Survival Tips for Mothers of Boys

      April 11, 2008 08:09

      For a start, boys tend to develop more slowly than girls, and as a result they have more difficulties adjusting to a formal education environment when they enter elementary school.

      Teachers say it is usually boys who are noisy, cause distraction and have trouble paying attention. This is why boys get scolded more often than girls, who do their job relatively quietly and properly. The Chosun Ilbo asked the experts for advice for mothers how to handle boys.

      ◆ Boys Start Slowly

      Prof. Yoo Mee-sook of Sookmyung Women's University says that since boys have a different development curve from girls, they should not be raised or educated in the same way. Boys may seem to lag behind girls because they are slower in developing language and socializing skills than girls until they finish elementary school. In fact, it's a common belief among child psychiatrist that boys suffer emotional, behavioral and developmental disorders two to five times more than girls.

      But there is no reason to be discouraged, because development depends more on individual characteristics than gender. In addition, time will eventually balance the difference. The problem is when parents are impatient, based on a mistaken belief that it is impossible for children to catch up once they start lagging behind. "Because parents think that the abilities their children show now are all they have, they severely criticize them for their weaknesses. But this will if anything cause the children to lose confidence and underestimate their abilities at an early stage," Yoon says.

      Nobufumi Matsunaga, a Japanese educator who wrote the book “How to Raise Your Son with a Low Voice," also argues that the most important thing is for mothers to understand the unique characteristics their sons have. "Boys by nature cannot sit still even for a moment, tend to cause trouble and like to do something off-the-wall and try different paths," Nobufumi says.

      ◆ Too Much Early Education Is Harmful

      Playing is more essential for boys than girls. Nobufumi argues that what enhances learning abilities for boys is not early education but lots of time spent playing in nature. "Boys develop initiative and creativity through failures they experience while trying to put their bold, extravagant ideas into practice," the expert says. Of course, addictive computer games do little good. If necessary, let children play chess or card games that encourage them to use their brain.

      Shin Chul-hee, the director of Shin's Child and Adolescent Counseling Center, stresses the importance of the role of fathers in play. "Boys have little chance to spend time with male adults. Most teachers they meet at kindergartens or schools are women, except some sports instructors. And they also spend most of their time at home with their mother. As a result, they lack a male model, and this confuses them about how to act," she says. "It's therefore important to create an environment where they can spend more time with their father before asking them to become stronger and manlier. It's also helpful if they can spend time with other male relatives on family occasions."

      ◆ Having Boys Help with House Chores Is Beneficial

      Experienced teachers agree that boys need to learn how to organize their belongings. Jeong Hyeon-ju, a teacher at Yeonga Elementary School in Seoul, says, "Teaching them to organize their belongings and tidy their desks alone can help increase concentration, which will enable them to catch up with girls in learning."

      Helping with housework helps boys develop autonomy and get the knack of study. "It is important to encourage them to help with setting and clearing the table and even doing the dishes and cleaning the house, depending on their age and strength. Classifying utensils according to purpose or size can help them better memorize English vocabulary. Children who like to cook tend to be good at science," Jeong says. "Helping with the housework helps them better plan their schedule, manage time and finish work."

      ◆ Boys Listen to Reason

      Jeong, who has 26 years of teaching experience, also advises that boys should be admonished gently to make them listen better. Nobufumi agrees. "The only effective way to make boys listen is to reason with them." Boys don't obey unless they understand why they have to do what they are told to do. They don't change their behavior until they are convinced by reason, while girls know intuitively what makes their parents angry.

      Coldness works better for sons than anger. "When you scold your son, you have to reason with them without expressing your feelings. If that doesn't work, you have to ignore them to the point where they feel that you are treating them coldly," Nobufumi adds.

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