Making Men Happen

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.

Talking With Our Children About Their Future Occupation

Here is a good discussion starter for you and your high school student. The younger ones might roll their eyes, but once talking, I think you’ll pick up some momentum. I suspect that we’ll all have to work extra hard at ‘occupation’ type talks since these kinds of choices are being delayed on the adolescent scene.


Taken from Life on the Edge, by James Dobson
1. It must be something you genuinely like to do. This choice requires you to identify your own strengths, weaknesses and interests. (Some excellent psychometric tests are available to help with this need.)2. It must be something you have the ability to do. You might want to be an attorney but lack the talent to do the academic work and pass the bar examination.3. It must be something you can earn a living by doing. You might want to be an artist, but if people don’t buy your paintings, you could starve while sitting at your easel.

4. It must be something you are permitted to do. You might make a wonderful physician and could handle the training but can’t gain entrance to medical school. I went through a PhD program in graduate school with a fellow student who was washed out after seven years of class work. He made it to the last exam before his professors told him, “You’re out.”

5. It must be something that brings cultural affirmation. In other words, most people need people need to feel some measure of respect from their contemporaries for what they do. This is one reason women have found it difficult to stay home and raise their children.
6. Most importantly for the genuine believer, it must be something that you feel God approves of. How do you determine the will of God about so personal a decision? That is a critical matter we’ll discuss presently. You’ll notice from a brief survey of culture that many students change their minds. No sooner do they lock into a degree path and graduate than they look at the mountain of debt and change their dreams. The challenges of extended adolescence include later dating and marriage, deferred career paths and certainly, pushing their family off into the distant future. Still, the dialogue is crucial for our kids- the exchange of thoughts and ideas as they center on future dreams and careers.

And remember a few key points. Use open-ended questions like, ‘what excites you the most when you think about your future?’ When they express things that seem a bit unrealistic, let it slide. You’re simply exploring together.

Technology Increases the Speed of Change

Parents no longer have the luxury of using past experience when it comes to shaping the lives of their children. Technology is the game changer.

speed of change chart

On the chart above you’ll notice how long it took to adopt various technologies. At one extreme it took 36 years for radio to reach it’s fifty-millionth listener. Thirty-six years! Contrast that to Facebook, who signed up twice that number in a mere nine months. Speed is speeding up. And with it, culture moves with rapid- fire change.

There is nothing in our own teenage experience that compares to maintaining six detailed conversations at the same time, from a device that is always on and always on us.

Today’s savvy parent must interact with ever-changing technology, asking deep questions and striving for a genuine, authentic lifestyle:

What is technology doing to me personally?
How does it tend to magnify pre-existing issues?
How is it affecting my relationships, my productivity?
What is tech’s impact on my solitude and my walk with the Lord?

Once we begin to process (on a daily basis) we can enter the ever-changing landscape of the adolescent world with it’s mobile and social networking.