Raised to Love

Boys out of doors


Every child is unique, but some parenting strategies tend to be gender specific. There are countless exceptions to every broad generalisation, but girls tend to develop their cognitive faculties earlier than boys, outstripping their brothers in communication skills; boys thrive on clear direction, structure, and launch themselves into outdoor adventure.

There is more than a grain of truth the words that Bobbie Kennedy liked so much: 'Men are not made for safe harbours'.

A little boy's runamok-think-later approach can tax you to tears in a compact apartment or when the baby is asleep, but try to break the cycle of negative cranky reprimands. Positive strategies are gold. Be ahead of the game. Get your kids into nature, and your boys especially, into physical challenges.

'Children grow up when they learn to look after others, and want to,' writes James Stenson, the author of Upbringing. And such maturity is constructed from the four great habits of character: finding joy in what is good, true and beautiful, overcoming our fears to do things that are difficult or uncomforable, caring deeply for all others, and setting goals for oneself. These are the cardinal virtues.

Remarkably, simple outdoor family entertainment helps forge these four life-habits: we find pleasure in healthy activities, we learn resilience in the face of physical effort, we reinforce bonds of love in family based activities, and every time you pack the car for the beach, or have them put on sun screen, you are giving your kids practical experience of planning and goal setting.

  • Are you a proactive or reactive parent?
  • Do you ever fall into repeated negative reprimands? How do you break the cycle?
  • Do you avoid screen time as a default childminder, or do you insist on creative play?
  • Do you seek out nature as great source of interior peace and calm?
  • Do you promote resilience by never complaining when you are tired?

This is too hard!

‘I was a casual relief teacher, and was tasked to show a video on forensics to a Year 9 science class. Interesting. This should hold the class, I thought. I announced the topic for the day and immediate response was 'Do we have to watch this? This is too hard.' After the video was running, I looked around to discover every child texting. So, next I collected the phones and as one girl brought her phone out she said to me, 'Sir, why are you teaching us? You're not our teacher!' Draw your own conclusions about screens and teens.

Create 'Big Adventures'... often.

• Have a family get together outside at night with hot cocoa. Camp in the back yard. • Fish. Make your own fishing rod. Hire a small tinny and life jackets for fishing. • Go bushwalking.Teach map reading.Go for a night bushwalk. Give your son his first compass. Teach him to use it. • Go for a cycle together. Build a raft. • Download an astronomy ap. Get a telescope or binoculars. Teach your son some stars. Have an astronomy night.