I mentioned in my last blog post (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/27/boys-boys-boys/) the importance of a father or other positive male role models in raising boys into successful manhood. Rick Johnson has a great quote in his book, “That’s My Son”:
“Manhood and fatherhood are learned behaviors. Boys are visual creatures and learn by observing. By watching how men react in certain situations, what they say, and how they solve problems, boys learn to become men. Boys need to be instructed at an early age to take on their manly responsibility. They need to develop a leadership style that appears both noble to men and endearing to women rather than dominant or abusive. They need to understand a masculine vision of what a real man is. They need a code of conduct teaching them how a real man lives his life.”
I have written on this blog before about the difference between mothering and fathering, and the importance of both (see: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/23/the-necessity-of-mothering-and-fathering/ ) . If you are in a situation where you are a single parent or your child’s father is uninvolved, Rick Johnson, suggests looking at Boy Scouts of America (and yes, I know there are varying opinions about Boy Scouts), Little League and soccer, and male teachers. He also suggests attending things with your son in which men are involved, such as sporting games, etc.
To understand the role of older men in nurturing boys better, I like how authors Don and Jeanne Elium outline the progression of maternal attachment to entering the world of men in their book, “Raising A Son”. They talk about the importance of fathers being involved with their son even though a small child is primarily attached to the mother during the early years. They write, “The father who is active with his son in the early years is making a huge investment for the future.” They note through culture that boys are frequently begin subconscious separation from their mothers around the age of three.
The psychological identification of boys with their Father begins somewhere between the years of five and eight. The Eliums write that this does not mean a boy no longer wants, needs or wants attention from his mothers, but that the child often experiences a “push-pull” relationship with their mother and that the boys are often craving a relationship with their fathers. Rick Johnson pinpoints the ages of around five and adolescence as times where mothers and sons experience challenges as a boy tries to head toward manhood. Mothers must not take this push and pull personally!
Around the age of nine can often come a time where the young boy is challenging authority more and really needs copious amounts of time with other positive adult males. At this time, the boy’s relationship with his mother must be expanded and transformed. The Eliums write that “Boys have to be pulled into the responsibilities of the adult male world with compassion, firmness and father-love……From Dad the son learns not only about his male body, but about the masculine workings of the mind, soul, and spirit.”
John Eldredge, author of “Wild at Heart” says that “The idea, widely held in our culture, is that the aggressive nature of boys is inherently bad, and we have to make them into something more like girls.” Indeed, this idea of “shaping behavior” comes up frequently. Christina Hoff Summers talks about how boys do not need to be “ pathologized” and that whilst aggression and such needs to be channeled into constructive ways, we are forgetting that some of these exact traits are what contributes goodness to society.
What the Eliums bring up is that we often ignore the soul of the boy as he transforms into a man. Author Rick Johnson argues that boys, and later men, have needs to have significance in their lives and to have a cause to fight for. I have written time and time again on this blog about children having chores and contributing to the family so there is something bigger than just themselves. I have written time and time again about the need for children to see spiritual ideas in ACTION, so they see there is something bigger than themselves in both the spiritual realm and also in the sense of community. Boys also crave heroes, and stories about our founding fathers, pioneers, frontiersman, soldiers, athletes for boys ages 7 and up really can be helpful.
It is important that mothers let their boys take risks; that they understand that getting physically hurt to a boy frequently just means they need to try again; that taking risks and attaining success is an important part of developing into manhood. Johnson says, “A man’s role in life often requires him to persist in the face of adversity.” Boys do need guidance, but smothering love and over-protectiveness does not help. The Eliums describe boys as needing parents who are courageous and who can set firm and appropriate boundaries for their sons based upon complete connection and lots of time spent together.
Lots more to say in the next post.
Live big and love your children!