Bringing up boys can be a challenging experience, but internationally acclaimed psychologist and author Steve Biddulph is on hand to help, Julie Houghton writes.
Twenty-five years ago Steve Biddulph wrote Raising Boys, which made its way into two million homes across the world. But the world has changed since then so Biddulph decided an updated version of Raising Boys was needed.
It’s well known that boys bond with their mothers until they are about six, after which they want to be like their father and win his approval. By 14, with testosterone ramping up, boys look beyond the family to other adults. Biddulph now adds that new research has shown that baby boys in utero and until 12 months of age are prone to anxiety that can harm their brain growth.
“Their brains grow more slowly than girls and are less hardy at this age, which may be one of the reasons behind the problems we have with violence, crime and addiction in men, which are all much higher than in women,” Biddulph tells Warcry.
Biddulph says that, in neurological terms, boys don’t mature until their mid-20s, and generally lag about two years behind girls.
But all is not doom and gloom, because with the right role models boys can grow into wonderful individuals. Biddulph says that all humans learn from role modelling because attitudes and values are embodied in people—we have to see them in action to take them into our own lives.
“We learn from people who we sense like us, and value and see the good in us. This is why the work of The Salvation Army is so effective—because it’s personal,” Biddulph says.
Since he wrote the original Raising Boys, Biddulph says that exposure to pornography has become a major issue, and it miseducates boys about how love works. He says pornography is impersonal, often abusive, and doesn’t include any real communication between partners.
“The problems are threefold—the miseducation, the addictive nature of porn which damages the ability to relate to real girls, and the abusive nature which creates a kind of soul death and a loss of respect for women, and for love itself.”
So how do we address this extremely significant problem of the 21st century?
Biddulph says that adults have to become empowered to talk without embarrassment with their boys, which comes from having good information and not being judgmental.
“Talking honestly and openly, that sex is great and it needs care, and telling the ways porn differs from real lovemaking. And not having internet-connected devices in bedrooms so that addiction can’t develop,” he explains.
Biddulph regards this issue as so important he has devoted a whole chapter in Raising Boys in the 21st Century with information on how to teach the difference to our kids.
However, alongside this there is a positive side to being a male in the 21st century.
“We don’t put boys in boxes any more. There are many different ways to be a boy. And boys can show their feelings, and be real, vulnerable and turn into wonderful men.”
For details of Raising Boys in the 21st Century go to www.stevebiddulph.com