For those of you actively parenting, grandparenting or intending to parent, Steve Biddulph’s books are helpful in gaining a perspective on how to do it, how to help boys become good men, assist adults to have more confidence and children ( and therefore families) to be happier. For those of you who have not yet met him and his approach, he’s easy to read, has a common-sense style and is fun to read!
- Raising Babies – Should Under 3’s Go to Nursery? Thorsons, UK (2006)
- The Secret of Happy Children Harpercollins Australia, Thorsons UK, Heyne, Deutschland,
- More Secrets of Happy Children Harpercollins Australia, Thorsons UK, Heyne Deutschland,
- The Making of Love Random House Australia (1994)
- The New Manhood Finch, Australia (2010)
- Raising Boys Finch, Australia (2010) Thorsons UK (2010)
It used to be thought that the needs of boys and girls are similar, if not the same. They are not and parenting needs to reflect those differences. In the early years, boys need love and security, same as girls, later the particular guidance and the attention of their fathers and in the teen years, mentoring and the strong guidance of male figures in addition to their fathers.
Boys need danger, challenges, in order to test themselves, prove their strengths and abilities and they need responsibility appropriate for their ages.They need to frighten themselves sometimes, in order to see what stuff they’re made of, how brave they are and where their courage lies. In order to become strong men, they need strong experiences; real experiences not set up play experiences and they need to be given opportunities to meet challenges to their strength, their emotional strength, as well as their physical strength. Girls of course may need many of the same things if they are to grow up uniquely themselves and they need additional things which can be learned only from a close relationship with their own biological mother, through that connection which can’t be replicated.The stuff of another post!
Becoming a man can’t be easy, particularly these days, with so many distractions, opportunities to lose focus, inadequate education systems and places to be side-tracked from goals. So often fathers are absent, not interested or working away, in order to give their family a better life! Life won’t stay on hold while you earn money, it slips through the fingers faster than sand through an egg-timer. Mothers too, work harder and harder just to make ends meet when ambition requires bigger and bigger houses, retirement properties, rental properties and more and more goods, possessions and toys. Sometimes we forget, or never knew, how fleeting childhood is; sometimes we cannot actually give reasons for why we had children or became parents; sometimes it is by default and sometimes, as in adoption and ART by very definite and expensive choice.
In many of these situations, we place a great deal of pressure on our children to perform, meet our expectations, our goals and march to our tune, even if it is not the child’s tune. We often expect them to fulfill our unachieved ambitions, live out our fantasies and do what we haven’t had time to do or been brave enough to tackle. We don’t have time to allow the child to find his tune, to dream, explore, examine and find who he is, to march to his own drum beat.
I was once part of a family, where the father early on stated his requirements for his children. He wanted a dentist, a doctor and a lawyer!! He believed he was ‘joking’, but of course he was deadly serious; as we know, jokes are often the most serious statement in the world. He ended up with a dentist, a failed lawyer, who became a talented child therapist and a dedicated micro-biologist, detecting disease and illness in patients in hospital in order that they could be treated effectively and quickly. He scarcely acknowledged their achievements, their skills and talents and the courage of two of them for going their own way, marching to their own drum. A hard task-master, he died without them ever knowing he was proud of them, if indeed he was and could see past their wrecked emotional lives, their anxieties and troubles, for which he blamed himself.
His train-wreck fatherhood began because he was fighting a war and didn’t turn up in the eldest’s life for three years. The second he and the family deserted with a prestigious career move across the world at a critical time in the teen years.The teen was left to flounder and hold on to whatever life-raft came along, now a cardboard cut-out of a man with an undeveloped emotional intelligence ( he later became an adopter!!) and a life-long inability to express his feelings or emotions.
Those of you who have raised boys to adulthood will no doubt have much to add and some will be interested in what defines ‘a good man’! Mae West had her views, but we’ll pass on that for the moment, for viewing abilities, qualities and skills such as cooking, sewing, baby cuddling, car maintenance, vacuum cleaning, empathy, warmth, approachability, kindness, discretion, reliability, loyalty, being present, and so on. We seem to require men to have all the traditional attributes, skills and abilities, with a good handful of the so-called female ones thrown in, as we strive to be more ‘like’, ‘equal’ and balanced. It is a minefield for many; relationship is a place of great disappointment, discouragement, rage and hostility. Just as we place unrealistic expectations on our children, so we do on our partners, colleagues, neighbours and friends. We seem to expect far too much of them and much too little of ourselves!