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December 21 , 2002
Column #1,112

"Bringing Up Boys" - A Perfect Christmas Gift

     A perfect Christmas gift for a parent of a son is "Bringing Up Boys," a book by Dr. James Dobson. He asserts that boys "are in serious trouble today." Compared to girls, sons are "six times more likely to have learning disabilities...four times more likely to be emotionally disturbed, five times more likely to kill themselves." Nearly 2 million fewer boys than girls attend college.

     What explains the cauldron of emotions that simmers in many boys? Dobson, author of 21 books and founder of Focus on the Family, writes boys "are experiencing a crisis of confidence that reaches deep within the soul. Many of them are growing up believing they are unloved by their parents and are hated or disrespected by their peers. This results in a form of self-loathing that often serves as a prelude to violence, promiscuity and suicide."

     As the father of three sons now in their thirties, I am struck by how much more dangerous the world is today. Through my college years, I did not have one friend of divorced parents. Now more than half of boys will live with single parents either due to divorce or non-marriage. The culture used to protect children from danger. Today unsolicited pornography invades computer screens at home and is available in libraries. Music, TV, film and computer games teach that violence and predatory sex is manly.

     Dr. Dobson offers such inspiring answers that "Bringing Up Boys" has already sold a million copies since it was published a year ago. Examples:

  1. Reject the feminist notion "to raise sons more like their daughters," as Gloria Steinem advised. Testosterone makes males competitive and assertive, driving their interest in business, sports, politics, math. By contrast, women are nurturers, more interested in relationships than in winning, and are more stable. Encourage boys to take risks, to see how their aggressive nature can be channeled to prepare them as providers and protectors of their future family.
  2. Countless fathers are "too busy, too selfish and too distracted to care for the little boys who reached for them." Few realize boys are particularly vulnerable from ages 3-5, when they pull away from mom to form a masculine identity. If dads are absent "boys have only a vague notion of what it means to be male." This is a great age for roughhousing. When Jim Dobson was five, his dad enticed him to kick his shins, which he'd block with the bottom of his foot. Then he'd tap Jim's shin with his toe. His mother demanded that they stop, with no clue why Jim loved this game. "It was a guy thing."
  3. Adolescent boys need to see their father as a man of "strength and integrity." When I was in high school, my dad invested family savings in a new business as a car dealer with a new auto Ford unveiled. Unfortunately it was the Edsel, which bombed. Worse, my father's business partner embezzled thousands, leaving a mountain of debt. Dad could only give me $100 to go to Duke. But he refused to declare bankruptcy and paid back all of that debt over years.
  4. Teach sons the Godly wisdom of Scripture. Like what? Dobson urged reading the first five chapters of Proverbs, which warn about the adulteress whose "house leads down to death." and Matthew 15:19: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." Afterwards, "stop and talk about righteous living."
  5. What if a mother must bring up a boy alone? She is often shocked by his "sheer physicality" and feels clueless. "One obvious suggestion is to help boys release their excess energy by getting them involved in activities where fighting, laughing, running tumbling and yelling are acceptable. Soccer, karate, Little League and football are a few possibilities." Boys often ignore what moms say. Dobson urges moms to reach out physically and touch their boys if they want to get their attention. 
  6. Should a divorced mother remarry to give her son a role model? It depends on the man. "Unfortunately, the research confirms that remarriage of a parent often makes things worse for boys. Stepfathers and children compete for the attention of the mother. Also preschool children in stepfamilies are 40 times as likely as children in intact families to suffer physical or sexual abuse. 

     How can immature, rambunctious boys be transformed into honest, caring men? With the unbeatable combination of "confident leadership and discipline at home tempered with love and compassion."

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