Thursday, September 29, 2011

Raising a Boy and Being a Dad

During my recent paternity leave I was feeling a little lost.  It's funny how going to work really helps a man to feel that he is fulfilling his duty.  I puttered around the house, gained some weight, cleaned a little, mowed the lawn a few times.  I just felt like I needed to be doing something.  One thing I found to do and really enjoyed was spending time with my 2 year old son.  In a previous post I talked about Becoming a Dad, but today I would like to talk a bit more about what the hell to do with a kid once you have him and he starts actually having an opinion, an attitude, and you start to realize that he actually has a mind of his own!  So once a boy stops being a baby and starts being a boy, what does he need?

Boys need to move!
I'm saddened by the current education system and the box of conformity that they force young boys into.  Five year old boys are not built to sit still for hours in a class. They are made for wild adventure and exploration.  They are made to get dirty, climb trees, and swim in the creek.  This is where they can be themselves and this is where they can learn.

      "According to the US National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, the number of children who
       received a diagnosis of ADHD increased 250% from 1990 to 1998.  Kelleher and
       colleagues reported that pediatricians identified ADHD disorders in 9.2% of children in 1996,
       compared with 1.4% of children in 1979, an increase of 657%. Is there an epidemic or a
       heightened awareness of the problem, or is there a variety of forces at work pushing the
       diagnosis?" (Pomerantz, 2005)

My question is are we diagnosing boys with ADHD for being boys?   I don't know that we are better diagnosing but that we are expecting little boys to sit still and be quiet.  Personally I find it hard to sit still and shut up for more than a few minutes.  Unfortunately this idea is creeping into our opinions of boys.  I find myself occasionally asking myself if my boy has ADHD, I then need to remind myself what he is and how old he is.  He is a 2 year old boy, of course he can't sit still.  As parents and educators we need to give our boys room to breath, to run, to be boys.  I'm not saying that they should never have to sit still and pay attention, it is an important skill to learn, but they should not be punished or labeled because they have a hard time doing this.

Boys Need to Help
Another thing I have learned is that boys like to help, especially their dads.  Now this might come as a great inconvenience, because lets face it, there is nothing more annoying than having a 2 year old "help" you.  They are in the way, they mess things up, they break things, they get hurt, and they lose tools!  I have leaned that the inconvenience is worth it though.  Allowing your little guy to help you out does more for his confidence, self-esteem, and masculinity than you could ever imagine.  By helping dad, he feels like a man and that dad sees him as that.  I know that my boy's confidence is worth a little inconvenience.  Plus, if you really watch them, the things they do to "help" are really pretty cute.

Boys Need Love
Love is a word and a concept that many men are uncomfortable with.  I speak more about this in my article, What Happened to Male Friendships.  They don't know how to express it, especially to other men and boys.  So many young men go through life deprived of affection and intimacy with their dads.  It really is a tragedy that many boys never get a hug from their dads, never cuddle up to a movie with their dads, never wrestle with their dads.  These young men are being deprived of what could help them to have healthy male relationships later in life.  So dads I can;t express enough the importance of not just loving but showing love to your sons through affection and touch.

Boys Need Adventure
The last thing I would like to address that a boy needs is adventure!  A boy needs to feel that he is accomplishing something great.  Adventure is how men have proved this to for thousands of years.  An adventure says, I'm a man.  Now sometimes these adventures are difficult for parent's to allow their boys to do.  They might seem too dangerous, They might seem stupid but the boy needs to learn this for himself.  Lets face it, if you say no, he is just going to do it anyways.  Boys are going to get hurt, they are going to do stupid things.  The best thing we can do is help them in these adventures and make sure they are accomplishing them in a safe way.

In trying to accomplish these things in my son's life I found myself during my time off work building a rock climbing wall in his room.  This was an amazing experience for me and for him.  Not only does he have a wicked climbing wall in his bedroom but I was able to do something for him and he to some extent was able to "help" me complete the project.  I will never forget his exclamation of WHOA!!!!! when he walked in his room and saw the completed project.  That joy is something only a father can fully understand.  The joy that comes from seeing my boy so happy and to see him look up to me and be proud of himself for what he accomplished.

So dads go do something with your sons.  Make an adventure, build something, teach him a skill.  Most important just spend time with him.

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1 comment:

  1. First, I just want to say that building a climbing wall in your kids room is one of the coolest things I have ever heard. It's like James Bond plus Batman to the power of Chuck Norris.
    Second, I agree with how important it is that a boy helps his dad. Growing up my dad was a computer technician, and I remember how he showed me and my brother how to put together and take apart computers. I'm sure there were times that he wasn't so thrilled with the activity, like when I kept eating the computer nodes, but he was still there to show us what to do. I also remember him sitting us down and having us help him beat video games. We must've played Warcraft 1 and 2 until the mouse wore out! It's one of my favorite memories growing up.