I come from a family of girls – two sisters and all girl cousins. My little sister was 6 years younger and I like to think I played a role in raising her. I knew girls. When I learned I was pregnant with a boy I was excited but nervous. What do I do with a boy? How different are they? I’ll tell you in my experience infants are infants, pretty much regardless of gender. They eat, cry, poop, and sleep (sometimes.) But as they start to grow you start to become more aware of gender roles and stereotypes. We all want what’s best for our kids, and sometimes we could use an expert opinion.
I had the pleasure recently of sitting down with Dr. Anthony Rao, nationally known child expert and author of The Way of Boys: Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Boys. I got to ask him a series of questions and found his answers extremely helpful and insightful. Here is our full interview:
KQ: What can we be doing as mothers of preschool boys to promote healthy relationship with preschool girls?
DR. RAO: Don’t try too hard. By that I mean, don’t push your sons to be in relationships (with any peer, boy or girl) they don’t want. Most boys naturally gravitate toward other boys while a few will gravitate toward girls. But you can promote healthy relationships with the opposite gender. Best to do this outside school where the gender divisions are less strong. Expose them to small groups and casual 1-1 play dates. Keep it fun and low key. This is the best way to help boys appreciate the opposite gender and develop healthy relationships.
KQ: What’s a good answer to a young boy not wanting to do something because
“that’s for girls”?
DR. RAO: Many kids reject what’s unfamiliar. New foods. Meeting new people. Entering into a new activity. And for boys, it’s particularly hard to have them move away from “boy” activities. Tell your son there’s a new family rule. Tell him to try things at least once, and see how it goes. Many families say it this way: “In our family we try different/new things at least one time before deciding if we do or don’t like it…”
KQ: Can you talk more about your Gaming Agreement and why you feel it is beneficial?
DR. RAO: The allure of screens is more powerful than most boys can manage. The games and technology are designed to keep them playing, and some boys slide into addictive behavior. That’s why there have to be clear rules upfront as to how much time your son spends on screens. Don’t purchase any computer, game, or smart phone until the rules are set up (and put rules in writing). Remove the electronics immediately if the rules are broken. Then try again a few days later. Electronics and screen time should always be a reward, and available only when chores, homework, compliance, and respectful behavior toward adults and good home citizenship, are demonstrated.
KQ: Do you have any advice to help boys foster good relationships with sisters (or brothers) in the house?
DR. RAO: Sibling rivalry is rooted in a child’s perception that he (or she) isn’t getting enough attention from parents. I see this often in families that are trying to be “fair” to everyone. They try to split everything down the middle. They want to give exactly the same to everyone all the time. This isn’t a healthy long-term strategy. Once your child(ren) reaches six or seven shift that model to “What’s fair is what each person needs, and what each person earns by being cooperative at home…” Spend more 1-1 time with each child, provided they demonstrate cooperative behavior. Plan special outings with each child and don’t drag his sibs along. And when sib rivalry happens at home, never pick a side. Don’t step in and try to fix it or talk it out. Instead, send both children to their rooms for equal punishment and reflective thought. Tell them it’s their choice to fight – or get along – and one of those choices gets them outside their room and access to fun and activities.
HEY NEW ENGLAND, CHECK OUT DR.RAO’S FREE EVENT
Join psychologist Dr. Anthony Rao for a candid and upbeat discussion on raising and educating boys successfully. During this talk, Dr. Rao will address the distinct challenges of helping young boys grow into happy and healthy young men. Armed with key insights into how boys think and navigate in the world, you’ll begin to see your son’s hidden talents and gifts – and you’ll leave with simple, practical tips for raising a strong and confident son.
Following the discussion, Dr. Rao will sign copies of his book, The Way of Boys: Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Boys.
Date: Thursday, March 5
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Location: The Fessenden School 250 Waltham Street West Newton MA 02465
RSVP: This event is open to the public and free of charge. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Please visit fessenden.org/event or call 617-964-5350 to reserve your seat.
About Dr. Anthony Rao
Dr. Anthony Rao is a nationally-known expert in child psychology, appearing regularly on TV news programs and in magazines. He founded a pediatric psychology practice in Massachusetts and is the author of The Way of Boys: Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Boys. For more information about Dr. Rao, please visit: http://www.anthonyrao.com/
About the Book Dr. Rao’s book, The Way of Boys: Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Boys, is about the crisis in American boyhood. In this practical and accessible guide to the distinct challenges of raising young boys into happy and healthy young men, Dr. Rao urges parents, educators, pediatricians, psychologists, and other developmental experts to reevaluate and radically alter how we deal with our youngest boys.
About the Fessenden School
The Fessenden School is a private boys’ boarding and day school for prekindergarten through 9th grade, located in West Newton, MA. For more than 100 years, the Fessenden School has offered state-of-the-art facilities, curriculum, and programs specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of boys.
This is a sponsored post. The opinions and ideas were expressed freely.