Growing good men

In February, New Zealand lost a champion, Celia Lashlie, who championed our young men.

For more than a decade, Celia, a former head of Special Education Services and former prison manager, worked with boys' schools around the country on what became known as The Good Man Project.

Her work involved talking to teenage boys about how they saw themselves in relation to each other and to the wider world.

Over this time Celia built up a picture of what New Zealand boys faced as they moved towards adulthood.

Celia described adolescence as a bridge towards adulthood, but not a bridge mothers could or should cross with their sons.

Mothers must wait patiently on the other side.

Mothers who are still mothering, ensuring things such as getting clothes to the wash, school lunches made and sons to their sports practice on time, don't allow their sons to learn and assume personal responsibility.

Sons must discover their own answers.

If a teenage boy doesn't need to do it because someone else will, then he won't.

If he doesn't need to do it now, he'll leave it until later.

If he has too many things to do, then he probably won't get to do any.

Celia's conclusion was that what boys needed most from Mum was laughter and silence.

Dad, on the other hand, should very much be on the bridge and be involved physically and emotionally.

Even if that just meant taking five minutes each day to talk to their son, ask how his day was, show an interest, even attend son's ''meet the teacher'' evening instead of Mum.

Celia felt that the sad thing about dads was that they thought they had to be something different but they don't. They just have to be who they are.

''They're just dad, and that's enough.''

Boys also like clear boundaries.

They have to be able to see and feel the consequences of doing or not doing something before it becomes real enough to matter and to motivate them.

A great job for dads to manage.

If there's not a father, there does need to be a male standing alongside and supporting.

Her work, sadly, is now over but what Celia identified is too important to be left just to boys' schools to address.

She raised issues that need to be faced up to not only by all schools but also by all families and all members from grandparents down.

That is the challenge and her legacy; and therein lies a solution to many of things we see happening around us and don't like.

It's for us now to pick up the baton and continue Celia's work of ''growing our gorgeous boys into good men''.

- Ian Munro 

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