Positive Conversations with your son

“A single conversation can change a life. There is a Zulu saying that people are people because of other people. What connects people is love and conversation”.

Andrew Fuller, a leading clinical psychologist in Australia, has written many times that to build resilience and wellbeing with your son, there needs to be a sense of belonging where he feels connected to his family and to his friends. A sense of belonging and connection to society reduces the chances of boys turning to violence, drug abuse and relationship breakdowns. The counter argument is that we probably are more connected to society now because of the ‘electronic bubble’ of emails, social media platforms and so on. Yet statistically the problems mentioned above are not decreasing. So, what seems to be the issue?

Having a real, positive conversation with our boys is a complicated process. How the message is transferred to our boys differs between the genders. According to Fuller, women (mums) use conversations to build and maintain relationships. They are good at this because the language and vocabulary of girls is 3 times higher than that of boys before the age of 2. Men (dads) use jokes and stories to have a conversation because through them they occupy the centre stage and get the attention of everyone around them. The key message here is make sure as a parent you know the psyche of your son to have a positive conversation. Below is some general advice from Andrew Fuller regarding how to have a positive conversation with your son:

  • Use unadulterated praise. Don’t add ideas, just praise him
  • Keep telling your son that you love and respect him
  • Give options or choices wherever possible
  • Boys have problems expressing feelings. Be direct, be fair and if possible, use humour.
  • If you are giving your son deadlines, the advice is keep giving him regular reminders before the deadline.
  • Remember, boys are less resilient than girls. Don’t hover over them when problems arise but stay nearby.
  • Boys love competition. When having a conversation with him, play competitive games, as long as the social behaviour is respectful.
  • If your son is breaking out with acne it means his androgen levels are high which makes him less empathetic and short in temper. This wouldn’t be a good time to have a conversation about his feelings. You might find that the ‘caveman grunt’ comes out instead of a positive conversation at this time.
  • A great time to have a positive conversation with your son is when he is in bed

For further information, read Andrew’s article ‘Positive Conversations’ in the book - Better than Ok -Helping Young People to Flourish at School and Beyond. Edited by Dr Helen Street and Neil Porter.

John Chalvatzis

Dean of Students