Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bringing Up Boys, by Dr. James Dobson

J & I picked up a copy of the book Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson at the library a couple of weeks ago and have recently completed reading through it. This has sparked some conversation as to how we want to raise our son(s) and why. Following are our thoughts on the book.

Dr. Dobson starts with the premise that girls are different than boys. He leans heavily towards specific gender roles. I have to agree that society has very craftily blurred the lines between men and women and what is expected of both. In the process of doing this, men have gotten the bum end of the stick. Dr. Dobson "harps" on this a great deal and the book, quite frankly, might as well be called "The De-Masculating of America." He points to various advertisements, greeting cards and internet "jokes" about men that are demoralizing to the sex as a whole. For example, he references Walter Williams column in which Williams mentions an American Greeting Card that said on the front: "Men are always whining about how we are suffocating them," with the inside punch line, "Personally, I think if you can hear them whining, you are not pressing hard enough on the pillow." Then Williams asks the question: "What do you think would happen if a company had an ad that joked about killing women?" Yes, what DO you think would happen? I think we can all agree that such a greeting card wouldn't be on the shelf for very long without suffering a massive public outcry, a public apology from the American Greeting Card company and an instant recall. Not to mention a boycott of AGC's! Business would suffer if such remarks were made against women. We see magnets with "men jokes", cards, tv commercials, radio ads, "Girl's Rule" t-shirts, etc. etc. The list is long and loud.

Frankly, I've always rather loathed the "women are better than men" cry from various females. As Christians, we should be making a firmer stand against such statements than we are. "Men jokes" shouldn't be tolerated, let alone spoken against our brothers, husbands and friends. If we require and/or demand that they respect us then we should be ready to respect them and their God-given position as well. We agree with Dobson that a firmer stance in support of men in general needs to be taken.

Secondly, Dobson emphasizes that boys are "just going to be boys." I think the thing that J & I disagree with that all boys must behave in "typical fashion" and run amuck, terrorizing the country-side, proudly wearing the label "boy." At the same time, I think its natural to assume that our sons will be interested in making noise, running around, digging ditches and generally being more visible and noisy than a girl would. (THANK THE LORD!) Also, all boys are different and will be interested in different things. Not all are going to prefer sports, not all will prefer music (of any sort or style), not all will be interested in climbing to the rooftops and not all will be content with both feet firmly planted to the ground. God made each individual GIRL different and therefore its rather safe to assume that every boy will be more or less different as well. I don't think we need to let boys do whatever they want under the header of "That's what boys do." Nor do I think its fair to silence them from sound or expression. They are going to be more antsy. They are going to zoom to and fro. And that's ok! If our son(s) are making noise in a happy manner, completely oblivious to anything other than the sound the spoon is making when it hits the pan, then I'm more than happy to let them bang on the pan. Once they steps into the area of doing it just to drive me crazy or to display anger, then I think the pans should be put away. But a boy is going to explore sights and sounds and experiences that a girl would likely never think of, or may cringe from.

I think there are too many homes in America, particularly in "Conservative Christian circles" where obedience and propriety are somehow set above "boyhood/manhood." Men are instructed from an early age to be "gentlemen" which, in and of itself is fine, but not when it excludes their ability to express themselves as men should. Men want to be the warriors, the protectors, the mirror of what is good and right to their families. We must train -- and allow -- them to be so. This could result in a little noise, a little hoopla, and some momentary bouts of discomfort for the female present. But in our discomfort, we are stretched and grown to understand things we never understood before.

Lastly, I think this book has corrected my outlook towards raising boys in that I always thought I'd be the most important person in the household. I laugh even as I type. Mommies Rule, right? Well, where does that attitude come from? At any rate, I viewed Mama as being the one with the most control over the boy(s) and the most direct influence. I think Dobson gives enough evidence in this book to suggest that, while the mother most certainly has an important role to play, where boys are concerned, she comes in second place to Dad. To state it plainly, I realized that yes, while I'm the one giving birth and feeding this little kid, his attention is going to shift. He's going to both want and need J more than he's going to need me. I don't know why this rearranged my thought process, but it did. It has. It is. While it's a mental adjustment, I'm ok with it because I trust J and know he's going to make a fabulous dad. Learning how to (already) mentally let go of what I somehow managed to think was my own possession, is a bit difficult. But in a pretty way, if that makes sense. J can teach ours sons to be men and I can be proud of them and know that my job is equally important but not vital (if that makes sense) in the same way J's is.

Obviously, thoughts are still rumbling about. Dobson has prompted a good bit of thought and discussion and if you have a boy and have read this, I'd be curious for your take on the book. On the whole, I'd have to say that I'd heartily recommend this book. Opinions will no doubt differ, but its good food for thought.

1 comment:

Annette W. said...

I have this book now too, but read the BUGirls first. It sounds like the books are similar, yet appropriately different...and I agree, it can be recommended even if we don't agree with every bit of it.

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