What are the keys to understanding our sons? What do they really need from us through each of the stages? During our regular meeting this week, we tackled answering these questions and also looked at the fun, challenging and critical role we play in Raising Boys.
“Wild Things, The Art of Nurturing Boys” by Stephen James and David Thomas is in invaluable resource and they name the stages of boy development after the key characteristic of the stage: Explorer (ages 2-4), Lover (ages 5-8), Individual (ages 9-12), Wanderer (ages 13-18) and Warrior (ages 18-22). With each stage come new areas of development physically, emotionally and spiritually, and each stage demands a shift and understanding from us moms on how we can really connect with our son’s.
At our Raising Boys meeting, we had the opportunity to hear and discuss the first 3 stages, but most of us hold our breath, do a little bit of hand wringing and if our boys are still young enough, deny that they will ever be ages 13-22! But, one of the most beautiful and bittersweet truths of God’s plan for each of us is that there will be change, maturing and growth. So let’s keep the conversation going and unpack the answers to what are the keys to understanding our sons and what do they really need from us in the Wanderer and Warrior stage. To hear what the Mentor Mom Panel had to say about this stage please watch below!
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Here is some more great info about those big boys of ours:
The Wanderer ages 13-17
Also known as the “pray often, have chocolate on hand and keep your friends close to laugh” stage, the Wanderer stage is marked by the characteristics of physiological chaos, arrogance, individuation, and argumentativeness.
• Physiological chaos – huge spikes of testosterone along with other natural chemicals are shifting your boy to a man in full force now. Educate yourself on the changes and how to talk to your son about all of it.
• Arrogance – they appear confident, cocky and full of themselves but deep down, they are often confused, fearful and insecure.
• Individuation – forming his own distinct sense of self, apart from his parents – peers have become the primary influence. Authors James and Thomas say that you’ve been doing everything you can to build up to this stage (setting boundaries, routine and structure, relationship builders).
• Argumentativeness – arguing is one way to separate himself as distinct from his parents; it’s part of his developmental agenda but it’s important to coach him on the delivery, encouraging the same ideas to be expressed without the attitude
What Do They Need From Us and How to Give It:
• Mentor Him – talk with him about dating and romantic relationships, make regular dates with him to do things he enjoys and again, lean on others within your circle to help mentor him, the more positive role models of men around him the better so no matter the stage you are in, start developing them as early as you can
• Boundaries – James and Thomas encourage steady, consistent, non-emotional responses along with 1) significant responsibilities at home, 2) the expectation that he will call home to tell his parents where he is and where he is going, 3) the requirement that he speak respectfully and 4) a set curfew that is enforced.
• Outlets – continue to provide opportunities to healthy outlets; while competitive sports are great, physical outlets that don’t involve competition can be very helpful too (like cycling, learning martial arts, doing construction or playing in a band.
• Understanding – be interested in the things he loves, respect what interests him and listen; don’t panic if he resists spiritually, struggling in this way can actually be a means of deepening his faith, partner with another family in keeping them serving and participating (they are more likely to want to do this if a friend is built in).
Remember how you are the safe place? “This can become difficult at the Wanderer stage because he may believe that he can push against his mom emotionally and stretch her as far as he wants, because she will always bounce right back to that same place of safety. He will be his most tender and most punishing with her. “He will separate out – begin to pull away, share less, become more argumentative so keep that chocolate handy:
- Tip 1 – “don’t take it personally – it’s a universal journey and vital to his growth”
- Tip 2 – “To the degree that kids can predict you, they’ll dismiss you” so it’s time for some creativity; meet him with humor as much as possible
- Tip 3 – remember, it’s not about you. “You are preparing your son for his relationship with his wife and so that his wife will hopefully be the kind of woman with whom you will want to spend your time with!”
The Warrior (ages 18-22)
Not all boys are ready for this stage when they get there – birth order, temperament, transitions or traumas, developmental lags or the parents response to launching out are all factors, while others are super ready to take it all on. Warriors are finishing, reflective, searching, romantic and ambivalent. He’s asking questions like what does it mean for me to be a man, what do I want to do with my life, what is life all about, and is asking more than ever the critical question, do I have what it takes?
What He Needs:
- A Training Ground – a place to really learn about the world, personal development experiences such as college, trade or art school, service organizations such as AmeriCorps, he needs a context to train and test himself
- Freedom – to put it bluntly James and Thomas say that if they don’t have it by now, this is not the stage where it can be made up-they are going to have to learn it on their own; reduce physical, emotional, and financial support while maintaining your belief in him
- Blessing – give him prayers, love, affirmation and reassurance
- Patience – this can be a season plagued with uncertainty and change, but being patient doesn’t mean there aren’t healthy boundaries, like if they are living at home, they pay rent and are working full time or going to school and working part-time. Some birds need some nudging! Keep the lines of communication open and remember, less advice and more questions to get them to the same place.
- Transitional Parents – teachers, coaches, professors and mentors opinions and thoughts may take precedence for a while so just roll with it when all they can talk about is what Coach said
• Our role is to be a safe harbor again, both physically and emotionally. “Give them a place to process and talk about what the world is like, where they are loved and received no matter what.”
• Do a lot of listening and wait for your input to be invited
• Listen to your own heart and be attentive to the difficulty you may have in letting your son go
Content taken from “Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys” by Stephen James and David Thomas.
A Boy and His Mother
In closing, our verse for this meeting came from Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. My prayer is that these tips and insights help us to see all the different ways discipline can happen over the stages – maybe not in the way we’ve traditionally thought of that word, but in ways that will bring delight to our hearts when they are grown.
CedarCreek MOMentum exists to connect mothers in all seasons by encouraging and supporting them, while guiding their hearts toward Christ.
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