If you’re raising one or more of these amazing humans, you might want to adopt the five-word rule for communicating with them and take in a few other simple strategies, outlined by Walnut Creek therapist and author Don Elium.

In the beginning, all brains are female brains. That’s right, early in pregnancy, the tiny brain of that tiny fetus is all girl.

Then the genes that say this baby is actually a boy start firing small amounts of testosterone. The hormone changes the template for how the brain will develop and how this future male will behave—often differently from his female counterparts—at ages 2, 12, 16 and for the rest of his life.

This is according to Don Elium, a Walnut Creek marriage and family therapist who was giving parents of sons—like me—tips and basic concepts about how boys are hard-wired. His talk was titled “Why Boys Listen and Why They Don’t.”

Elium explained that the growing body of scientific research into brain science, child development and other fields suggests that nature has as much to do with nurture in how young males behave. He presented these concepts as background to help parents communicate better with their sons and to be the kinds of “leaders” their boys need them to be.

The talk by Elium, author of several books, including the best-selling Raising a Son, took place at Walnut Creek Intermediate, hosted by the PTA.

I was on the PTA committee that brought Elium to WCI. We did so after hearing from parents who were worried about how their boys were faring in school. Some parents wondered if schools these days are geared more toward girls’ style of learning. Other parents were having issues at home over seemingly simple matters such as getting their sons to do chores.

The WCI library was packed, so there must be a fair number of parents who are trying to unlock the mystery of dealing with these amazing, wonderful creatures known as boys.

As Elium explained it, boys aren’t all that mysterious, not if you understand some basic things about their nature—which to some extent originate from that fetal dose of testosterone.

Because of these origins, he said, “males from the beginning are trying to be different, to separate.”

Saying that boys and girls, and men and women, sometimes think, act and communicate differently is not to imply one gender’s approach is better than the other’s. No insult is intended. “It’s a matter of honoring one gender’s way of doing things,” he said.

Elium offered some basic guidelines for raising sons, including one very simple rule about communicating with them, especially if you want to get them to do something—anything:

Limit your message to five words, Elium said. Beyond five words—for reasons described below—boys will stop listening, lose interest in what you are saying, tune out. “Anything you say after five words, it’s a waste of time.”

“You should say, ‘No, don’t do that, do this,’ “ he said. “ ‘Or, ‘Make your bed now.”

“With boys and men, they want to know what you want,” Elium added.  “Women want to have a rapport, a connection. Men want to know what’s the main topic.”

In addition to the five-word rule, Elium’s other tips for parents are:

—Be the leader

—Get their full attention when communicating, then just use those five words.

—In helping boys to learn, allow for small steps of discovery.

—Supervise, supervise, supervise. “Boys need supervision and direction,” he said. The human brain doesn’t reach full development until age 25, and a 13-year-old boy has 25 percent of an adult brain. Such supervision includes watching and helping them master organizing their school work or ordinary household tasks such as doing the dishes, making their beds, taking out the garbage. Teen-age boys need as much attention and supervision as toddlers, just of a different kind.

—Reward them after they have accomplished a task, not before.

—Be honest with them in ways that are age appropriate. It will pay off when they are teens.

And here are some of the key concepts Elium discussed to explain why boys—and men—are the way they are.

Boys are programmed to hunt and to chase—anything from that one dump truck in the preschool playground to a girl to whom he is attracted.

Elium noted that the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that controls most of the basic functions of life, also plays a role in this chase instinct and is twice as large in males as it is in females. Boys feel a great sense of release and accomplishment when they reach their goal, hit their target, capture their prey, he explained.

They want the thrill of discovery.

“When I was 5 years old, I wanted to be Superman,” Elium said at the start of his talk. “I put a towel around my neck and jumped off the roof of the house. Now, my mom and dad were very frightened. I didn’t get hurt. When the boys down the street heard about what I did, they tried doing the same thing. Every one of the boys didn’t care that I didn’t fly. They all believed they would.”

Boys tend to focus on whatever it is they view as their goal or their prize and are not interested in matters on the periphery as girls and women are, Elium explained.

“They lock into whatever is meaningful for them,” he said, which could explain why getting them to do homework is such a struggle, unless they see it as more meaningful to them than watching a YouTube video.

Elium showed an amusing diagram that aroused laughter of recognition among many in the audience. It shows the different routes a man and woman would take in a shopping mall if they had the same goal: to buy a pair of pants at the Gap.  The woman’s route would be meandering, take several hours; she might pick up hundreds of dollars of other items for other people in her family along the way. The man would be in and out of the retail complex in about six minutes, having just spent $33 for the pants.

He added that boys’ desire to hunt and chase—along with their “target” focus—it what makes video games, especially those that involve first-person shooting challenges, so appealing. “It simulates the way they naturally look at the world most of the time.”

Boys learn through direct experience. This might explain, Elium said, why boys sitting in classrooms for extended periods of time, having to read, do problems or listen to a teacher, might fidget or stare into space, their minds off in their own imagination.

They are concerned with hierarchy and order, they want limits and they want figures in authority, including parents, to be leaders—or else they won’t respect you.

“They don’t need a dictator,” Elium said. “Boys are like cows. The bigger they get, the more pasture they need. But they still need fences.” He said those fences can be taken out or pulled in, depending on how the boy is behaving.

Finally, a special piece of advice for moms with sons: Don’t overwhelm your son with your conversation, especially if you get your usually monosyllabic boy talking. Don’t break into conversations your son is having with friends in the back seat of the car even if you hear something you’re probably not supposed to hear—because they have forgotten you are there. Elium said one of the biggest complaints he hears from his male teen clients about their mothers is: “My mom talks too much.”

Source: Patch.com – http://goo.gl/8fzNu