My colleague, Maggie Dent, maintains that there is more hostile parenting towards boys. She says that people commiserated with her when they found out she had four sons. She maintains that this wouldn’t have happened if she had four girls instead.
There’s a negative perception about raising boys, which is linked to their boisterousness and behaviour as well as a lack of understanding about what boys need. Like Maggie Dent, I’ve been on a mission for some time to help parents understand more about the needs of their sons.
If you have boys then here are 7 new tips to help you raise great sons:
1. Make sure you like them and feel comfortable with their boyness. Sounds simple, but many mums feel uncomfortable with the messiness and boisterousness of boys. Boys pick this up, and can turn off and act in extreme ways to please you.
2. Give boys one message at a time. Boys struggle with too many messages at once, Get their attention and give them one message….not two or three.
3. Be firm, fair and direct with boys. Fairness is important to boys. They respond best to discipline that is clear, firm and fair. If they think that you are being fair and honest with them then they’ll more than likely go along with your discipline.
4. Avoid being a controlling mother. Boys learn best by physical experience, some of which is painful. As anyone who has fallen off the monkey bars at school as a child will attest to – the painful lessons of childhood usually stick. Boys are likely than girls to be heuristic learners (learn from experience). Use natural consequences to teach boys about risk.
5. Coach boys in relationships skills. Boys benefit from explicit teaching about how to manage their relationships, particularly relationships with adults. Give them the words they can use to greet and meet people and how to carry on a conversations. Teach them good manners and let them know how to act in all sorts of new social situations. Mothers have a head start over dads in the relationships area!
6. Allow boys to learn on the go. Watch them take a toy out of its box, and place it on the floor. They won’t read instructions. They’ll just start playing and see what it can do. Give boys plenty of opportunities for free, undirected play. That’s one of the ways they learn.
7. Get dads involved so they can download the software about how to be male. If there are no dads around then look for teachers, relatives and sports coaches to help out. Alternatively, look for women in your family or social networks who can be ‘surrogate men’ for boys. Many primary schools have female teachers, who in the absence of decent role models, step up to the plate and become no nonsense, task-oriented adults who take a genuine interest in boys’ well-being.
Boys benefit greatly from having parents who can address their specific needs. It can be tricky staying one step ahead of your sons though.