Saturday, April 18, 2009

Boys and their mums

I've been reading a book called "He'll be OK: Growing gorgeous boys into good men" by Celia Lashlie (2005), which is all about teenage boys.  It has been recommended to me many times over the years and it has been very thought provoking.  Written by a woman who worked in the New Zealand prison system as a prison guard for 15 years, she asks the question 'Why do teenage boys end up engaging in the extreme behaviours that lead them to committing crimes?. Her writing comes from her experiences speaking to 1000's of boys and their parents through visits to boys' high schools.

Lots of what she is said is very insightful in terms of understanding the fragility of boys and how their brains work.  A few things have stood out to me.

1. Boys don't always want to talk through everything.  For example last week our No 1 child had a problem at school and was chatting to Rowan about it.  After a while he said "you know what, I don't really want to talk about it anymore, let's stop now".  As a mum I thought it's good to know this - women love to keep talking until we feel a problem comes to some sort of resolution.

2. Boys live in the moment - therefore if an assignment is due on Thursday and today is Sunday they are unlikely to start it until Wednesday night. It also means they're unlikely to have a life plan.

3.  Boys need to have their father to walk alongside them through adolescence and mums need to take a step back.  Boys are searching for what it means to be a 'man' and they look to their father for this example.  If their father doesn't step up or mum takes over, then the influence of their peers will become more significant than it already is.

4.  Mums need to stop making their boy's lunch (this is my favourite!).  The author says boys need to learn the consequences of small decisions like not taking your lunch to school (ie.  getting hungry, having to spend money on food at school).  She says "We women aren't letting our boys learn about action and consequence because we keep interfering in the process.  We must stop if they're to have any chance of a successful and enjoyable life". (p. 166)

5.  Boys believe that women are in charge.  One of the depressing aspects of this book is the way that men speak about their wives ("I'm scared I'll say the wrong thing and get into trouble from my wife, so I say nothing").  The author also addresses the trend in society that has made it ok to poke fun at men which means that men end up either not being heard or simply give up saying anything at all.  She is a strong advocate for men being allowed to be 'men' and for women to butt out and stop trying to change them to be more like themselves.  

Pretty confronting stuff - if you have boys, you should read it.  If you have friends who have boys you should read it.  If you are married to a boy you should read it!  


6 comments:

ELF said...

Thanks for the overview, Jenny. I will definitely read the book - it looks really good!! Liz

kwillo said...

I'm keen too! I'll add it to my list!

kwillo said...

I think that your 5th point is a great one - having 4 sons has made me an advocate for boy's rights - so often women make offhanded comments like, 'all men are stupid' or 'all little boys are messy/noisy/badly behaved' etc, or strangers will say to me (in front of my sons) 'you poor thing, 4 boys' etc - it's a constant message, and one I am fighting against! But I think that if you heard that sort of thing often enough you would start to believe it.

Jenny Kemp said...

I agree Karen about the advocacy. It's sad that women think it's fine to just put boys down but it's reflected in the way women relate to their husbands. And speak about their husbands. All in front of their kids who as we all know, just take it all on board. I find it quite challenging.

Grazer said...

Great tips. I am finding that my 3 week old son is already unhappy with talking through things.

Having kids make their own lunch seems worthwhile - I assume one should teach them how to do it beforehand. Successful independence requires good training.

Jo said...

Thanks for the review on this book. It has been recommended to me (a mother of 3 boys) a few times now, guess I should go read it.