By Brian Joseph
As part of my work as a parent educator, I have asked many parents to talk about their own childhoods. As you can imagine, I have heard a lot of painful stories. I have also heard countless stories of joy, support, and connection.
Alas, too few of those anecdotes were about emotionally intelligent, kind, loving fathers.
Time and again, groups of parents nod and wearily chuckle with recognition at another tale about another dad clumsily trying to negotiate an emotional experience with his children. He means well, but can’t control himself. He wants to do the right thing, but he blows it.
Yes, we all nod, that’s just how it is. That’s just how it is? Really? Is nonviolence harder for dads than for moms? What is the deal with fathers, anyway?
Many scholars have written about men and their struggles with emotional intelligence. The consensus in progressive thought seems to be that when boys are not supported to learn how to navigate their feelings, they grow to be men who are likewise limited.
So in our culture, where little boys learn that “boys don’t cry,” and that they should “be a man” when things are hard, is it any wonder that our emotional intelligence suffers?
The emphasis in raising boys tends towards the concept that men should be “strong,” “brave,” “successful,” “independent,” “breadwinners,” “leaders,” “winners,” etc…
They definitely shouldn’t be “sensitive,” “emotional,” “loving,” etc… No, that kind of stuff is strictly for girls, of course.
So, does all of that make nonviolence harder for fathers than it is for mothers?
We can’t be certain, but learning about parenting in a new paradigm is clearly a very different experience for men than it is for women.
With all of that in mind, we’re thrilled to be devoting more resources to expanding our programming for fathers!
We’re striving to answer some important questions:
• How do we speak to dads in a way that recognizes the unique experience of fatherhood?
• How did our experiences as little boys shape the way we parent now?
• What do men need to be able to raise children in the ways they really want?
• How do we raise boys to be emotionally intelligent men?
To address these questions, we’re developing new curriculum, adding activities and doing outreach to dads.