“The emotional miseducation of boys”

I’ve again started reading Kindlon & Thompson’s Raising Cain, and just within the first few pages have gotten more out of it than any previous read-through. One of the truly wonderful things about this particular book is just that; one gains new insight and recognises new things each time one reads it. Woven through its pages are tales of sorrow, pain, suffering, malice, rage, fear, hopelessness, and disgust. Each of those emotions, though, is nothing more than a coloured lens tainting one common element: “emotional ignorance and isolation” (Kindlon & Thompson, 2000, p. 3).

Within the first segment of the first chapter (which is a mere three pages), I have already found beautiful lines bursting with insight, power, and above all, truth. I’m going to list a couple of the lines that I found particularly influential, but I urge you all to pick up a copy of this book and read it yourself. Whether you are an aspiring Doctor of Psychology (like me), a parent or soon-to-be parent, teacher, counselor, or in any other way work with children, you will benefit from this book. So, here are some of the wonderful lines just from the first three pages:

“Each day we try to connect with boys… who are unversed in the subtleties of emotional language and expression and threatened by emotional complexity” (Kindlon & Thompson, 2000, p. 3)

Can you possibly imagine the inner frustration it causes to have a NEED to express yourself and not be able to do so? Imagine for a second that you were in a foreign country and all you wanted was a glass of water. You don’t know the language at all, so you can’t verbalise your need. I know you’re probably thinking “well, I would just use universal hand gestures.” Here’s the catch; you’re a quadriplegic, so you can’t do that either. While it may seem like an outlandish or even asinine example, the problem issue is the same: you have a need, but are lacking the skills or capacity to express the need. Boys that have been discouraged from expressing their emotions and feelings are essentially silenced and resort to bottling up their emotional needs. They need to be taught these skills and encouraged to use them both effectively and efficiently!

A boy’s world is full of contradictions, and parents are often at a loss to figure out how best to help. A boy longs for connection at the same time he feels the need to pull away, and this opens up an emotional divide” (Kindlon & Thompson, 2000, p. 3).

That emotional divide can be expressed in many different ways, and as the authors further describe, those expressions can come across as isolationistic, hostile, or even violent. I believe that this emotional separation only exacerbates the “pulling-away” aspect of the respective contradiction, which could possibly bias the boy’s cognitive directionality therein.

…boys are characteristically different than girls in their emotional expression, [and] those differences are amplified by a culture that supports emotional development for girls and discourages it for boys” (Kindlon & Thompson, 2000, p. 3)

These are just a few examples of the wondrous insights offered in Raising Cain, and I hope to be able to share a few more along the way as I read it again.

|:| Zach |:|

Kindlon, D. & Thompson, M. (2000). Raising Cain: Protecting the emotional life of boys. New York: Random House.

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