Parenting advice from one of America's favorite experts.

By Dr. Benjamin Spock
October 03, 2005

Dr. Benjamin Spock has been giving parents advice about raising their children for decades. In this excerpt from his landmark work, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, he shares one of the 19 points he believes are most important for parents to keep in mind about their role in their child's life.

A boy needs a friendly father

Sometimes a father is so eager to have his son turn out perfect that it gets in the way of their having a good time together. The man who is eager for his son to become an athlete may take him out at an early age to play catch. Naturally, every throw, every catch, has its faults. If the father is constantly criticizing, even in a friendly tone, the boy becomes uncomfortable inside. It isn't any fun. Also, it gives him the feeling of being no good, in his father's eyes and in his own. A boy comes around to an interest in sports in good time if he's naturally self-confident and outgoing. Feeling approved of by his father and mother helps him more than being coached by him. A game of catch is fine if it's the son's idea and if it's for fun.

A boy doesn't grow spiritually to be a man just because he's born with a male body. The thing that makes him feel and act like a man is being able to pattern himself after men and older boys with whom he feels friendly. He can't pattern himself after a person unless he feels that this person likes him and approves of him. If a father is always impatient or irritated with him, the boy is likely to feel uncomfortable not only when he's around his father but when he's around other men.

So a father who wants to help his son grow up comfortable about being a man shouldn't jump on him when he cries, scorn him when he's playing games with girls, or force him to practice athletics. He should enjoy him when he's around, give him the feeling he's a chip off the old block, share a secret with him, take him alone on excursions sometimes.

Excerpted with permission from Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, Revised Seventh Edition, Pocket Books, 1998.

Copyright 1945, 1946, © 1957, 1968, 1976, 1985, 1992 by Benjamin Spock, MD. Copyright renewed © 1973, 1974, 1985, 1996 by Benjamin Spock, MD. Revised and updated material copyright © by The Benjamin Spock Trust

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

American Baby


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