Getting Parenting Right
Some days it feels like we just can’t ever get this parenting thing right.
Here are some very common mistakes that parents of boys make…and how to fix them!
“We’ve just moved across the country.”
“His best friend has moved on to other friends.”
“He’s broken up with his girlfriend.”
You’re worrying because you feel like he should be talking about his feelings with you. He should talk to you EVEN MORE when there is something BIG going on for him. You want to know what’s bothering him and why. You know that these events would have a big impact on you, so naturally, you think they should have a big impact on him, too.
What’s really going on:
Many males don’t need (or want) to process emotional events as much as females might like. Females often process and find their answers by listening to themselves. When you know how he processes - often inwardly, in silence. Allow him to bring up the event on his own time – which may be far past when the event has occurred. Likely, it will be at bedtime when you want to sleeeep!
“Look at me when I’m talking to you.”
He resists, melts down, or just glares.
Males, in general, do not prefer eye contact. This goes far back in human history and I won’t get into all the details about that now. Realize, though, that if he has just had a run-in with you or a friend, he is NOT going to want to talk about it and he is definitely going to feel threatened (and will shut down) if you insist on having him make eye contact with you. So be okay with side-by-side, perhaps with your shoulders touching. Even better if he has his hands busy – playing legos, crumpling paper, etc.
“Let me do that for you…”
Or he forgets his homework and you immediately rush to take it to him at school.
Well, if you want him to go off to college mixing his light and dark laundry, you’re off to a great start. I don’t think you do (but you’d be surprised how many moms tell me they’re scrambling to teach him at age 18).
Boys WANT to serve you – how great is that?!
It starts young and it starts with you. Create opportunities for him to be of service at home – laundry, dishes, table setting, feeding animals, etc. These can start as young as 3 or before. Will it be hard to have the patience to teach him then? Will it take longer? Yep!
The PAY-OFF comes later when the habit is instilled in him and you can rely on his help for groceries, dishes, etc. You have fostered his desire to be of service. You will get to be proud and amazed at how he chooses to serve others and his greater community as he matures.
“Jimmy, will you take your laundry upstairs now?”
No response. Repeat it.
No response. Ask louder.
No response. Repeat louder.
Get angry, start yelling.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat!
By the second repeat, he has likely tuned you out completely!
You need to change your approach, so he will more likely respond to you the first (or at least the second time!) How? Get physical. No, no hitting. Get in his zone, enter his space. Is he playing legos? Sit with him, ask a question, take 1 minute to be fully present with him. Rest your hand on his shoulder or knee and ask your question, make your request. Get brief eye contact or a high-five and agreement from him.
Keep practicing this technique – it takes time but is highly effective!
Details. Details. Details.
He may have tuned you out on the first detail because he just doesn’t need all that information.
Say less. Seriously. Use fewer words.
This will feel very odd to you at first but ask any adult male and he will likely say, yes, please, I don’t need all the details – just tell me what you need me to know or do.
So stop talking so much. Say exactly what you need – “backpack” “boots” “lunchbox”. Say one thing, let him respond (because you’ve already fixed #4, right?) and then ask the next thing.
Too many words overwhelm his brain – he has fewer places to process all of your words. So give him a break – say less!
You may already be thinking, “Hmmm, these concepts could apply to my husband and my co-workers, too.”
You are right!
These are hard-wired qualities of males and females and hold true across cultures. Note, though, that these are broad generalizations and won’t apply to every single male in the same way.
Use your wisdom, note when communication breaks down, and apply these strategies. You’ll soon find your parenting confidence increasing while your connections deepen.
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