Raising a son? Prioritize listening to his behavior | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Raising a son? Prioritize listening to his behavior
Raising a son? Prioritize listening to his behavior

“When you came into my life, I imagined I’d be a super cool mom. I would be prepared and know what to do or have your dad as an ally in parenting you. I wasn’t ready to be blessed with such a sweet, sensitive boy, full of love and curiosity, funny and smart, but at the same time, infuriatingly stubborn, fearless, and alternatingly brave and needy.

“Being your mom has been frustrating, humbling, eye-opening and overwhelming. But I am so proud of how you are growing up to be the boy you are becoming. You can be persistent and empathetic, and for this, I am proud of you. You have taught me so much, especially to stop and smell the roses, not to take life so seriously and to have fun no matter what. Thank you for doing that for me.”

Such was my output from the exercise participants had to write about their son in Tosha Schore’s “Out with Aggression” coaching call in September. Schore suggested we pull out this letter whenever we feel disconnected from our boy to increase feelings of compassion toward him.

“Use it to remember that your sweet boy is good and as a reminder of what it’s like to feel hopeful and connected with him. Use it to help you cry and feel all the feelings. It will allow you to shed the hopelessness in the way of you being able to help him. The tears will help you heal,” she said.

I generally get along with my 12-year-old son, but as he sits on the brink of adolescence, I decided to be proactive and upgrade my parenting knowhow (at least in theory) by attending this three-day webinar.


Schore observed that we come to parenting with all sorts of expectations: imagining one kind of family life and often ending up with something different. We get stuck in that worried, helpless, “woe is me” place, where it’s tricky to help our boys stop their harsh behaviors and show more of their sweet side.

The woman behind the Parenting Boys Peacefully online community, Schore is also a Hand in Hand Parenting trainer and coauthor of “Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Challenges.” To handle boys’ aggression, she advised parents to stop wallowing in what they wish was their reality and learn how to play the hand they’ve been dealt.

When we’re rushed or being watched, we feel the judgments about our childrearing get worse. “Parents don’t have enough support. We get a lot of bad information from well-meaning people, like, ‘He needs to be put in a room when he’s aggressive so he understands it’s not okay,’” she said. But manipulative tips and tricks won’t cut it.

Schore cautioned against using discipline that isolates, shames or blames boys, as these don’t stop problematic behaviors; such strategies can create rifts, distancing boys from their parents, making their conduct worse.

Connection-based parenting strategies nurture relationships. She advised us to advocate for our son’s right to make mistakes despite his behaviors. “Not that it’s okay to talk back or bite,” Schore quickly clarified and reminded listeners that kids arrive with personality traits just like physical traits, whether he’s super social or doesn’t like to talk things out.

She suggested saying something like, “When you lie or talk back at me, I feel disrespected, and then I get sad and angry. It also makes me fearful that there will be a time when our relationship will be damaged and we won’t trust each other anymore.”

We all need to feel seen and validated. Laying out our raw feelings helps our boys and assures them that they are not alone and that there is no shame. In the moment, it’s hard to show up that way, but Schore reminded parents to focus on playing the long game instead of winning the power struggle now.

Show up

When we’re emotionally spent, we can’t show up for our kids. So she encouraged parents to practice self-care by going to bed earlier, sleeping and breathing; to be more organized, have a mantra, or ask for a hug. Tidy the house to minimize stress instead of complaining about how no one cleans up, and commit to fewer extras.

Schore said that we rely heavily on words to talk to our “sweet boys,” but words often trip us up; we don’t know what to say. They also often stop the emotional healing necessary for the aggression to stop. Sometimes, they even fuel it.

So how can we show up for our boy in the face of aggression so he feels seen? She said that we need to mind our tone of voice and physical stance (are we towering over, looking scared or relaxed and down low?). A mantra in your mind (“I am a peacemaker. My boy is good. My boy is hurting. My boy is doing the best he can”) can also help.

While we can’t control our boys, we can control ourselves. Schore asked, “How can you show up differently? Not just in your words but also in your presence and action. How can you listen more and talk less?”

She reminded that aggression is a call for help, that we shouldn’t get confused by our boy’s words. When he says, “Go away! I hate you!” or if his behavior contradicts his words, we should prioritize listening to his behavior as he needs our brain to coregulate.

My main takeaway from the sessions is that the best way to show up for my son that will move me closer to stopping any aggressive behavior is to remember to listen.

“Meet your boy where he is. Don’t worry. Less is more. In most situations, we don’t have to understand the why of the aggression to stop it. And certainly not when emotions are running high,” said Schore. —Contributed

For free workshops, visit parentingboyspeacefully.com or Parenting Boys Peacefully’s Facebook group.


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