The Seven Secrets to Raising Healthy Boys
I THINK OF THIS BOOK AS sort of The Dangerous Book for Parents. The bestselling The Dangerous Book for Boys was full of fun information and projects that boys love but that too many of us have tried to deny them. Tree houses? Too dangerous. The boys might fall and break their arms. Insects and spiders? Yuck. And you want to teach them about hunting, how to make a bow and arrow, and great battles of history? Are you crazy? Actually, these are all things boys like, and there is no harm in them. As a pediatrician, I’ve seen plenty of boys with broken arms, spider bites, or who have scraped a knee playing soldier in the woods. But these are just part of growing up. Too many of us parents obsess about healthy diversions that active boys like to do, while not recognizing what is truly dangerous for our boys—like popular music, television, and video games that deaden their sensibilities, shut them off from real human interaction, impede the process of maturation, prevent them from burning up energy in useful outdoor exercise, divorce them from parents, and lower their expectations of life.
In this book I mean to cut through a lot of the misapprehensions, misinformation, and misleading assumptions that too many parents have. It’s a book of practical advice based on my clinical experience, relevant scientific data, and the sort of common sense that too many of us managed to misplace from reading too many politically correct “parenting” books. My concern is not with what is politically correct, but with what is true and what is best for our boys. I’ve seen, and I’ve learned, that when it comes to raising sons, what is politically correct and what is true are often at opposite ends of the spectrum. I think it’s time we put our sons first.
In this book you will learn how to raise healthy and happy boys—boys who are honest, courageous, humble, meek (in the sense of willingly withholding their power), and kind. There are secrets to raising such boys. Among these secrets are the big seven. I can mention them in passing here, but we’ll look at what they mean and how to use them in the chapters that follow.
■ Know how to encourage your son. One fault is babying and spoiling him. But another is being so harsh that you lose communication with your son and destroy his sense of selfworth. We’ll look at how to strike the right balance.
■ Understand what your boys need. Guess what? It’s not another computer game; it’s you. We’ll look at how to get the most of your time with your son.
■ Recognize that boys were made for the outdoors. Boys love being outside. A healthy boy needs that sense of adventure— and the reality check that the outdoors gives him.
■ Remember that boys need rules. Boys instinctively have a boy code. If you don’t set rules, however, they feel lost.
■ Acknowledge that virtue is not just for girls. Boys should, indeed, be boys—but boys who drink, take drugs, and have sex outside of marriage aren’t “normal” teenagers, they have been abnormally socialized by our unfortunately toxic culture. Today, my practice as a pediatrician has to deal with an epidemic of serious, even life-threatening, problems—physical and psychological—that were of comparatively minor concern only forty years ago. A healthy boy strives after virtues like integrity and self-control. In fact, it is virtues like these that make a boy’s transition to manhood possible.
They are necessary virtues, and he needs your help to acquire them. I’ll show you how.
■ Learn how to teach your son about the big questions in life. Many parents shy away from this, either because they are uncomfortable with these questions themselves, or want to dismiss them as unimportant or even pernicious, or because they don’t want to “impose” their views on their children. But whatever one’s personal view, your son wants to know— and needs to know—why he’s here, what his purpose in life is, why he is important. Boys who don’t have a wellgrounded understanding on these big questions are the most vulnerable to being led astray into self-destructive behaviors.
■ Remember, always, that the most important person in your son’s life is you.
Being a parent can often seem a daunting task. But I’m here to tell you that almost every parent has what it takes to raise healthy sons. You have the intuition, the heart, and, yes, the responsibility to change the life of your son for the better. This book is a step toward showing you how.
Excerpted from Boys Should Be Boys by Meg Meeker, M.D.. Copyright © 2009 by Meg Meeker, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.