A son of promise

While pregnant, I wished intensely for a boy.

I pictured his sweet boyhood, chasing balls and running errands, envisioning his adolescence as a whirlwind of school and sports. I hoped he'd grow to be a gentle, responsible, tough-minded, and courageous man.

My son isn't out of diapers yet, and already I can see how much patient effort is needed to nurture and encourage those qualities.

Where does a parent start?

Authors like Michael Gurian, interviewed in our cover story (right), offer a framework for debate, an assessment of our culture and its impact on boys. Some cultural critics see the problem of raising boys in terms of biology and neuroscience. Others see it as society's collective moral failure, or they blame parents.

Mr. Gurian discusses these, and in two areas, particularly, his argument carries weight.

The first is that boys - and girls - need what he calls a "service mission" in life. This is more than just encouraging young people to do volunteer work; it is helping them find a deeper purpose through service to others.

Gurian demands a lot of parents, caregivers, and extended families, but he also trusts these individuals to know what's best for a child. He points out that parents who pay attention to their children, and live moral lives themselves, will intuitively guide their youngsters well.

Parenting advice, like all advice, should be evaluated in the light of one's own circumstances. But for those of us who seek to instill values in our children, and who need a clearer idea of what we're up against, Gurian's comments are worth reading.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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