Getting Boys to Open Up

Photo courtesy of Idea Go.

One of my challenges as a mother of boys is getting them to open up and talk to me about, you know…stuff. I know what you’re thinking: You’re such a girl. Honestly though, my intentions are good and maybe a bit protective. Through discussion, I want to be able to help my sons resolve any issues or reassure them if they’re feeling sad or unhappy.

When they’re at school, I’m curious to know what happened, but I’ve learned to ask questions slowly throughout the afternoon and evening after pick-up in case I tap into a better time to get them to share. The typical conversation on the ride home from school goes something like this: “How was your day?” “Good.” “What was your favorite thing you did today?” “Nothing…I don’t know.” “Well, what was the worst part of your day? “Nothing.” “Who did you play with at recess today?” “I don’t remember his name.” I then try not to press any further. Sometimes information will come out in a gush (especially at bedtime or at dinner if they aren’t interested in what’s being served) or random comments will be made around the sandbox during playtime (go figure!).

In the meantime, I wonder: Did another child say something unkind? Did a teacher praise him? Is he happy? Is anything bothering him at all? I tend to assume everything is a-okay until one of my kids descends into an uncontrollable fit of rage over something they really shouldn’t be getting that angry about.

Some experts find art to be a helpful medium to get kids to open up, whether it’s through the pictures they draw or the things they say while engaged in art. My sons usually just draw airplanes, cars, windmills and houses and tell me stories about those pictures (which I love, by the way!). Sometimes a person driving a car will appear in the picture. The only time I can remember my son drawing about something that was bothering him was a picture he made in kindergarten. I didn’t get to see the picture until his kindergarten teacher showed it to me at parent-teacher conferences about a month later and by then, the issue seemed to have resolved itself.

A study out of the University of Missouri determined that unlike girls and women, boys and men aren’t likely to talk about emotions because they believe that talking about feelings is a waste of time and won’t lead to a solution to a problem. So my questions are: How are they processing their emotions and feelings? When and why do they come to believe talk is useless? And, how do we as parents figure out what’s going on in our sons’ heads?

Do you have any special techniques to get your kids to open up?

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4 thoughts on “Getting Boys to Open Up”

  1. Maybe my son is too young for this to be a problem yet (he’s 7). He chats to me at full speed after school most days. He’s a boy’s boy, rough and tumble, but gently spoken and likes hugs. He’s been bullied in the past and has had to fight for his place in his class since we moved to this area but he seems to be respected among his peers. I know there are some things he really only wants to talk about man to man, so we make sure he has time with his dad on his own. I suppose it’s just a case of keeping the opportunity for communication open and being available.

  2. Hi Fi — Thanks for your comment. My son is 6 so maybe it’s just his personality! You mention your son was bullied in the past. Did he come out and tell you that it was going on or did you have to figure it out in some way? Great tip on creating man-to-man time between your son and his dad.

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