Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

07 June 2010

Raising Boys

I have recently re-read Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph.  I first read this book a bit over seven years ago just after our first son was born and at the time it seemed very good.  It's not a new book now - first published in1997 - so I did wonder how it would stand the test of time.  Turns out though, in my view, that it's still a great book for parents of boys.

I did however get a couple of shocks.

Shock Number One.
Second page in. These words, with the title, "Boys at Risk"...

Today it's the girls who are more sure of themselves, motivated, hard working.  Boys are often adrift in life, failing at school, awkward in relationships, at risk for violence, alcohol and drugs, and so on.  The differences start early - visit any pre-school and see for yourself.  The girls work together happily; the boys 'hoon' around like Indians around a wagon train.  They annoy the girls and fight with each other.

In primary school the boys' work is often sloppy and inferior.  By the time they reach grade three, most boys don't read books any more.  They speak in one word sentences: 'Huh?', "Awwyeah!'  In  high school they don't join in with debating, concerts, councils or any non-sport activity.  They pretend not to care about anything, and that 'it's cool to be a fool.'

Teenage boys are quite unsure about relationships and how to get girls to like them.  Some become painfully shy, others are aggressive and unpleasant when girls are around.  They seem to lack even the most basic conversation skills.

And the bottom line, of course, is safety.  By fifteen years of age boys are three times more likely than girls to die from all causes combined - but especially from accidents, violence and suicide.

There's grim reading.  Enough to fill the heart of a mother of two boys with great fear.  So what's to be done?  Biddulph goes on to explain the three stages of boyhood.  Having some insight into the particular stages of boyhood will guide our approach to boys.

Stage One is from birth to age six, where boys, like girls, need lots of people to love them but need at least one person with which to form a special bond.  That person is usually their mum.

Stage Two is from age six to thirteen, where boys start learning to be male.  Mum is still important (and this gets plenty of emphasis) but this is the point where dad gets to step in and take an interest, be involved and model manhood in a positive way.

Stage Three is age fourteen and beyond, when boys are moving into the adult world.  Mum and dad are still important.  But this is the time when boys will start separating from their parents and at this stage it is good to have one or more great male role models to step in and act as mentor, and all the better if this is done in sympathy with the parents.

And there in lies Shock Number Two.
We are basically out of Stage One!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know.  I ought not to be surprised.  I have been quietly doing a happy dance on the inside, celebrating my emergence from the toddler years.  My epiphany centred around the fact that both our boys will be in full time school next year.  The act of deciding to re-read this book came about because I vaguely remembered the bit about boys just needing lots of love from Mummy for the first six years but then recalling that things would change.  This should not have been a surprise.

And yet, seeing it in print like that...well, I was shocked.  Maybe even a little aggrieved.  Not only are we into Stage Two but we also need to be busy about getting good mentors ready to enter at stage left as required when we find ourselves merging into Stage Three.

But it wasn't all gloomy.  Raising Boys is a great read for parents of boys (and, I might add, for teachers.)  However this post is already too long so I'll blog my Raising Boys highlights next post.


Jean Williams said...

Thanks, Meredith, a great summary, and now I don't need to re-read the book myself - especially once I've read your highlights! :)

Meredith said...

Thanks Jean. It was certainly helpful to read this book again but between this and the next post I have probably pulled out the significant material for boys at our stage - stage two. So if you can stagger through the next very long post you are probably covered.

In a few years time I will reread the book again and have to think about some of the grittier aspects of stage three, which for now, I prefer to ignore!!! :-)

Jean Williams said...

tee hee but you do realise I'm already there? So you might have to do this work for me too!!

Meredith said...

No no no!!! Jean, I am still recovering from the shock of being in Stage Two! No way I am going anywhere near Stage Three just yet!! I was relying on your calm, level approach to have a think about Stage Three and tell me everything I need to know about teenage boys so that I don't have to think about it too much. My area of expertise cuts right out after their 12th birthday!!!

Meredith said...

PS Jean...way too many exclamation marks in the above comment. I was smiling as I typed it. Truly. :-)

And now, she says smiling, over to you!!