One of the keys to parenting success is the ability to adapt strategies and principles to suit the gender of the children in your family. That’s easy if you share the same gender or were surrounded by siblings of that gender in your family origin.
It’s not so easy if your experience of children of a particular gender is pretty thin, or you just can’t fathom what makes a gender tick. Here are some essential strategies to help you successfully parent the boy in your life.
Understand their psychology
Many boys feel uncomfortable standing out from the crowd and will go to extraordinary lengths to blend in – wearing the same clothes, dumbing down rather than standing above the pack, and enjoying the same interests as their peers. The need to fit in impacts so much of their behaviour and attitudes.
Work with their physiology
Boys are constantly fighting their physiology. Differing maturity rates affect boys’ school readiness, their transition to secondary school and their transition into adulthood. There’s no doubt – it takes longer to grow a boy!
Crack their communication code
Boys will respond if the communication method suits them. Time and space are important factors to use in your favour. The use of banter, shoulder-to-shoulder communication and movement are some other ways to get young male conversational clams to open up.
Match their relational style
Some boys like to talk, others like to share an activity, some like you as the adult to do something for them. Others are very kinaesthetic and love to be cuddled and hugged, while some just love gifts and mementos. Work out the relational preferences of the males in your life and you’ll discover a wonderful way to build or deepen your relationship.
Build a management repertoire on respect and fairness
Respectful, fair treatment are essentials if you want to gain a boy’s cooperation. Many learn from experience rather than the fine words of parents so be prepared to allow them to learn some of life’s lesson the hard way. They also respond favourably to visual measures such as gestures, charts and lists as they play to their strengths and take the authority away from you.
Know that confidence is key
Helping boys feel confident can be tricky. It’s part environmental – that is, allowing them to spend time in places and activities where they experience success. Part personal – that is, they respond to encouragement and private, descriptive praise (often rejecting public praise) and part patience, as it takes longer for many boys to find their feet.
Play to their learning strengths
Knowing a boy’s learning strengths can be the way to unlock his learning potential. My own son was not a great reader but his visual acuity and oracy skills were exceptional. By allowing him to play to these strengths, while at the same time working on his literacy, he was able to leave school seeing himself with an abundance of confidence as a learner.
Build their emotional smarts
Boys education expert Ian Lillico believes that much of boys’ aggression that plays out at home and at school stems from a denial of their feelings. It’s essential to help boys recognise and give voice to their emotions safely and in healthy ways so they don’t act out angrily, aggressively and violently.
Defuse their digital focus
The current crop of digital devices and online games that have many boys glued to screens with zombie-like expressions on their faces play right into the hands of boys. The need for balance between real world activities and the digital world has never been greater than it is for our boys right now.
Build an attitude of respect
Create conversations with boys about respectful treatment – what it looks like and feels like. Pick them up on disrespectful attitudes and behaviour they may show toward others, including siblings. Respectful relationships need to be a high priority when raising boys. Our daughters depend on it.
Coach boys in interpersonal skills
Girls are primed for interpersonal skill development while boys often need to be taught the intricacies and nuances of working with and relating to others. Give young boys scripts for making friends, asking a teacher for help or how to solve a problem with a mate. Coach teenage boys in the finer points of talking with adults, speaking in different situations and give them ideas about how they should speak to and treat girls.
Research tells us that parenting boys can be more problematic than parenting girls, particularly in the early and primary school years. With a solid understanding of what makes a boy tick, a toolkit at your disposal of boy-friendly communication, management and confidence-building techniques, the confidence to support your boy as a continuous learner and a willingness to coach him personal and respectful relationship skills you will be well-prepared to give your son the support and parenting he needs to become a fine and successful young man.
These strategies and more form part of the revised, Parenting Boys online course, available now.