Learning Maturity

You may be wondering whether all this emotional expressiveness will affect your son's behavior. After all, if he is “too emotional,” how will he control his actions? During the preschool years, their innate impulsiveness and lack of emotional skills often causes boys to act out their feelings. If they're angry, they hit someone. If they're frustrated, they stomp their feet. And if they're happy, they may leap with joy. As boys grow, however, parents can help them learn to separate their feelings from their actions. Of course, it helps if you know how to do this first.

Choosing Appropriate Behavior

It may surprise you to learn that emotional awareness actually improves your ability to behave responsibly. If you know that you are angry, for example, you can choose to do things that calm you; you can talk about your anger and look for solutions rather than directing your anger at someone else. If you are worried, you can choose actions that help you solve your problems, rather than hiding from them, medicating them, or making them worse.

Simply put, what you feel can (and often should) be different than what you do. You can learn to identify your feelings (putting a hand over your heart and taking a few deep, calming breaths is a good place to begin), and then decide what you want to have happen. You may say, “I'm really angry at you right now. I need a moment to calm down, and then we can figure out how to solve this problem.” Expressing emotions respectfully and calmly is always better than acting them out.

Emotional Maturity

You can teach your son these same emotional management skills. He, like you, can learn that feelings need not dictate behavior, but that he can make better choices when he understands his own emotions and thinks about how to act in response. For instance, you might say to him, “You seem pretty worried about your math test. What things can you think of to help you get ready?”

A wise old soldier once said that courage is not the absence of fear; it is feeling the fear and doing what must be done in spite of it. Emotional maturity means having emotional awareness and choosing to act in helpful ways. It's wise to recognize that it will take your son years of practice to master this important life skill.

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