Q: Our 11-year-old son has suddenly taken to telling fanciful, exaggerated stories about himself, usually highlighting his athletic prowess. The stories seem to come out of nowhere, and he tells them only to me — never to his father. Could this be a sign that he’s looking for more attention from Mom?
A: Your son is becoming aware of his transition into adolescence and, beyond that, his anticipated transition into manhood. He likely worries about what he perceives as a gap between his current abilities as a boy as compared with the model of masculinity that his father provides. He probably doesn’t tell these fantasized stories to his father because he’s aware that Dad’s manly competencies are far more advanced than his own.
Your son needs a specific kind of attention from you — an acknowledgement of his physical strength and capabilities; he needs to know that you think he will be up to the task of being a man. You might encourage him to talk about his worries with both you and his father, who could be helpful in letting your son know that it’s normal for boys to have these kinds of concerns at this age.