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Archive for July, 2009

Raising a Fatherless Boy: What Moms Need to Know

By Byron Ricks

 

Single mothers are the breadwinner, the disciplinarian, the role model, and chief guardian of their children’s health, education, and happiness. Like my own single mom did, they make a heroic attempt to fulfill all these roles and more.

 

There’s one role, however, that mothers cannot fill: that of father. Studies show that boys benefit from having contact with a father—even one who lives outside the home. Boys raised with a father somewhere in the picture often do better academically, financially, and socially than their fatherless peers.

 

If you are raising a boy on your own, does this mean your son is doomed? Not at all! In fact, I meet successful businessmen every week who grew up without a dad. But it’s a fact that fatherless boys face extra challenges and have certain behavioral or character traits in common. As a single mom, watch for these side effects of growing up fatherless so you can take steps to help your boy become a confident, happy young adult.

 

A crisis of identity. Boys look to fathers in their search for self. Without a father, boys have a harder time defining who they are and want to be.

  • What moms can do: You can support your boy by recognizing his particular strengths, talents, and gifts, talking about these, and giving him opportunities to excel at them.

 

A need to belong. My research shows one of the side effects of growing up fatherless is feeling incomplete, alone, and lacking a strong identity. A fatherless boy will sometimes seek out the company of a group that provides him with a sense of belonging.

  • What moms can do: As his mother, help him be part of a church, sports team, club, or other healthy “tribe” rather than leaving it up to him to find his own peer group.

 

Silent anger. Anger in its many shades can be one of the deep-rooted side effects of having an absent father.

  • What moms can do: Be compassionate, and keep an eye out for less obvious signs, such as exasperation at school, bullying, or self-loathing.

 

Lopsided views about sex, love, and trust. Be aware that boys without fathers have a lot of unanswered questions about sex. They don’t talk about sex and get the practical advice from a dad that would carry them into healthy, fulfilling relationships as men. Sometimes boys also have a deep-seated hurt that leads them to view love as vulnerability. As a result, they may have a difficult time trusting someone with their heart.

  • What moms can do: Talk to your boy about the difference between sex and love. Remind him that he was conceived in love. Ask a male relative or other important male in his life to talk to him about sex and about the emotional aspects of dating, having sex, and loving.

 

Misunderstanding character. Without a father to model character and reflect appropriate adult male behaviors such as respect, self-discipline, politeness, citizenship, and confidence, boys are left to choose character traits from the world around them—from celebrities, pro athletes, popular musicians, and the like. Without strong male role models to mirror, boys without fathers sometimes misunderstand character.

  • What you can do: Keep an eye on who he’s emulating. Because you are the strong, central part of his life, he’s probably incorporating a lot of your values and behaviors, so be aware of what you model. Be sure to surround yourself with the kind of men you’d like him to become.

 

The best thing Moms can do:  If your son has a father who lives outside the home, studies show that even some contact with Dad is very beneficial. You will do your son a tremendous favor to put aside your feelings of bitterness, estrangement, or judgment—if you have these—and do everything you can to help your son and his dad reconnect. If the dad lives far away, I encourage you to help your son stay in touch with his dad. As someone who grew up with an estranged father and an embittered mother, I know firsthand the loss your boy will feel as he grows into adulthood and works to overcome the side effects of growing up fatherless.

 

Keep up the great work. Moms across America are doing an amazing job!

 

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Byron Ricks is a human behavior expert, a certified trainer, and a seminar leader who has worked with such companies as Samsung, Fannie Mae, Pitney Bowes, and Pizza Hut. His new book is Searching for Dad: Nine Side Effects of Growing Up Fatherless and How to Overcome Them (Brown Books). Find out more about him at http://www.byronricks.com.

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 The Power of Influence

 

I often hear professionals, particularly younger ones, complaining about their lack of control in various situations. They say if they had the departments reporting to them their CEO, SVP, VP or Senior Director has; things would run a lot more smoothly. What they are really saying is, “If I could control these departments, I could guarantee the results.”  The truth is control is an illusion. You cannot control anyone, even the people that report to you. Think about it, how much control do you have over your kids?

 

The one person you have the most control of is yourself. However, you can influence nearly everyone, especially if you have developed a working relationship with them. Influence is one of the greatest leadership skills there is to posses. Think of the challenges Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. experienced. History notes them as great leaders even though they had control over virtually no one, yet their influence changed the course of history.  To become a savvy professional you must learn how to develop the ability to influence others. Some of you have great influence with the person you report to; however, to have far reaching impact you must have far reaching influence. To accomplish this you must stop concentrating on what you want to control and begin to focus on how you can expand your influence.

 

Here are four suggestions that will help you become a person of influence no matter where you are in the organization:

 

  1. Focus on yourself. As Gandhi famously said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Modeling is the most powerful form of teaching known to man. If you aren’t “walking the talk,” you lessen your influence. (Michael Hyatt)
  2. Take the initiative. Whiners are passive. They sit back and complain. They focus on what others should have done rather than what they themselves could have done. Professionals don’t have time to play the blame-game. Instead, they look for opportunities to take initiative and take action. There is always something you could be doing to influence the outcome. (Michael Hyatt)
  3. Cast the vision. Oftentimes people don’t want what we want, because we have not invested the time to paint the vision. People want a challenge and to do something significant. If you want the leader and department you support to operate a certain way you have to give them a compelling vision of a new reality. (Michael Hyatt)
  4. Learn to build strong relationships. At the end of the day, everyone is a volunteer. Yes, even the people who report to others. As you have a relationship with everyone you interact with on a regular basis; the question is: What is the depth of that relationship? Depth determines the amount of trust and risk one is willing to engage in with you and yes, how much influence you have with them. People have more options than you think. If you don’t appreciate them, someone else will. People want to give their best effort to those who notice. As Zig Ziglar once said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” When you show people that you care about them as individuals and listen to their ideas you validate them which add mortar to the relationship deepening the opportunity to influence when opinions are different. (Byron Ricks)

 

Influence is the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others (Merriam-Webster Online). Many people understand control and want to be in control. Few people understand what influence is and the power in having it. Wouldn’t it be nice if people stood ready to do our bidding? For most of us this is only a pipe dream. If we are truly going to make a difference, we are going to have to sharpen our interpersonal skills and become more pro-active at broadening our influence.

 Byron Ricks, MA

Certified Trainer and Author

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