Protecting The Emotional Life of Boys
Dr. Daniel Kindlon is a clinical and research psychologist specializing in the behavioral problems of children and adolescents. He holds joint assistant professorship in the Psychiatry Department of the Harvard Medical School and the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he is engaged in teaching and research. Kindlon has been in clinical practice for the last fourteen years focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of emotional problems, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorders. For the last twelve years, he has also been the psychological consultant to an independent school in Boston for boys in grades 7-12.
Over the past several years a rash of incidents involving boys who have shot, strangled, stabbed, or in some other way inflicted violence on others - including children, teaches and their own parents - has heightened public awareness and sparked widespread discussion of "the boy problem" in schools and communities across the country. Troubling statistics indicating that suicide has become the second leading cause of death among boys in their mid-to-late teens, or that a fifteen-year-old boy is seven times more likely to die by his own hand compared to a girl the same age, only add to the debate. But according to Ph.D.'s Kindlon and Michael Thompson, schoolyard shootings and teen suicides, which focus our attention on only a tiny fraction of the boy population, are merely high-profile indications of deeper and more fundamental problems that place all our boys at risk.
In Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, Kindlon and Thompson shine a light on the troubled inner world of boys in contemporary society. Drawing on their combined thirty-five years' experience working with boys and their families, the authors explore how our culture socializes and miseducates boys to disregard their emotional lives. They also show that miseducation plays out in boys' relationship with their parents, their peers, their schools, and ultimately with themselves.
Kindlon believes that boys suffer from a narrow definition of masculinity imposed on them by our culture that leaves them emotionally resourceless as men. He argues that emotional literacy is the most valuable gift we can offer our sons, and that boys have as much aptitude as girls for the emotional skills they need to build and sustain friendships, to feel connected rather then cut off, to love and feel loved. Above all, he explain why boys need to be taught by example that emotional connection is the sturdiest bridge between boyhood and manhood, and that emotional courage is the truest test of a young man's character.
In his newest book, Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age, Kindlon sheds new light on how parents with the best intentions of making their children happy actually increase the chance that their children will be depressed.
The book presents for the first time the results of an important, new study, entitled Parenting Practices at the Millennium (PPM), which shows that American children often lack the strong character that is essential for well-being because they are not getting enough TLC-time, limits, and caring. "What we want for our children is a perfect life devoid of hardship and pain," Kindlon states. "But their happiness as adults is largely dependent on the tools we give them, tools that will allow them to develop emotional maturity - to be honest with themselves, to be empathetic, to take initiative, to delay gratification, to learn from failure and move on, to accept their flaws, and to face the consequences when they've done something wrong." Too Much of a Good Thing also examines children's attitudes toward their indulged lives and reveals that many kids believe that their parents spoil them. Instead of encouraging them to take life's challenges and work hard toward their goals, parents try to protect them from every failure. Kindlon argues that society's focus on achievement and success has replaced the emphasis on developing an inner moral compass; its absence makes it hard for kids to take responsibility for their actions and have meaningful, fulfilling relationships.
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