How Can I Help My Son or Daughter Find Balance?

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How do I help my daughter find balance?

Psychologist Leonard Sax says, “More and more boys are developing an epicurean ability to enjoy themselves—to enjoy video games, pornography, food and sleep—but they often don’t have the drive and motivation to succeed in the real world outside their bedroom. More and more of their sisters have that drive and motivation in abundance—but they don’t know how to relax, have fun and enjoy life.”1

Girls feel a tremendous amount of pressure. They feel pressure to make good grades, to make good friends, to appear kind, and fun and strong and independent and responsible and brave, and pretty…all at the same time. And, what I hear in my office on a daily basis where I counsel girls between the ages of 5 and 18 is that they’re exhausted. It’s too much. It’s part of why there’s an anxiety epidemic in American today, and part of why girls are twice as likely to struggle in this area than boys.

Psychologists Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson, in their book, The Yes Brain, advocate something called a Healthy Mind Platter.  A Healthy Mind platter includes focus time, play time, connecting time, physical time, time in, down time and sleep time.2

In other words, girls need time to focus, and not to focus…to connect and to disconnect. And they need rest. Sleep is “hygiene for the brain,” as Siegel and Bryson remark. The healthy mind platter helps girls grow the connections in their brains, the connections with others, and release the stress that builds up throughout their days. Balance is good for them, and is certainly good for us, as well. 

1Leonard Sax, Girls on the Edge (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 7.

2Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson, The Yes Brain (New York: Penguin Random House, 2018), 66-67.

How do I help my son find balance?

When I wrote the chapter on balance in Intentional Parenting: Auto-pilot is for Planes, I focused in on balancing time, support and emotion. I believe pressing into these areas can be an important place to land on behalf of our sons.

We want to make certain a boy’s extracurricular life includes a balance of exercise and service. Sports are an amazing outlet for boys to be active, learn sportsmanship, experience winning and losing, and practice being a teammate. For all the advantages, it can’t be the only context where he spends his time. Competition and collaboration are equally important. He needs to practice being for someone as much as competing against.

Balancing support is the tightrope of identifying then to intervene and when to step back. This path isn’t always clear. From sibling rivalry to academic struggles, we aren’t always sure when to insert ourselves. I believe in the wisdom of empathy and questions.  Saying to our sons, “that math looks hard.  Would it help to take a ten minute brain break then come back to the table?” This approach invites our sons into problem-solving, brainstorming and resourcefulness.

Balancing emotion is a hurdle for most boys. They struggle to identify what they feel and what to do with it. I coach boys on the magic equation of time and space. Taking ten minutes to do something active, release the physicality of the emotion and get back to their thinking brain in emotionally-charge moments can become a game-changing skill for boys. I encourage parents to practice time and space in front of their sons.  Boys learn best through observation, not information.  

- This article originally appeared in Parent Life and was written by Sissy Goff and David Thomas.