I got this recommendation from Jenny’s blog a few years ago and stored it away for me to read at a later date. I’m so glad I did. Our son has just turned 10 and while this book focuses on boys in the high school years of 7-12, it gave me some great ideas and things to think about as we approach that stage.
Celia Lashie is a social commentator who has worked for years in the New Zealand prison system. She then undertook this project (the Good Man Project) in single-sex boys’ schools across New Zealand. Her desire was to define what a good man is and then how we help boys to grow into them, both in educational settings and in the home.
It’s a very easy read, detailing the way she went about the project and what she found, including lots of examples of conversations she had with boys, fathers, mothers, male teachers and principals along the way.
Some of the ideas I found helpful were:
- Boys are crossing a bridge of adolescence in the high-school years. What they need most of all is for a man (primarily their father) to walk with them over that bridge, to show them how to get there and to be alongside them. Concurrently, she claims mothers need to get off that bridge. They need to be present, of course, but they are not the ones to primarily walk that road alongside their sons (of course, she addresses what this will look for single-mothers and those mothers who will refuse to get off the bridge anyway).
- Her advice to mothers for this stage was: chill out. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Decide what really matters and deal with those things. Don’t expect your sons to include you in their lives at this stage in the way your daughters might. Your sons know you are there no matter what and they know they can come to you, so give them space to do so.
- I cannot imagine these are easy words for some mothers to hear and not even being at that stage yet, I imagine parts of it I would find hard. But a lot of what she said made sense.
- Her advice to fathers was to stay involved and to be the active ones in the relationship at this point. Keep interested in what interests your sons and keep being a model of a good man. Of course, other men can fill this role too if needed.
- She went through the different stages of Yr 7-12 and how we can keep involved with our sons, providing the boundaries they need at points and the increased freedoms they need at others, while being committed to get them through adolescence safely and into manhood.
- Her experience in the prison system taught her that most young men end up in prison because of stupidity rather than intentionally evil or bad behaviour. (eg. “I wonder what happens if I try run the red light?” “Can I outrun the cops?” etc). Therefore providing strong boundaries and clear messages regarding good decisions can help with this.
What I found most interesting were her comments regarding mothers in regards to both their husbands and their sons. She found overwhelmingly that most women are unwilling to allow their husbands to have an active parenting role, instead correcting and challenging his decisions. Their husbands intuitively knew this and so rarely spoke up. At the same time, many treated their sons as exceptions for whom school rules need not apply and so did not back up teachers and principals, when they were trying to enforce standards for student behaviour.
It did lead me to ponder that in the Christian families I know, where men take an active role in parenting, this seems to be less the case. Perhaps when we respect God’s model of male leadership in families, we run into less trouble in these areas?
A good book that is worth a read if you have sons approaching or currently in the high school years.