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Moving from Boyhood to Manhood: A Fathers Reflection

It could be argued, that there has never been a more challenging time to raise a boy and guide him through teenagers into manhood. Once upon a time we marked the transition from childhood to adulthood with rituals, but as the modern world grows many of these rights-of-passage have fallen to the wayside; not to mention the struggle we confront as we see our young people grow up faster and faster thanks to a greater exposure to ‘adult’ concepts earlier in one’s childhood.

I think it is important to note that adolescences has always been a challenging time for parenting; it is a time when it becomes blaringly obvious that many of the dreams we had for our child are just that ‘our dreams’ and we tend to struggle as we witness our son’s chasing their dreams (often not something we would have hoped for them) …

So how then do we help our boys grow? An old mentor of mine suggested to me long ago that the journey for any boy to manhood starts with letting go… This is not easy, as we have all been there before, we too have confronted the scary road into adulthood and along the way we all have moments of wanting to turn and run screaming back into the comfort and carelessness that can be childhood.

How then can a parent best prepare their boy for manhood? It is an interesting and challenging question, but a brief quantitative review of parenting programs would suggest…

  • Help your child develop a solid foundation of integrity and belief in themselves.

  • Help them to develop both resilience and grit. Resilience is a survival mindset that will help your child better understand the world around them and how to not let adversity set them back; while grit is about having the strength of character to get in there and to give things a go.

  • Create a sense of belonging within the family and home – this is the about allowing your son to express himself safely within the family and for that self-expression to be accepted without condition.

  • Parent from a space that is not about guilt and blame but rather about diversity and acceptance of difference. This will them a feeling of acceptance, so they know no matter how bad things they are always able come home and talk to the adults in their life about what is going on.

  • Don’t let them get away things but show them slowly the consequences of their actions and do not protect them for the natural consequences of their choices. Such an approach helps to encourage a sense of responsibility rather than entitlement; and by not rushing into pint out the ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ behaviour only creates defensiveness which can be mistaken for entitlement.

  • Teach them to trust you by being trustworthy. This approach makes a huge difference as not only will help to open up pathways of communication, but it also helps them to learn to trust themselves.

This is a great list of things to do I know, and I also know it is easier to say then to do – but the biggest challenge is the easiest to read but hardest to action: remember most of all to learn to relax and enjoy the moment. So often we get lost in adversity of a moment as we feel a mix of sadness, anger, embarrassment, frustration and more; we need to remember that this flood of emotion is just temporary, and we should let it pass. Keep in mind to never make permeant decision based on temporary emotion!

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