By Dr. Wissam Nadra
Teenagers in general are a conundrum—whether boys or girls—and raising them is no easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. As a practicing pediatrician, I have found that teenage girls tend to be more expressive and open about their feelings when asked or approached. This is in stark contrast to their male peers who are often reserved about themselves and their emotions.
As you read this, some of you may be thinking that I’m taking a traditional view of gender stereotypes, which may be true. However, whether we choose to admit it or not, society encourages girls to “emote” yet frowns upon boys when they do so. As a result, we find that most of our young men strive to live up to what people expect of them.
Below, are some tips that we can all use to help us get to know our teenage boy(s) better:
- Respect his space and give him his privacy while setting ground rules and outlining boundaries. If he doesn’t want to discuss an issue, let it be. Choose your battles.
- Assign responsibilities for him. Start out with simple chores at home that he would have done anyway and are pleasurable for him. Do not impose menial tasks on him.
- Get to know his friends … and their parents! The old adage of “you are who you hang out with” rings true.
- Be an example for him. This tip is mainly for dads, uncles, and grandfathers. They will model male adult family behaviors, especially when it comes to respecting women that are in their lives. Be aware of what you say and what you do at all times. Period.
- Believe in him and be his biggest fan and supporter.
- Avoid critiquing his appearance such as hair, clothing, etc. So what if he has long hair? As long as he is not hurting himself or someone else, let him go through his own growth process.
- Be aware of who he is as a young man; if he changes his attitude, choice of friends, who he hangs out with, or his grades start slipping, this could be a warning sign of self-destructive behaviors, and a doctor visit or counseling may be in order.
- Talk to him like an equal allowing him to express his opinion about his likes and dislikes.
- Above all, love, love, love him. Let him know that it is not “girly” to cry if he feels bad or sad. It takes a real man to express his emotions.