I recently spoke at a local FCA meeting. These students gather every week at 7:00 AM (before classes begin) for encouragement and prayer. I arrived early, talked with the teacher who was hosting the event and put some preliminary notes on the white board.
As students began filing into the room, my planned talk turned sour in my stomach. Girls. And lots of them. By the time I was introduced, there were thirty-seven girls and one guy. I’d planned on getting some gender tension going, but instead developed some of my own. Where were all the guys?
Books and articles are flooding the market, attempting to answer this recent phenomenon. No sooner do you finish one than two more appear, their titles catchy, their content stunning. Most of them take a similar path. We read shocking statistics by way of introduction. Then we delve into the research. And finally, we get a dash of advice and hope.
If you had to come up with your own reasons for why boys are flaming out, what would top your list? Excessive screen time? Problems with the educational system? Disintegration of the family?
Here’s my short list for starters:
Mothering – Today’s parents (including dads) are encouraged to helicopter over their kids, rescuing and protecting instead of supporting the systems that allow boys to grow up.
Integration – Nearly all the male places have gone co-ed. Military, fire stations, police force, and — the final straw for me — women as football broadcasters. Guys have nowhere to practice their maleness.
Aggressive Girls – From social media to movies to pornography to the workplace, girls come at guys. What once was the exception (a boy-crazy girl) is now commonplace.
Lack of Male Initiation Rites – Male wisdom doesn’t just materialize for boys. Rather, it gets learned through significant difficulty.
Low Risk – When boys rise to a challenge or responsibility that carries substantial risk or reward, it strengthens their fiber. They walk taller.
Zero Restraint – Men grow strong by exercising their “no” muscle. Not acting out on their impulses. Choosing honor over indulgence. Resisting. Walking into the wind.
Technology will continue to escalate, influencing the speed of change, carrying trends with it and forcing our parenting to become more intentional. Consider for a moment that boys need to learn experientially as well as from a book. Deliberately reduce screen time while increasing opportunities for boys to work with their hands, to create and to explore. Although we often get kickback at the beginning, the predictable result is that guys gain a level of confidence when engaged with tools and dirt and challenge.