Raising boys: why men are so important
In a world where many boys are growing up in fatherless households, the authors of a new parenting book emphasise the importance of good male role models. They talk to Nicola Russell about their parenting philosophy and why they wrote specifically about r
IF THERE IS ONE THING Kiwi men could have had more of as boys, it’s praise from their parents, says Richard Aston, CEO of Big Buddy, which matches fatherless boys with male mentors. During in-depth interviews with potential mentors over his 13 years as CEO, he heard the same issues from childhood arising again and again – a raft of common woes he believed could easily be avoided in the next generation.
“The interviews involve quite deep conversations, and huge confessions were coming out that gave me a really good insight,” says Richard. “The big one was the lack of praise that most men got as kids and how it affected them as adults – how they are always looking for praise in all the wrong places, or filling themselves up with bullshit just to feel good about themselves.
“I saw so many men who could have had a better childhood, had their parents had some knowledge.”
To help give parents that knowledge, Richard joined forces with his wife, Ruth Kerr – Big Buddy’s media co-ordinator, a journalist for more than 30 years, and co-parent of their blended family of four children, Sia, Djan, Lara and Tessa – to write Our Boys.
It’s a book on raising boys in today’s world, and combines Richard’s experience at Big Buddy (which has seen him match 630 boys with mentors) with Ruth’s investigative skills, which she used to research the latest findings on boys and men. They have also called on their own experience parenting Richard’s now adult son, Djan.
Ruth was motivated by wanting to help combat New Zealand’s high rate of mental illness, suicide and accidents for boys. “The stats for boys and men are not optimal, and I would like it if those statistics were different, that they suicided less, that they had more emotional intelligence.”
The book stands out from other parenting books for its accessibility – including warts-and-all admissions by the couple of their own parenting