Saturday, March 30, 2013

Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons- Part Four

At the end of Meeker’s book, she gives the reader two chapters focusing on how to raise boys and tips for making sure parents are raising their kids appropriately.

Meeker begins, “ If you want your son to become a courageous man, begin training him now. If you believe that he will live a happier life if he is honest, crush deceitfulness in him immediately. If you want him to be respected and honored for his character, teach him humility. And if you want him to use his masculinity constructively, teach him that strength, courtesy and respect go together.”

Meeker urges parents to teach their sons the virtues of integrity, courage, humility, meekness and kindness.


  • Boys consider honesty to be a masculine quality
  • Parents should be models of honesty for our children to follow
  • A boys needs a sense of personal honor
  • Living with honesty means seeing yourself and others as they truly are

  • Courage is a virtue that makes the other virtues put into action
  • Boys who live virtuous lives needs courage in order to stand up for what they believe
  • A boy who does the right thing under pressure can control himself and his emotions- this is a huge source of pride and self-respect.

  • Boys with accurate perceptions of themselves and the world spend little time thinking of themselves. They look outward not inward
  • Boys with humility respect others
  • Boys with humility know that their sense of worth comes from themselves not from others
  • Humility brings strength
  • Boys will realize that no man is more valuable than another
  • Humility allows for boys to do things for others rather than for one’s self

  • “Constrained power”
  • Boys need help learning to channel their energies in appropriate directions
  • Self control is extremely important to develop in boys
  • When boys use their energies inappropriately, he will face you as the parent directly
  • Boys need exercise in order to harness and direct their energies appropriately

  • Boys take action to show kindness rather than through empathy as girls do.
  • Boys trained in kindness lead happier lives because they are more compassionate. They learn to take on the burden of others so therefore, they become stronger men.
  • Train boys to speak well of others
  • Don’t allow boys to be complainers

Ten Tips for Getting it Right:

  1. Know that you change his world: all future relationships stem from your son’s relationship with you. Parents are the number one influence on a boy’s life.
  2. Raise him from the inside out: boys need to know what their parents think of them.  when we can shape a boy’s character, we can influence the way he behaves for the rest of his life.  Stress to boys that we want them admired for their character far more than their performance.  If we fail boys, it is in this area.
  3. Help his masculinity explode: boys want to know how to lead.  Talk to boys about what it means to be a leader, the responsibility that comes with leadership and about how leadership is helping not hurting others. Leadership is ultimately a sign of strength. Leadership is necessary for boys to mature. Boys are natural protectors so give them the opportunities to protect others and stand up for what they believe in.
  4. Help him find purpose and passion:every single boys needs to know he was born for  a purpose. A boy’s personal mission is going to be his greatest motivator to succeed.
  5. Teach him to serve: the primary objective of every parent is to help their boy grow into a man by giving him the tools necessary to love others before himself.  To put others needs before his own.  When we serve others, our lives become more fulfilled. Through these actions, we learn patience and compassion. We gain humility.
  6. Insist on self respect:every boy wants to know they are respected. But boys need to know respect comes from respecting others. Teach boys to speak well of others, to think and act in positive ways. Sons learn respect by watching their fathers. So fathers need to be very careful on how they speak to their sons because they are watching and listening.
  7. Persevere: Parenting is exhausting but never give up on your sons.  No son can spend too much time with his father. If your son is living a good life, let him know it; if he is struggling, let him know you can help him solve the problem.
  8. Be his hero: Boys need to see courage, integrity and nobleness in action.  Boys turn to their fathers to see these actions. Talk to boys about heroes in ordinary lives. Boys need to admire heroes that are older than they are. Don’t compare boys of the same age to one another.
  9. Watch, then watch again: when a child hurts, so do the parents. All parties need to be involved to solve a son’s problems.
  10. Give him the best of yourself: self control of a boy’s emotions is ok. Boys need to learn, much like men, there are times when letting our emotions out is not ok.  Boys need to know, however, expressing emotions to their parents is always ok.The more time a parent devotes to his son, the more the child feels safe to open up himself to the parent.

Meeker closes her book with, “There is a boy waiting for you....He needs you to see him, to invest in him, and then to teach him about life, work, and what his life is really all about. he needs you-his parent, grandparent, teacher, or mentor-to take a risk for him. Love him fiercely because the world he sees is a confusing and painful one. It is his enemy and you are his ally. Show him that you are dangerous to the world because you take your responsibility for shaping his llife very seriously.”

Friday, March 29, 2013

Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons- Part Three

Meeker ends her book focusing on the three areas she explored in part one:mothers, fathers and God. She devotes a chapter to each examining the importance of these three areas of boys’ development towards manhood.


  • Mothers are the love givers. Mothers need to love and mothers love to be needed.
  • Mothers offer their sons many of the same things as fathers but do so differently.
  • Women communicate more about their emotions than men do. They verbally communicate love more easily.
  • A child needs to internalize his mother’s love because it sets how he feels towards all other women in his life/
  • Mothers love to touch- and everyone needs physical touch.
  • Mothers love to talk to their sons, but realizing their sons don’t like to respond.
  • Mothers love their sons through food.
  • Mothers love their sons through sacrifice.
  • Mothers are often overprotective and are attacked by their sons for being so.
  • Where fathers like to solve the problems their sons encounter, mothers can’t always do so because they wrap up too many personal feelings into creating the problem. Mothers personalize their son’s problems.  
  • Mothers are grace givers, “Every son needs to experience grace...To know that he is not good enough, smart enough or too mean to be loved is devastating to a boy. But the experience of a mother's embrace and acceptance is life-changing for a boy.. It is about being able to accept love from one another and then return love...when he learns to accept love when he feels humiliated, he learns to stand a bit taller. He learns to trust himself as a man.”
  • “A mother needs to remember that her goal is to help her son be comfortable enough with himself to form deep bonds and respect his way of doing it.”
  • Mothers and sons need time together to relax and be together.
  • Often mothers can project their feelings towards others upon their sons in harmful ways:
    • Enmeshment: mothers cannot identify where she ends and her son begins
    • Estrangement: mothers feel estranged from their sons simply because he is a male. This often happens in cases of divorce where mothers take out feelings she has towards the father upon the son.
    • Overdependence: mothers constantly communicate towards sons that he needs her and can’t do without her.  This also communicates towards sons that his father isn’t important. Often times women who have gone through divorces and feel wounded by men, try to make up for his loss by making herself overly important in her son’s life.
    • Unavailability: boys need to form emotional bonds with their mothers in a consistent manner.  If the boys can’t trust that their mother is available to them  or dependable, they can’t bond or trust her.
  • Mothers need to listen to their instincts and use common sense letting boys be boys.

  • “It takes a man to raise a man.”
  • Fathers shape boy’s worlds. The way a father treats those around him determines how a boys does as well.
  • Fathers are the rule setters and authority figures. They are the protectors and their son’s hope.  
  • Boys need their father’s blessings, love, and to teach them self-control.
  • Boys read into all of their father’s behaviors wanting to know how their fathers truly feel about them.  
  • Mother’s can’t give boys blessings because mothers have to love their sons.  A father’s respect has to be earned by the son in order to receive the blessing that he is leading a good life and that he is a good man.
  • Blessings can be touches or spoken messages, but it is “important to understand is that boys need a father to make his blessing verbal. A father needs to tell a son how much he values him and approves him...That’s why it is so important for a father to tell his son how highly he values him.”
  • Sons need fathers to express their love by spending time with them, showing affection, and refusing to give up on their son.
  • Sons need to know they are worthy of their dad’s time and attention. Spending time with their sons validates this love.
  • Sons need to do things together with their fathers rather than always talking such as a mother might do.  This could be having similar hobbies, exercise, or work.
  • The most damaging thing a father can do to a son is giving up on him, “ Relationships require commitment and hard work. They require getting through the hard times. And with fathers and sons, they require dads to realize that their sons need dads who stick with them-even when the son pushes his dad away (which he might do just to see if dad will push back). The good news is that dads have the strength to tough it out during the painful times; they are big enough to set blame aside; they can be stubborn enough to see things through; and they can be loyal enough to stick by their sons no matter what.”
  • Boys learn to control their emotions by what they see their fathers do.
  • “A son who grows up with a father learns not to fear himself. He learns to be grounded in his father’s love. He is girded by his father’s acceptance and approval. He has learned ot be a leader because his father has led him. He has learned ot become a provider because his dad has filled him with the ingredients of a good character.  And he has learned to become a protector, because his father showed him how strength should be used and how self-control should be practiced. He has become a man, because he was raised by a man.”

Boys to Men:

  • Boys need clear pictures of what lies ahead in their journey from boyhood to manhood.
  • Men are fully mature when they can deal with their emotions using self-control and separating his feelings from his actions. Blaming others when a boy should blame himself is showcasing a boy’s immaturity. Boys that are immature lac the capactity to correct their own mistakes. It is easier to blame others. Parents can help their boys overcome this obstacle, “letting your son understand that taking responsibility for his bad behavior works better for him than pointing the finger at others. Life is happier when he is in charge-of what he does wrong and what he does well.”
  • Help sons ask questions of themselves rather than others.
  • Boys need time with their parents over things.
  • Boys need a solid moral foundation to help them discern what is right from what is wrong. Let him practice and talk with him about his choices. Be his sounding board.  
  • Don’t allow boys to quit.  Teach boys to find what is right, follow what is right, and hold on to it.  
  • Boys need help moving into and out of adolescence.  We can’t simply forget about boys.  


  • Many parents think that they should allow kids to explore religion for themselves by not giving them any structure or guidance. This is one of the greatest disservices we can do for our children.  
  • Why do boys need God?
    • religious fathers have better relationships with their sons.
    • mothers who have a solid faith have better relationships with their sons.
    • When mothers and sons attend religious services together, they also have better relationships with their sons.
    • Boys who are religious are less likely to be sexually active too soon or promiscuous. They are also less likely to drink, smoke, become depressed, and suffer from depression.
  • Religion provides structure and rules that boys need to guide them.  It also provides authority figures and role models to help boys deal with their questions.
  • “We so eagerly don’t want our children to be pushed by us in any direction educationally, psychologically, or spiritually that we hold back when we should lead. Many parents tell me that they want their kids to grow up to make their own decisions about God. They want their boys to make their own choices, about which, if any, religion they want to believe.  This is, in a way, noble. Our job as parents should be to educate and stimulate our boys to read and think on our own. But the fatal flaw is that boys can’t choose from an empty menu. Asking a child to choose his own faith is like flying him to Prague, taking him to the center of the city, and asking him to pick out where to stay and what to do. He doesn’t have a clue because he doesn’t know what his options are. He has never been there before and the city is expansive and overwhelming. If parents really want to help their boys choose, then the responsible thing to do would be to give them an extensive education in the West’s, if not the world’s, religions.” “ Teach your boys about your faith. If you don’t have one, figure out what you believe.”
  • Why boys need God:
    • Hope: a forward thinking belief. It gives a boy that something better is yet to come. It allows for God to be in-charge.  God has no limitations, He won’t die, He can’t fail.
    • Love:  God’s love transcends all others. God’s love is unconditional and boys need to know they deserve of His love. Fathers need
    • Truth: boys all need to find truth. Some boys want to renounce the idea of God’s existence because of human pain, and not wanting to hear what God would say to him if he believed.
    • Grace: Boys need chances to learn from their mistakes and to be forgiven for those mistakes.  God gives boys reassurance that their mistakes will always be forgiven and their errors can be put behind them.
Security: God is always with boys. Boys can always turn to God because he is always present in their lives, “Giving a boy the security of God, the God that always sees him and always loves him, is the defense parents can offer their child. A father offers security, but when he gives his son God, he gives his son something greater. dad makes mistake. God doesn’t. Dad won’t always be around. God will. And God loves them both. Every boy deserves a chance to know this.”

Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons- Part Two

Meeker opens the middle section of her book discussing our culture’s perception of teenage boys. Our society perpetuates the image of teenage boys as delinquents, trouble makers, defiant kids who are drug addicted, drinking, and disrespectful continually defying parents’ wishes.  

Meeker argues, “Our job is to teach our sons to be assertive enough and strong enough to be different from the rest. They must walk away from the party where their friends are drunk. They need to have the strength to say not the their girlfriends...The problem is that we’re dead wrong about why  boys get into trouble in the first place. It isn’t primarily peer pressure that is driving boys towards drugs, drinking, depression or that is causing them to fall behind academically or drop out of school. The real reason is that WE HAVE LOWERED OUR EXPECTATIONS about teenage boys.”

What we experience culturally in America with boys doesn’t exist in other parts of the world. So why do American boys struggle so much? Because we are such an affluent society who doesn’t want to push anything on our kids. We try and protect them from so much. We need to raise our expectations of boys and provide mentorship, role models and learning and growing opportunities for our boys.

Meeker goes into much of the brain research surrounding adolescent boys, “teens many actually be able to influence how their brains are wired during teen years because the brain is undergoing so many developmental changes. By learning to order their thoughts, understand abstract concepts, and control their impulses, they exercise their brains, and this might influence their neural foundations... For instance, the front part of the brain is called the frontal cortex. This part of the brain controls judgement, emotional regulation, and self-control. We now know that this doesn’t develop completely until the early twenties in many boys...Much of the new brain research encourages parents and educators to recognize that teen boys are very much a work in progress and that they are still learning how to make mature decisions and control impulses, and that is during the teen years that we can have the most decisive effect on helping them to shape these aspects of their character.”

Meeker spends an entire chapter describing the relationship between encouragement, mastery and competition. Boys imperatively need to have encouragement from their parents and the stakeholders in their life. Importantly, this encouragement needs to be authentic and genuine. Often times during periods of competition, these are the optimal moments for encouragement because a boy’s masculinity is tested. He compares himself to others, and wants his parents to recognize what he has accomplished.  Also during these moments of competition, whether through imaginary play or real scenarios, boys need to have reinforced their moral order of good and bad, “ every good parent must provide a means for the boy to deal with the problem of evil and not simply ignore it.”

Additionally, Meeker explains the difference in mother and father roles with encouragement.  Boys can act out in front of their mothers because they are the emotional supporters and security. They are compassionate, patient and kind.  Boys aren’t as worried or concerned with winning their mother’s approval. However, fathers provide the encouragement for boys that is more necessary than anything else, “ In a boy’s eyes, his father’s words are sacred.  They hold enormous power...Encouragement from a father changes a boy’s life. His words can ignite furious passion in a boy that will help him achieve any goal he sets out to accomplish. To a son, a dad’s words are the final truth. If they are positive, a boys feels that he cannot be beaten; if they are negative, however, a son feels that he could never win.”  Meeker repeatedly reinforces the power a father’s positive words can have on a son.  These words impact the future of his son as well as the boy’s self esteem.  

Meeker shifts to discussing competition with boys.Even if the boy doesn’t win in competitions, the way he learns about himself as a growing man, “Competition for a boy is more about building his identity and self perception than it is about beating others. Winning elevates his mood precisely because it offers clear evidence that what he wants to feel about himself- that he is manly- is occurring.”  Meeker argues that competition helps a boy control his body and develop his body to perform in the ways he wants it to. This then allows for a boy to control his emotions and master them which is another step towards growing as a man and maturing, “The goal of maturity is learning how to behave as a boy knows he should regardless of where his emotions want to take him.” All of this comes to the forefront in adolescence. This is why it is so imperative to give more praise and encouragement at this juncture of their lives. Boys need scaffolding and guidance like a life jacket rather than be tossed into the sea of life without an floatation device.  Boys need to know we will always be there loving, supporting, guiding them on this journey, “It is essential that parents teach their sons that living and ordered life, replete with dun as well as discipline, paves the way to a free life and a successful one. Boys who learn through encouragement of their inherently masculine qualities, who learn to enjoy healthy competition that helps them to respect others and themselves, are boys who have a much better chance of living good lives.”  As a community, we can help boys achieve working together for the betterment of all boys and all children.

Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons- Part One

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

Being outside:

  • 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.”

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Wonder of Boys: Part 3: How to Raise a Boy

Guiran opens the third piece of the book with an in-depth look at discipline.  He explain the importance of discipline in context with all parts of the boys life.  Discipline isn’t just about punishment or reprimand, but about helping the child feel good about himself.  Discipline needs the following:

  • consistency
    • If the behavior is immediately dangerous, stop it.
    • Identify the boy’s mistake and effects of his mistake; letting the boy know the error builds his confidence.
    • Provide a natural or punitive consequence
    • Consistently enforce the consequence
    • Ritualize the end of the consequence with a show of renewed acceptance like hugging
  • leadership
  • respect
  • variety
  • recrimination
  • spiritual context
  • choices
  • respect for feelings
  • authoritative structure
  • early, ongoing and adaptive use

Guiran also points out the that disciplinarian “provides two forms of leadership by both modeling and teaching through which the boy learns how to act and how to feel about himself in return. Then, as a result, the child learns to respect the disciplinarian.  The disciplinarian must distinguish between crisis discipline (sudden dangerous situations) and everyday discipline (daily challenges). It is imperative that boys see how their actions affect the larger world and population.  I really liked how Guiran specifies the difference in disciplining the action of the child versus the feeling. We need to teach the child his action is wrong, not the feelings he is experiencing.

Guiran identifies twelve techniques for healthy discipline:
1. Show the boy the effects of his inappropriate action
2. Redirect the boy’s aggressive energies from an animate to an inanimate object
3. Use a stern tone of voice
4. Give the boy or you a time-out when necesssary
5. Choose diversion and distraction first
6. Ignore his refusal and give sixty seconds to do the task
7. Negotiate and provide choices: this shows the boy we trust there is worth in his point of view and we are willing to explore it.
8. Take away privileges and tyos
9. Use positive expectations
10. Make things into games whenever possible
11. Focus boys on the specific challenge of tasks
12. Teach through mistakes and failures

How do these apply to adolescence?  The focus is not to let up when the boy is maturing but rather to help them refocus the boy’s energies, “ We give him structures for his energy. We give him constant activity and then time to recharge. We give him experiential learning through games and tasks. We give him work. We expect him to take up a lot of space in his gangly experiences with life, and we teach him, through task, work, game, activity, and experience how to use that space. Above all, we give him mentoring and supervision that respects and teaches his gifts, his visions, even his shadowy inner demons.”

Through adolescence, some specific techniques of discipline:
1. Be consistent and clear about expectations and punishments.
2. Ignore the youth’s acting out when it is harmless charter and dissing.
3. Do not allow harmful disrespect to go unnoticed or unchallenged.
4. Give primary authority to the style of discipline that is most effective: this means letting the fathers be in charge if that is what works best.
5. Build many of the expectations by talking with the youth.
6. Take away privileges as a primary means of family discipline.
7. Let the youth choose his own punishment when possible.
8. Never hit.
9. Spend as much time as possible with younger adolescents, doing what they like to do.
10. Help youths find games, sports, tasks, and other systematic structures in which to build their own disciplines.
11. Follow stages of discipline, especially reacceptance of the youth once the punishment is finished.
12. Be consistent.
13. For every piece of freedom you give a youth, give him a similar piece of of responsibility.
14. Always let him know you’re there for him.

Guiran closes his piece on discipline saying, “ the greatest gift a parent can give a youthful, then and adult child is respectable and trustworthy authority.”

Guiran moves on to speak about the importance of morality and spirituality in boys’ lives. We need the three tribes to come together to help teach our sons who to live their lives.   Everyone is responsible for the moral upbringing on the boys.  Guiran advocates use literature and stories of heroes or hero’s journey to teach these moral lessons.  Stories of kings, warriors, explorers, lovers and magicians can give boys and upbringing firm in moral lessons to give parents an opportunity to dialogue with their sons, “Showing (a boy) what happens to a hero who isn’t responsible empowers, teaches, guides him. He identifies with the hero and gains energy from the hero’s journey...showing him, in story, how to transform himself works much better.”

In terms of spirituality, Guiran explains that “when we speak of ‘spirituality’, we are speaking of universal connection, transcendent experience, our deep ‘sense of belonging’ in the world.” Guiran explains that for the parent to teach the child about spirituality, we must also identify where we are in terms of our own spirituality:
1. The WHO is about teaching boys who “God” is. Who created life?
2. The WHAT is about teaching boys what life is made of. Need to know the basic elements of being alive.
3. The WHERE is about teaching boys a sacred sense of place.  Get the boys outdoors- they are more in touch with their spirituality there.
4.The WHEN is about teaching boys to live in the NOW. There is nothing more important than slowing down and spending time together.
5. The HOW is about teaching creativity, and through it, mystery and faith.
6. The WHY is about teaching boys to search for meaning.

To help teach boys to be spiritual, we must practice spirituality by praying, modeling, conversing, recording our lives in journals, and giving boys spaces of solitude.

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.