Something Else You Can Do To Help Heal An Ailing Relationship With A Fatherless Son . . .

In Our Perfect World But. . .

Since my post last week (if you missed it it is in the archives for November) and after some conversations with single parents who are clearly frustrated, angry and very concerned about how to help their sons survive the transition from boyhood to manhood, I feel the need to clarify a point or two. First of all there are no magic bullets to employ that will make this parenting thing, especially for young men who are fatherless, any easier, less painful or less worrisome. His journey as a young man on his way to a state of manhood will be fraught with mistakes, poor decisions, terrible outcomes, regrets and pain. Unfortunately we, as their parents and care givers, will have a minimal say in most of what will happen next. It is part of their learning experience. Most of us are experiential learners meaning that we have to experience something before we can learn from it. Fortunately we are in a position where we can support and encourage the learning so that they understand what they need to do in order to have more of what they want. We can help divert some of the sadness, lonliness and depression of being or feeling alone on this special journey. It is a spiritual, physical, emotional and mental journey that all young men need to go through to become healthy, high functioning, loving, caring and productive members of society. So that’s the good news. The question that now remains is how do we survive his journey and how does he navigate the turbulent waters that lie ahead?

Last week I spoke about the importance of giving him our time–our undivided and unencumbered time. This week I want to touch on how vitally important it is that we do all we can to foster an environment for him to live in so that he feels as though he is an important part of the household; that he is valued and seen as important to the unit he is a part of; that he is not judged, seen or told that he is ‘stupid’ or will never amount to anything. Most important, however, is that he needs to know and to hear that he is loved and has a place at the ‘table’–that he is connected to the family. It is up to us as parents to create this environment without forgetting the other lessons we want all of our children to learn. Things like being compassionate, exhibiting manners and respect for others and who they are in the world. We need to model what we want him to learn and we do that by not accepting or tolerating bad behaviour and poor excuses for inappropriate decisions. His journey is also our journey. So the second point here is that this transition–this metamorphosis that takes place in his life moving from boyhood to manhood is a process and not an event. It will not happen overnight. It will take time and patience;love and dedication and it will take acceptance on our part. We can not make him do what we want or think he should do.

The last point to make here is this. Just as you would build a house, for instance, you do not start with trying to put the windows in before the walls are up. The same logic applies here. We cannot try to hurry the process along in order to limit our own discomfort or fear by skipping over certain elements that are necessary to the process. We need to go from ‘A’ then ‘B’ then ‘C’ and so on. Over the next few weeks I will add other elements to this process that are necessary to act upon in order to arrive at a place where trust can or has been established, that respect is received and given by all the folks involved and that our sons will be much more comfortable in their own skins with a more confident manner that reflects an understanding of who he is in the world, his importance and his place among other healthy and mature men.

That’s the way I see it anyway, Jim

Young men–especially fatherless young men–need this every day . . .

Perhaps if I were to title my life I would tag it with ‘As the pendulum swings’. It is no secret that I have a become involved in the discussion regarding the challenges young men face in today’s world especially if they are fatherless. Involved to the point where I penned a book called
‘A Man’s Work Is Never Done…A Novel About Mentoring Our Sons’. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 2-3 generations you would know that many young men are struggling mightily with the changes that are happening all around them. In short there is no lack of research that tells us many of our young men are just not able to keep up with the ever changing expectations that society now has placed on them. Traditional roles are being re-defined with little discussion about what that means to all those affected. This is due, I believe, to an inflated importance defined by political correctness. Peer pressure and bullying are climbing the list very quickly and the list goes on. As a consequence to all of this there is a co-incidental or perhaps not so co-incidental rise regarding many social indicators which suggest that we, as parents and guardians, teachers and mentors have lost touch with what it is our young men desperately need from us right now. We seem to be at a loss as to how to help them or where to go from here. We create harsher penalties for some things but mete out a slap on the hand for others creating a sense of confusion and a lack of boundaries, responsibility or accountability for decisions that are being made. We build bigger penal institutions, we employ ‘tough love’ approaches, we try to be their best friends, we make excuses for their horrible behavior and we have instilled a sense of entitlement in them that will surely lead, more often than not, to their demise whether that ends in death (suicides) or a complete breakdown of our social fabric. In any case the point to be made here is that none of this works.

I recently read, with great interest, a report tabled by two female social scientists/researchers. The essence of their report was that fathers are just not all that important in the scheme of things when talking about what and how a young man learns what he needs to know to be successful. I’m not sure what ‘successful’ means in this case. How do we define ‘success’ anyway? What are the criteria? Success, to me as a man in the world, is about helping a young man understand how to use and how to live the characteristics that define us as men each day. As mentors we need to help him become more aware of them as he moves from boyhood to manhood. These ingrained character traits are simple. They are also basic and they are intrinsic in men. Try to alter them, downplay or dismiss their importance is simply a large part of the problem we find ourselves faced with today. They also allow us to respond with freedom to the needs of family and the community we live in. Math and history can be learned but one cannot teach what seems to come to us naturally. We can explain, model and clarify what they are and what they mean. There are some things that haven’t changed in the last several hundred years if not longer. I am referring to our basic needs as human beings. We still need clothing, water, air, shelter, food and I’d like to add love and affection. Most kids learn and respond to what they see going on around them. To a young man-‘pa’ is everything. He is a teacher and a role model, a protector and provider, a mentor and a warrior.

My question,then, is do the social scientists really understand what a young man is truly thinking about when they ask the questions and surmise what the answers mean? Can anyone explain clearly what another is thinking and feeling at any given time? I doubt it. Who among us can describe what a cherry tastes like when you pick it fresh from the tree. Or what chocolate tastes like as it melts in your mouth.

After twenty plus years of hearing the stories from many fathers and sons about this very topic. I have put together a list of basic things that most sons need from their fathers or a strong and trusted role model that are necessary in order for a young man to engage in the process of transitioning from boyhood to manhood. I have been asked to share this list with anyone who is interested in learning more about this. Many who asked were single moms, single dads and grandparents. So I will try to add another ‘basic’ from the list in following blogs.

This first ‘thing’ that fathers need to give their sons is a must. As dads, role models or as mentors we need to give our sons our undivided TIME. If we say that we are going to do something with our sons then nothing short of an emergency or crisis should come between that promise and our time with our sons. He learns to trust what you say. By doing this first it establishes the footings upon which credibility is built. It also says that you see him as important and that he matters–that he is relevant. At this point we are planting seeds anticipating the growth that will follow.

That’s the way I see it anyway, Jim

One thing you should never do with your kids . . .

I was tuned into one of my favourite shows on TV yesterday-Squareoff on CHCH-TV with Mark and Liz. It’s a good show–on at 5:30 if you haven’t seen it. They do some great interviews with experts around social issues and the like. Anyway. They had a woman on the show who was discussing how to get children to do what they don’t want to do and she suggested it was alright to bribe them to get some compliance. Right away I found myself mumbling and actually talking to this woman who was on the screen. I’ve not heard anything so ridiculous in all my life. This is exactly what is wrong with us today and why some kids are so disrespectful and so over bearing with a runaway sense of entitlement. This is one thing that we should NEVER do with our kids.

Right from when they are old enough they need to understand (and this is where parents come into the mix and actually begin to mentor-to teach their children about life and how it works) that they are expected to work around the house. They should be given chores to do like putting their dirty clothes in a hamper and making their bed. Nothing wrong with that. They also need to be held accountable for when they don’t do them. In other words there are things that happen whenever we make decisions for ourselves.There is a natural response. This is as it is in the big world too. For instance they need to help keep the house inside and out in good stead. I’m not talking about slave labour here but I am talking about understanding from an early age that there are no free rides. If you want something you have to work for it.

I never gave my kids an allowance. Why? Because I wanted them to understand that living in a house is a family affair–that we all look after our home together because we all live in it together. If you want a nice home to live in then you need to work to make sure that that happens. You should not be ‘paid’ to do this but rather you get to enjoy all the pleasures, benefits and amenities as a result of participating in the upkeep and maintenance of that home. I always told my kids that they will always have what they need but they may not always get what they want. If they want something bad enough then they will have to work for it just like everyone else does. In some instances I would agree that once they earned half the cost of something that was a bigger ticket item–a new bike–an electronic device of some kind–that I would match what they had raised and that money would go toward the total cost. They had to earn their portion first and then let me know that they were ready to do the deal we had agreed to. These agreements, on my part, resulted in them knowing that I recognized their hard work around the house and that I appreciated their help without their complaining. They understood at an early age it was the fairest way but more importantly they could trust me to be consistent with what we agreed to. I also agreed to not interfere with what they wanted to purchase. If it were a pair of 200.00$ Nike running shoes I would not veto the purchase even though I might not have agreed with their choice. It’s interesting to note that when they put their hard earned cash in the pot they became more prudent shoppers all of a sudden. They also learned how to manage their money more effectively. It’s always easier to spend someone else’s money.

As parents we need to stop trying to be our children’s best friends and start being their parents. So you won’t always be popular with them–so what? Remember they already have friends. If they wanted more friends they would go out a make new friends. What they need are parents to teach and to lead and to demonstrate how to live life in a way that says ‘hey we (parents and kids both) can have fun and enjoy this and that but when it comes to setting an example that’s my job and I will do what I believe is right for all of us.’ That’s what parents do. They lead-they educate-they model appropriate behavior. We need to get back to this way of running our family homes and holding our kids responsible for the choices they make instead of trying to buy peace and order by bribing them. It may be easier as a parent to give up or give in but it is not better. If we have to buy their compliance they learn nothing about the big world in the process and only come to value money as the end all. They don’t get the concept of working together for a common goal, mutual respect, to trust or to value themselves as human beings. If you choose to look around you will see that that is happening more and more and that is not a good thing-for any of us but especially not for our children.

That’s how I see it anyway–Jim

Win A Free Copy Of ‘A Man’s Work Is Never Done. . . A Novel About Mentoring Our Sons’

November7,2013

+++ Let me know your thoughts concerning this statement (there is 2 parts to this): 1. What does it mean to be a man in the world today? and 2. What’s one thing that can be done to change the course of what many men are currently experiencing. Please include an email address so that I can notify the winner or go to my web site at jamescloughley.com and fill out the contact info form you’ll find there.

Being A Man In The World Today Means. . .

The other day when I was in town I was just stepping into a store as an elderly woman was making her way out. Of course I stepped to the side, held the door for her and as she made her way past me she said: “It is wonderful to see that there are still some gentlemen left in the world. Thank you.” Well with that she gave me a smile and off she went. I wanted to stop and talk to her about her comment but neither of us seemed to have the time so that opportunity was lost. But it did get me wondering, yet again, about the whole idea of men in the world today and how confusing and frustrating and lost it feels for us at times—how difficult it is and has been to know who we are now and where or if we fit in anymore. As a result three distinct groups of men have emerged. Those who go along to get along; those who have given up trying to figure it all out and those who are angry and spiteful and violent.

Most of us agree that the world for both men and women has changed drastically since the end of the war but to what end? At what cost? Oh yes, there has been a cost and a very dear one. So who are we now? What are we supposed to be doing? How are we supposed to act? Are we supposed to be different in public then in private? What is our role, not only in our society, but in our homes and families? What was it before and how is it different now? What of our natural and socially ingrained expectations and roles in society? Those are the behavioral cues that we seem to naturally pick up on as we learn and grow. But who and what are we supposed to grow into?

I can say with certainty that over the last two to three generations of males our world has changed at such a pace that it has been difficult to keep up. I agree that changes were necessary and continue to be needed. I agree that women need to have an increasing say about the world they live in too. This principle is not in dispute-at least not with me. But if we don’t somehow work toward an egalitarian existence we will not likely survive as a species. I also believe that it is the male of the species that will have the most difficult time making the switch in identity both personal and societal. The changes and the ramifications of those changes have not been identified or discussed or even acknowledged in a constructive way.

I have included an excerpt from my book ‘A Man’s Work Is Never Done . . . A Novel About Mentoring Our Sons’ that briefly outlines my thoughts and feelings about how we need to mentor and guide the next generation of young men. My hope is that we can dialogue amongst ourselves and see the benefit of working together-as one global village-to ensure the next generation doesn’t experience what the current one has.

“Manhood is about how we feel as men in the world” I said, “and how that shows up in our everyday behaviour and actions. It’s about being true to our socially ingrained roles and the expectations of us that are attached to them. These roles and expectations are, for some, considered to be our driving force. The idea of manhood is not about power and control, but it is about feeling good concerning who we are in the world and how we are responsible to live our lives according to those very principles and ideals.”

“In essence, it is about developing and maintaining a positive sense of self, of who we are, and striving to be who we want to be. But that’s easier said than done.”

“As men we no longer are free to be who we want to be according to our nature; rather we are becoming a composite of what others believe we should be. Our self-esteem as men is and has been under assault by other folks who would see us change into who they would like us to be so that it is easier for them to get along with us.” (Pages 25-26)

That’s how I see it anyway, Jim

Nine Most Important Words or Phrases Spoken By Women . . .

This initially was written for men so that we could understand the danger of not being cognizant of what our female partners are trying to transmit to us. We are basic creatures who need to have things described or discussed with us in basic terms. This is not to say that we are simple—not at all (contrary to beliefs held by some) but rather would prefer to get to the point without a great deal of hyperbole. Alas, we are still left in the dark on many occasions when trying to decipher the gist of our partner’s messages and the following list of the ‘Nine Important Words or Phrases Spoken By Women’ indicates the pitfalls awaiting men when we don’t understand the use of or the context of these most important utterings. Pay heed my men of the world—understanding these words just might save your life one day.
I have not created the following list as my own but I pass it along as a copy of an unknown author. None-the-less I believe it to be reasonably accurate.
1. FINE—This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.
2. FIVE MINUTES—If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five minutes more to watch the game before helping around the house.
3. NOTHING—This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with ‘nothing’ usually end up in fine.
4. GO AHEAD—This is a dare, not permission. Don’t do it!!!!
5. A LOUD SIGH—This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing there and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to #3 for the meaning of nothing)
6. THAT”S OK—This is one of the most dangerous statements a woman can make to a man. ‘That’s OK’ means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.
7. THANKS—A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you’re welcome. (I want to add in a clause here—This is true UNLESS she says ‘Thanks a lot’. That statement is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say ‘you’re welcome’ for that will bring on a ‘whatever’.
8. WHATEVER—Is a woman’s way of saying…”Take a frigin’ ride”.
And finally number 9:
9. DON”T WORRY ABOUT IT, I GOT IT—Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking ‘What’s wrong?’ For the woman’s response refer to #3.

Send this to all the men you know, to warn them about arguments they can avoid if they remember the terminology.
AND
Send this to all the women you know to give them a good laugh, cause they know it’s true.

That’s how I see it anyway–Jim

Finally a resource for single moms and dads
Finally a resource for single moms and dads

Check out “A Man’s Work Is Never Done . . . “ –read it and then pass it on to those who you think would appreciate some guidance when mentoring their sons through the transition from boyhood to manhood. This is a great resource for single moms, single dads, grandparents and other family members who struggle with how to help a fatherless young man in their lives become all he can be in a rapidly changing world.

There comes a time when you need to . . .

October 22, 2013

At a time when men all over the world are second guessing their role as a parent and as a father along comes a video that is says so perfectly what being a father is all about. The message is clear and can leave no doubt about the responsibility men share when thinking about being a ‘dad.’ It’s not glamorous and it’s not medal worthy but it is an absolute honor and a privilege to help shape a young man’s life. Besides, if you have taken the time to participate in creating a life then you have a responsibility to stay around and make sure that the life you helped create has every chance of thriving. This is not negotiable and it is not up for debate. It is what it is.

“There comes a point in life when fun no longer means clubbing, drinking, or being out until 4am, or thinking about yourself.
But now fun means Disney movies, family dinners, bedtime stories, long cuddles, a messy house, sleeping by 10pm and hearing little voices say, ‘I love you.’
Becoming a parent doesn’t change you, it makes you realize that the little people that YOU created deserve the very best of your time.”

Author unknown to me

True, pure love is the basis of this clip. Please spend the time it takes to view this clip and you’ll see the world to be a different place.

Check out “A Man’s Work Is Never Done . . .” Give it a read and then pass it on to those who you think would appreciate some guidance when mentoring their sons through the transition from boyhood to manhood. This is a great resource for single moms, single dads, grandparents and other family members who struggle with how to help a fatherless young man in their lives become all he can be in a rapidly changing world.

What were they thinking. . .

October 8,2013
What were they thinking. . . ?
Now that I’ve had a chance to think about this I find myself asking ‘what were they thinking?’
I have to admit that I am really confused about what the Y.U.N. chant thing was all about. But the big question for me was what the hell were these future pillars of society thinking about when they advocated the legalization of rape and child molestation? If they were trying to be challenging and controversial the only thing that has been accomplished here is the confirmation that supporters of this idea are not only misguided and bored but border on being misogynistic.
The main concern for me and the part that has me very confused is the number of females who were right in there supporting the whole premise. It didn’t seem to bother them that they were backing the idea that it is perfectly OK to force a young girl to have sex whether she wants to or not. So how young is too young? I mean under age is just that isn’t it? So when is it OK to feed alcohol to a 12 year old to the point where she is not aware or able to cry out for help? What ever happened to the arguments that women have been putting up for years now that say they and they alone are the arbiters of what they decide to do with their bodies? These young women who have supported this lunacy have set that whole discussion back to the stone ages. Truly now, if this was their sister we are talking about would they really feel the same way? Would they be ‘all for it’? And where are the women’s groups? I haven’t heard a great deal of criticism or dialogue involving those who have been advocating a ‘different’ deal for women.At the very least a clear statement of some kind speaking about respect and equality. Even just a touch of outrage.
And the men-I can’t call them men. Are the males who support this so challenged and so unable to attract and develop a sexual relationship with someone who is functioning, emotionally, at about the same level that they need to pick on young girls who really are not equipped with the critical thinking that goes along with giving permission to share themselves with someone else in a meaningful way? As a man, I’m embarrassed to say that this whole idea is about the same as reducing sex to scratching an itch on their ass. It is a conquest and a power-grab not an emotional act of any kind. This type of behavior is what clearly illustrates the growing lack of respect for self and others that seems to be so prevalent in the youth of today.
I have an adult son and daughter. My son and his wife have blessed us with a beautiful granddaughter. She’s two years old. If what this chant is promoting ever happened to either daughter or granddaughter, at any age, and I were to confront the perpetrators I would not report them. I might, however, bind their testicles with a liberal piece of piano wire secured to the bumper of my car and let them know that for as long as they can run they can keep them attached.
Perhaps a bit radical but then again so is this absurd idea that it’s OK to take what you can regardless of how the other person feels about things.
That’s how I see it anyway, Jim

Global Parenting At Its Worst

September 30, 2013

Global Parenting at its worst:

I can’t believe how much time and effort has gone into and continues to go into the US decision to bomb Syria for the, albeit, extremely callous and barbaric act perpetrated on its own people. This is a country that wants to be seen and treated as what-a serious contender for world acceptance?

So the U.S. has taken how many days to determine what they will do and how they will do it. They have appointed themselves, yet again, to the lofty position of being the worlds’ gunslinger.

Does Syria need to be reprimanded in some way.  Absolutely.  No question. They need to understand that this is not how a civilized nation of the global community who wants to be seen as a world figure exhibits itself. But bombing them is not the way to do that. What makes this response any different than what they are trying to punish Syria for. People will die. They will be endangered once again. IF you want to hurt them then do it where it will have the most affect. Organize the Middle East and the allies and anyone else who is repulsed by what Syria did and black ball them for 3 months or whatever period of time is considered appropriate. Let the civilized members of the global community turn their collective backs on them. Shun them as it were.This act needs to stand above politics. Do it economically and geo-politically and mean it.

This whole bombing business is tantamount to parents punishing a wee child for something they did yesterday or last week and expecting them to get the message that the punishment is supposed to deliver. It’s like punishing a puppy for tearing up a slipper a week after it did the deed and expecting it to never do it again. In both cases they won’t even remember what the punishment is for. And all this at a time when the US is crying poverty to its citizens and claiming that they are still in a precarious position economically. So they go out and blow what 150 million-700? million dollars or however much it costs to bomb someone these days and it is money they can ill afford to spend-so they say. How many social programs will get eliminated just so they can go flex their muscles and show the world that they are still the major force in the world? This is a global issue so let the global community as a whole deal with it.  Honest feedback is always welcome.

That’s the way I see it anyway–JIm

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