school in Auckland said that their incidence of bullying disappeared when they put back bullrush (a rough and tumble game played in a big space where multiple players run and charge each other) in their school activities. Click link

6. Have regular family dinners. I cannot overemphasize the importance of family meals spent regularly where conversations are free-wheeling because this is when we get a clear picture of what’s happening in the lives of our family members. Studies show that children who do not share meals with their family regularly have a greater probability of becoming smokers, drinkers, and more problematic as adults.

7. Pray together as a family. It is in praying together that we learn what our children’s current hopes, dreams and struggles are. It is sad to note that when I googled the tragedies of school shootings, killing innocent lives and traumatizing young students, I never found any mention of the lack of fear of God (or whatever they want to call it) as a contributing factor in these tragedies. They mentioned the lack of art appreciation but not the lack of spirituality and the acknowledgement of the existence of a power larger than all of us, which we will have to reckon with at the end of time. This absence of spirituality contributes to the depression, hopelessness and lack of meaning in life that may ultimately lead to substance abuse, violent outbursts, and suicide.

8. Be a good role model in staying calm. When our sons are behaving in a certain way, we have to check if they’re picking it up from us. Stay in touch with your own feelings. Some parents ignore their own negative emotions, hoping to spare their children discomfort or difficulty. But hiding your real feelings will only confuse your child. By acknowledging that you’re displeased without acting upset, you show your child that even difficult feelings can be managed well.

9. Nurture the relationships of your sons. It’s true that it takes a village to raise a child and the relationships formed by our children while growing up will help them in their emotional literacy. The relationship with their mother is very important because she is their primary caregiver. Sons always want to please their mother. In fact, most of the time, they end up marrying someone like her, so we better be good wife pegs. The father is the essential role model whose approval they treasure. Their siblings give them the peer perspective that may sometimes be absent from the advice they get from their parents. A relationship with grandparents provides them with a sense of history and helps them understand their identity. Relationships with cousins, friends, teachers, neighbors, even domestic helpers are all important. These are great training grounds for them in understanding the different types of personalities and different roles each person has in their life. 

It is my wish that all parents raise their children well because well brought up kids make a good society. Sometimes we immediately judge a parent who’s child wreaks havoc in society. I had the same heart when I started reading the essay entitled I Will Never Know Why by Susan Klebold, the mother of the mastermind in the Columbine massacre that victimized a lot of families. As expected from any mother, she shared how wonderful her son was – a gentle, kind and gifted boy. Then she went on to share how shocked she was to find out about her son’s plans, only after the tragedy, which also ended her son’s life. But what struck me and softened my heart are these words, which I want all parents and child formators to take to heart, In raising Dylan, I taught him how to protect himself from a host of dangers: lightning, snake bites, head injuries, skin cancer, smoking, drinking, sexually transmitted diseases, drug addiction, reckless driving, even carbon monoxide poisoning. It never occurred to me that the gravest danger—to him and, as it turned out, to so many others—might come from within.”

Let us all raise our children to have high EQ, and be vigilant with our sons who are in danger of emotional ignorance and isolation.