Walk Like a Man
How to Raise Your Son to Be a Great Guy
The instant you looked into your newborn son's eyes, you knew that every hope you had for his future rested on what you did from that moment on. Would you be able to help him grow into a caring, confident, responsible man?
Every mother questions how she's doing when it comes to raising her boy. But if you follow the advice below, then chances are your son will turn into the kind of man you want him to be.
Give Him a Hand at Managing His Emotions
The strong, silent type and the macho tough guy may be appealing on the big screen, but in real life, the good guys are the ones who know how to deal with their feelings—the right way. "Some qualities that we stereotypically think of as 'manly' are actually repressive—being stoic and in control, not showing how you feel," says Christine Nicholson, Ph.D., a psychologist specializing in adolescent therapy in Kirkland, Wash. "If your son is upset and you say, Buck up—it's not that bad, he learns to hide his feelings."
In fact, she adds, research shows that parents ask daughters how they feel more often than sons, and when girls get hurt, parents comfort them more than they do boys. The result? Many boys grow up feeling ashamed of their emotions and become men who can't communicate well—bottling up or lashing out—making it hard for them to relate to others.
How to Do It
• Get him talking. If your son is grumpy after school, then don't swoop in with questions. "Simply say, Looks like you're upset. I'm here to help if I can," says Nicholson. Then bring it up later: I'm concerned that something bad happened at school. If he lets you in a bit (School is boring), then echo his feeling (Yeah, school can be boring). Odds are he'll open up: That teacher gives me so much homework. Again, validate his feelings, but this time coax out more: You do get a lot of homework. What do you have for tonight? "Your son will know that you're on his side and that you're not going to lecture, so he'll feel comfortable talking more in depth," says Nicholson.
• Help him find solutions. Getting boys to open up about how they feel is one thing; getting them to understand that even lingering bad feelings don't last is quite another. "Boys prefer to focus on the problem rather than the emotion," says Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., adjunct lecturer at Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. "Part of a parent's responsibility is to teach his or her son that emotions—whether pain, sadness, anger or fear—don't always go away quickly, and that's OK. Eventually he will begin to feel better."
It's a lesson Patrick Coleman of Maplewood, Minn., learned from his mom when he tried out for the high school hockey team. "All of his friends made the team, but he didn't," says his mother, Patty. "He was devastated and wanted to quit hockey completely." So she sat down with him to talk about it but let him fill her in at his own pace, without interruption. When she sensed that he'd gotten it all off his chest, Patty acknowledged her son's feelings and then offered ideas on how to make things better. "I told him I knew he was hurting, but that he could still play on another team if he wanted to," she says. After thinking about it, Patrick realized his mom was right, and he eventually joined his community hockey team despite his sadness. "He ended up having fun and learned that good things can come out of disappointment," says Patty.
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