In her audio seminar Raising Great Kids (Family Manager Inc., 2004), Kathy Peel devotes an entire section to raising boys. Specifically, the author of 17 parenting books tells moms how they can help their sons develop healthy hygiene habits. Why would Peel focus on body odor, dirty laundry and other, well, unpleasant topics?
With Guys, It’s Different
Peel believes that parents – especially moms – may lack confidence when it comes to educating their sons about this topic. “Moms know what it’s like to grow up as a girl; they’ve been there,” she explains. “But with guys, it’s different.”
Though sons and daughters mature differently, mothers can connect with their sons’ desire to look good. Anxiety about appearance runs high during the teen years, regardless of sex.
Studies confirm that the No. 1 concern of boys ages 9 to 16 is how they look, Peel says. “Their bodies are changing, and moms need to be sensitive to their concerns about their appearance.” A mother’s sympathy and support – and low-key grooming advice – can also promote a closer relationship between mother and son during these transitional years.
But how can a mom educate her son about the delicate topic of personal hygiene without embarrassing or offending him? As the mother of three sons (ages 29, 26 and 19), Peel has plenty of experience and pointers:
• Start when your son is young. Whether he’s taking up soccer at 6 or hitting puberty at 12, he can benefit from tips about cleanliness and health at a young age.
• Use a subtle approach. “Nagging doesn’t work,” Peel says. Instead, she suggests leaving some helpful hints on your son’s dresser. “He may feign disinterest,” she says, but he will be grateful for the advice.
• Provide guy-friendly products. For example, your son probably associates floral antiperspirant with his sister or a standby like Old Spice™ with his dad. As an alternative, offer an antiperspirant with a clean or “cool” scent. (OT, a new line of Procter & Gamble products – shampoo, hair gel, sports wash and deodorant/antiperspirant – aimed specifically at teen boys and endorsed by Peel, may fit the bill. See www.otplayer.com for more information.)
• Give your son some time to himself. “Your guy needs privacy,” says Peel, whether it’s “extra time in the family bathroom rotation” or “time in front of the mirror to flex his muscles.” If you allow your son space to scrutinize or improve his appearance, he will become more comfortable with the whole idea of grooming.
• Realize that educating your son about hygiene gives you a chance to strengthen your relationship with him. “A son is going to be more willing to listen to his mom,” Peel explains, “if he knows she cares about his world” and his concerns, which include his looks.
Peel has seen firsthand how a mom’s genuine interest in her son’s friends, schoolwork and even his preferred hair gel has lasting effects. Her youngest son is away at college. “It’s a payoff when he calls me to ask me my opinion,” she says. “He trusts me because I was interested in his world.”
Closeness between a mom and her son can also boost her son’s self-esteem. If a teenage boy has gotten some pointers about hygiene and, therefore, isn’t worried that his hair looks bad, Peel says, “then he feels more confident in himself.” That confidence, she adds, can then extend to school performance, social relations and other aspects of his life, too.