I’m always intrigued by the question, “Which is easier to raise – a boy or a girl?”
I should know. I have both a son and a daughter. But I don’t think there’s an across-the-board answer to that question.
At times, both my kids have pushed me to the limit and left me feeling defeated and clueless. So I’ve always welcomed any parenting advice – whether it applies to a son or daughter.
But my daughter is grown and my son isn’t, so my focus these days is on the male species. That’s why I was drawn to a book called Raising Boys: Why Boys are Different – and How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men.
That’s an appealing title, isn’t it? It describes what we’re trying to accomplish in raising our sons.
This 216-page paperback is full of good insights and sound advice. For instance, it says girls’ and boys’ brains are wired differently. At age 6 or 7, boys are generally up to a year behind girls in mental development.
“They are especially delayed in what is called ‘fine-motor development,’ which is the ability to use their fingers carefully and hold a pen or scissors,” the book says.
I didn’t know that.
The book urges fathers to teach their sons to understand and communicate their feelings. Stereotypically, girls are thought to be more emotional and sensitive, but that isn’t always the case.
Raising Boys breaks down a boy’s development into three stages: birth to 6 years old, 6 to 14, and 14 to adult. In the first, the boy “primarily belongs to his mother.” In the second, he “starts wanting to learn to be a man, and looks more and more to his father for interest and activity.” In the final stage, the boy needs other male figures to “complete the journey into being fully grown-up.”
I found this the most interesting part of the book. Single dads, like you and me, sometimes try to be Superman. We want to prove to ourselves and others that we can be great parents without the fulltime help of a mom.
But step back, guys. The best dad in the world can’t adequately prepare his son for manhood, this book says. In generations past, uncles and grandfathers often played a bigger role in a boy’s life. Now, families are often spread apart.
So today’s dads must make a special effort to find positive male role models for their son, the book says. Some possible places to look: church, organizations such as scouting, and your network of friends.
“In every society before ours … the mid-teen boys received a burst of intensive care and attention from the whole community,” Raising Boys says. “These cultures knew something we are still learning: that parents cannot raise teenage boys without getting the help of other adults who are trustworthy and willing to be involved long-term.”
Wow, that’s a message you don’t often hear. I’m going to take it to heart. Many times, I feel like I’m running as fast as I can to keep up with my fatherly responsibilities.
But I’d get a break, and my son would benefit, if I’d involve other dads more closely in his life. I don’t have all the answers to convey to my son – and neither do you.
To be a great dad, you need to do some homework. Learn from good parenting resources. But don’t try to be the only male authority in his life. Your son can learn lessons from others that he might never learn from you.