Boys crying

Men have emotions, everyone knows it, it’s just we are rubbish as a society at allowing them to show them. (Unless they score a goal!) In the Channel  TV series SAS who dares wins episode 2 , we see several men talking about their emotions, dark times and suicidal thoughts with refreshing honesty.
Men and boys need space, to be honest, to have a down day and to be hurt, angry and upset. The consequences of bottled up emotions are very ugly.
Comments like “act like a man” & ‘boys don’t cry’ do not help. Even saying ‘there-there it’s ok’, is unhelpful because sometimes it’s not ok! I’ve had two lots of counselling because I needed help to process what was happening internally but it took me ages to get over the shame of it.

As parents try to ask questions about how your son is feeling, don’t try to fix all the problems, just listen. Encourage them to see expressing emotions is a strength of character, not weakness and thank and praise them for telling you how they feel even if they express it with expletives!

Be a parent not a friend

When I was a child, we had a black Labrador Alsatian cross. Wonderful as he was, he became one thoroughly confused dog. Five owners, and five completely different sets of rules. Despite my parents best efforts to insist on uniformity, this poor dog never really knew where the boundaries  were.

Exactly the same thing happens when parents try to be friends with their children. When parents place a higher priority on being liked, being matey and being friends with their kids, Children land up confused. Parents, in turn, become very frustrated because children then do not respect boundaries.

Parents often want to be liked by their children, because of a low sense of self-esteem and self-worth. As parents, we would be more effectual if we found the affirmation and encouragement we rightly need from sources other than our children.

These thoughts were inspired after reading this excellent article by the secret teacher. 





Anne Robinson’s Britain

BBC One 6th October 2016

As ever Anne Robinson can ask the right questions and in this TV programme, her interrogations aimed at parenting. It is well worth a watch.

Watching the programme highlighted once again the guilt and shame that surrounds parenting. Parents are under more pressure than ever to be “the best”. All the parents shown in the programme had strengths and weaknesses. We (and I include myself in this) would do better to be more compassionate on our attempts to raise our children.

As a TV programme, they were looking at “different” families. What I loved about each of these families is that they were living out the values they wanted for their family. Meaning they had broken away from “societal norms” to do this. There is so much parenting “advice” it restricts what families are keen to implement. These families had reflected on what was important to them and done it. I don’t agree with everything each one was doing, but so what, I’m not in their family. Too often we allow others who aren’t living our lives to set our agendas.

Finally, they did a parent swap, is what we all could be doing. This is the value of parenting coaching. It allows someone to ask questions of what we are doing. Not so we copy the other, but to ensure we are living out the family values and actions we are happy with. The two families who swapped learnt by listening and observing each others strengths and weakness. Could we humble ourselves and listen and learn together. Not easy when parenting is such a guilt-ridden area of life.

Tampons, food, fire and some dads.


Dads, let’s talk about Puberty

Isn’t it about time we dads learnt to talk about puberty? About unwanted erections, hormones & changes that happen women? And to do it without embarrassment and code words, as if any of it were something to be ashamed of?

Now I’m not saying this is easy! I am a fairly confident chap who, as a church minister, youth worker and parenting coach, is used to tackling awkward issues. But although puberty and sex education have been bread-and-butter topics through years of running youth clubs and supporting parents, I found speaking to a bunch of other men about them quite unnerving.

Gathered with 20 men around an open fire, beer in hand, it was not just the heat of the flames that made my cheeks glow rosy red as I showed them how to put a sanitary towel in a pair of knickers! Why was it so uncomfortable? I think it’s because whilst it’s natural for mums to address bodily changes with their daughters, dads often exclude themselves completely from talking about puberty – let alone periods and menstrual cycles! – with their children because they themselves are ill at ease. All too often, our best efforts at talking about anything to do with puberty with our son’s can have a lad’s mag element, approaching it indirectly as if it is somehow unclean. Yet talking maturely about puberty can be essential in helping our children understand their body and nascent sexuality. Perhaps we need to be honest as well, with all the gender equality strides we have made, it seems us dads are still smugly satisfied to leave the talk of blood to the mothers of our children.

Our dads’ night at school was intended to complement the excellent mothers & daughters assembly that had happened a few weeks earlier, and I am grateful to the school for trusting me with this pioneering project. Around a fire, with beer and good food diffusing tension, 20 men discussed the stages of puberty, talked about the need to use anatomical words when discussing genitalia, and laughed as we encouraged one another to overcome our insecurities in these areas. Conversation flowed about how to help our children handle those embarrassing puberty moments such as unwelcome erections, spots, comparisons of bodily parts and pubic hair growth. Not the usual locker room talk but something far more ‘manly’!

It took everyone courage to come and discuss these matters, but removing long entrenched shame and secrecy from the natural process of growing up and becoming sexually aware is a challenge. Few experts would doubt we have a crisis of body image and self-esteem among our teenagers, allied to inappropriate and naive understandings of sexuality and sexual health thanks to the prevalence of porn. Yes, I was a bit embarrassed standing there with a sanitary towel in my hands, but only by together going a bit red in the face can we start to help our young people build positive body image and learn healthy habits around sexuality which will enable them thrive in adulthood. I am looking forward to getting around a fire again with these brave men and any others who want to join us. One day our kids will thank us.