484026_10201065083648196_2083570351_nAs I was preparing to write this post tonight I was also getting the kids to bed when I was confronted by the frightening image you see posted here.

This is a boy. A boy wants to be a force to reckon with and if that means wearing a Sith Lord mask, a Hulk fist while holding a shield from Game of Thrones (okay I really don’t know where it’s from) then that is what he will do.

Unlike my wife, I do have a bit of expertise in bringing up boys as I are one. I understand that boys want to test themselves physically against other boys and their father. I understand that if you put a group of boys in a field and give them a ball they will quickly come up with some rules and a game will ensue – they will play for hours. I also understand that no matter how hard you try to keep toy weapons out of a boys hands they will always find a way to create them themselves, even if its just using their hands. The fact is, boys are different than girls, and that’s okay.

In reading Bringing up Boys by James Dobson, I found myself disagreeing with many of his positions – after all, this guy founded Focus on the Family so you should expect some rather strong points of view. But, since this blog is about what I have learned and not a book review let me tell you what I do agree with.

  • Dobson says that there is no greater privilege in living than bringing a tiny new human being into the world and then trying to raise him or her properly during the next 18 years (Dobson 1).
  • Raising kids will be the hardest job you will ever do – if it’s not, you’re not doing it right. It  requires all of your intelligence, wisdom, determination (and I’ll add patience) that you can muster on a daily basis; if your family includes one or more boys your greatest challenge will just be to keep them alive through adolescence (Dobson 1).
  • One way to describe boys is a term we use in aviation, “all thrust no vector.” Boys are constantly in motion. They are running around the house, climbing anything they can, making a commotion (Dobson 2), jumping off whatever they just climbed up and generally trying to invent new ways to injure or kill themselves.

Whenever I see my boys doing something dangerous and I’m rolling my eyes (or closing them so as to avoid giving the police too much information after the fact) I am reminded of the time when I jumped off the roof of my own house. I still can’t believe I pulled it off without breaking anything (there is an advantage to mastering the art of the tuck and roll). When I think about my kids doing that now, all I see are images of compound fractures and ER bills.

In fact, one of the scariest aspects of raising boys is their tendency to risk their own life for no good reason (Dobson 4). They will throw rocks, start fires, figure out how to blow something up using chemicals found around the home, they will get pleasure in irritating others, pushing mom and dad’s buttons, and as they get older they are introduced to new tools of destruction such as skateboards, motorcycles and BMX bikes (Dobson 4).

Girls tend to think hard about whether or not they could get hurt whereas boys will take a chance if they think the juice is worth the squeeze (in other words if they think the danger is worth the risk). Impressing their friends and eventually impressing girls are both considered “worth the risk.”

If you really want to understand how a boy thinks remember this line from the Keanu Reeves cult classic “The Replacements.”

Keanu Reeves as Shane Falco: Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory… lasts forever.

Dobson spends a great deal of time in his book explaining the differences between boys and girls and criticizing the feminist movement of the 1970s. I am not going to get into those topics. I have seen boys that are more feminine in nature and girls that are more masculine. I’ve seen girls that are incredibly beautiful and feminine, until they are kicking your ass in Krav Maga (Shannon!) so there’s some middle ground here. If it helps when you are reading this blog substitute the term masculine when you see the word boy, and feminine when you see the word girl. Plus, one thing we’ve learned from stereotypes is that they are just that – stereotypes – they are not representative of reality. It is also not my job to pry into your personal belief structure. I only desire to give you what I’ve learned both from personal experience (thus far) and from this book about bringing up boys.

I do believe there are definite differences between boys (the masculine energy) and girls (the feminine energy). I also think that boys can be taught to be more sensitive and girls can be taught to be a little bit more rugged when necessary. There seems to be some fundamental differences though – just watch kids when they play. Girls tend to play house using toy furniture and dolls, changing baby’s diapers, cooking, cleaning, etc.,  whereas boys will also play house but will usually first establish a defensive perimeter, then send out patrols to look for bad guys and figure out a way to catapult the baby carriage off the roof (Dobson 16).

It is our job as parents, particularly fathers, to teach them that it is not right to catapult a baby carriage off a roof and when setting up a good defensive perimeter you must include interlocking fields of fire.

But why are boys so aggressive? The answer is fairly simple: testosterone. Boys have more testosterone on average than girls. Put 2 men in a room together and the one with the more testosterone will tend to dominate the interaction (Dobson 21). I used to see this all the time when I played hockey in the beer leagues. Even at 34 years old (at the time), myself and other men would watch for a few moments during the open skate time to judge the skill levels of the others on the ice. If we felt we could compete we jumped on the ice. If we did not, we looked for another sheet of ice or we headed for the bar (after all it was a beer league).

Testosterone can account for a boys early desire to be the strongest, bravest, toughest Jedi, Hulk handed-gladiator on the planet. It is just the way boys are made and once parents can accept that, they can begin to understand what they need to do, to bring up boys.

Dobson, James C. Bringing up Boys. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001. Print.

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