Teaching Boys Self-Confidence
Being Tough & Expressing Emotion
By Christine Ford
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Even in our modern society, boys still often get the message that they have to be tough and not show emotion. This can lead to frustration and negative behavior as children don’t feel they can truly express themselves.
It’s important to let kids value their personal strengths and to claim their own weaknesses too—that’s what makes them unique. It’s all part of who they are,” says Ginny Deerin, Founder and CEO of WINGS for Kids, an afterschool program based in Charleston, S.C., that is designed to develop social and emotional skills.
Emotions and being able to express them are also a big factor in self confidence. “At a very young age we can start building self confidence by helping kids to understand their feelings. Just like they need their ABC’s, kids need an emotional vocabulary too,” says Deerin. “Parents need to teach them emotion words of all kinds, not just mad, happy and sad. This is part of understanding that emotions are nothing to hide.”
“My son’s school is very focused on social and emotional well-being,” says Liane. Both girls and boys are told to use their words and to express their feelings. “We tell them it’s OK to cry. It’s OK to show your feelings or not be strong. You’re not a baby if you poop in your pants or cry.”
One activity you might want to try that Deerin uses at her program, is taking pictures of your child making different faces. Write the feeling on the back and then use them as flash cards. Kids love to do this with their own faces as well as others. Later when your child is having a hard time expressing himself, you can ask him to pick the photo that shows how he’s feeling and then talk about it.
Peer pressure can however be a factor says LaRusso. “I don’t think my boys ever knew that being tough rule growing up, or what was supposed to be cool. But now that the oldest is in school,” she adds, “he’ll hear that doing this or that is ‘babyish.’ Then he turns around and repeats that to the younger one and suddenly he thinks it’s too babyish too.” Explains LaRusso, “My youngest son is a different boy when the older one is around, so I make sure to give them both personal time with mom and dad away from each other.”