Steve Biddulph is a world-renowned author, therapist, activist and parenting expert. Someone buys one of his books every three minutes. And the reason why is no surprise. His ideals, strategies and family philosophies are grounded in insightful common sense.
Last week he presented at a booked-out Parenting SA seminar in Adelaide that had over 1,350 mums and dads register for. Such an exciting opportunity to tune in from home to watch his live webcast … and I was one of them.
As a mum of two boys, I have read Steve’s stuff and follow his Facebook pages Raising Boys and Raising Girls but had never actually seen or heard him before. I was surprised that such an, almost revered, authority on raising kids was such a quiet, unassuming bloke. So, I was apprehensive as I settled in with my headphones on to watch this guy tell me about my family. He was so softly spoken that he had to ask the sound guys to increase the volume on his mic a couple of times. Quiet, unassuming, softly spoken and a bit goofey… but so incredibly powerful.
I took so much away from that presentation and a couple of times was happy that I was watching from the privacy of my own home as the tears ran down my face. Steve manages to get right to the heart of all the matters and in doing so, seems to matter to all the hearts.
He began with “Parenting experts are a hazard to your family” and I was hooked.
He split the presentation into two parts : Raising Boys and Raising Girls. I had every intention of only watching the part relevant to me until I realised that it’s ALL relevant. To all of us.
1. We’ve lost sight of our instinct
Steve says that the 20th century was a really rough time for families and as a result, our natural confidence for raising kids got kicked around a lot. And sometimes got kicked out of us. “As you get older you come back to trusting your heart,” he said. So, so true.
2. Change starts at the top
Our kids will look to us first for all things. They will model their behaviour on ours and learn their lessons on the back of our successes… and mistakes. Steve says “We adults have to got to fix ourselves so the kids have got a chance” – lightbulb moment!
3. Don’t put all your parenting eggs in one basket
For both our sons and our daughters, Steve says that our kids need ‘mentors’. They need someone safe to run to when they clash with you [and they WILL clash with you – it’s teenage law]. He says “Make sure there are adults around that have been there all their life so that there are OTHER people that love your kids.”
On Raising Boys
4. Boys were a disaster area.
When he first wrote Raising Boys and The New Manhood he said that he started in the area that needed the most help. That area was boys. A boy is three times more likely to die than a girl in the 15-25 year old age.
5. Boys and girls ARE different
And the sooner we embrace that the better. From the minute they are born, boys are developing at a different rate to girls and they don’t catch up in neurological development until they’re 19!
6. The developing world destroyed our boys
Ok, he didn’t actually say that but that’s how I interpreted his message. If you were a little boy raised thousands of years ago, you would have four to five men teaching you and nurturing you and raising you. ALL the men of your tribe/community/village were invested in your success. By the age of 14 [which was the age of manhood back then] you were expected to be a capable and functioning member of your environment. They simply couldn’t afford to have a fail rate for boys.
Then there was the industrial revolution and dads became someone who came home at the end of the day. Steve explained, “Men and boys started to clash because there wasn’t enough time to get to know each other.”
7. The three stages of boyhood
- newborn to 6 years – by nature and necessity, boys will bond with mum first
- 6 years to 14 years – boys discover they’re male and look around for men around them to find out “how do you do male?”
- 14 years to mid 20s – huge testosterone surge. It increases by 800%. That’s INSANE right?
8. There are four things you need to do with your boy
- Spend TIME – this is actually true of all children [and anyone you love, to be fair!]
- Play rough and tumble games – this one is important. It’s during this ‘rough’ play that boys learn physical ‘boundaries’. This is the perfect opportunity for parents to teach their boys how far is ‘too far’ when it comes to using their bodies and their strength when interacting with others.
- Teach him to respect women – and the perfect place to start is at home. Lead by example and treat their mother well and SUPPORT her when he acts out. Presenting as a team will show him your respect for her.
- Honour his tender feelings – boys feel and they should be allowed to feel. More so, their feelings should be honoured. The more comfortable they are feeling, the more comfortable they will be in their own skin.
On Raising Girls
9. The four stages of girlhood
- 0 to 2 years old – Am I loved and secure?
- 2 to 5 years old – Can I explore the world?
- 5 to 10 years old – Getting along with people
- 10 to 14 years old – Finding her soul
10. Young girls are our most vulnerable
Nine years ago the corporate marketing world needed someone else to sell stuff to… The 8 year old girl. Their mantra? “If we can make her insecure, then we have her for life”
11. The media has A LOT to answer for
This is what the media teaches our girls today:
- Your LOOKS are the most important thing about you
- Your BODY is never good enough
- SEX is something you trade for love and belonging or sometimes power
- It’s fine and normal to have HAVE SEX with people you don’t know or even like
12. Girls need Aunties
Steve says “Aunties are the saving grace of girl’s mental health.” He says that your daughter’s Aunty [by blood or otherwise] is one of THE most important relationships in their life. Refer to point 3. “We can change the world with aunties.”
Yes we can, Steve. Thanks for the reminder.
Love Aunty Tan x