One son nose dives off the coach acting like he is Evel Kneviel attempting to jump over the Grand Canyon. Meanwhile, your other son races his trike through the house, even though you have reminded him three times a day for the past month “to ride his bike outside.” Harnessing these bundles of energy can be a challenge, especially if they are both under 5-years-old. Do not despair! Raising your two sons to become unique and caring, respectable men is entirely possible.
Recognize your sons' tremendous capacity for physical exertion. Boys are not like girls. This is clear from the get-go. According to Dan Kindlon, Ph.D. and Michael Thompson, Ph.D, authors of "Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys", “Boys are tremendously sensitive to adults who do not have a reasonable tolerance level for boy energy, and when they do sense that a person has a low threshold of boy tolerance, they usually respond to it as a challenge.” Accept this challenge by engaging your sons in physical activities such as kicking a rubber ball, tossing a ball back and forth, playing a little toddler T-ball and basket ball, or by assuming the role of their favorite action heroes or climbing on playground equipment.
Assume your sons will most likely compete with each other. Avoid comparisons even when other people want to. Give equal time, pointing out each child’s special traits. As Dr. Sears, an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California Irvine remarks, “Shoot for a balanced week, not a balanced day." Celebrate each son’s special accomplishments and encourage their sibling to do the same.
Rely on humor to teach life lessons. The Ask Dr. Sears website calmly suggests building cages in the backyard, like he did for his two sons after they squabbled over issues such as toys. After all, “Veteran pet owners have long learned that even cats and dogs can be taught to live harmoniously together, if the owner sets house rules and sets up the relationship as friends."
Encourage the males in your sons' lives to model emotional courage. Enlist the aid of a trusted male friend, minister or relative if you are a single mom. "Popular movies aimed at boys seem to prize only one kind of courage: standing up to a physically larger opponent,” according to Drs. Kindlon and Thompson. Enlist your sons' aid and make cards for a sick relative or enlist their help in raking leaves for an elderly neighbor.
Middle Childhood and Beyond
Prepare your preschool-aged sons now for their adolescent years and beyond. Be clear about rules and consistent with discipline. An excerpt from the book, "Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys", states that “If they [boys] are unduly shamed, harshly punished, or encounter excessive adult anger, they will soon react to authority with resistance rather than with a desire to do better."
Encourage your young sons to initiate and maintain friendships. Since competition seems to be a built-in trait for boys, teach them how to lose gracefully and win humbly.
Ask your boys now about how they feel about certain situations. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests, “Let him know that it's often appropriate to say things like, 'this scares me' and let him know that he doesn't have to hide these kinds of feelings."