0 to 6 years old
The Gentle Years
The first stage of boyhood is from birth to six, the span of time when – in most families – the boy primarily belongs to his mother. He is ‘her’ boy, even though his father may play a very big role, too. The aim at this age is to give strong love and security and to ‘switch a boy on’ to life as a warm and welcoming experience.
- The first lessons boys need to learn are in closeness – shown through trust, warmth, fun and kindness.
- Under six years of age, gender isn’t a big deal, and it shouldn’t be made so.
- Mothers are usually the primary parent, but a father can also take this place. What matters is that one or two key people love the child and make him central for these few years. That way, he develops inner security for life, and his brain acquires the skills of intimate communication and a love of life and the world.
- These years are soon over. Enjoy your little boy while you can!
6 to 14 years old
Learning to be Male
The second stage includes the years from six to fourteen – when the boy, out of his own internal drives, starts wanting to learn to be a man and looks more and more to his father for interest and activity (although his mother remains very involved, and the wider world is beckoning, too). The purpose of this stage is to build competence and skill while also developing kindness and playfulness – you help him to become a balanced person. This is the age when a boy becomes happy and secure about being male.
- Boys should spend a lot of time with their fathers and mothers, gaining their help, learning how to do things, and enjoying their company.
- From an emotional viewpoint, the father is now more significant. The boy is ready to learn from his dad, and listens to what he has to say.
- Now is the time for dads to ‘make time’.
14 to adult
Becoming a Man
Finally, the years from fourteen to adult – when the boy needs input from male mentors if he is to complete the journey to being fully grown-up. Mum and Dad step back a little, but they must organise some good mentors in their son’s life; if not, he will have to rely on an ill-equipped peer group for his sense of self. The aim is for your son to learn skills, responsibility and self-respect by joining more and more with the adult community.
- From about fourteen years of age, boys need mentors – other adults who care about them personally and who help them move gradually into the larger world.
- Old societies provided initiation to mark this stage, and mentors were much more available.
By understanding what boys need in different times of their life, we can help them grow into the men they want to be. If we want boys to grow into truly good men with warm hearts and strong backbones, then we have to understand their specific needs. If we understand what makes our boys unique, we can love them better and make sure they turn out well.
These stages do not indicate a sudden or sharp shift from one parent to another~ not this stage is mom, next is dad, finally is a mentor. It is more as if we are adding new ingredients at each stage but the players are the same.