Helping Boys Develop an Emotional Vocabulary
I’ve written a lot of posts on kids and emotions. There are several reasons for this. In many ways, emotions rule our thoughts and our actions, yet very little is taught about how to manage emotions in a positive way. Most of us simply learn that we need to steer clear of negative emotions and strive for positive emotions at all costs. This might mean stuffing the negative ones and pretending everything is okay when it isn’t. Or it might mean acting out on those emotions in a variety of negative ways. Rarely are we taught how to process and understand emotions. In addition, we are not taught how to label feelings or that they are all okay and valuable. There is always a lesson that can be learned from every situation and every emotion.
As a school counselor for 20 years, I also spent a lot of time consoling kids who felt devastated when life didn’t go as they planned. Their dog died. They failed a test. Their parents were getting a divorce. A friend was mean to them. I want to help kids learn to handle emotions and difficult situations because challenges are a fact of life and it is so much easier to learn coping skills when you are young and negative coping mechanisms are not so ingrained. Every experience can either provide helpful information for our future or it can crush our spirit. It is all in how we perceive the situation as well as the strategies we learn.
Boys in particular often have trouble with recognizing emotions and expressing them in appropriate ways. While boys outpace girls in gross motor skills, girls generally outpace boys in emotional literacy. Add to this the fact that our culture still encourages boys more than girls to suppress their emotions in order to appear masculine. Nevertheless, based on their temperament, many boys have strong emotions that may be expressed in dramatic ways. Tantrums, acting out and aggressive behavior may be common. How do you teach boys to recognize, accept and cope with all of their emotions, both positive and negative? Here are three ways:
- Develop a relationship that encourages boys to share their real emotions. Learn to listen to boys when they talk about their emotions without judgement, correction or giving of unsolicited advice.
- Teach boys to name their emotions. Move beyond bad, really bad and really, really bad. Use a feelings chart on a regular basis to help them differentiate between mad, frustrated, disappointed, annoyed, hurt, afraid etc. Then use a scale of 1-10 to help them determine the degree of their emotion so they recognize that not all situations warrant the same degree of emotionality.
- Be a role model. Don’t just talk to boys about their emotions, demonstrate for them how to handle emotions by naming your own feelings and sharing coping methods for challenging situations. In addition, use books, movies or other examples to demonstrate both positive and negative ways to handle emotions.
Helping boys to recognize and regulate emotions not only serves them well in the younger years but helps them develop skills they will need in their adult years.
Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games
Just for you! Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books. Over 75 pages of ideas so that you can create lessons on cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.