Sunday, December 13, 2009

wild things part 3

The Heart of a Boy
This final section of the book is divided up into 4 chapters: Nurturing a Boy’s Heart, A Boy and his Mother, A Boy and his Father, and Rituals, Ceremonies, and Rites of Passage. The book then ends with a few pages on hot-button topics such as: sex, drugs, porno, ADD, etc..
Near the beginning of this section, they say,
“No guy makes it past seventeen or eighteen without receiving his fair share of dings to his manhood – and that’s if he’s lucky. By the time most guys get their driver’s license, they have already experienced enough emotional and spiritual fender benders that their hearts are dented for years to come…When a guy’s heart has been wounded, the results are significant: Self-protection, distrust of others, suspicion of God, and fervent reliance on the four horsemen of self-sufficiency: training, talent, intellect, and willpower.”
But, they also paint a picture of how hard it can be to relate to a boy – esp. at certain stages. For example, boys can go through a stage of being inarticulate, hardheaded, annoyed, defensive. But, we as parents need to try to break the emotional code and show unconditional love. They suggest different ways to see him for who he is, “name” him (or use positive/loving nicknames to reinforce to him the positive aspects of his identity), and patiently draw him out – being willing to pick your battles when it comes to making a big emotional push. Something big and overwhelming can’t happen all the time, otherwise it will become commonplace and ignorable.
Tips for this section include:
1. Read about him
2. Meet him on his turf.
3. Practice curiosity. Have a jar of questions that you read and ask at the dinner table or at a special brunch.
4. Tell tales about yourself sometimes, esp. to show an example of emotions.
5. Catch him off-guard. Surprise him with a visit to his room and an encouragement.
6. Require him to use his words. Don’t let him off the hook with the whole, “boys will be boys” line of thinking.
7. Show physical affection.
8. Teach him to manage his emotions. Have him think through different options (for example, I could go shoot some hoops if I’m feeling mad, then when I’m not as angry I could talk to my parents or friends or write in a journal)

A Boy and his Mother
“Remember what we said earlier about a mom being the safest place on earth for a boy? Unfortunately, this safety has a downside. It’s called the ‘rubber band phenomenon’. Because a boy feels so safe with mom, he instinctively believes she will never abandon him – no matter what he says or does. Therefore, he starts to believe he can push against his mom emotionally and stretch her out as far as he wants, because she’ll always bounce right back to being that same place of safety. He will be his most tender and his most punishing with her. (As we said before, a mom gets her son’s best and worst).”
James and Thomas outline the 3 biggest mistakes for a mother to make as the following:
1. Being a man-hater. Displaying negative views of masculinity either in how she treats her spouse, comments, or how she reacts to her son. They suggest doing some deep work of counseling and prayer if this deep heart issue is to be resolved for the sake of a son.
2. Being a mother hen. While this is appropriate at a young age, carrying on this over-protective and controlling style into the older ages is really not appropriate.
3. Being too bonded. The extreme of this mistake would be emotional incest. But even the more innocent actions like not respecting privacy, role-reversal (going to a son with personal problems and asking for advice), not approving of any girlfriends, etc. are also damaging. Sons need to become independent in order for individuation to occur.
Tips for moms:
1. Soak it up while he’s young – take a lot of pictures and videos.
2. Don’t panic. Wear a rubber band on your wrist if you need reminding that this is just the rubber band phase.
3. Keep your son’s confidence and honor his privacy.
4. Kidnap him.
5. Be unpredictable.
6. Remember, it’s not about you.
7. Check your heart for negative masculine stereotypes/ bitterness.
8. Stay available to him.
9. Set aside a weekend a year for a mother/son getaway.
10. Respect him.

A Boy and his Father
The authors quote a pretty sad and harsh article from Psychology Today: “For a couple hundred years now, each generation of fathers has passed on less and less to his sons – not just less power, but less wisdom. And less love. We finally reached a point where many fathers were largely irrelevant in the lives of their sons.” After giving a brief history of fatherhood, they continue with some suggestions on how to pass something on as a father. They start with suggesting that a father spend time thinking about the answer to the question: “Where did I learn what it means to be a man?” They believe that thinking through the cultural ideas of “manhood” and their probable own father’s neglect of them, as well as which positive role models they’ve had will be helpful in their journey toward being a powerful father.
They also give some of the following suggestions and tips:
1. Don’t just talk. Do things together.
2. Because all boys struggle with the question, “Do I have what it takes?” – Become a champion and a fan of your son in genuine ways.
3. Impart wisdom like Yoda – especially spiritual wisdom. Boys cannot see Christianity as just a feminine thing.
4. Pass on a legacy.
5. Don’t go it alone – find a community of men to chill with you and your son.
6. Reach out often. This may feel uncomfortable, but it is what a son needs.
7. Have a ritual – especially if it involves something a mother wouldn’t love i.e. pocketknife, shooting range, rock-climbing, camping, surprise taking him out of school, etc..
8. Have some of your son’s friends over for a grill out. Boys like to learn about masculinity in a pack.

Rituals, Ceremonies, and Rites of Passage
In this section, the authors discuss doing a few special events with sons to teach them a deep lesson. I can’t really divulge any information about this – it’s supposed to be creative and mysterious…


  1. jess...i love this. it makes me cry...i am off to get the book asap...perhaps it will allow me to see things in a different light...and be a better boy mama. thanks for your insight. xo.

  2. i'm so glad it was helpful to someone! i felt the same way about reading it. luv you evie ---- xxxxooooo