Making good men out of good boys
If adolescent boys could tell their mothers one thing, what would it be? Chill out and stop asking so many questions, says Celia Lashlie.
Boys want their mothers to understand they know she’s there, that she cares and that they will talk to her if something big happens in their lives, but they also need some space from her on their journey to manhood.
That’s not to say our young men should be left to their own devices. Quite the contrary, says Ms Lashlie.
What they do need is a lot less mollycoddling from mum and significantly more time spent with the good men in their lives.
A former prison guard in male prisons, she is no stranger to the devastating consequences facing too many young men, for whom prison is a rite of passage, a place where they go to prove they are men.
The validity of being male appears to have been undermined. This is seen in male suicide rates, imprisonment rates and the road toll.
“A theme that emerged very quickly during my visits to the schools was that a great many mothers are over-involved in their sons’ lives, while many students said they lack a real relationship with their father.
“We witnessed the importance of mothers withdrawing and fathers becoming more involved at this critical stage in their sons’ development.”
She says mothers should never interfere in the relationship a boy has with his father, no matter what she thinks of him.
“Regardless of who their dad is, there is a tremendous urge in boys to want to know him, no matter how bad the news is. The mother has to take a deep breath, step back and let them have that relationship.
“If a boy doesn’t find out who dad is at age 15, warts and all, he will still be looking at 55, with a string of broken relationships behind him.”
Ms Lashlie says it’s time we cracked open the politically correct stuff and started to reinforce good male touching.
“I have seen some amazing examples of touch in boys’ schools. I saw one principal with a boy in a headlock, rubbing his head, saying ‘are we going to tuck our shirt in sometime soon?’ The boy was grinning from ear to ear. ”
“In today’s world we wrap our boys up too much. If they are unable to take a risk in healthy male pursuits, such as tree climbing, and rough-and-tumble, they may look for the risk elsewhere – drinking a bottle of bourbon, driving fast, or trying drugs. We need to give them more buzzes that are safe. Their world has become too sanitised.”
Women need to take responsibility for what they are creating.
“I don’t believe we should give up the fight for feminism. I have a huge belief in that. But there are problems we need to, and can, address. There is a hunger for information, particularly from women. That’s why I am putting my energies into finishing a book, based on the Good Man project, to help mothers deal with these issues.”