Dr. Meg Meeker explores from a pediatrician’s and mother’s perspectives what is wrong in our raising of boys, and how we can correct our errors to raise happy, healthy boys. Meeker opens with seven secrets to raising sons:
- Know how to encourage your son; don’t baby or spoil your son, but don’t harshly criticize him either
- Understand what your son needs: it’s time with you
- Recognize that boys were made for the outdoors: give boys a sense of adventure
- Remember that boys need rules; if boys don’t have rules, they feel lost.
- A healthy boys strives after virtues like integrity and self-control.
- Learn how to teach your son about the big questions in life; your son wants to know and needs to know why he’s here, what his purpose in life is and why he is important.
- The most important person in your son’s life is you.
Meeker’s goal is to “let boys be boys, to recognize the value of boyhood, and to understand how how parents can help guide their young sons...into mature, confident, and thoughtful men.” Meeker argues that there are many factors in today’s society that work against boys such as divorce, parents working more hours, more sexually active girls, and of course, the media. Meeker argues much of the same points that Guiran did in The Wonder of Boys, “I believe that the trouble hurting our boys stems from three major sources: lack of close relationships with men, lack of religious education, and aggressive exposure to toxic media that teaches boys that the keys to a great life are sex, sex, and a bit more sex- and a whole lot of money and fame.” So what is the answer- time and again, the answer is more time with parents. “The foundation of any boy’s life is built on three things: his relationship with his parents, his relationship with God, and his relationship with his siblings and close friends.” Boys needs more time with you: time to talk and time to play. He needs more outdoor time. He needs to know that God exists and that his life is no accident. He needs and wants the benefit of his parents’ wisdom, life experience and maturity.
Meeker examines each of these areas separately:
- boys need strong relationships with their parents
- every son is his father’s apprentice, studying his father’s way way of living, thinking and behaving
- Boys need to see men at work and who set standards so they can mimic these standards.
- Boys need to work alongside their fathers so they function as a team.
- Boys need parents who struggle with their sons in times of hardship as well as in times of joy
- Boys need to see their parents proud of them. They also need to see how their parents work through problems, tension, anger and frustration
- Growing up in a family where there is mutual respect and trust, where they feel like they fit in, they will grow into confident men
- It’s far more important that parents spend time with kids rather than do things or buy things for kids.
- Boys will do anything a father wants them to
- When disciplining, it is important to give your son your ear. Speak less and listen more. Also it is important that your son has seven times as much as positive time with you as he has negative time.
- Parents need to filter media for kids; kids don’t need television, computers etc... in their rooms.
- God matters to boys because it provides and anchor, an authority figure
- Faith in God privies confidence
- Faith in God provides a guard against depression and provides moral instruciton
- Boys do better when they have a moral framework clearly indicating rights from wrongs
Siblings and close friends:
- Boys need to learn how to negotiate healthy relationships with friends and family
- These relationships set the ground rules for all other relationships
- Boys need to be outside. It is their time to connect with nature and find solitude.
- Being outside allows for boys to use their imaginations
- Boys learn confidence and decision making skills being outside.
- Parents do not have to set rules for being outside. Boys need to learn to assert themselves in their outdoor activities. Parents who set all the rules for kids and are always protecting their sons prohibit their sons from feeling the bumps and bruises of life growing from these all important learning opportunities.
- Boys need places where they can be alone and think- the outdoors provides this.
- Boys have incredible power, but they need to learn how to harness that power and use it appropriately.
- Nature allows for boys competitive tendencies. Boys crave competition. It allows for kids to appreciate their own abilities as well as abilities of those around them.
- Boys need to serve, to help others and direct their energies in purposeful ways.
Technology and Media:
- Just because our sons are growing up in a technologically rich world doesn’t mean they don’t need guidance or scaffolding to help them find their way in this world.
- Boys exposure to violence is growing because the violence seems to be ubiquitous- its everywhere and all over.
- Boys are acting more aggressively and becoming more violent as a result.
- Disconnecting boys from media or limiting media is important to keep boys emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy.
- When boys are repeatedly exposed to lying, ridicule, aggression, etc.. from men they think that those are appropriate actions for boys, “ exposure to media violence harms boys. Whether they view it on television, on computer screens, or interact with violent video games, the best medical literature clearly shows that media violence affects boys at all developmental stages and increases their tendencies toward antisocial aggression.”
- Boys feel it is natural for them to have sex because they see teenagers showing it on television.
- Both violence and sexual behaviors are high risk to teenage boys because they can relate to a higher risk of depression in boys.
- When boys are exposed at an early age to pornography, or even seeing naked bodies of women, it profoundly changes the way boys perceive sex and behave sexually.
- Boys need emotional connections- not “virtual” connections, but rather face to face connections.
- Boys need real friends who will test his ability to be in control; he will have to “confront difficulties and find resolutions; he is forced to mature.”