by Steve Biddulph AM

How to raise a boy to be a good man

Australian parenting author and psychologist Steve Biddulph AM lists two important qualities that are essential for a good man: backbone and heart. He tells Dr Ray Swann on the Understanding Boys podcast that all his books and teaching come back to these two vital attributes.

“Backbone …. is being true to your word, sticking with it when the going got tough, being trustworthy and capable. It’s no good being a fun guy if you’re a drunk as well and you don’t show up when you’re supposed to.”

“You also need heart … you can be gentle, you can be forgiving, you can be openhearted and show your tender side. There is no reason why you can’t have those two qualities in the same man.”

“Most women are just yearning for that in the men in their lives, and that’s what we’re wanting for our boys.”

Biddulph offers the following advice for dads to help them raise their boys into good men:

Embrace the child you get

From an early age, many of us have an image of the child of our dreams but often, when that child arrives, they often don’t fit the mould. Get to know your own child and appreciate and embrace their uniqueness.

Kids need to spend more time with us

Having a dad who hangs out with his kids and is not especially rushed or busy is probably two thirds of the story.

Children download their views from watching their parents. For a boy to witness his parents having a discussion and having differing points of view while being nice to each other, without shouting or being mean, is a complex learning experience for a boy and reinforces positive relationships with women.

Make sure your kids feel safe with you

Research shows that safe and measured rough and tumble play with dad helps children understand the difference between being assertive and aggressive.  

By playing rough and tumble games right from babyhood, such as bouncing a baby on your knee or play wrestling (which should never be angry or hurtful), seems to make both boys and girls feel that dad is approachable.

Be aware of the effect you have on others

Dads need to be aware of the effect they have on others, including our children, and remember not to be too loud or too forceful in movement or speech. Recognise the little flicker in their eye which shows you’ve got through and it is at that point that you should back off and not keep going.

Biddulph states it is a great paradox that the more that men relax and be themselves, the better parenthood will function and their kids will feel braver, more willing to take risks and try new things at school.

It benefits everyone if we get an idea of masculinity that’s more open and real.

You can hear more of Biddulph’s interview with Dr Swann at the Understanding Boys podcast

More episodes are featured at Understanding Boys Podcast


Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Steve Biddulph AM is an Australian author, activist and psychologist who has written a number of influential bestselling books; and lectures worldwide on parenting, and boys’ education. This article is about


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