Bringing up boys

How to handle your son, from birth to the teenage years


Bringing up boys

It's easy to see why boys get a bad press. Male toddlers are noisy and hyperactive. Pre-teen boys are immature, can't concentrate, won't sit still. Teenage boys are so negatively perceived that if you didn't actually know any, you'd think they were all drug addicts and vandals.

According to child development expert Elizabeth Hartley Brewer, author of Raising And Praising Boys (Vermilion, £7.99), the root of the problem is not boys themselves, but the way we react to them.

'From earliest childhood, we give boys far more negative feedback than girls, and then tell them off when they live up to the negative image of themselves we've given them. We're not very good at celebrating boys for being boys.'

Here's how to give your boys a break:

Age 0-5

  • Praise boys for the things they're naturally good at
  • Have realistic expectations for behaviour and skills
  • Make plenty of opportunities for physical activities
  • Make time to read and talk to your son

Age 5-11

  • Reward their efforts – don't criticise their mistakes
  • Recognise boys' need for self-respect
  • Do things together
  • Make space for fathers

Age 12-16

  • Respect your son's privacy
  • Keep talking, listening and hugging
  • Praise, often – but don't engage in false flattery
  • Trust your son to do things his way – don't spoon-feed him

Photograph: iStock