HOW TO EMPOWER BOYS TO BECOME BRILLIANT, EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT MEN.

2017-07-19
Having taught hundreds of boys during my time as a teacher and school wellbeing leader, and now having a seven-year-old son, I feel that it’s the perfect time to share this blog.
 
jonathan1

 

Our beautiful boys need their mothers to step up for them. Our boys need to be shown how to become emotionally intelligent, wellbeing-savvy and harmonious adults. It begins with us leading the way!

 

Leading the way for our beautiful boys is something that’s close to my heart, which is why I’ve put together six wellbeing tools for mothers. These six little actions that can be done every day will help empower our boys with the necessary wellbeing life tools. We need to show them (via our own everyday actions) how to be ‘wellbeing intelligent.’ The more we as mums step up and nurture our wellbeing the more peaceful and wellbeing-savvy our boys will become. Our community will thrive as a result.

 

1. MODEL EXCELLENT SOCIAL WELLBEING


As mums, we are one of our boys’ primary role models (especially in the early years) and we therefore need to provide them with a welcoming, harmonious, happy environment.

As our boys grow, they will look for male role models, however, we will always have a powerful and long lasting effect on their foundational development. It is by watching, listening and interacting with us that they predominantly learn about the world around them, especially in those precious first six years.

Our gorgeous boys are little sponges and need us to demonstrate how to be experts in building and maintaining relationships.  They are relying on us to effectively model the management of small challenges, large conflicts, and everyday conversations in the best way we can.

For example, it’s important to be mindful of how we speak to people during face-to-face interactions but it’s just as important to be mindful of how we speak about others afterwards when they are not within earshot. Teaching our children how to see the good in people or how to learn from every situation are brilliant wellbeing tools.

For example, someone was mean to your child at school and your child brings it up at the dinner table. Firstly, thank your child for sharing the challenge that they faced during the day. Spend a minute emphasising the point that when someone is mean to you – it’s not personal (even though it may feel like it). Explain to your child that when people are mean/rude/angry that it’s highly unlikely because of something they did, it’s actually more about how the person being mean feels inside. You may say something like, “boy it sounds like they must have been having a ‘bad’ day,” or “maybe someone was mean to that person in the morning and they were feeling sad inside.” Let this sit with them for a minute. Then you may like to offer further explanation such as – sometimes when people feel sad inside they decide to take their hurt feelings out on someone else, in hope that it will make them feel better and take away their own hurt (but this often doesn’t really make them feel any better).

 2. ACKNOWLEDGE AND AFFIRM YOUR BOYS EVERY DAY


Look into your son’s eyes every day and compliment them. Tell them how lucky you feel to have him as a son. Make time to light up every time you see them – your eyes tell them they matter. Boys thrive when they know that they are loved regardless of how they look, behave or what they achieve. Be explicit with this fact, ‘I love you no matter what,’ because knowing they are loved unconditionally is super powerful for their development. When boys know that they are loved regardless of whether they get an A+ or a D, or prefer dancing to kicking a footy, they feel fully accepted just as they are and what a precious gift that is. This priceless gift will help their spiritual and social wellbeing soar.

For example, acknowledge them by hugging them when you first see them in the morning and spend a minute or two setting up the tone of the day with them. Ask them some questions such as, ‘did you have a good sleep? What are you looking forward to today?’ Finish the conversation with, ‘I love you because you are my son’ – full stop.

For example, affirm your child at every opportunity. Catch them in the midst of displaying kind/helpful/calm behaviour and say something like, “I really like the way you are helping your sister build that bridge,” or “thank you for walking calmly into the house after playing outside.” These little affirmations all add up and make a huge difference to how your children feel. After you engage with your child in this way for a while, you will soon most likely hear them saying similar things to other family members and their friends too. It’s an affirmation ripple effect!

 

 3. HELP THEM SELF-SOOTHE

In times of tantrums and big-feeling moments, teach them how to feel their feelings. Firstly, help them bring awareness to their feeling, validating it is a good way to feel and express how you feel, then assist them in calming themselves down. This self-soothing technique helps them to navigate and manage their own feelings (especially the challenging ones) as they arise. Developing and strengthening their emotional intelligence is worth its weight in wellbeing gold, especially as our boys develop into young adults.

For example, when I’m feeling frustrated, I now let my children know and I demonstrate how I’m dealing with it. A practical example: The Morning Rush – we are getting ready for school and I’ve asked my son five times to put on his shoes. He hasn’t done it, so I tell him that I’m feeling frustrated because we need to leave now to make it to school on time but your shoes are not on. I’m now taking some deep breaths so that I don’t raise my voice and it helps me feel calm.  So, (insert son’s name) what can I do to help you put on your shoes? You and I are a team and I want to support you!

Sharing how I feel during the morning rush (and remaining consistent) has made the morning rush much more enjoyable, especially on the days that everyone is feeling a little tired. Explaining how I’m feeling out aloud (and listening to how my children feel) has made the world of difference in our home and co-operation tends to flow much more easily (without rarely raising my voice).

 4. TEACH THEM ABOUT BEING PRESENT

Presence is one of the best ways of being. Simply being present is a brilliant way to engage and interact with the world around us. It is an action that has revolutionised my life. I only wish I’d learnt it earlier (instead of at 23). However, in this fast-paced, high-tech, ‘rush-rush’ society that we now live in, it can be overlooked and dismissed as unimportant. Being present is imperative in raising wellbeing-savvy men. My son knows about presence, so much so that now he knows when I’m not present and will call me on it.

It’s not necessarily how much time you spend with your children – it is all about the quality of time – how much presence you bring to each interaction. When we are disengaged or distracted – we often don’t share the best of ourselves with them. When we are half-listening or half (or fully) pre-occupied it’s a recipe for disconnection with our boys.

For example, it’s 5:30pm and you are feeling time-pressed. You need to get dinner finished and your son really wants your attention, he is in the kitchen, not wanting to help you with dinner and in a complaining type of mood. You could persist with this dynamic or decide to change it up for five minutes. Let your son know that you have five minutes to play with him but after that time is up you need to finish getting dinner ready so you can all eat by 6pm.

One of the best ways to do this is by making those five minutes super fun. In our home, we love to play ‘rollies’ on the carpet, it’s a fun way of moving around which often brings with it lots of laughter. I always give the ‘one minute to go’ warning and then as I’m leaving the room I let them know we will do it again soon. You may prefer to pop on some music and have a dance party or jump on your trampoline or play tag in the backyard. Aim to choose something high energy, where you are all 100% engaged in the activity. You will be amazed at how satisfying this five minutes can be, not only for your children but for you too! Presence is a brilliant wellbeing tool.

 5. VALUE THEIR OPINION

Involving your son in the conversation from an early age is brilliant. Give them a voice so they have the opportunity to be heard and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. Problem solve with them. Share with them your thoughts about things. For example, ‘I’m not sure what to do about this, what would you do?’ By sharing daily stories and little challenges with them, they learn to share their own with you. Talking it out can be so useful, and teaching boys to effectively express themselves from a young age is instrumental for building their emotional intelligence and spiritual wellbeing.

Another great way to show them that you value their opinion is to ask them what they think about different things and listen to them when they offer their opinion spontaneously. Acknowledge their views as valid (even if you don’t agree). We all want to be heard. It may seem simple but it truly does help reiterate that what they have to say matters – that they matter.

6. LISTEN – REALLY LISTEN

When they are sharing a story, stop whatever you are doing and listen. This goes hand-in-hand with being present but is a crucial element of connection and is worth mentioning on its own. Whatever your boy is speaking about is important to them. Although as a mum it may seem small or insignificant – to them it is their world.

When you deeply listen to them whilst they are young you connect on an amazing level. This sets up for life the foundation of your relationship. When you have a strong relationship with your son from a young age they are more likely to share stories with you as they grow into their teen years (rather than keep it bottled up) because sharing and listening has become a normal part of the way you do things in your home.

An excellent way to keep your relationship strong is to take turns sharing one another’s daily experiences. A wonderful time to do this is at the dinner table so everyone can participate. Family members share something that made them feel happy (a celebration) as well as one little challenge that they encountered during the day. The challenge you might share could be how someone was rude to you and how you responded. You might tell them that you took a deep breath, thought that they must be having a bad day, you forgave them in your mind and moved on with your day. It is truly powerful for children to know how you manage your little daily challenges, as in essence you are giving them life-long wellbeing tools which help to build their resilience and happiness.

For example, recently, we were sitting around our dinner table, having a family chat, when my three-year-old daughter spoke up. She said that someone had pushed her at kinder and explained how she told the boy who had pushed her that she didn’t like it. She then went on to explain how she walked away but the boy followed her. We all listened to her share her story and each of us took turns to respond to her story. Some of the things we said to her were, “thanks for sharing that story with us,” “that must have been really hard for you,” “how do you feel about it now? “well done for not pushing him back" and “maybe he was having a bad day.” Those kinds of responses helped her to feel listened to and supported, which is a key aspect of listening. Simple in essence but often dismissed or rushed over in today’s fast-paced world. The discussion also taught our son and daughter ways to respond empathetically to those who are experiencing a challenge.  

 


While these six wellbeing tools seem relatively simple they are a great way for us mums to strengthen the bond we have with our boys and to lead the way to their future. When we relate to our boys on an emotional level we also teach our family members and friends how to do the same. Our boys will feel valued and empowered. They’ll have the courage to grow into emotionally intelligent and wellbeing-savvy men. It creates a beautiful ripple effect that our boys are crying out for. I know you are ready to lead the way beautiful mum. Your boy will thank you and so too will the wider community as you helped raise a brilliant man.

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