Raising Cain

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, written by Dan Kindlon, and Michael Thompson.

Fathers and Sons

Until Teenage Years

  • No matter how impossible a father is, at the deepest level, a boy wants to love his father and wants to be known and loved by him
  • Every little interaction counts, do not miss any of them

I remember walking on Christmas morning with my hand in my father's. I had been reading in the books about stars and I had this early morning been taking a look now and then up at a sky of clear stars. I turned my face up toward my father's and said, pointing with the loose hand, "You know, some of those stars are millions of miles away." And my father, without looking down toward me, gave a sniff, as though I were a funny little fellow, and said, "We won't bother about that now..". For several blocks neither of us said a word and I felt, while still holding his hand, that there were millions of empty miles between us.

  • Not only words of his father are listened by a son but also his fathers actions are observed
    • The way a father reacts in games will influence
      • How his son will react to different situations in the future
      • How his son handles / expresses his emotions
  • A boy watches how his father
    • Resolves conflicts
    • Cooperates
    • Works as a partner in his marriage and in society
  • Do not only play games or spend time with your son
    • Express your feelings
    • Let him express his feelings
  • A father's emotional facades don't fool his son past the age of eight years
    • A man who acts as he is better at things than he really is only teaches a bad model of a man to his son
    • Admitting and accepting weakness will not make a father a lesser person in his sons eye

Courage is resistence to fear, master of fear - not absence of fear.

Mark Twain

  • How not to ask a question to your son: You were not scared boy, right?
    • Allow him to express his feelings: That was a bit scary for me son, how about you?

Adolescent Years

  • A teenager still needs his fathers love but usually does not admit it
  • When a teenage son talks to his father about how he does not need to study math since he wants to be a skateboarder..
    • If the father sees the demise of his sons future and criticises or tries to lecture his son on qualities of a man must have, the child will most likely tune out
    • Instead if he just listens to his son and tries understand, he will already see that it is just a fantasy, fantasy of the current moment
      • Listening in this situation will however validate his sons enthusiasm and strengthen the bonds with his son
  • An adolescent son trying to establish his identity must be taken seriously

I think I was a junior in high school. I was wrestling my dad in the living room. We were about the same height, although he outweighed me by quite a bit. I was pretty successful at not letting him up. Then he broke free with one arm and started punching me. He was only hitting me in teh arm, but he was hitting me as hard as he could. I was kind of stunned. Clearly something was different. Wrestling around had always been fun. We would mostly laugh while we did it. But he was upset. Then I figured out that it wasn't easy for him anymore. He could no longer physically dominate me. I don't think we ever wrestled after that.

Strengthening the Bonds

  • Simple routines help closing the emotional distance between fathers and their adolescent sons
    • Going to a Delicatessen every Sunday morning and preparing sandwiches together
    • Going for bug walks to find strange bugs, even if you come home empty handed always
    • Fixing things together
  • A man who wants a more satisfying relationship with his son can begin to build it in simple but meaningful ways..
    • a game of catch
    • a compliment
    • a smile

Boys And Violence

The greatest remedy for anger is delay.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

  • Strongest expression of anger is violence
  • Boys tend to be much more violent compared to girls
    • More than 90% of the violent crimes are committed by boys
  • The difference between the boys who turn violent and who do not is that violent boys lacks the psychological resources to control their emotions

Reasons Behind Violence

  • Violent boys usually do not know the real cause of their anger
    • This leads such angry boys to reflect their anger on their surroundings, family members, friends, teachers
  • Boys see threats in their surroundings
    • They fail to see the real intent in peoples actions and tend to interpret them as violent
  • Boys use violence as a defence mechanism contrary to an offense mechanism
    • Due to their poor emotional literacy, they rely on physical acts instead of words

Building the Emotional Literacy

  • Boys must be able to bend under emotional trials without breaking into violence
  • Talking about the anger diffuses its strength and helps boys find the source of the anger
    • The difference between an act of violence and holding back is usually very thin and can depend on a start of a conversation

Diffusing Angery in Boys

  • It is our responsibility to teach that
    • Life is not always fair, deal with it
    • You can not go around punching people everytime you get angry
    • You must consider how your actions affects others
    • Do not see threats where they do not exist
    • Controlling your anger and walking away does not make you a punk or a sissy

Getting a boy to talk about about his anger, weakens the intensity of the anger. If you can get a boy to talk, violence will not be the first approach when he is angry. As the boy talks about the anger, he will be able to find the real source and it will be much easier to confront the source and work on it.