Maggie Dent is an expert in helping Australian parents raise resilient, strong and loving men. Her passion for helping boys comes from alarming statistics, revealing they’re more likely to take greater physical risks, get injured in accidents and sport, and face bigger mental health risks as they grow into men.
When Maggie holds parenting lectures, the room is full of mostly women – mums wanting the best advice on parenting their sons.
To hear her advice, listen to the interview below:
Help boys feel secure
Boys may be expected to be tougher than girls, but in reality, all children can feel berated and vulnerable in certain situations.
Tip: Give your boy small cues to remind them they’re loved. For example, a little tickle, wink or high-five.
Boys develop language skills a lot later than girls. This is because the right hemisphere of the brain develops more so than the left. When boys become frustrated, they can sometimes default to anger since they don’t have the words to express how they’re feeling.
Tip: Use hand gestures as well as speech to explain what you need or want them to do. Boys also respond to visual signs more than verbal, so avoid calling out to them from another room.
Build bridges of connection
Building little love bridges, or moments of connection, makes boys feel like they matter. Boys need to see constant loving action as well as verbal affirmations of love.
When boys are naughty it can feel like they’re intentionally being disrespectful, rude or forgetful. Reframe that idea, and know that at times, they really can only focus on one thing, and that they’re not good with change. If we understand how our sons process information, and accept they are genuinely more forgetful than girls, more allowances can be made and frustration can be kept at bay.
Tip: Try to avoid enquiring about school immediately after the day has finished — they’re exhausted and need time. Allow them to come to you when they’re ready to talk, and create moments of loving connection that they can hold on to.
Curb physicality and roughness
Men are biologically wired to be physical. They have a larger amygdala and more testosterone, so their type of play can be quite rough.
Tip: Keep it safe by setting simple guidelines: try avoid hurting yourself, others, and damaging things.
Expect testosterone surges
Boys have testosterone surges around the ages of 4, 10 and 14. Be mindful that this can mean excess energy for them.
Tip: Keep boys physically active in large spaces outside the home. Also, set them exciting, challenging tasks that require concentration – they’ll be much calmer afterwards.