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.