May 09, 2010

Focus on the Family


QUESTION: I am a single mother with a five-year-old son. How can I raise him to be a healthy man who has a good masculine image?

DR. DOBSON: As I think you recognize from your question, your son has needs that you're not properly equipped to meet. Your best option, then, is to recruit a man who can act as a mentor to him -- one who can serve as a masculine role model.

In her book "Mothers and Sons," the late Jean Lush talked about the challenges single mothers face in raising sons. She says the ages four to six are especially important and difficult. I agree. A boy at that age still loves his mother, but he feels the need to separate from her and gravitate toward a masculine model. If he has a father in the home, he'll usually want to spend more time with his dad apart from his mother and sisters. If his dad is not accessible to him, a substitute must be found.

Admittedly, good mentors can be difficult to recruit. Consider your friends, relatives or neighbors who can offer as little as an hour or two a month. In a pinch, a mature high schooler who likes kids could even be "rented" to play ball or go fishing with a boy in need.

If you belong to a church, you should be able to find support for your son among the male members of the Christian community. I believe it is our responsibility as Christian men to help single mothers with their difficult parenting tasks.

Certainly single mothers have many demands on their time and energy, but the effort to find a mentor for their sons might be the most worthwhile contribution they can make.

QUESTION: I'm a full-time mother with three children in the preschool years. I love them like crazy, but I am exhausted from just trying to keep up with them. I also feel emotionally isolated by being here in the house every day of the week. What do you suggest for mothers like me?

DR. DOBSON: I talk to many women like you who feel that they're on the edge of burnout. They feel like they will explode if they have to do one more load of laundry or tie one more shoe. In today's mobile, highly energized society, young mothers are much more isolated than in years past. Many of them hardly know the women next door, and their sisters and mothers may live a thousand miles away. That's why it is so important for those with small children to stay in touch with the outside world. Though it may seem safer and less taxing to remain cloistered within the four walls of a home, it is a mistake to do so. Loneliness does bad things to the mind. Furthermore, there are many ways to network with other women today, including church activities, Bible study groups and supportive programs such as Moms In Touch and Mothers of Preschoolers.

Husbands of stay-at-home mothers need to recognize the importance of their support, too. It is a wise man who plans a romantic date at least once a week and offers to take care of the children so Mom can get a much-needed break.

Burnout isn't inevitable in a busy household. It can be avoided in families that recognize its symptoms and take steps to head it off.

QUESTION: Our teenage daughter has become extremely modest in recent months, demanding that even her sisters leave her room when she's dressing. I think this is silly, don't you?

DR. DOBSON: No, I would suggest that you honor her requests for privacy. Her sensitivity is probably caused by an awareness that her body is changing, and she is embarrassed by recent developments (or the lack of them). This is likely to be a temporary phase, and you should not oppose her in it.

Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 ( Questions and answers are excerpted from "Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

November 14, 2009

How Old is Old Enough for Driver's License?

How Old is Old Enough for Driver's License?

John K. Rosemond My oldest grandson, not yet 15, is already taking drivers education. In fact, he’s already been behind the wheel with his instructor, on an interstate highway no less. I’m resigned to his obtaining his license in a little more than a year. I’m not happy about it. I’m resigned. Mind you, he’s more trustworthy and responsible (in my objective opinion) than nine-point-nine out of ten of his peers. He’s a good if not great kid, and as my readers know, my standards are high. Still, I’m shaking my head in incredulous resignation.

Disclaimer: When my kids turned 16, each received a car from their hugely naïve parents. Would that I had some things to do over again.

Two weeks ago, a San Diego journalist called asking for some quotes for a story he’s doing on teenage drivers. The story was prompted by the recent automobile deaths of two San Diego teens in separate accidents. My beloved grandson’s life flashed in front of me.

I told said journalist that giving a drivers license to a teenage child (and if anyone has failed to notice, they are still children) under age 18 was like giving the kid a revolver with ten thousand chambers, only one of which is loaded with a bullet, and telling him to point it at his head and pull the trigger. Would any responsible parent do such a thing? Then, pray tell, why do otherwise responsible parents allow teenage children to obtain drivers licenses and provide them with cars?

When would I allow driving privileges? he asked. When two conditions were satisfied­—the 18th birthday and a high school diploma. Would that reduce the drop-out rate or what?

The 16-year-old driving privilege was established when cars were less powerful, roads were less crowded, and 16-year-olds were considerably more mature than they are today. Furthermore, these laws were passed to allow teens to participate more fully in the operation of family farms. They were not passed with the intention that teens would drive for discretionary, largely recreational purposes.

Do teens need driving privileges, much less cars? Obviously not. In Europe, where teens seem to live satisfactory lives (by all measures, they are much happier on average than US teens), the driving age is 18. Even then, few young adults drive cars. They walk, ride bicycles, use public transportation, or putt around on scooters.

Someone clamors for my attention: “But John! Lots of small towns and rural areas don’t have public transportation!” But the same is true in Europe. And, to repeat, European teens are lots happier than they are on this side of the pond.

I suggest that the primary reason the driving age is not going to be raised any time soon is because the current law is a huge convenience to parents. They are not only relieved of having to transport the young licensee, but they can also assign him to driving younger siblings to after-school activities and the like. So even though these young drivers cannot vote, state legislators are going to protect their driving privileges. Given that interstate commerce is involved, we can only hope that Congress will take up the issue.

Given the facts, which lead to the inescapable conclusion that giving driving privileges to a teen, any teen, puts the youngster at far, far more risk than letting a 5-year-old play outside unsupervised (which most of the same parents would not allow), I must conclude that this is not, to be polite, the most prudent of moves.

I invite anyone out there to justify this to me in rational terms. You can send your comments to me through my website at

Family psychologist John Rosemond’s latest book, The Well-Behaved Child, is now in bookstores.

Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at