Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Wonder of Boys: Part 2: What Boys Need

In part two of Guiran’s book, he advocates for essential pieces to help boys grow into successful empathetic men.  First, boys need to be part of three tribes:

  • Family One: this is the child’s birth family including grandparents if they raise the child.
  • Family Two: this is a child’s extended family- blood relatives, friends who are like family, day care providers, teachers, peers, and mentors.
  • Family Three: Culture and community- media, church groups, government and other institutions.

Guiran’s words that most impacted me in this section is how important it is for young boys going through adolescence to “move away” from their mothers and come more under the influence of their fathers and other male role models in their life. To me, this was very interesting considering I am a female teacher of an all boys’ class. I see these boys five days a week, and see myself as their teacher of course, but also as a mentor guiding them through their academic journey as well as their emotional and behavioral journey. I want to help find for them a way to tap into their passions, and discover the ways they learn best. I do see myself as part of their family and an influential member of it. But, it all starts with building a successful and supportive relationship with them. Letting the boys know I care and can roll with them through the ups and downs.

Guiran isn’t saying throughout this that females aren’t important in male’s lives. Boys need to have both parents, or in my case, three parents, who can be there for them when they are angry, hurt or scared, and showing them unconditional love.  Additionally, Guiran points out time and again, how important it is to extend family beyond the traditional mode. Godparents, “aunts, “uncles” and friends and mentors need to help raise boys.  

Moms need a supportive network to help raise sons. With the right support, “moms are able to bond and attach well with a boys so that the boys grows up feeling he is loved and always deserves to be loved; allow the boy to separate from her as needed so he can develop his own identity from a secure base; work out her own issues with the help of the family and community members,so she doesn’t exploit the boys as the object of any physical baggage; receive hands on education from multi generational sources about boy biology and culture so she knows how to best raise a boy; model good teamwork with others; live with strong self-esteem so the boy can do so as well; provide empowered female guidance so that the boy learns respect for the feminine, provide discipline, rules, and structure so that the boy learns his limits; engage when the boys needs her to, in his activities; get help in selecting proper stimulations for her boy and getting help in steering him away from obsessive stimulations, have trusted allies who help critique and alter her own mothering techniques when necessary; and be able to love him unconditionally.”

Dads and sons are different, “a father raises his son in the father’s shadow, a shadow both dark and beautiful, in which the son will learn essential lessons about how to live, first as a boy, then as a man”...”for every son wants from his father to gain a sense of mission in life and receive permission from an elder male to pursue the mission; to feel a strong, loving masculine gorund beneath his feet so that he will not, once he’s an adult, have to say to his wide and his children or to strangers, ‘I don’t know what a man is, please teach me’; to be challenged toward a vision of faraway stars- impractical dreams and ambitions, that he may make, one day, possible; to learn what part of the sacred circle of human and spiritual life he will be responsible for; and to be mirrored by an intimate elder male and found, in that mirroring, to be a loving, wise and powerful man.

Growing up in a family of all brothers, it surprises me that my brothers during their adolescence needed to move away from my mom and move more towards my father and his influences. My dad traveled a lot as my brothers were growing up, so I can only assume, when he was around, he must have set a good stage for them to follow since they always seemed to make good decisions.  And,  I can see now what wonderful men they have grown up to be as a result. How do I help foster this in my own sons and in my own students? I see boys that need more male mentors in their lives.  How can I find people to mentor my own sons and mentor my students in their journey?    Boys crave males to be around and I can definitely see this in my own sons. Whenever our friends are around, the boys flock to them wanting to wrestle, to show them what they know and what they can do, to be part of their lives.  We really try in our own family to build a new family of friends for our boys.  Luckily, being educators, our friends echo this value as well. We all are such a huge part of one another lives and our boys’ lives.

Additionally, Guiran advocates the importance of boys having a spiritual ground to stand upon. Time and again he explains the importance of giving boys purpose.  Spirituality helps the boys see their place in this world and surround them with mystery as well.  Moms can initially provide that guidance, but over time, men keep boys spiritual growth growing. And to keep boys spiritually growing, we need to create places of spirituality in our homes through prayer and rituals. Finally, to help boys grow, we must help them face their darker emotions. Boys grow from being able to confront their insecurities, their fears, their destruction, and their anger.  Facing all of this in quite challenging for boys, but they are capable of doing so when parents , mentors, and the tribes surrounding the boys have best equipped them to do so.

Ultimately, Guiran argues, if we give boys these three tribes(birth family, extended family, cultural and community) , then we are better able to:
1. Help boys express their needs rather than guiltily believing we know what they need.
2. Support boys in working hard for everything.
3. Teach boys to turn their failures into opportunities to grow.
4. Teach boys who they are and enable them to respect their gender.
5. Give boys discipline and structure so they know how to live their lives and love.
6. Give boys elders to model their lives after, learn from and believe in. This will teach them honor, respect, and integrity
7. Cut out influences that desensitize and dehumanize them.
8. Give them increased opportunities to develop skills with mentors.
9. Give them more adult time
10. Give them more time to serve.

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