Many parents are anxious about how to relate to their son as he grows through the primary years, especially as he approaches adolescence. Some fathers question their role; dad or mate? Many mothers are daunted by the challenges of relating to their son as he grows in strength of will and body, especially if they are a single parent or doing the bulk of the parenting.
So what can a parent do to develop and maintain a great relationship with their son in the primary years that will set a terrific trajectory for the adolescent years?
- Play with him, lots – it doesn’t matter what you play or who wins.
- Be involved in many aspects of your son’s life. Be generous with your time because ‘quality time’ is a myth … where spending time with your son is concerned, there is no substitute for quantity.
- Cultivate a common interest, something that you can rely on to break the silence and get him talking.
- Establish routines, limits and expectations that he can trust and stick to them … but know the occasional time and place to bend them so he learns to bend too.
- Don’t fall into the trap of being one of many friends your son will have throughout his life. He won’t have many people who will be his parent, setting limits that provide him with guidance and security as he learns and grows into himself.
- Avoid harsh discipline or labouring the point. When we correct our sons, it is important to allow them an option to retreat so they feel like they can save face.
- Praise him lots for genuine accomplishments and effort. Mix it up – quiet words of praise, a thumbs-up, or a pat on the head can mean much more than giving things as rewards.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff!
- Encourage and allow your son to take safe risks, so that he is forced to think and problem solve for himself. He’ll love being trusted and can learn a lot from his mistakes.
- Be someone he respects and can aspire to be like.
In her book, He’ll Be OK – Growing Gorgeous Boys into Beautiful Men, Cecilia Lashlie recognises the “magic about the schools where boys can just be boys and where the business of boys can be the sole focus”. As such, Trinity Grammar School, Sydney, is a place of learning where teachers develop great relationships with boys and work in partnership with parents, so that in the classroom, on the sporting field, on the stage and in service to others, our boys are given a multitude of opportunities to grow into well-rounded young men.
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