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Raising Boys: The Value of Curiosity

It isn't easy being a parent. You undoubtedly feel fatigued and stressed at least some of the time; raising your son is almost certainly not the only thing on your daily agenda. Sometimes all you really want is for your son to just listen and to obey without a whimper. Unfortunately, during the preschool years, even the best little boy will struggle to comply with adult expectations. There's just too much else going on in his world.

You will be far more successful at setting limits, communicating, and getting along with your small son when you take time to be curious about who he is becoming and what his world is like. Here are some things to ponder:

  • Preschoolers do not experience time in the same way adults do. Five minutes for you may feel like an hour for your son. If you expect patience, you will both be disappointed in the results.
  • Preschoolers are far more interested in the process than the product. You may want a painting to hang on your refrigerator; your son may have found smearing the paint with his fingers satisfying enough, and he may never get around to the final product.
  • Preschoolers cannot tell fantasy from reality the way you can. If it happens on the movie screen or on television, it's "real" and no amount of debate can convince him otherwise. (This fact is a good reason to exercise caution when the media is concerned.)
  • Preschoolers love to ask questions. While the constant stream of "whys" and "how comes" can be exhausting, questions are truly how little boys learn. Be sure to take time to listen to your son, too.

Erik Erikson said there are two stages in children's emotional development during preschool years. At two, they learn autonomy—which is why two-year-olds love saying the word "no." three, they begin to practice initiative, the ability to make and carry out their own plans. Both of these stages create challenges for parents. Remember that it's normal development and not about you!

Curiosity about your son's perceptions, his feelings, and his ideas is always a good place to begin as you solve problems and face challenges together. It will carry you from the early years through adolescence to the day your son leaves to begin his own independent life. Take time to express curiosity before passing judgment: It will always help you parent your son wisely.

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From The Everything Parent's Guide to Raising Boys Copyright © 2006, F+W Publications, Inc. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Publications Company. All rights reserved.

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