My son is ten-years-old and I love him to pieces.
I would do everything in my power to protect him from harm.
That makes me the wiser one.
Which is why, when he asked permission to do something risky, I said no.
He and I had set out to paint the bathroom with a fresh coat of white paint.
We were looking forward to the project.
I had determined that I was going to paint the high places and he would cover the low spots.
He, however, had other plans.
“I can climb up the ladder to reach the high spots, Mom, that way you won’t have to do it,” he offered, as he used his strong arms to haul the ladder into the room.
“Oh, no thanks!” I said nonchalantly, “I can reach the high spots.” Averting my eyes, I mumbled, “Thanks for offering though.”
I thought that would be the end of it.
“Mom,” he said with a smile, “don’t you think you’re being a little overprotective of me?”
Giving him a sheepish look, I nodded my head.
My eyes darted to the high ceiling as I weighed the risk.
“Would you like to paint the high spots,” I asked with some reservation.
“Yes!” he replied with boyish enthusiasm.
It may well be a mom’s greatest fear.
And a growing boy’s greatest need.
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Michael Reichert, a psychologist and executive director of the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives, shared an experience he had with his 2 1/2-year-old grandson. All his grandson wanted to do was climb onto the arm of the couch and jump off the back of the couch onto a beanbag that was positioned on the floor. He repeated this stunt over and over again.
Reichert shared, “What I perceived is what we call the drive for mastery and competence. He’s using his body and discovering what it can do, and it’s enormously interesting and reinforcing to him. Now, if I project my fears or worries onto him and allow myself to control the situation, essentially substituting my judgment for his, he gets the message that he has to operate within my parameters and that what he wants and who he is aren’t important.” 1
Certain risks, such as sports that cause concussions, extreme sports, and self-harm, are unsafe and unhealthy and should be avoided, shared Reichert, in his book How To Raise A Boy. Boys should not be putting themselves in harm’s way to “prove” their masculinity.
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How To Raise A Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men
Jumping off couches and climbing ladders to a safe height are apparently acceptable forms of risk, so I watched my son climb up the ladder to a safe level and begin painting.
I smiled, feeling proud of myself for allowing him to take the risk.
We spent the next few minutes in silence.
Then, he spoke.
“How am I doing, Mom?” he asked.
“The paint job looks great,” I said. “You’re doing a good job.”
“Thanks,” he replied, running the paintbrush back and forth across the wall.
A few more minutes passed, then he spoke again.
This time he shared with me some things that had been on his mind, things he may not have felt safe sharing with me if we hadn’t dedicated some time to spend together.
And if I hadn’t allowed him to take the risk.
I cherish the conversation we had in the bathroom that afternoon, surrounded by freshly painted walls and his increased confidence.
Patty Wipfler, of Hand in Hand Parenting, shared a useful Set of Tools to Deepen Parents’ Connections with their Children:
The bathroom painting project with my son had turned into our Special Time together.
We were doing something he wanted to do, with no distractions.
This uninterrupted time together strengthened our relationship.
It also taught me a valuable lesson:
It taught me that the best way to protect my son is not by reducing the healthy risks he takes in his life. Rather, the best protection, now and in the future, will come from keeping “emotional barriers” from forming in our relationship.
With regular Special Time, increased communication, and a little healthy risk-taking, those emotional-barriers don’t stand a chance!
I learned something else during our painting project that day:
That my 10-year-old is often wiser than his mother.
What is your favorite way to connect in meaningful ways with boys in your life?
View more posts in the Boys and Men Series here.
“What can be done to ameliorate the losses of boyhood?”
“How can we protect the boys in our care from threats built into boyhood?”
“How can we ensure that our sons are well prepared for and well launched to manhood?”
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MORE LESSONS MY CHILDREN HAVE TAUGHT ME:
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