Time for Dads To Be Known For Their Mastery Of Emotional Intelligence


Intrapersonal intelligence encompasses our understanding of our emotions and of the way we think about not only our emotions but our emotional place in the world. It is time that dads be known as masters of these skills rather than he suppressors of them.

Most of us fathers come from the “boys don’t cry” generations. I am really not sure who thought it was a good idea to condition the males of our species to stuff their emotions but the world needs men who know how to tap into their own emotionally intelligence (EQ). As fathers we need to let ourselves and our sons know it is not only okay for boys to cry but sometimes they might need or want to. We all have emotions. They can either serve or confound us depending on how we deal with them.

Emotional Intelligence Defined

Thirty years ago Howard Gardner introduced the world to multiple intelligence theory. It is now largely proven and accepted that humans have certain cognitive strengths. They are: Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, more recently he added naturalist, and indicated there may be even more definable strengths (and weaknesses). Intrapersonal intelligence encompasses our understanding of our emotions and of the way we think about not only our emotions but our emotional place in the world. For whatever reason, there is a near universal male culture that demands we keep our emotional intelligence as underdeveloped as possible.

Weak, Wussy, Or Worse

I do not know a single boy or man of any age who does not have a story to tell about a time when their emotions started running all over their face and then they recount how they were emotionally shamed for their tears. It can be as dangerous as body shaming girls and women. And, it is time for us stand up and say no more. The truth is name calling, teasing, and full on bullying is extremely detrimental to teenage boys. These young and emotional men have no culturally accepted coping mechanism except substance abuse. What sort of world are we creating for half the planet if it more socially acceptable to abuse drugs, alcohol, and/or nicotine than it is to let their emotions show?

Emotional Intelligence Vs Emo

In teen-speak, Emos are emotional and in some cases overly so but Emo is also a music genre with a cult-like following. I find it interesting that teens recognize the highly emotional among them better than us fathers do. For Emo groups, emotions are not a bad thing. For the non-Emo, typically they aren’t always as receptive. Emotional Intelligence on the other hand, is more complex than recognizing one’s emotions. It is also a keen understanding of other people’s emotions. Teenagers with high EQ would never put someone down for their feelings. They would be driven by a deep desire to understand what and why someone is feeling. Having empathy is part of emotional intelligence. Being able to manage moods and practicing emotional self-control are also part of strong emotional intelligence. Some researchers argue emotional intelligence is something you are born with but others believe it can be learned and I agree. Everyone can work to improve emotional intelligence. In our newly digital world, we need a greater focus on helping our teenagers cultivate their ability to communicate using emotional intelligence.

Tips To Improve Emotional Intelligence

In order to help your teenagers improve their emotional intelligence you have to improve your own EQ. Whether you believe it or not your teen is modeling their own behavior based on what you do more than what you say. As you become a better example of strong EQ, your sons will realize having emotions and being emotional is okay. Again being emotional is not acting dramatic. Being emotional is allowing yourself to feel—happy, sad, scared, worried, proud, scared—when your boys see you demonstrating appropriate emotions they will learn to deal well with their emotions. Here are some tips to help you set the example:

  • Awareness—Not as easy as it sounds but let yourself notice your emotions.
  • Put A Name On It—There is a lot of power in saying, “I feel worried.” As you name the emotion then you can process it.
  • Listening—As you are talking with your teen or others, really work on hearing what the other person is saying and learn to react without judgement.
  • Teaching Moment—Use emotions to teach your son how to identify, name, and process them. If someone is mean to your son, ask how it made him feel. When he says, “angry” let him know it is normal feel that way but not normal to retaliate in an emotional way.

Think of yourself more as a coach…not the sort of coach that says “rub some dirt in it.” Good coaches model the behavior they expect. As you coach your son through his emotions you are creating a strong man. You are also helping him acquire real life skills to process all the emotional curve balls like can throw at him. Teenagers who have EQ are less likely to turn to substance abuse to help them cope with life. However, if your son’s emotions are out of control or he has already started abusing drugs or alcohol, get him help and know you will need emotional intelligence to parent him through it.

Fathers have the responsibility to change the male cultural within their own homes. Young men who feel supported by their fathers will grow up to be men who will be supportive in their own relationships. The cycle of “boys don’t cry” needs to be broken and it is going to take strong fathers to break it. Your son needs you to help him. Teenagers today have more struggles than we ever did and helping them to curate their emotional intelligence will help them resist all the temptations that might come their way.


Photo: Flickr/cheriejoyful

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