Our children are born with amazing capacities for tracking and responding to emotional engagement. This ability to connect via expression is what many parents see as the sweet emotional openness of their little ones.
The challenge isn’t that we fail to teach our children how to form relationships. They are born knowing how. The challenge is we live in a culture which intentionally suppresses these capacities in our children as they grow older and move out into the world.
Thanks for taking an interest in our work. Remaking Manhood is committed to helping us all grow our relational capacities. Our goal is to create a wealth of relationships in all our lives. You are welcome to explore here or to visit our Remaking Manhood page on Facebook. (Typically, there’s a lot of comments and conversation going on over there.)
If you’d like to read more deeply about these issues, please note the books in our sidebar by myself and others including Niobe Way, Judy Chu, Michael Kimmel and Esther Perel. They have all generously given of their time to appear in our current and upcoming videos. Please consider supporting their work.
Want to understand what’s troubling our sons, fathers and husbands in America? Mark Greene, a longtime Senior Editor at the Good Men Project, highlights the damage being done by our culture of male emotional suppression, which is resulting in epidemic levels of stress related illnesses, isolation, addiction, suicide and violence among American men. Greene makes a powerful case for raising emotionally empowered and relationally intelligent children in this heartfelt and deeply affecting read.
“This is writing that unites men rather than dividing or exploiting them. It speaks to the very best part of men and asks them to bring that part to the fore—as fathers, as sons, as brothers, as husbands, as friends, as lovers, and as citizens of life.”
—Michael Rowe, author of Other Men’s Sons
“Mark interweaves his own deeply personal stories with a salient and powerful deconstruction of manhood in America.”
—Lisa Hickey, CEO, Good Men Project
We live in a culture that teaches our sons to suppress their emotional expression. We live in a culture that teaches our daughters that only certain emotions are appropriate to share. Starting in infancy, our little boys are pressured to model emotional stoicism, physical toughness and confidence. The strong and silent type remains a central American symbol of “real manhood.”
Without crucial capacities like emotional literacy and relational intelligence, our children face the serious risks associated with lifelong disconnection and isolation. With one in three American adults age 45+ known to be chronically lonely, these risks are very real, up to and including early mortality.
The tide is turning. As a society, we are coming to understand the importance of relational intelligence and emotional literacy for our sons and daughters. But far too many boys and men are still taught to be emotionally silent. They are taught that a mask of emotional toughness is somehow proof they are immune to the myriad of human insecurities, fears and doubts we all confront.
The result? An epidemic of male isolation, stress related illnesses, broken families, abuse, addiction and violence.
Everything we know about human beings tells us that we are widely diverse and varied creatures, but we have one central thing in common. We are all born highly attuned to the nuances of interpersonal signals and nonverbal human communication. It is a powerful gift. Yet, as young people, we are often shamed and policed into using those very tools to suppress our own connection in the world.
The Good News
The secret to teaching emotional capacities to our sons and daughters is suprisingly simple. A huge part of helping our children is simply remaining in connection and conversation with them. In this way way they are able to better process their experiences in the world. Regardless of what damaging narratives the world would teach our children, we can encourage them to grow their relational capacities in the safety of our family relationships. They need only a few primary relationships in which they are free to explore emotional expression.
If we do this joyful relationship building work, our children will reach a tipping point of relational connection and never look back.
The good news is, we can do this for our children. All we have to do is begin the conversation.
At What Age Are Our Sons First Taught to Man Up?
Judy Chu, author of When Boys Become Boys talks about the suprisingly early age at which boys begin to suppress their need for emotional expression and friendship.