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Can you choose your kids’ friends?

recessTwo parents recently asked similar questions. How can we encourage kids to “stop playing dumb” in order to be more popular? And, how can we help encourage kids to make good choices in friends, especially when others can be mean or arbitrary about who they let into their inner circle? 

The answer is surprisingly simple: Do nothing. Truth is, when it comes to social choices, we can’t save kids from choosing bad playmates or peers. Kids need to go through all the social steps, and missteps, on their own if they are going to build the social skills they need to thrive as adults. We had to learn about the complexities of the social world this way, too. Let them figure out on their own who to be close to and learn that “popular” kids can sometimes be mean and rejecting. That experience of pain helps them develop a tougher social skin, and it helps them to open up possibilities toward others who are better suited and offer deeper friendships not based only on things alike the clothes you wear, music you listen to, or sports you play.

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Friday Q&A: Communications and boys

Question and Answers on speech bubblesHow do I keep dialogue and conversation open with my boys as they get older?

Most important: get his hands busy. Don’t plan on a lengthy verbal exchange, but do something playful together. Don’t pose direct questions, especially about serious subjects like school work, problems with social issues, or disappointments and failures in sports. Those issues will come up on their own when your son is ready.

Establish a fun, enjoyable, and often physical type relationship first. So many times in my office I get boys talking once I start tossing a squishy ball between us or walking with them over to a shelf filled with collections of rocks and fossils. Don’t sit opposite your son to try to get him talking. Direct eye contact can be threatening. Play side by side. Another great trick is to wait until night. Right before bed, ask him to share anything he wants with you – only if he wants – and assure him that this is a good time to let thoughts float out of his head so he can start the next day fresh. Tell him you do this too. You release any negative thoughts just before your head hits the pillow and it feels great.

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Friday Q&A: Keeping family connections with boys

Question and Answers on speech bubblesHow do I keep my son anchored and close to family as he grows?

I see this challenge everyday in my office. Parents view their growing sons as changing and losing touch with their family. But interestingly, their sons see it quite differently. They talk about their parents drifting from them – not the other way around. They talk about their parents becoming more and more serious about homework and grades. They tell me their parents are busy and stressed and worried about jobs. They tell me that the only times their moms and dads interact with them is when something is going wrong. They tend to only recall the critical and unhappy side of their parents.

One boy recently broke down in the office telling me his parents don’t engage with him on the things they used to enjoy and talk about, like getting outside to play one-on-one basketball in the driveway or talk about a cool new video game. Many parents admit to me that they are revved up, are more serious, as their boys grow older. Mainly because teachers and coaches and other parents seem to be on a treadmill of pushing for higher results. So, remember… lower the stress. Also, remember that boys connect with us not through words or tasks, but typically though physical activities. One mom told me how she’d had an epiphany. One day she heard herself nagging and complaining about chores and homework, and told me she didn’t like being that kind of mom. Instead, she decided to take a walk with her son around the block. Get out of the house and leave the tension behind that was causing a rift between them. This grew into taking hikes with her son on free afternoons and weekends (without his young sibling tagging along) to explore cool wooded areas and trails near their home. They bonded without words, but with each step they took, each interesting rock they collected, the relationship solidified. Boys share experiences – often without words – and mainly when outdoors. They also don’t like to share our attention. They deserve this one-on-one time no matter how old they get.

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Friday Q&A: Debunking Myths

What are some of top myths we should know about boys?

Question and Answers on speech bubblesMyths about boys abound. Here are a few.

  • Boys and girls are basically the same and differences don’t really matter.
  • All boys are over-active and aggressive.
  • Boys don’t communicate.
  • Boys don’t cry.
  • Boys aren’t social.

Truth is, boys are complex and don’t neatly fit into these simple stereotypes. Once you understand early boy development and appreciate the trends impacting boyhood, you gain what you need to see them in their true complexities. Once better understood, raising boys moves from frustrating to rewarding.

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Friday Q&A: How to restore balance at home

Question and Answers on speech bubblesI love my kids, but I’m exhausted and I think they are too. Any tips for restoring some balance to our home life?

Exhausted? That means you’re expending too much energy to run your household. Maybe you’re trying too hard. Most parents I know work to be their “best” and to do everything for their kids. I think they’re putting unrealistic expectations on themselves. Rather than trying harder, try this:

  • Shift your mindset. Start thinking of yourself more as a leader (and not only as a parent). When we approach parenting as a set of leadership skills, the job becomes clearer and more gets done. First lead yourself. Get calm, collected, never yell (it only makes you look weak).
  • Avoid perfection and over-scheduling and don’t expect your kids to always be happy. That’s not possible or realistic. Good leaders are also in charge of what their environment is like.
  • Be thoughtful about what you allow into your home. Foremost, control high stimulation. Watch exposure to screens and negative news broadcasts. Set up your house to be a place where people face each other and talk.
  • Be aware of hyper-stimulation, information overload, noise, disorganization, and multitasking. These all tap your energy and rev up your nerves.

Above all, focus on the big picture – tell yourself what really matters is happening right now… right in front of you. That’s mindfulness, and it helps you appreciate precious moments. Start enjoying the time you have with your children. They won’t be young forever.

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