Being Dad How To

On raising emotionally intelligent men

Emotional intelligence
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Learn why it’s important to allow male emotional intelligence to blossom freely in today’s society.

Emotional intelligence is defined as one’s ability to recognise and properly govern one’s own emotions, as well as respond favourably to the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence or awareness is a skill that can be developed. Unfortunately, men have not been nurtured to develop this skill.

Emotionally aware people are attuned to their changing emotional experiences, varying from happiness to apathy. In addition to awareness they demonstrate the capacity to engage and manage these experiences in a healthy manner.

The emotionally intelligent are also conscious and sensitive to the emotional reality of others. Increased awareness of emotional cues internally and externally often leads one to be more present and giving in their relationships, platonic and romantic, leadership and their parenting.

Dangerous lessons

This type of emotional expression has typically not been developed in men. Historically and presently they are expected to remain emotionally neutral to help ensure stability at home and in their respective communities. Such socially imposed stoicism disallows men access to their full range of emotional experiences. The one emotional experience men are given space to explore is anger.

For example, boys are given permission to get angry when they play sports. They are taught to transform this anger to aggression to help them subdue their opponents. This lesson falsely instructs boys that aggression is a necessary leadership attribute. If the boy loses his game or match, he is typically not allowed too much time to publicly display feelings of sadness, such as crying.

After a brief moment of emoting, the boy child is often pulled away from connecting with his sad feelings and instructed to ‘man up’. This statement is a social admonishment which loudly proclaims men do not display their emotions.

Many boys are directly and indirectly taught, women and babies can display their emotions, not men. Boys are acculturated to view emotional expression as weak and socially ineffective. The dangerous lesson and social norm, often imposed on boys, is men are suppose to provide financial and physical security while avoiding emotional fragility.

A father’s role

This on-going lack of emotional access and misguided social norm often directs boys to a place where they are not only unable to properly develop emotional intelligence as men, they often times denied access to the social value of expressing their full emotional self.

Therefore, when it comes time to emotionally connect with their significant others or their children, many men struggle because they have not acquired the necessary tools to fully engage. This scarcity of meaningful connection gives way to serious voids, which often times result in ruptured or stunted relationships, parental and otherwise.

I asked licensed therapist Thea Monyee to summarise the importance of developing emotional intelligence in men:

“Denying male identified children full emotional expression causes isolation, poorly developed social skills, and higher stress levels. When we create an environment where all children, no matter their gender, can exist as full beings, including exercising the right to freely explore and express their emotions, we are creating a world that is not only committed to inclusion, it is also more compassionate.

When boys are allowed to learn and experience their full emotional range, they grow into men motivated to share those experiences. As fathers we play a large part in wether that happens or not.

Mark Winkler is an author and motivational Speaker. Be sure to check out his newly published book,
My Daughter’s Keeper, the compelling story of a father who risked everything to remain in his daughter’s life. Available at Amazon and other online outlets.

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