How to raise boys to be good men

Susan Bodnar | 12/26/2013, 6 a.m.
Boys do what they are taught. They become what they see. Unfortunately, from mid to late adolescence boys face an ...
Upsetting stories about boys' sexual aggression frequently make the news. Stewart Scott-Curan/CNN

— Boys do what they are taught. They become what they see. Unfortunately, from mid to late adolescence boys face an array of bad, sexy guy images.

Upsetting stories about boys' sexual aggression, such as the allegations of rape in Steubenville and Maryville, continue to surface.

These boys who make the news become symbolic of all males. We hear less from the other quieter boys, though they constitute a majority.

In the privacy of a psychologist's office such as mine, however, many boys admit to longing for that "miraculous feeling when you hold someone special's hand for the first time."

Boys, like girls, have complicated feelings. They struggle with their identities. They have no idea how to approach females. The anything goes sexual mores of teen sexuality create pressure to perform as well as pressure not to violate.

Researchers have found that the more your son sees explicitly aggressive sexual behavior, the more his patterns of stimulation will be geared to such imagery. He will internalize these images as patterns. He will eventually be inclined to act upon them.

Those who perpetuate images of aggressive male sexuality do not get held accountable, but if your son gets caught in these acts, he could go to jail.

So what is the best way to raise a boy who has old-fashioned values?

It requires dialogue and discipline.

First, validate sexuality's confusing nature.

"Where do you draw the line?" asked 15-year-old Tom. "I've been broken up with for not kissing a girl. But if I kiss her too soon, what if she feels taken advantage of or hurt?"

The blurry line between when to act on sexual feelings and when not to can make it hard for a boy to know what to do, especially when alcohol is added to the mix.

Anxiety, however, slows people down.

Learning to manage anxiety helps a boy develop confidence in himself. He learns how to listen to what he feels. That enables him to hear others. He then develops good judgment about how to manage the delicate balance between sexual impulse and sexual actions.

Second, remain firmly opposed to underage drinking. Do not allow him to attend unsupervised parties. Share articles about how alcohol affects the growing brain and discuss its disinhibiting effects.

Alcohol and drugs obliterate the anxiety that can become the building block of character. They make it impossible to discover the unwritten rules between two people who feel attracted to one another. They make it impossible to define the small personal steps toward genuine intimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Evan said, "When kids get together and drink, everybody expects some kind of sexual behavior. "

Kids jump from novices to lotharios without first learning how to be in a relationship. Sexual interactions become a faceless dance.

Third, advise your son not to have virtual or real sexual contact with someone he doesn't know well.

Encourage your son to avoid sending any pictures of his body using social media. No sexting. No oral sex parties. They should not have sexual contact with someone with whom they have not shared a meal.