Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I Am Writing A New Book And I Need Your Help

What ideas do you have for raising boys who
will have a positive impact on the world?

Like many people, I was horrified to read about the shooting deaths of five people in New Mexico yesterday. Gun violence, and violence in general, has been on the minds of many Americans since the gruesome Newtown school shooting, and the New Mexico killings were the latest reminder that something must be done.

In this case, a 15 year-old boy allegedly shot and killed his mother, father and three siblings. The youngest of his siblings was only 2 years old. It was reported that the boy had been angry with his mother and had been having homicidal and suicidal thoughts for months prior to the killings. He told police his eventual goal was to go to a Walmart and continue killing people until the police killed him. But, a courageous family friend talked him out of executing the second half of his killing spree. The full story is here.

Ever since the Aurora Theater Shooting, I have been thinking about what impact I might be able to have in curbing the violent acts of people with mental illness. I kept reminding myself that people with mental illness are no more dangerous than so-called normal people. And, these 'normal' people who are engaging in horrific acts of violence all have one thing in common: they are boys. At the very oldest, they are young men.

This gave me the idea to write a book, based on sound research, describing common-sense steps parents can take to raise boys in a way that minimizes the chance for later violence. In my more cynical moments, I thought of titling it How To Raise Boys Who Don't Kill. My new working title is How To Raise Boys Who Improve The World.

Here is where you come in: I have ideas on what to include in the book, and I have a solid outline of the chapters. I have started writing it as well. But, I need your input. What ideas do you have? Do you have any do's or don'ts for raising boys (of any age)? What has worked with your boys? What hasn't worked? Where have you succeeded? Where have you failed?

Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time,

Max Wachtel, Ph.D.


Hello Dr Wachtel
I live in England and my son goes to a German school (as my husband is German).
Generally German parents do not allow their children to have any war toys. No guns, no swords, not even allowed to build Warhammer models (because of the word 'war' in the title). Boys are encouraged to play Lego (ones that don't have anything to do with war).
I do let my ten-year old son play with all of the above. My brother was never allowed war toys. I'm not sure it served him well.
I wonder if there is any scientific evidence between having war toys and being more aggressive which is what a lot of German parents fear? In my experience the children deprived of war toys are the most frustrated and display low self-esteem. This obviously is very anecdotal, and has no scientific basis whatsoever. However among many parents here in UK and Germany this whole war toys things is big topic and one we'd like help on knowing what we should do. Obviously the x-box and Call of Duty and all those games - what is the impact on children of those?
I wish you the very best of luck with your book. It sounds like a great topic and I'm sure will be followed with enormous interest. Kind regards. J Hyde

Good points, Anon. I am not sure what the research says on allowing children to play with guns or other war toys and whether that has an effect on them later in life. I will look into it, because that seems like something a lot of parents would like to know. Thanks! --Max W.

Hello Dr. Wachtel:

You started following me on Twitter a few days ago. I DO have quite a lot to say, as I have a 16 year old son. He could probably tell you what he thinks I've done right, and where I've failed (from his perspective, anyway). All I can tell you for sure is: I have been around to parent my son (most of his 16 myself). He took medication for 9 years for epilepsy and it made things a little rough when it came to trying to take him from child to young man, but he was declared seizure-free when he was 12. Since then he has positively gotten his act together.
I know that there's no 'one size fits all' method for raising boys. As I said earlier, I've been around to parent my son, and I mean: all the time. I still am, and I'm sure it occasionally cramps his style. I just made it clear to him for years: I am responsible for you, which also means I'm responsible for your behavior; and that all means that you will NOT be out acting like a horses' ass, you will NOT be hanging out with the kids who are, and make no mistake about it: if you DO decide to walk on that wild side while I'm still responsible for you, you WILL learn early what 'paying your debts' is all about, because you will OWN your actions. And yes: he's been raised in a home that has firearms in it at all times. He knows how to use them properly. Fortunately, he's listened to me. He maintains A's and B's in school, is a focused and dedicated drummer. I know his friends; they've all spent nights/weekends at each others homes and they're pretty similar in that they've been raised with at least one parent extremely strict about knowing where they are, who they're with, when they'll be back, what they're doing.
I don't want to sound conceited, but right now I don't know where I've failed with my son, because he IS a damn good kid. I get told that constantly; by his teachers, and by his friends parents.
I guess the best thing I can say is: I think you need to actively parent your kid(s). You do that by being there, by making sure the kid has you and your company before your friends do. Your kid is only asking for 18 years; give him that, because it's a drop in the bucket in relation to YOUR life. The years since I got out of school....well, they've positively passed like the blink of an eye. My son is my one chance to do something right

Great comment, Tamara! Being an active part of your child's life and taking responsibility for HIS actions is a great attitude to have. And, firearms in the home are not always a problem--only when there are unsecured firearms and parents don't take the time to teach their children to be safe around them. Sounds like you have done a good job on all accounts.

Hi Max,

One thing that I've been emphasizing with my son is that it is perfectly normal and acceptable to acknowledge and express his feelings. The only restriction that I've put on that is that he isn't allowed to be mean to someone else just because he isn't feeling cheerful, in other words - don't take it out on me. I've been encouraging the "self time out" where he (or I or his sister) just says "I'm grouchy and I just need some time where you leave me alone."
It's a huge departure from the way that I grew up. My dad used to say "Why are you crying? Do you need something to cry about?" all the time. Looking back, I know that he wasn't trying to teach me that the only "correct" feelings were happy/content ones, but he did. It took me a very long time to stop stifling the negative emotions. And I was quite mean to my siblings all through high school. I would take out my frustrations and feelings of powerlessness on them.

Is it possible that the violence is the only way that these kids know how to express themselves? Is violence the only "acceptable" way to let out all the negative emotions that boys are expected to suppress?

Our culture is changing bit by bit, but you still see commercials and shows that threaten to revoke someone's "Man Card" for not being stoic and such.

My $0.02...


Well the working title sounds good, I hope that you will find enough material and patience to write your book and publish it. Check resume editing services 2016 if you need professional resume writing support and useful tips.

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