1 TEEN BOYS: WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ANYWAY?
Tobacco and Teens
Adolescence: A Turning Point
Bold, Bored, Boisterous
Optimism: The Vital First Step for Change
2 REGULAR PARENTS, EXTRAORDINARY SONS
The Boy Who Proved Experts Wrong
A World of Their Own
“My Left Foot”
The Blind Man Who Scaled Mount Everest
Focus More on Effort, Less on Ability
You Get What You Expect
Boys Love Challenges
3 IF ONLY TRUST EXISTS
Trust Works Wonders
Boys Only Listen to People They Trust
The Parental Fear Factor
Dealing with Fear
4 Little Secrets, 4 Big Mistakes
Trust and Self-Confidence
Trust is Not Blind Faith
4 IT’S GOOD TO TALK
When Words Collide
The Story of the Two Hunters
4 Secrets to Better Communication
The Way Forward
Looks Easy, Sounds Easy
5 FOCUS ON PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY
Putting His Best Foot Forward
Being Responsible is a Choice
The Blame Game
The Power of Encouragement
The “I Can’t” Syndrome
Pass Control Back to Them
Consequences, Chaos, Clutter
Housework: Put It in a New Light
6 DEALING WITH THE SO WHAT?! QUESTION
When School is a Bus
Ideas to Make Learning Relevant
Good Grades, Good Jobs?
The Big Picture
7 WHAT IS IT THAT ONLY YOU CAN GIVE?
“I Had a Rebellious Streak”
The Edge that Fathers Have
Conflict is a Blessing
Mothers and Sons
Turn Weaknesses into Strengths
8 SEX EDUCATION
Why Is It a Delicate Affair?
What, How, When
Laden with Values
Which Idea Will You Go For?
9 SINGLE PARENTS, STEPPARENTS
Successful Single Parents
Single Mothers Raising Sons
StepParents, Blended Families
10 WHAT COLOUR IS YOUR HOME?
The Home Atmosphere
Boys and Home Stress
Possible Sources of Home Stress
One Step at a Time
11 FINAL WORD
“Let Me Be Bald!”
The Nature of Boys
When You Hit a Wall
I was at my daughter’s school one morning to collect her report-card. A friend said to me that her son, my daughter’s classmate, fared pretty well. “But, Mama,” her son had told her, “I didn’t manage to beat the top four students. They were all girls.”
“I told him,” my friend went on, “Forget about the girls. Just compete with the boys.”
As I waited for my turn to see the class teacher, I pondered: Have parental expectations on boys’ achievement dropped that much?
Weeks later, I found myself in my hometown in Johor in the middle of a conversation with a doctor, a family friend. For years he had been looking after my ailing mother. There I was in his clinic one evening, making a courtesy call, getting the latest updates about her. Invariably, our exchange moved on to our family.
“I don’t know what to do with my only son,” the doctor said. “He did poorly in his SPM. Both of his twin sisters have always done well in school and he never comes close. I confronted him the other night: ‘Tell me: What do you actually want to do?’ The doctor shook his head. “He has no clue what his interests are. He doesn’t like school … The problem is, he’s unmotivated. He’s lazy.”
“No, he’s not,” I said, suddenly finding myself defending a boy I have never met.
That conversation stayed with me as I rode home. It all sounded familiar:
Boys are unmotivated. Boys don’t measure up. Boys are unruly.
What can we, as parents, do so that boys feel motivated to behave better and try to achieve their PERSONAL BEST – the best they can be?
Research clearly shows that parental involvement has a strong influence on teens, both boys and girls. By recommending that you get involved, I’m not suggesting that you spend time messaging your son every hour to make sure he is where he says he would be. Neither am I asking you to spend hours with your son poring over his school books to improve his grades. These are forms of OVERINVOLVEMENT. It is proven that overinvolvement, instead of motivating teens, has the opposite effect. Overinvolvement demotivates teens. Of course, another extreme to avoid is UNDERINVOLVEMENT, which is when parents choose not to be available for their children when they should. Rather, I’m suggesting that you create conditions where your son feels motivated to do his personal best on his own, with minimum but timely intervention from you. This is what this book is all about.
To find out WHAT kind of effective role you, the parent, can play, to motivate your son to give his personal best, and HOW to go about it, do read on.
Note: Personal details of people featured in the book have been changed for privacy.
In writing this book, I interviewed numerous parents, teachers, boys and motivational speakers who have dealt with thousands of boys. I also sifted through hundreds of research, articles and reports. What you have in your hands now is the most insightful stories based on these interviews and research that I have carefully singled out. You will read about boys who made it good and boys who got into trouble, and why. You can:
- read the anecdotes first; or
- read this book from cover to cover; or
- go straight to the chapter or section most relevant to the issues you are facing right now.
Example: If personal responsibility is an issue with your son, go to Chapter 5 to gain insights on how to motivate him to develop a more responsible attitude.
Example: If you find it hard to communicate with your son, move on to Chapter 4. It gives possible reasons why the two of you find it hard to talk and tips on how to deal with it better.
Example: If trust is an issue, proceed to Chapter 3.
Example: If you think your son is not doing well in school because he doesn’t see why he needs to learn at all, move on to Chapter 6.
Pretty often, though, we cannot separate a problem and attempt to solve it on its own without seeing the big picture. We cannot begin to understand the issues surrounding personal responsibility, strained relationships and boys’ lack of interest towards learning if we do not appreciate the nature of boys. We might run out of hope if we have little idea what motivates boys to prove themselves in the first place. All the issues discussed in this book are interrelated. Boys are complex creatures just as we all are. For this reason alone, I strongly suggest you read the entire book.
Note: If your son has a clinical condition, reading this book is not enough, but it will help you breathe a little easier. Understanding the nature of boys, what motivates them and what doesn’t:
– lifts a load off your mind;
– makes you a more confident parent.
REGULAR PARENTS, EXTRAORDINARY SONS
Challenges make life interesting.
Overcoming them makes life meaningful.
~ Joshua J. Marine
THE BOY WHO PROVED EXPERTS WRONG
I must tell you about a little friend of mine named Adam.
Most times when I see him, the eleven-year-old would be seated at the school canteen, having a bite at breakfast. He eats slowly with an air of sobriety and is careful that the crumbs do not fall onto his lap. I once presented Adam with a copy of Horrible Science: Blood, Bones and Body Bits, a book that was a favourite with my children. This was the message I wrote inside the front cover flap:
Your mom says you really want to be a doctor. Well, this is a book about the kind of stuff you will find in the human body. She also says you love reading so much that all your books are dog-eared … I do hope this book will be treated the same way! I’m sure you’ll be a great doctor one day.
Two days later, I bumped into him at the school gate. “Are you still reading your new book?” I asked.
“I finished it,” he said, looking up at me with big eyes and adjusting his dark-rimmed glasses that sat a bit crooked on his nose bridge.
“You did?” I was pleasantly surprised. The book was almost three-quarters-of-an-inch thick with fairly small print. I had thought he would have needed a few more days, since it was still not a weekend. But with determination like Adam’s, I should have known better.
When Alina, Adam’s mother, was expecting him, she had an infection during the first trimester. The rapidly developing brain of the foetus was adversely affected.
“A day after he turned one, my husband and I went to see a paediatrician at a certain private clinic,” she recalled. “We were informed that Adam has what the experts call ‘late development’. The paediatrician told us squarely in the face that our son will never amount to much. I was stunned. It was like a death sentence. When we got home, I told my husband, ‘We’ll prove the experts wrong.’” And prove them wrong they did.
Over the next several years, Alina stayed home and patiently sat down with Adam each day, painstakingly going through every letter of the alphabet, talking and responding to his every question. When he was six, she brought him for another check-up, this time at a government hospital. The consulting paediatrician was stupefied to discover that Adam could read as well as any six-year-old in spite of his condition.
Alina concedes that, with Adam, everything needs more time.
“When he was five, it took him three months to read his first Ladybird book. His younger brother only needed two weeks,” says the mother of three. “But I noticed that he has a good memory. He can recall events that happened when he was just two-and-a-half years old. He remembers the places we went to plus the details of what we did there. Even I can’t do that!”
A WORLD OF THEIR OWN
I was once a volunteer at a centre for severely handicapped children. Many of these children suffered from cerebral palsy and needed care round the clock. Some of them were infants and quite a few were adolescents. A number had recurrent seizures which could occur anytime, anywhere. Because of the severity of their condition, many of the children were confined to mattresses on the floor where they could roll with help from the nurses. The most neurologically challenged of them would stay in exactly the same position as you left them.
A few of the children could do more. A teacher came daily to teach them to read, write, sing and play basic musical instruments. On one side of a wall, the teacher had proudly put up their handiwork and written down the names of all the children. As she put it, “Their work represents all of the other children as well.” Kamal was one of the few, more able children. His lower body didn’t function and had to be dragged to wherever he wanted to go. The sixteen-year-old boy got around by pushing or pulling his torso. When I asked the teacher about his progress, she said, “I have been teaching Kamal how to add and subtract for several years. He still can’t go beyond two-digit numbers.”
On one occasion, I watched as he sat lopsided on a chair, then grabbed a pencil and laboriously attempted to subtract 13 from 21. He could see better with his left eye and usually tilted his head in such a way that the left eye was about eight inches away from pencil tip and paper. Kamal had a warm and congenial nature. His spoken English was good and I often saw him striking up conversations with new volunteers.
If you were a visitor to this place and not used to severely handicapped children, seeing them for the first time can be emotionally draining. For one, this place was a far cry from the outside world where children run about, laugh and are a constant source of clamour and din. In this place, Kamal was a gem. He would instantly put new volunteers and visitors who were not used to seeing severely handicapped children at ease with his easy banter. But as I said, Kamal was one of the exceptional few. Cerebral palsy for most of the other children meant the inability to talk and communicate their needs. A few hours is all you need to appreciate the frustration induced by the huge communication hurdles between the children and their caregivers.
What Parents Can Do To Motivate Teen Boys To Do Better
Sneaking out when they shouldn’t. Breaking promises. Not measuring up despite the potential to excel. Boys seem to grab attention for the wrong reasons these days. Yet, any boy can behave better and get better grades if only he were to put in his PERSONAL BEST – the best he is capable of.
In this book, Jamilah Samian – author of Cool Mum Super Dad and herself a parent of five boys and a girl – outlines the practical steps parents can take so boys choose to be responsible for their behaviour and make a real effort to be the best they can be.
Based on sound research and interviews with numerous parents, teachers, boys and motivational trainers who have dealt with thousands of boys, Cool Boys Super Sons offers tips on:
– Trust: why it makes a difference
– How to help boys be better organised
– How to spur boys’ interest towards school work
– Fathers as trendsetters
– Mothers and sons
– Being a single parent or a stepparent to boys
– Blended families
– Sex education
An ideal read if your son is a ‘tween’ (aged 10 plus to 12) or a teen (aged 12 plus and above).