Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why Step Fathers Must Bond with their Step Sons
By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw

A colleague of mines was telling me about his 15 year old nephew who now lives in a group home.  He told me that his nephew’s father isn’t around but his sister did remarry years ago and has since given birth to two more children.   He told me how his nephew’s stepfather would administer strict and aggressive discipline when he misbehaved but failed to spend time with him to develop a loving relationship. 

Then my colleague gave his own assessment of his sister’s current family dynamic.  He said to me, “I told my sister when my nephew was younger to make sure that her husband was bonding with his stepson to establish a genuine relationship between the two.  She didn’t make sure it happened.”

Lately I have been hearing a lot of stories of boys still rebelling in their households even if there is a father figure there. What I am specifically addressing is boys who grow up in homes where there mother has remarried.  What then happens is a battle between a grown man, and a boy, that believes he is the man of the house, and it’s all-out war.  This leaves the mothers in a comprised position. 

The age of the boy when the stepfather marries their mother is a major factor on how the stepson-stepfather relationship in a lot of instances will blossom.  If the boy is really young and doesn’t really know his father and the step father asserts himself and takes on the role from day one this could fill any psychological abandonment issues or unfamiliarity that the child has.  The step father and mother are the adults in the situation and have to do all they can to ensure that the child feels loved and acknowledged by his new stepfather and also develops the respect for the new “father” figure that is now in the household.  If the boy’s father is co-parenting with the mother, a discussion needs to be had where all three adults establish positions and the real father and mother must let their son know that you have a bonus father that you must respect and listen to also.

I will say this.  Mothers must allow their husbands to parent their sons from previous relationships.  The bigger picture is that boys needs fathers to raise them so the mothers must take a step back if they want their boys to get the full lessons on being disciplined, being effective, and manhood that the stepfather inherits teaching to the boys in the household. 

Stepfathers must also understand that they have a responsibility to step up and raise their stepson putting the same effort as they do with their biological children.  It’s very important that the stepdads of the world know their duty.  A substantial percentage of families are comprised of children from previous relationships.  Since the traditional family is believed to be one of the factors that socialize boys, stepfathers must fully embrace that stepsons despite biologically belonging are their responsibility and fall under their parenting.  Their progress in life falls just as much on them as the biological parents.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Boys Need Men in Their Lives to Keep Them in Line
By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw

The Good Men Project
I have a serious situation going on in my family right now.   One of my nephews is acting out in the worst way.  At first we all attributed it to him being a teenager and his hormones are raging.  We figured it is a teenager’s job to put their parents through hell.   But then my nephew began to get really disrespectful and full of rage.  This of course pushed my sister to point of feeling like he couldn’t live with in her home anymore.

We are close knit family full of women with my mother being the matriarch.  During a trip to the beach recently my nephew, usually a guarded young man, expressed that he feels like part of him is missing since his father isn’t in his life.  He honestly admitted that he knows that this is the cause for most of his behavior.  I explained to him that no matter what he feels about his father’s absence that he should always love his mother because she loves him and provides him all he needs and even sometimes desires.

But there is one thing that is missing and my sister can’t provide it… the discipline, brawn, and effectiveness of a constant male figure in his like.   As women we pretend like we can do it all and be it all but we can’t take away the fact that children respect and even at times fear their fathers or male figures in their lives in a way that we as women don’t evoke.  Maybe it’s our loving and forgiving nature, our nurturing, or just our physical makeup.  Whatever it may be, I’ve seen boys act up with their mothers and straighten up quickly when their father or another male figure in the picture steps in to check them.

This isn’t the first nephew I’ve seen go through this.  Time and time again I have heard stories from friends, colleagues, and church members, all single mothers, expressing the behavioral difficulties of raising their boys.   The commonality is the reality that these boys’ fathers aren’t active in their lives and there isn’t a male figure who has stepped in to fill the void.  The community of earlier times doesn’t exist to help chip in to make sure boys aren’t in the neighborhood getting into trouble.

Today’s young men need constant structure in order to prepare them for tomorrow’s life challenges.  I see this with my nephew who likes to go to bed late at night and then struggles to get out of bed in the morning for school or other daily events planned.  If discipline is needed, a boy, is more likely to listen to his father whom he won’t even dare consider being disrespectful to or stepping out of line to.  Boys need visuals.  If they have a direct male figure to use as a model of what being a responsible man is, it teaches them in a more effective way than any program could do.

I believe my nephew will be okay because he does have male figures.  He inherited a great uncle and has a great god father in addition to the pool of professional female family members that are helping to structure him and praying for him every day.  My concern is really for the boys out there that don’t have this support.  How to do we reach those?   Do we continue to do all we can to get these fathers back in their sons’ lives, do we continue to tell women to make better choices in men or do we get back to a community mindset?

Whatever should be the plan we have to do it soon because we have a lot of boys stepping out of line and we need the men in our society to pull them back in.