Is it possible for parents to raise an emotionally healthy boy who’s both a “softy” and a “toughie?” It’s possible if you do it in baby steps. Read the twelve ways you can go against the grain of stereotypes and encourage your boy be emotionally healthy.
1. Expose your child to different models of “manhood.” These are men with positive values, other than strength and courage. Our children have seen many heroes who fight wars, defeat sinister villains, or crush alien invasions. Boys need to see men serving their communities through humanitarian work or men showing concern for others. Let them meet male nurses, male teachers, women plumbers, and so on, suggests Dr. Pollack, author of the book Real Boys. If your son sees his dad, older brothers, uncles, and other male authority figures taking care of their families and talking openly about values and emotional strength, “It can inspire him to choose what kind of man he’d like to grow up to be,” says Dr. Violeta Bautista, psychologist and family therapist from Care and Counsel Wellness Center in Quezon City.
2. Let him learn “hands-on.” Ria Tirazona, psychologist at PsychConsult, Inc. in Quezon City explains, “Girls acquire verbal skills faster and earlier than boys. As such, they are able to make sense of, and respond to, spoken instructions better.” Boys respond better when they are “shown” how to do things. “They need to touch and tinker with things, run, move, climb, and build things. Boys learn more when they are hands-on, when they handle real things,” Tirazona adds.
3. Learn his language and talk to your son in a way that strengthens his pride and boosts his confidence. “It helps to know your son’s capabilities,” says Dr. Bautista. Ask his opinion or advice on small things; allow him to be your problem solver every now and then: What would be yummy for breakfast today? Do you think we should give the dog a bath now? However, it should not stop with a yes or no reply; initiate casual chitchat and explore the whys and hows, says Dr. Bautista. Don’t be disappointed with brief answers. “Respect his pace and individuality,” Dr. Bautista adds. It may take some time for him to reach a comfortable level but eventually, he will.
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