Raising Happy Healthy Boys

Raising teenage boys can seem an easier, more straightforward ride compared to bringing up teen girls, with their complicated friendship cliques and body issues. But underestimating how complex and messy a boy’s world is at times can be detrimental to their mental health and wellbeing.

Here, three parenting experts explain what teen boys need from us to grow into happy, healthy and well-adjusted men

1. Dr Arne Rubinstein – is the founder of Uplifting australia, a harm prevention organisation for children and families, and the author of The Making of Men

create ‘we’ time

Whether it’s going out for breakfast on a Saturday morning or playing a game of chess together, setting aside regular one-on-one time with your son, without any distractions, is incredibly important. not only does it give him the message that he’s worth your time, but it also creates opportunities for the two of you to interact on a deeper level. my boys are in their early 20s and we have a policy to have an adventure together, like a road trip or a surfing holiday, every year.

Be sure to ‘see’ him

teenage boys have this huge desire to be ‘seen’, so encourage your son’s passions and acknowledge his good qualities. if he does something kind for his sister tell him that you appreciate it, or that you love the way his face lights up when he’s playing the guitar. If we don’t do these things, the danger is that he’ll believe he has to be like everyone else or be what he sees on tV and in marketing campaigns. boys who are doing what they love don’t go looking for trouble.

Teach him to reflect on things

older teens don’t want to be told what to do or how to live their life, but they’re really happy to discuss things. so when something happens, like a case of bullying at school, take the opportunity to ask them what they think about that sort of behaviour and how they would have acted in the same situation. it also allows them to ask questions. During our programs, I’m always amazed by the perceptiveness of young men and their ability to articulate complex issues.

Separate the boy from his behaviour teen boys will muck up and, when they do, they need to know that while we don’t support their behaviour, we’re not going to stop loving them and reject them. When we shame or blast our sons, all we’re doing is making it less likely they’ll come to us if they get themselves into bigger trouble in the future, for instance, with drugs or crime. Work out the discipline together. if your son feels loved, then he’ll be okay about working out a consequence with you.

2. International parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman’s latest book is ‘Ringleaders & Sidekicks’: How to help your son cope with classroom politics, bullying, girls and growing up

Don’t interrogate him

When i was researching this book, boys repeatedly told me, ‘please tell our parents to stop asking us a million questions at the end of the day. it makes us feel assaulted.’ When he comes home from school, resist the urge to interrogate him with even well-meaning questions – he’ll just tune you out or try to get away from you as fast as possible. instead, do something comforting like offering him something to eat or drink. if you do this, he’ll be much more likely to tell you about his day on his own.

Get dad involved

Dads need to have more complex conversations with their sons about sex and relationships. talking in sound bites or stereotypes such as ‘be a gentleman’ or ‘Don’t bring me home any grandkids’ is too vague or punitive. Keep conversations short and casual such as, ‘Did I tell you about the time I was 15 when my best friend got together with a girl i was in love with, and he knew it?’ a reaction isn’t guaranteed, but when fathers share these experiences it creates a foundation for boys to realise that it’s okay for them to have emotions in their relationships.

Understand their complex friendships

boys have very strong feelings about their friendships, but they can be fragile because boys can be afraid to tell the truth to each other. they will often maintain a friendship rather than take a stand if they feel they’re being treated badly. if you’ve seen something or feel something might be wrong, say to him, ‘hey, now that you’re 12, it’s common for guys to get angry with each other or say obnoxious things to each other, so if you ever want to talk to me about it, i’m here. no pressure.’ he might not respond straightaway, but if he comes back to you later,
you’ll be ready to help him through it.

3. Michael Grose is a parenting expert and author of eight books including Thriving! Raising exceptional kids with confidence,

Show your approval

teenage boys are approval- seeking missiles. if your son feels you like and approve of him, he’ll do anything for you. For this reason, don’t put him down in front of his friends or other people. if you need to pull him up on things like his appearance or behaviour, have those conversations in private and keep them matter-of-fact. Don’t shame him.

Don’t let friends hold him back

boys do tend to hold each other back in school. a boy knows that his friends will tease him or bring him back down to size if he does well, which is why they often won’t shine as much as girls do, unless their group does It’s always a good idea to talk to your son early on about how important it is for him to do things his own way and not be influenced by his peers to hide his strengths and talents.

Be a strong-minded mum

teen boys need very direct mothering and coaching around how to talk to girls, how to be social, how to organise themselves, how to keep themselves clean and so on. he will resist you, but smart mothers won’t fight their sons on everything. Keep reminding him to do the right thing – tell him he’s not going anywhere unless he goes back to his room and pulls his pants up – but you’ll also need to let a certain amount of stuff go.

challenge his reality

there has never been a time when teenagers have lived so much in their own pockets and away from adult influence. this can make your teenage son feel like his 15- or 16-year-old reality is the only one. parents need to cut through this and challenge their son’s views. making sure he spends time with adults such as relatives, coaches, neighbours and family friends who have an interest in him will also encourage him to see things
in a different, more mature way.

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