Boys are primarily visual, spatial and experiential learners. Did you notice auditory is nowhere in that list? Despite knowing this, we fall into the trap of talking at and talking to boys way too much, forgetting they learn best by going through the motions. Think about the Compassion story I shared. You’d be correct in assuming though I’d spent a lifetime understanding the concepts of poverty and hunger in third world countries, it didn’t become real to me until I traveled to South America, visited those sites, interacted with children and families, and heard their stories. The experience expanded and deepened my perspective.
I challenge parents to avoid lecturing about hungry children across the world, when their own kids don’t clean their plates and waste food. Rather than lecturing, take them to a local Soup Kitchen and serve as a family. They will develop perspective differently by seeing it first hand and experiencing it. This will also be a context for developing Resourcefulness, a milestone we’ll discuss in chapter four.
When we refer to the milestone of Perspective, it not only involves an awareness of what they are feeling and experiencing, but learning to put it on a 1-10 scale. Sissy teaches on how most of life happens in the 4-6 range, but how naturally kids can let every experience register at 10. They respond to not getting a candy bar at the grocery store in the exact same way they might respond to a friend betraying them. Regulate the emotion, research the situation, and respond accordingly are the nuts and bolts of this second milestone. Otherwise he just reacts.
Stumbling Blocks for Boys
Stumbling Block #1: Intervening
One of the more challenging tasks of parenting is allowing the kids we love to struggle. There’s nothing instinctive in us to just stand back and watch disappointment, difficulty and failure unfold. Our knee jerk reaction will always be to help, and often rescue. We’re more likely to intervene than support them. Sometimes support translates to involvement. Many times support is best offered by watching and waiting, responding with empathy and validation. Knowing the difference can feel like walking a tight rope.
I believe we have to train ourselves to pause, reflect and respond (not react). If we can’t do it ourselves, we can expect it to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for our kids. I’m an advocate of asking supportive questions like
What’s your game plan?
What are you thinking?
How do you want to solve that?
Asking supportive questions communicates we believe they are intelligent, resourceful, capable and competent. It also communicates we are with them and available if they need to brainstorm, role-play, or just need a sounding board.
If we respond with instruction rather than questions, we actually send the opposite message - they aren’t smart enough, brave enough, or resourceful enough to problem-solve their way through this. We remove the opportunity to develop perspective.
This can be as simple as role-playing with a toddler on how to assertively speak with a friend, practicing with an 8 year old how to courageously approach a teacher about a failed test and ask for the opportunity to do extra credit, or brainstorming with an adolescent how to inquire with a coach about additional playing time, or dozens of other hurdles our kids will face.
Check back next week, as we take a look at an important building block in helping boys develop Perspective. I’d also say it’s likely one of the most important gifts we can give the young men we care about as he develops emotionally. And for information on a boy’s emotional journey, check out our new book, Are my Kids on Track?