Today, natural, healthy boyhood is under attack.
It is threatened not only by an educational establishment that devalues masculinity and boyishness, and not only by widely remarked social changes including widespread divorce and the rise of single-parent households that deprive boys of the responsible fathers they need, but by a noxious popular culture that is as degrading to boys as it is dangerous to girls.
As parents, we know that boyhood has been changing—for the worse. We want our boys to build tree forts and bear traps, not shoot aliens in video games. We remember when boys use to go trout fishing, sit under a tree while daydreaming about the future, and now we fear that our boys are cutting themselves off from us with iPods, earbuds, and computer porn.
When we grew up in the ’60s, ’70s, and even in the ’80s for the most part, it was safe for boys to flip on the TV, because the networks still upheld a general moral consensus. But now we grimace as our boys are inundated with cheap, nasty dialogue and graphic images that reflect cheap, nasty values and an impoverished imagination.
During the past decade, psychologists have written about the emotional troubles our boys endure. Educators have sounded alarms because elementary school and high school boys are performing much more poorly than girls. Their SAT scores are too low; fewer are graduating from high school and college. In my own profession of medicine, medical school applications from young men have dropped.
Are our boys in trouble? If so, are they in more danger than past generations? Yes, and most definitely yes. But unlike some psychologists, sociologists, and educators, I believe that the troubles hurting our boys stem from three major sources:
- lack of close relationships with men (particularly fathers),
- lack of religious education, and
- aggressive exposure to a toxic media that teaches boys that the keys to a great life are sex, sex, and a bit more sex—and a whole lot of money and fame.
The good news is that we parents can turn this around. We must be willing to see that what our boys need isn’t simply more education, more prescriptions, more money, or more activities.
What they need is us. You and me. They need parents who are willing to take a good hard look at what their sons think and what they are doing. They need fathers who will embrace their sons and watch them with the eyes of a schooled hawk.
The foundations of any boy’s life is built on three things:
- his relationships with his parents,
- his relationship with God, and
- his relationship with his siblings and close friends.
If these three are strong, any boy can thrive in the midst of academic and athletic challenges, a toxic culture, and harmful peer pressure.
This post is adapted from Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons