Saving the World One Teen at a Time - Column on Parenting Tweens and Teens

Raising Cavemen.

by Kristy Campbell


As I watch my three boys (ages 9, 5, and 1.5) in their daily routines, I observe natural behavior that is foreign to me, and it seems primal and crass. Fart jokes and nose-picking aside, I am witnessing a deeper construct that is taking hold in their development and I’m concerned.


My older son hunches over his meals and shovels food in his mouth as if he hasn’t eaten in days. I continually need to remind him to sit up, put a napkin on his lap, and use a utensil of some sort. My middle son has no awareness on any level of another person around him. He takes care of his own needs and moves through the day in a me-centric bubble. I usually have to remind him that setting the table includes more than just one place setting. And my darling, sweet almost 2-year old son has started to come up to me and kick me in the leg for no reason.


I want to raise my sons to be men I’d want my daughters to marry…strong, capable, sensitive family men. My own husband isn’t that way, but I’m determined to put three young men into the world who are different. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s possible.


I’m in my mid-40’s and most of my girlfriends agree: the most difficult part of being married is communicating with a male. Men of my generation seem to have nailed the “need to provide” and “be financially successful” tasks, but the “need to listen” and “be supportive” requirement is proving to be more of a challenge. When I ask my female friends in their 30’s about their relationship with men, it seems that men 10 years younger got the message about being more attentive to women and have acquired some emotional language. The 20-something women I know are incredibly confident and are finding that although men their age are emotionally adept, they seem conflicted about sharing power. Teenage boys are unto themselves, so using their behavior as a guide for future generational performance would be futile. Which brings me back to my brood and my huge question mark as to how to raise my sons to be men for the future.


Turns out I’m not alone in my quandary. Did you see the Superbowl ads? Or read any of the resulting commentary? I thought the Dockers ads encouraging men to wear the pants again were odd. I mentioned it a girlfriend who passed on Adam Gopnik’s commentary in the New Yorker. In his piece “Out-Peytoned,” Gopnik points out how “all of the commercials … (were) about men being “feminized” by women, and then (urging men) to rebel by buying a gadget (a car, an internet TV service).”

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What a great story! As of now I'm still have no kids since I married to my wife but if the time has come I'll raise my kids as good as my parents disciplined to me to become a good man.


Wow. This is good to hear. As a mom of two boys, age 16 and 6 - I think sometimes based on their manners and mannerisms that they will be cavemen for sure. I'll keep trying, though!


And a wife with a healthy sense of humor. I pray for the same for my boys.


Wow. This is good to hear. As a mom of two boys, age 16 and 6 - I think sometimes based on their manners and mannerisms that they will be cavemen for sure. I'll keep trying, though!


I struggle with this exact thing and eventually track back all of the annoying behavior to the disrespect I have allowed to continue (and more than likely contributed to over the years myself by disrespecting my spouse) It takes sooo much restraint to keep from saying things to emasculate my spouse that we fall into a pattern of chiding and disrespect by 'harmless' snide comments and the like... The more I realize I'm doing it, the more likely I'll be able to catch myself sooner and sooner and maybe stop altogether.


Stefanie Mullen

I have three boys. They are all lovely and I love every boy thing about them. But MAN (pun intended) are we a different breed. I too try desperately to teach them, at the very least, the manners I would like to have in a husband, chivalry and respect for women.

My husband was raised with seven sisters and he is the most wonderful MANLY yet considerate man I have ever known. My teen boys are starting to show signs of just such behavior. Point is, they get there. I promise. Especially with a mom like you who will clearly ensure they grow up to be gentlemen.


This is such a funny, light-hearted article! Pre-kids, my husband and I went as guests to Defending the Cavemen, a one-man broadway show by Rob Becker. My friend who invited us was a couple therapist. The show was fantastic. I was howling with laughter rolling all over my husband. Needless to say, my husband was not as amused. Fast forward to present day. When I remind my elementary school age boys that if they do not intend to pee inside the toilet then they should clean up after themselves. "Why?" they ask.


I am a 51 yr old with a 12 yr old daughter, my husband was telling me what he thought was a funny story of one of his friend's son commenting on the Curling event at the Olympics that it should only be women competing because they use brooms. What the hell? I probably shouldn't have got annoyed but it is uninformed attitudes like this that parents teach their sons that keep the cycle going of keeping women "in their place" I was shocked that any parent would be cool with their son talking like that, but I don't know the parents of the child. Needless to say my husband was dumbfounded why I was irritated, so I am dealing with uninformed behavior also and depending on him to help me raise our daughter to be a strong confident woman... I don't know, but I applaud mothers that take the time to help their sons become the men they would be proud of and make a wonderful contribution to society as a whole when they are raised to respect women not find ways to "keep them in their place".


On this topic, I recommend the book "Raising Cain" and how the lack of an emotional language and awareness is negatively affecting our boys, especially as they grow into teens. It's the kind of insight that helps me filter my own gender bias AND motivates me to make sure they are equipped to avoid the range of issues the 2 male therapist dads treat and see in large numbers.
Plus they suggest some simple (but hard) things to do in the quest to help boys understand emotions.