May 27, 2010

All’s Not Well On Planet Boy...



In the generation child psychologist Michael Carr-Greg coined- the most vulnerable in our history it seems we’ve reached a crisis point in the lives of our children, ‘tweens’ and teens.

More recently we've highlighted some of the issues facing our girls, but in Maggie Hamilton’s new book ‘What’s Happening To Our Boys’, we’re opened up to the realities of 21st century living from the gender flipside, and it quickly becomes clear that all is not well on planet boy.

Hamilton’s new book is confronting to say the least, it canvasses an overwhelming list of areas where our boys are now at risk, many of which we’d never have foreseen and therefore remain largely unaddressed…

For example, she asks…
“What kind of world are our boys to growing up in? Why are growing numbers of boys suffering body image and self-esteem problems? Why do they feel worthless without the latest branded toy, game or item of clothing? What makes soft drinks, snacks and fast foods so attractive? Why are they drawn to countless acts of violence on TV, in movies and in computer games? What impact does our highly sexualised climate, our emphasis on success and money, have on them as they grow? And why are so many boys vulnerable to cyber bullying and to porn?”

For Hamilton, it’s actually our own naivety and ignorance of these clear and present dangers that’s making our young boys and teens so vulnerable, hence the book.

Hamilton is not alone in her concern, Psychologist Steve Biddulph (in Raising Boys’), Hamilton (in her previous book ‘What Men Don’t Talk About’) and author/speaker/ child Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, have long since been ringing the alarm bell on the tragic state of the nation for children in our society, and calling for the raising up of  lovingarms to help.

All would agree that (not unlike girls), perhaps the two most pressing concerns needing immediate attention are boys attitudes to self-esteem and body image, and their exposure to sex & pornography…

   * On self-esteem and body image they have this to say…
“ They're increasingly concerned about body image and presentation.
It’s depressing to hear boys 10 and under preoccupied with their hair and clothing, 
with how they look and come across…
teen boys talk of not wanting to take off their T shirts, or to strip down to their shorts, because they don’t have ‘the right’ body.
What kind of a world dictates that wearing the same T shirt twice in a week,
or pants from K Mart, risks social suicide!” (Hamilton).
 and…
“ Pressure’s on, the ideal body for men is now characterised by a mesomorphic body type.
With large defined muscles, low body fat and a v-shaped upper body” 
(P. Deitrich: QLD Uni)
and…


“Extreme dieting or avoidance of particular food groups have doubled in men since the 1990s”.




(C.Morgan:Butterfly Foundation)



   * On sex and pornography…
“Pornography is only a click away.
In some communities 70% of boys have viewed violent and deviant pornography by the ages of 12-13; nearly 100% by the age of 18.
Studies show that the formative male brain is seriously imprinted by such degrading pornography,
It alters a boy’s sense of reality and feeds their acting out of aggressive behaviour towards girls”.
(R. Klein: On-lone Opinion)
and…
“Increasingly primary school boys are getting into porn.
Boys are also watching it together.
Porn is giving them a new language and a way of relating which does no-one any favours”
(Hamilton: WHTOB)
                                                             and... 
For the boys, conditioned by online porn and compliant but disengaged girls,
sex may come to have no more meaningful than an ice cream or pizza.
Little wonder we have one of the most depressed, anxious and lonely generations of young people ever to inhabit the earth”
(Steve Biddulph: Raising Boys)
A Pathway Ahead…
Not surprisingly, as much as writers and researchers are in agreement about the problems, they are also unanimous in their approach to the answers.
They all speak of our need to re-create and re-invest in 3 irreplaceable influences in the lives of boys- Fathers, Mothers & women, and Mentor role models. Interestingly enough, they are same relational foundation stones the Bible depicts as central to raising up wise and godly children under God.

  1. Fathers:

Steve Biddulph has estimated that 30% of men today don’t speak to their father. 30% have a ‘prickly’ or hostile relationship. 30% go through the motions of being a good son, & less than 10% are friends with their father and see them as a source of emotional support.

A reality echoed by 18-year-old Dylan in WHTOB.
“ For most guys it’s not your dad who’s your role model.
Until your nine he’s your hero. He does everything with you
...then it changes…”
And yet fathers, as the first model of manhood in the life of a child, can radically shape and influence the kind of men they will in turn become…
“Having a father around means his presence empowers you,
it gives you something to strive for,
if you don’t have this, then you don’t know how to act except from your friends”
(Luca, 15: WHTOB)
Proverbs reminds us that it’s through the instruction of wise and loving parents that wisdom enters the heart of a child (1:8-9), that fathers play a key role in helping them grow in wisdom and keeping their hearts on the right path (1:8,23:19-22), and it’s to their own detriment & folly if a child refuses to heed such loving advice (13:1,20:20,30:11,17).

  2. Mothers and women:

Research tells us that mothers, and other female role models, play a significant role in shaping our boys. A boy's mother is the first woman he loves, and it is from his mother that he will first learn about women.
“ At the beginning of adolescence mum told me what it would be like.
She said that sometimes you feel awkward and embarrassed,
Sometimes you’ll make mistakes in public,
But you don’t worry about it, these things happen.
That was brilliant, brilliant for her to tell me”.
(Doug: What Men Don’t Talk About)
The Scriptures teach a complementarian view of life and relationships, where the different but ‘complementary’ roles of mother and father, men and women, are to be valued and seen as necessary.

The Bible presents some compelling images of the significance of mothers and women in shaping the lives and understandings of young men. Like Eunice and Lois with Timothy (2Tim:5), Priscilla & Aquila with Apollos (Acts 18), and noteworthy is the recitation of his mother’s teaching by King Lemuel at the end of Proverbs (31:1-9).

This oracle is a wonderful picture of the wisdom one mother distils to her son, wisdom about how to grow into a wise man, a wise leader. Did you notice how her wisdom list’ is prefaced by this beautiful statement of her loving relationship to him…"O my son, O son of my womb, O son of my vows”?, only then does the advice to -do not… 

It’s clear from these words that Lemuel was about to receive advice from someone who loved him, someone who cherished him & believed in him. His mother gives him good reasons to listen. A model not unlike the reminder we’re given of our heavenly Father’s love as the motivation for our godly living in 1Jn 3:1.

Have you ever noticed how a person’s confidence in a loving, trusting relationship such as this, is foundational for imparting and receiving personal advice?

So, in the context of her love for him, she then imparts 3 sage pieces of advice to her growing son…


1. Make wise and right sexual and relational   choices (v3)
2. Beware the potential dangers and pitfalls of   alcohol (v4-7)
3. Develop a character of justice, mercy and compassion (v 8-9).

...How relevant is that little trinity of advice for today!

  3. Mentors and Role Models:

Apart from biological parents, our young men also need ‘significant others’ in their lives.

             Biddulph notes-  
“There’s a disappearance of caring adults from the lives of teenagers.
Especially the protective alliance of mothers, aunts, and adult family friends,…
Now the peer group has become the default, and the media the third parent,
sometime first parent, in terms of passing on ideas and values”.

Well, just as Timothy and Titus had Paul, their ‘father in the faithas a model to follow (2Tim 1:2, Titus 1:4) so our young ones need influential,loving and committed christian mentor figures in their lives. And what we learn from the scriptures is that what is critical in a mentor figure is not so much their age, but their godly example and maturity in the faith.

For Example Titus, a young man himself, is commanded by his mentor Paul to likewise set about encouraging the young men on Crete to... 
-be ‘self controlled’, or thoughtful about their behaviour (v6). 
-to ‘set an example’ before them, an example of what it means to ‘do good(v7). 
-and to show by his teaching his ‘integrity’, ‘seriousness’ and ‘soundness of speech’ (v8).

It’s patently clear that our boys are in trouble, and therefore decisive action is now needed. Action that cannot be effectual at arms length, but by close, loving and committed engagement. As Michael Carr-Greg emphasises

we can no longer afford to parent the most vulnerable generation in our history via mobile phone…it’s time to get a plan, develop a strategy and get involved”.

Obviously, there are no slick answers here, it’s only by taking the time to understand the sorts of issues our boys are confronting, by choosing to engage with them, stand along side them and lovingly guide them in the challenges they face that we can hope to raise boys who might grow...

‘to trust in the Lord,
 leaning not on their own understanding,
but in their ways acknowledging HIM,
and their paths will be made straight’
 (Prov 3:5-6).

……And we couldn’t ask, or want, for more than that!

                                                       
 © Sarie King: please do not use without permission.

Post Post: Resources I have found helpful…
  Books:
* Arch Hart- ‘The Sexual Man’
* Maggie Hamilton-‘What’s Happening To Our Boys’ & ‘What Men Don’t Talk About’
* Michael Carr-Gregg- ‘Surviving Adolescents’ & ‘Real Wired Child’ (What parents need to know about kids on line)
  Websites:

6 comments:

Ian said...

As a dad and teacher of high-school students, this is a very disturbing but recognizable trend. Boys are becoming less reluctant to take responsibility, are 'rougher' with girls and seem surprised to be picked up about it, and are generally becoming less concerned with 'impressing' a girl through acts of kindness or thoughtfulness.

The quote about pornography being only a click away is, while true and disturbing, equally concerning in my opinion as the petrol station outlet or Newsagent that puts the magazine images out on the public street - we can at least 'control' the internet coming in to the house. We have a confused society that will sell the porn and lament the effects.

Thanks for posting this very thought provoking article.

Sarah said...

Also just managed to read your post on boys- very thought provoking and makes me want to get on top of our boys behaviour even more, and come along side them lovingly and firmly. Sad about the boys who thinks dad's depart when they turn 9- must keep building bridges with our 9 yr old!

Ros said...

Good post, but do you have answers about what to do if one or more of these '3 irreplaceable influences' are missing? Or are those boys just kinda screwed?

Sarie King said...

Hi Ros,

thanks for that comment, the question you ask is exactly the right one.

I don't think it will mean that, but I do think that because we recognise that each of those roles are significant & necessary, that when one role is absent (such as the loss of a father or mother) that we must do all we can to mitigate the gap that causes in a child's life.

This is where the church community becomes critical.

Narelle said...

Ros, I also heard Michael Carr Gregg say that if boys are without a Father, having the opportunity of spending time, it only needs to be at the most, once a week, with a man, that is sufficient for them to learn who and what a man is. Sarie is right, good men in the church, can help here.

Ros said...

Thanks for those comments answering my question.

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