When males are NEEDED MOST

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - PARENTING -

When a boy is about six or seven, it is Dad’s (or an­other man in the boy’s life) time to shine.

“At this age, boys are on a pretty vis­ceral, pri­mal level, look­ing at how men op­er­ate in the world and how that is dif­fer­ent from women. How do they walk? How do they talk? How do they drive the car? Ev­ery lit­tle de­tail is no­ticed, and the young boy needs to ab­sorb that.

“He needs that male ally now, be­cause most men have gone through that stuff them­selves, and they are open to risk,” says Richard. “The clas­sic story I tell is of the lit­tle six-year-old who is climb­ing the po­hutukawa tree in the back gar­den and Mum is say­ing, ‘Be care­ful,’ and Dad is say­ing, ‘Grab that branch with your left hand, that branch above you is too thin, step to the right.’ He’s teach­ing prac­ti­cal ways of man­ag­ing the risk.”

“And Mum is think­ing, ‘Just get out of the tree!’” adds Ruth.

The next stage of de­vel­op­ment when a strong male role model be­comes piv­otal to boys’ de­vel­op­ment is the age of 14.

“Here it’s about the big ques­tion: ‘Who am I?’” says Richard. “And the first an­swer is, ‘I am a man,’ and you can’t ask your mum about that. He is try­ing to ab­sorb by os­mo­sis what male­ness is, and it is a big job so Mum needs to back off be­cause it takes all his at­ten­tion.”

But that boy still needs his mum. “Mum still very much needs to be along­side him,” says Ruth. “But be along­side him rather than hov­er­ing above him!”

“He is start­ing to grow into an adult,” says Richard. “A lot of cul­tures have ini­ti­a­tion rites at that point, when the boy is taken away to join men and then he’ll come back slightly dif­fer­ent. Mum’s job is to go, ‘Okay, he is more of a man and I will have a slightly dif­fer­ent re­la­tion­ship with him.’”

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