How to Raise an Emotionally Healthy Son

Raising a boy is no easy task—there’s just too many distractions. Here’s how to keep your sanity while letting your son reach his full potential.
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Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
January 17, 2019
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3
Minute Read

Raising a boy in America today is no easy task. With social media, video games, mixed messages about masculinity and what it means to be a man, our boys have it hard. There are few examples of good men on television for our sons to look up to and unfortunately, because of this and other factors, our culture does not hold boys up to a very high standard.

Raising a boy in America today is no easy task. With social media, video games, mixed messages about masculinity and what it means to be a man, our boys have it hard. There are few examples of good men on television for our sons to look up to and unfortunately, because of this and other factors, our culture does not hold boys up to a very high standard.

But boys need to be nurtured and cared for just as much as girls. Their future emotional wellbeing is at stake, and once they reach adulthood, there is little to guide them.

Boys need to be nurtured and cared for just as much as girls. Their future emotional wellbeing is at stake.

The APA recently released research that found that men are four times more likely to die of suicide worldwide than women. I don’t tell you this to scare you. I tell you this to highlight the need for focusing on men’s and boy’s emotional health as much as girls’ and women’s. I also tell you this to empower you. As your boy’s parent, you have everything you need to make sure he grows up to be a kind, emotionally healthy and self-confident adult.

One of the things boys need most from their parents for emotional health and growth is encouragement. Most parents know this, but they don’t know how to encourage their sons. Encouragement for boys is not false praise or the pressure to perform better. Encouragement is parental support as your son masters each developmental phase, physical and psychological.

One of the things boys need most from their parents for emotional health and growth is encouragement.

What does that look like? It will look different depending on if you are a mother or a father.

How mothers encourage their sons.


Typically, a mother offers emotional warmth and security; she offers compassion, patience, and kindness. Being more emotionally attuned, mothers can see their sons feelings and motivations more readily and try to understand and direct them. Because of this, mothers are in a wonderful position to help their sons sift their feelings and learn what to do with them.

This type of emotional support not only helps with a boy’s feelings, but it helps build his self-esteem. He feels less intimidated by his emotions and learns that he can control them, at least to some degree. Because of this bond between a mother and son, mothers can make their sons feel that they are loved just for being themselves.

How fathers encourage their sons.


While a mother’s encouragement for her son is most effective in the form of emotional support, a father’s encouragement is most effective in the form of words. A father’s words hold all the power to make or break his son. Unfortunately, many fathers fail to realize the power of their words in their son’s eyes. Young boys need positive words from their fathers. They don’t need discouragement or to be berated, put down or accused of being unmanly or not up to the mark. This can be devastating to sons coming from their fathers.

Young boys need positive words from their fathers.

Instead, fathers need to get into the habit of dropping positive words of encouragement for their sons. I cannot exaggerate the impact this will have on a boy’s self-esteem and the outcome of his life.

There is hope for boys in this world and it comes in the form of you, the parents. Encourage your son emotionally, encourage him with positive words, and listen to your gut. You know what your son needs to feel encouraged, and this encouragement will set him up for a long, happy and emotionally healthy life.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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