Following on from my previous post on aggression, I would like this time to highlight a strategy that I think may resolve a common parental dilemma. Sometimes mothers with boys wonder: “How is it possible to raise a strong boy without allowing any aggression and/or violence in his life without risking that he could appear, at the same time, weak or too soft, like a wimp with no self- assertiveness?”
“When other boys around him behave wild and display aggressive behaviour, how could my son resist the peer pressure of becoming one of them?” asked one of my blog followers…and another added: “How do I make sure that he doesn’t get hurt or emotionally traumatised if he becomes a victim of aggression and/or violence?”
Like most problems in life there is no magic remedy that fixes all, but I will attempt to give a general answer to these questions in the hope that any mother with boys will filter it and apply it in the circumstances her own son faces.
My view is that the best we could do is to prepare our sons to face reality and the tough world out there. Here is how:
- It is our job to instill the right amount of courage, self-worth, dignity, self-respect and inner balance to our sons in order to enable them to separate occasions and respond accordingly to the situation at hand. We have to explain to them that we cannot change the other boys or make aggression and violence disappear all -together; unfortunately they are facts of life and we cannot shield our sons away from them always. If we keep protecting them too much, we then run the risk that they end up too soft and sensitive and will weaken at the knees every time someone shouts at them, scares them, threatens them or tries to grab them. Then they become victims of fear that we have instilled in them.
- We need to switch on the fearlessness button in them!…and this starts by eliminating our own fears and insecurities. Teach them by example. Be brave! Take on a challenge and explain to your sons that life does not come easy, but we carry on regardless and we survive because we are well prepared for all occasions. Support them and encourage them to believe in themselves that they can achieve everything and face anyone without fear. Motivate them through positive discussions and movies of brave heroes and men of grateness.
- Teach them through stories and examples how to assess the level of danger involved in each interaction they have with their peers and society at large. Give them the confidence to make their own decision on how to respond accordingly to the level of danger involved and take responsibility in protecting and defending themselves. In other words, we need to explain to our sons that, there are several types of people who behave in various ways and each way has its own characteristics that our sons need to identify quickly for themselves and choose to either walk away from the situation before it hurts them or deal with it through intelligent communication. For example, if our sons already know that there is a ‘wild’ group of kids at school and they don’t like interacting with them, our sons can make the choice to walk away and not have anything to do with them, not out of fear, but out of the confidence of understanding that this ‘wild’ behaviour does not bring any good outcome to anyone involved. If on the other hand, our sons cannot walk away or they choose to interact with these ‘wild’ kids because somehow they feel pressurized, they will have to be prepared for more bodily contact, rougher play and potentially foul language. How?
- Keep them fit and active through sport and activities that enhance their male ego, their survival instincts, self-preservation abilities and self-confidence. For instance a self-defence course, a martial arts class, boys scouts group, team sports… or just simply let them ‘throw themselves’ in nature and ‘run free and wild’ without plan, without an adult telling them how to play and what to play. Let their imagination take over and explore the ‘wilderness of just being a boy’. You can just observe them in the process of ‘finding themselves’ and growing into who they instinctively choose to be, and then later on discuss with them their findings.
- There is a lot you can ‘fine – tune’ in their behaviour relating to and responding to aggression, if only you observed closely and took the time to actively engage in short discussions and activities with your sons. Switching on the ‘auto pilot’ button for our sons’ growing up process is a style of parenting I encounter quite often and I am sorry to say this, but it doesn’t work! I would encourage all mothers with boys to be truly involved into the process of raising a man with all that this entails. You can’t expect to create a confident well-balanced young man out of a boy that you let watch morning gossip chat-shows on the TV while you are on the phone to your girlfriends! Let him climb a tree and you do it with him; it keeps you fit too! You can’t expect your son to not be inspired or impressed by violence when you allow him to play for hours blood-thirsty computer games! Take him out for a bike ride and you cycle next to him like a buddy! You can’t encourage him to resolve conflict with intelligent communication if you don’t bring him in contact with other people, where he could observe the behaviours of others and learn how to use his communication skills. It is truly sad to watch the amount of boys that sit at home alone or just play with their siblings at home just because their mother can’t be bothered to go out with them or because the mother has no friends or no interest in making any new friends who could be potentially inspirational to her son. Go out of your comfort zone! Travel with your son and introduce him to new people, places and cultures – it really opens up the mind! Go for a walk in the forest, go for a run or a swim, show him nature, animals and the great outdoors, take up a sport you can do together where he can meet other people. The more he interacts with others in various environments and circumstances and the more he has your truly engaged and active attention, the more he will build up the confidence to adapt in all situations at hand and won’t be using or idolising aggression as a means of communication any more.
- Take action now! If any of my above suggestions do make sense to you, I would encourage you to start now and do it yourself! It is your job as a mother to do the above and not delegate it to the teachers, the grandparents, the nannies, educators, tutors or helpers of any kind. Regardless of whether he is the aggressor or the victim, it is your attention that your son craves and not anyone else’s. Please, bear that in mind!!
Good luck with it all,
Photo credit: Docendo discimus “Teach in order to learn”