I am reading an excellent book right now called, That’s My Son: How moms can influence boys to become men of character by Rick Johnson. I am finding it to be both readable and enlightening. The author communicates in a very real way that I find to be helpful in understanding my sons and my husband. I highly recommend it to anyone with boys. Even if you don’t have boys, the book is terrific for helping you understand the males in your life and to help your daughters do the same.
A particular chapter that I enjoyed was the one on communicating with boys. In order to be really inspired (to make it your own!) you will definitely need the context of the author’s original words and his personal anecdotes. However, I would like to share a few of his tips with you.
- Be Brief – Don’t give lectures. Rather, just take 1-2 sentences to make your point. (This is a real struggle for me and for many of our children. The gift of brevity has not been bestowed upon us!)
- Tell a story, particularly one based on personal experience, to illustrate your point.
- Ask for a response. If there is none, ask for a story. “Did anything like that ever happen to you?”
- Listen for key words in what your son says. Usually, they will centre around primary emotions — words such as afraid, hurt, Wow!
- Use the key words you hear to lead into further communication. “What were you afraid of?”
- Be comfortable with silences. Boys often need time to think and process.
- For deep conversations, do something physical while you talk. Shooting hoops or going for a walk are a couple of ideas. Many males dread, and feel intimidated by, conversations that involve sitting down with long times of direct eye contact. I remember Sally Clarkson saying that her boys often open up the most when she is scratching their backs. When they are not feeling threatened, it is much easier for them to share.
- Let the boy have the last word whenever possible. Sadly, men get used to being overrun by females who, in general, have superior verbal communication skills. It isn’t that women are truly right more often, but many times they can make more persuasive arguements and end up leaving the men in their lives apologizing when they aren’t really wrong to begin with. In the case of discussions with your son, let him leave the conversation feeling like he is a respected member of the family team.
- Expect to have to bring it up again. Often boys don’t ‘get it’ the first time around.
One more thing that was helpful to me in my relationship with the men in my life was the author’s sharing of the concepts of love and respect. He said that men value respect so much that for many of them, it is more important than being loved. Contrast that to the way the average woman feels! Showing our husbands and our sons that we are proud of them, and making sure to never hit below the belt will go a long way to helping them communicate with us.