15/10/2015 1:09 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST

How To Raise Healthy Boys

There's no doubt that raising boys tends to be more of a challenge for parents than raising girls. Understanding and appreciating the differences is a great start via Getty Images
Two young boys sitting on the kitchen floor playing with pots and pans

Raising and educating boys is a hot topic in Australia and other parts of the world. From my experience, those adults who do best teaching and raising boys have a significant understanding of what makes boys tick.

Here are six key understandings that will help you, regardless of your gender or family situation, raise well-adjusted boys:

# 1: You must like them

Approval is at the heart of raising boys. Most will walk over hot coals for you if they know you like them. In a sense, this need for approval holds many boys back in school, as they can shut down for a teacher who doesn't like them. If you can feel comfortable with their boisterousness, live with their lack of organisational skills, and not be confronted by their in-your-face ways, then chances are that they'll respond to you.

# 2: Boys are just as sensitive as girls

Despite the fact research shows that boys are more easily stressed and more fragile than girls, parents will ask daughters how they feel more often than they ask sons. Also, when daughters get hurt, parents tend to comfort them more than they comfort sons.

Boys are sensitive, you just need to use different language to get them to open up than you do with girls. For instance, a boy will more than likely tell you how he feels if you ask him how he thinks about something. Also, he generally needs more time to process his feelings, so bedrooms can become caves they'll retreat to when they need the space to work out what's going in their hearts.

# 3: Boys learn from experience

Many parents know the extreme frustration that comes from imparting wisdom on to their sons, only to see it completely ignored. If you have boys in your life then you need to get used to the fact that boys like to learn many life lessons for themselves. Experience, for better or worse, is a teacher than many boys can relate to.

# 4: Many boys' mouths don't work unless their bodies are moving

If you want to have a serious or personal conversation with a boy then you are better off joining him on a walk. Face-to-face conversation can make them feel awkward, whereas shoulder-to-shoulder chats or conversations that happen during a game or activity seem to flow more naturally.

#5: Boys need social scripts

Most boys need some didactic teaching about how to act and what to say to others at some stage in their life. Don't be afraid to tell boys of any age exactly what to say in new social situations, as they can often struggle to find the words and the way to get their messages across.

# 6: A boy's brain matures differently from a girl's brain

The maturation rate and sequence is different for boys and girls. For instance, the brain developments in the first five years of life prepares girls for the rigours of school better than it does for boys. A girl's brain in that period is busy developing fine motor skills, verbal acuity and social skills, which are highly valued by parents and teachers.

A boy's brain, on the other hand, is busy developing gross motor, spatial and visual skills, which are essential hunting skills. Unfortunately, there isn't a great need for these traits in primary schools these days!

There's no doubt that raising boys tends to be more of a challenge for parents than raising girls. Understanding and appreciating the differences is a great start. However, I think parents who really connect well with boys somehow develop the wisdom to step as well as speak up at the right time, and the smarts to know when to stand back and allow their sons to work things out for themselves.


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