Parents model appropriate behavior for sons and daughters

  • Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Check out these stats from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): 1) By eighth grade only 20 percent of boys will be proficient in writing and 24 percent in reading; 2) Young men’s SAT scores in 2011 are the worse in 40 years; 3) Boys are 30 percent more likely to drop out of school than girls; 4) By 2016 women are expected to earn 60 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 63 percent of Master’s and 54 percent of Doctorates. What’s going on?

Some experts blame women for “inadvertently” denigrating men and boy, and their roles in society and men’s lack of focused interest in being solid role models. Now that I have your attention, here’s what we can do.

Dear Liz,

My son is very smart and athletic. I am very fortunate that my daughter is too. But, why is it that my daughter is excelling and my son doesn’t seem to care? They are only a year apart in age, the son 12 and daughter 11? My husband, who is their father, is very busy with work and does all he can.


Dear “Baffled,”

It is an unfortunate trend, as you can see by the stats above. You give a perfect example. Here you are in an intact home (yes, divorce does tend to make the matter worse) with children of similar age, and in this case, the son being older. The older child tends to be the leader and wants to excel.

You did mention that the dad is very busy. Up to age 5, the mother’s role tends to be the most important, while the dad also models love and respect for the mother, is usually the more “rough and tumble” athletic example, and both parents need to model good communication skills (including resolving conflict and asking for clarification.). Children need both parents, and dad needs to step up his live actual face time involvement.

For boys, men are generally the role models of motivation, how to properly handle feelings – and that yes, men have strong feelings — and respect. For girls fathers are the ones who model how women should be treated and are the provider of special value and esteem. The more appropriate that relationship is, the less likely the girl is to get overly involved and vulnerable to the attention of boys, and more likely to excel.

Sometimes we over-praise the achiever so the other sibling feels they can’t compete and give up. Boys can sometimes be competitive with their fathers. One-on-one time doing meaningful activities together, is key. Dad (and mom too) discussing the boy’s feelings in a kind, non-critical, affirming manner demonstrates to boys they can be sensitive and still be “ a man.” Problem solving skills can be modeled and taught by both parents, but when you do it as a mom-dad team; you demonstrate the importance and value of a respectful partnership.

As always, if you son continues to show lack of interest or motivation, seek the help of a licensed professional. Start with your school and go from there. Boredom, lack of motivation, withdrawal, loss of interest in activities, change in grades and change in friends can be warning signs of depression and even drug or alcohol use. Please don’t accuse, but do follow up.

Contact Liz via asksharpliz@gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.

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