A new podcast developed by Brighton Grammar in Melbourne, is putting a laser-like focus on what it means to raise boys.
“The podcast explores what it is to be a good man these days,” explains host Dr Ray Swann in the opener of Understanding Boys.
With six, 30-minute episodes broadcast to date, Understanding Boys explores a range of topics with guests and always finishes by asking them what it means to be a good man, and “If you had a good story you could tell a 14-year-old boy, what would that story be?’
Author James Kerr responded by exploring the idea of ‘being of good character’.
“It begins with an understanding of self and authencity,” he elaborates. “If you have discipline you don’t need rules, if you have self-discipline you don’t need discipline. Who am I? What do I stand for? … If you’ve asked those questions honestly you are a person of good character and the ripples go out.”
The former Chief Executive of World Vision, Reverend Tim Costello, explores the importance of modelling empathy in the shaping of good men while actor Lisa McCune, shares her experiences of mentorship, motherhood and modern manhood.
Psychologist Steve Biddulph, an expert in parenting and boys’ education, says good parenting is about modelling, and the best thing a dad can do is spend time with his sons (and daughters), without being rushed or busy. He also supports the research of Richard Fletcher from the University of Newcastle, that rough-and-tumble play right from babyhood, makes boys and girls feel that their father is approachable and “someone they can feel safe with.” A good man, he continues, is someone who has backbone and heart.
The backbone side relates to someone being trustworthy and capable and true to their word. “You also need heart. You can be gentle, you can be forgiving, you can be open hearted yourself and show your tender side.”
Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett exhorts parents to educate their children on how to deal with stress and anxiety. “The two ingredients to a long and happy life are good health and to be happy,” he tells Dr Swann. “As you progress through life, make sure you stay fit and well, physically and mentally, and make sure that whatever you do you enjoy. Don’t stay in jobs that you don’t enjoy, move on. You don’t have to penalise yourself.”
Asked what makes a good man, Dr Simon Rice, a leading researcher in mental health for young men, says the men who shaped his views were men who had been able to have some variation in how they respond to a given situation. “They don’t just have to act with anger, but they can also engage rationally and they can also be very caring and be incredibly sensitive and emote in appropriate situations.”
His message to 14-year-old boys: “Whatever is going on in your life, whatever are the predominant thought patterns and themes, you’re not locked into those. There is phenomenal opportunity to grow and to develop and to have other broader experiences as a human being. There are moments in life where opportunities present and young boys can feel overwhelmed, or that’s not the right thing. There’s a role for trusting your gut and your intuition on things but there’s also a place to rationally think, ‘hang on, what could this opportunity or possibility lead to?’ and maybe having the courage to take a step into something that might be going against the grain … having the perspective to take that chance. I’d encourage that 12, 13, 14-year-old to think about that.”
The Understanding Boys website was developed by Brighton Grammar - an all-boys school - as a go-to resource for parents in 2016, and provides practical guidance for parents all over the world, with articles written by parents, teachers and international experts.
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Listen to Understanding Boys on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Stitcher.
For an overview of the program and to listen online, go here.
Read: Kids learn valuable life skills through rough and tumble play with their dads (The Conversation)