There’s something about elite athletes joining together in teams to battle for victory that fuels my husband and three sons with energy and hilarious humor. I watched my men more than I watched the Super Bowl itself! And because I’ve been watching and loving them for years I have a big heart for boys and the men they are called to become.
Recently I watched the embedded video, The Mask You Live In, with my two teenaged sons and they confirmed that it is sadly true. Boys are given mixed messages through peer pressure and misguided adults about who they are and who they need to be. This confusion can lead to suffering, violence and despair. Boys want close and trust-worthy relationships, pride in themselves, meaningful work, and respect from others. How can families support them to be happy and do what is right?
We can start by empathizing with boys. All boys. Not just with the boy who gets pushed around on the playground but also the boy who is doing the pushing. It is a false dichotomy to divide boys into generic categories of bullies and victims because all boys need guidance, support and encouragement.
This week I read Why Empathy is Your Most Important Skill and How to Practice It by “passionate programmer, author, speaker, musician, technologist and CTO” Chad Fowler who shares:
I’m not an expert or even remarkable at it, but I work on it consciously and consistently. The it I’m describing here is called “empathy”:
the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner—Merriam Webster
As exhausting as it is for me, this is the primary reason for the success and good fortune I’ve enjoyed in my life.
Empathy is an internal process dealing with emotional sensitivity and reasonable boundaries. Some boys are naturally sensitive and can use this gift to easily feel emotions but they need help to manage them. They can learn how to avoid emotional hijacking and avoid becoming overwhelmed by having healthy boundaries with others. Some boys have naturally reasonable boundaries and can use this gift to have a confident sense of self but they will need help to be sensitive to the needs of others. They can learn how to trust and be vulnerable.
One way to make the internal process of empathy into an external behavior is to expect boys to be kind. Boys can learn kindness, which is a key to kids’ happiness and popularity.
Parents can also talk about kindness at home – and, even better, they can model it. Children are particularly sensitive to parental actions and beliefs, and they are natural mimics of their parents’ behaviors.
Families can help boys to be happy and do what is right by providing them with an environment that encourages empathy and kindness. Whether a boy aspires to be a Super Bowl Champion quarterback like Russell Wilson, an entertainment star like Bruno Mars, or his own hard-working dad, these habits of thought and behavior will build strong character and confidence to be his best self.
How do you see past the masks and stereotypes in order to be there for every boy in your sphere of influence? How do you support boys to be happy and do what is right?
I’m sending my very best to you and the boys you love ~~~~~~~~ Angie Mc