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July 10, 2014 / BTM

Insight for Moms of Boys

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I recently received a great resource from Dr. James Dobson’s new ministry Family Talk aimed at helping moms to understand and raise their sons.

Perhaps you are like me and want to connect with your boys, but have a hard time when the play is always centered around soldiers and knights ‘getting the bad guys’. I mean, do we really have to blow up everyone all the time? Do we need to catch the bad guys and put them in jail every time we play?

When I’ve asked my sons “Why do you like fighting so much?” the answer I always get is “Because it’s fun. It’s what boys do.”

Does it jar your motherly instincts a bit, like it jars mine? Does it make you wonder if this is really the right kind of play for your sons?

Dr. James Dobson has been one of my primary go-to resources to try to understand why boys behave the way they do, how to raise them into Godly leaders, and if the trend in society to get boys away from more aggressive play is really in their best interest.

In this new resource, Dobson asks:

“What makes young males act as they do?” “What inner force compels them to teeter on  the edge of disaster?” and “What is it about the masculine temperament that drives boys to  tempt the laws of gravity and ignore the gentle voice of common sense—the one that says, ‘Don’t do it, Son’?”

Obviously, not all boys react the same way and not all boys move through life like a hurricane. But as generalizations go, they are more physically aggressive, and more interested in physically aggressive activities, than girls.

Is boy’s aggressive behaviour a product of our culture as so many claim? One can’t really come to this conclusion when boys around the globe are, as a generalization, more aggressive then girls.  Consider Plato’ assessment of boy’s behaviour (quoted over 2,300 years ago):

“Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable.”

What makes them so?

First off, testosterone. Yes, boys can blame their chemistry too. Testosterone actually physically alters the brain with life-long affects. One of those affects is reducing the number of electrical transmissions that flow from one side of the brain to the other. As a result:

[…] a man will have to think longer about what he believes — especially about something with an emotional component.

Seems to me that this will affect a lot: faith, marriage, friendships, family, etc.

Another chemical affects how boys behave and perceive reality: serotonin.

Serotonin’s purpose is to pacify or soothe the emotions and to help an individual control his or her impulsive behavior. It also facilitates good judgment.

Ah ha. So that’s what’s going on. Since serotonin is higher in females than in males, it explains why women especially can’t understand why their boys (or men?) do the things they do.

Finally, throw in something called amygdala. Amygdala orders our response to physical and emotional threats. But testosterone causes that response to be heightened.

These three items are the essence of masculinity. While they may have downsides, they also give boys and men the ability to succeed in unique fields and make unique contributions.

Dobson discourages mothers from trying to untrain or feminize their sons masculinity. Rather, he stresses the importance of helping your boys to keep open and frequent communication with you about what is going on in their lives, what they are feeling, and how they are reacting to stressors and challenges.

Does that mean that I have to play the shoot-’em-up games all the time with my sons? No, partly because I don’t play them nearly as well as dad does. I do play them from time to time, but I’ve also found ways to connect with my boys’ masculinity in areas where I can make a better contribution. But I am allowing them to be uniquely boys in those activities.

I encourage you to read Dobson’s whole article. There are a number of video links with specific advice and encouragement for moms of boys. And remember to ask your husband’s advice of your son’s behaviour, rather than just your girlfriend’s. He will understand it and be able to advocate it much better than they will, and together you’ll come up with a much better action plan for helping your sons to navigate life.

What do you think?

How do you connect with your sons as a mom?

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