Boys face a challenge girls don’t. It is in facing that challenge that boys become men.
The young girl has her model for womanhood with her from day one: mom. She will develop over time to resemble her. A girl becomes a woman by imitating the main role model in her life.
As with a girl, a boy is first nurtured by his mother, but as he grows up he becomes ever more unlike her physically and emotionally. He must differentiate from her to become a man. That process itself requires male aggression. Boys must separate, destroy, and take things apart. As a boy matures he knows he must “man-up.” In some ways, he must reject his boyish relationship with his mother to become his own man. Boys must separate from women and girls or they won’t become men. It is why young boys look at girls and say YUCK!
Boys don’t want to play house. A boy wants to become a man among men, and playing house with girls doesn’t lead to manhood.
When asked what’s wrong with boys today most people will say, “They are irresponsible!” But why is this so? Why are boys taking so long to become men?
One reason is social change. It is no longer necessary for a young man to be responsible at thirteen, twenty, or even thirty. If it isn’t necessary, why bother? Nothing (or no one) depends on him, so he stays home and plays video games (but boys games—games of war and competition because he still wants to be a man.)
A boy growing up before 1950 went to school during the day, but every night and all summer there were jobs to do. Jobs that gave him real responsibility and impact. He might feed the chickens (that fed the family) or he milked the cows (milk they drank) or maybe he was the paperboy. He carried the news to everyone in the neighborhood. He had responsibility and it mattered. Most boys don’t today. But strategic grandpas can help boys become men by giving them real responsibility and welcoming them into the world of men.
If you do, tell us what you did to help your grandson become a man.
Mike Shaughnessy is the Executive Director of Grandly: The Strategic Grandparents Club
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