The male gender has always dominated society when it comes to strength and courage. Therefore, some might be shocked to learn that boys are having a hard time growing up and understanding what it really means to be a man.
Research indicates that boys are in real trouble.
They receive lower grades than girls. Two-thirds of them are labeled learning-disabled. Boys are the suspects in eight out of 10 arrests for alcohol and drug charges and they are arrested for more than 70 percent of juvenile crimes.
“You can’t go to a newsstand without seeing a steady stream of magazine articles questioning the role of males in today’s society,” said Dr. Kirk Walker, retired headmaster at McCallie School. “It is rare that you pick up a newspaper without reading of the problems males are experiencing and causing – and most of the articles concentrate on the problems facing adolescent males. Something is amiss and the national statistics are chilling.
“Six-year-old boys who kill do not have a relationship with strong adults who can rescue them. In most boys’ lives, human moments and interactions are gradually being replaced with electronic ones; the power of the human touch replaced by a touchpad; the values of honesty, integrity and responsibility replaced with the values of popular culture – a culture dominated by fame, sex and violence.”
Tim McGraw’s hit song “Grown Men Don’t Cry” asks the question, “Who said that real men don’t cry?” Actually, there are a number of people questioning why our society teaches boys it is not okay to cry.
Michael Thompson’s book, “Raising Cain,” stresses that it is critical for parents to give their boys permission to have a full range of human emotions – including permission to cry. Thompson believes that helping boys develop an emotional vocabulary helps them to better understand themselves and to communicate better with others. These skills will help them develop into well-rounded adults.
Dr. William Pollack, author of “Real Boys,” agrees with Thompson, and says that boys are beginning to question the double standard of masculinity that has pushed boys and men to feel they must choose between being the kind of tough, competitive, unfeeling, uncommunicative man traditionally celebrated as “masculine” (the boy code) and being the kind of open, expressive, egalitarian man now heralded as ideal by much of contemporary society.
“If we don’t let our boys cry tears, they’ll cry bullets,” said Pollack.
“If we deprive boys of the opportunity and encouragement to grow beyond the strict guidelines of the ‘boy code,’ many boys are left with an impoverished repertoire of emotions, a sense of shame at their weakness, sadness, anger and aggression,” Walker said. “Some have said that we are in an ‘anger epidemic.’ The boys feel fragile and respond to that feeling by hurting themselves and others.”
Walker believes that parents as well as the community-at-large play a critical role in the lives of boys.
Adolescent boys are not “guided missiles,” they are “guidance-seeking” missiles. Boys need and want positive role models to help them define themselves. Thompson encourages the following to help boys in the journey from boyhood to manhood:
“It is our responsibility to break the stereotype of what the popular culture defines as a ‘real’ man,” Walker said. “It is our responsibility to help a boy learn to be ‘real’ and to be a man…and it is our responsibility to help a boy define his self-worth in ways that are worthwhile to his community and to himself.”