Improving Parent-Boy Relationships
The best way to shore up a relationship with a boy is to treat him with respect and not to order him about. Otherwise, you deliver the kind of blows to his ego that will hurt his self-esteem and induce him to rebel or ignore you. Address him politely, just as you would when speaking to someone outside of the family. It would not be respectful to ask a guest who is sitting down at the dinner table, “What are you supposed to do before you eat?” because that is the same as ordering him to “Go wash your hands!” Try to avoid comments such as these:
Take your coat to your room!
You can go out, but I want you home at six o'clock.
I can't believe you did that! You're grounded, Buddy.
Instead, be polite! Remember that while girls worry about germs, boys are convinced that a little dirt never hurt anyone, so be prepared to say to your son, “Please wash your hands” every day for the next few years, and praise him heartily if he ever remembers on his own. Sitting still and identifying feelings are difficult, so tell your son, “It looks like you're restless. Is something bothering you? Would it help to go outside and ride your bike?”
Walk into most bachelor pads and boys' college dorm rooms, and you'll see how uninterested males are in “pretty.” They think that “functional” is all that matters and consider storing a coat on the floor as good a place as any, so resign yourself to several daily recitations of “Please take your coat to your room and hang it in your closet.”
Anticipating how to keep people happy and relationships harmonious is not easy for boys either, so tell your son, “We are leaving at six o'clock; so you need to be home by then. How will you know when it's time to come home?” It may take quite a bit of experimenting to figure out a solution to that one, although digital watches with alarms are popular with boys and can eliminate the problem of not noticing when it's time to return home or report in.