It’s not easy to watch your son struggle with rejection or frustration — whether your son is a toddler who can’t quite reach a desired object, or understand why you won’t let him play with that shiny knife, or a teenager who was laughed at when he finally mustered up the courage to ask out a classmate.
There’s no way for your son to avoid those hurts. Rejection and frustration are a part of life; none of us get what we want all the time. That’s a lesson parents have been imparting to their kids since the beginning of time. (As I once told my boys, “I’m not here to make a perfect world for you! I’m here to help you figure out how to live in an imperfect world.”)
In today’s day and age, though — a day and age marked by easy access to guns (at least here in the United States) and pundits who play on people’s negative feelings — your son’s ability to manage rejection and frustration is important for our collective safety and well-being. A recent study of school shootings found that all of the shooters in the study had been the subject of emasculating bullying. All showed some signs of rejection and marginalization, such as being rejected by a girlfriend or having few friends.
Is it OK that these boys were bullied and marginalized? Absolutely not. We need to work that angle as well; we need to teach tolerance and acceptance, and demonstrate it in our own lives.
But parents: the work you are doing today to help your little (and big) boys deal with frustration and rejection is laying important, essential groundwork. A toddler who learns that limits are part of life, and learns strategies to deal with his frustration (hitting a pillow rather than a person, for instance) grows into an adult who is better equipped to handle life’s challenges. A tween who develops emotional resilience will be better able to cope with a failing grade — or the rejection of a crush. Teens who have a strong sense of self-worth, regardless of what anyone else says, and the ability to bounce back from setbacks are less likely to shoot up their schools than boys who haven’t developed the skills to acknowledge and manage their emotions.
Emotional intelligence — the ability to identify and respond to emotions (yours, and others’) in healthy, productive ways — is perhaps THE most important life skill. It’s also the hardest to teach, in part because so many of us grew up surrounded by unhealthy messages about emotion and conflict (and because society continues to perpetuate so many of those messages). The good news, though, is the emotional intelligence can be developed. This post contains 4 tips you can start using right now.
Let’s brainstorm strategies we can use to help our sons learn to deal with frustration and rejection. How do you help your boys develop coping skills? Tell us in the comments below.