Boys are misunderstood. Too often, they are disciplined and shamed by their teachers, parents, or grandparents because it is falsely assumed that good boys should act just like good girls.
Raising boys is a topic of numerous books, but one that stands out is Raising Cain, by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson. I had the privilege of hearing them speak at a conference, and their wisdom impressed me deeply. Here are my notes and thoughts from two of their sessions.
Emotions. Give boys permission to have an internal life. Give approval to their wide-ranging emotions, as long as they behave civilly. Their tendency will be to hide their emotions at every turn, but this is not healthy. Help them use words to express their feelings effectively, since it is not in their nature or in their culture to speak openly about their feelings. So, give respect to their inner life, and speak about your own inner life. Share your likes, dislikes, fears, sorrows, regrets, hopes, and weaknesses with each other.
Activity. Accept the high activity level of boys as a healthy part of who they are. Give them a safe place to express their need for action. Embrace their physicality as natural, normal, and in need of channeling, rather than suppressing. Boys need to learn to manage their physicality, but they do not need to be shamed for their exuberance.
Speak to them. Talk to boys in their language – in a way that honors their pride and masculinity. Be direct with them. Say what you mean and mean what you say. And when possible, use them as consultants and problem solvers. They will love feeling important to you. It is important to communicate with them in a way that honors their wish for strength and respect.
Re-define courage. Teach boys that there is more to being a hero than physically defeating an enemy. Continue reading “Raising Boys to be Real Men”