Providing Direction to Young Men: 5 Steps To Take
This week, I'm writing about young males and the fact that they are falling behind in society by almost every measure—education, work, mental health, and a life without addictive behaviors. Certainly not every young man is in this situation, but too many are disengaging and failing to keep up with females. As a result, they’re not growing up to be healthy men.
Consider the ramifications of this trend on our culture. In the future, it could possibly be the female, not the male, who is educated and the breadwinner of the home. Males could be intimidated by this scenario, which could lead to a larger percentage of singles in our society. Women may find it more and more difficult to find a male they respect enough to marry, while males may find it difficult to find a female who is compatible. What’s more, if males still choose to marry, they may feel the need to display their manhood with sexual exploits—having affairs with other women—or they may find it through virtual realities like video games and online games with other males around the world.
I have lost count of the number of young newlywed couples I know who married for love, then somehow, things changed. It was almost as though the young husband checked the “wife” goal off his list and returned to his natural habitat—the screen. Loads of young women have complained to me about how their husband gets home from work and chooses to “veg” in front of a video game. These women are frustrated and dissatisfied, and their husbands are going… nowhere. One young woman calls herself a “video game widow.”
This could be one of several factors that leads to three or five-year marriage contracts, where a woman gets the children she wants from the male, the male gets the sex and support he wants for a contracted period of time, and nothing is too boring or challenging for very long. Just do a bit of homework and you’ll discover something a bit disconcerting.
Steps to Take…
Let me take a moment and suggest some steps you can begin with if you have young males in your life who fit some of the symptoms I’ve described the last two days.
1. Begin to expose them to role models early. Even if you’re a single mom or a female teacher, you can be intentional about introducing young males to men who can cast vision for a career or a cause they may enjoy. Males need a target to hit. Ask neighbors, colleagues or uncles to speak into the lives of the young men you know. Enlist them as one-day mentors, and see if it may lead to more. (If possible, do this as early as middle school). The key is to build ambition.
2. Screen and limit the screen time. Talk over the issue of video games, computer time, or TV time. Evaluate together what they’re watching and playing. If they’re old enough, decide together what the boundaries will be and stick to them. I simply shared the research with my son and he was the one who suggested: “Maybe I should not play those games so much.” He owned the decision because it was his idea.
3. Provide appropriate hands-on learning opportunities. To insure that adolescent males don’t draw the conclusion they’re “bad students”, why not furnish environments where they can get some experiential learning from a job-site? This could be anywhere from the marketplace to a construction site. Help them find something they love, but something they can learn by doing. Let males be males and exert energy, ambition and passion whenever appropriate.
4. Educate yourself on the effects of prescription drugs. Some boys need them, many don’t. Do your homework; don’t be lazy about this issue. My recommendation is to use drugs sparingly and look for ways to handle leading boys or young men with clear direction and clear goals. See if there may be a link to the chemicals in the plastics you use and the ADHD symptoms you may be spotting in your son or student.
5. Be careful about male bashing. I know it can be funny, but young guys see a pattern if adults (men or women) do this regularly. At dinner conversations, while watching TV or the evening news, or even after movies, talk about men who serve as great examples of leadership or statesmanship—heroes—in our society. This may feel cheesy, but they need it. Most young guys think more concretely than abstractly. They need clear examples of a target to shoot for.
So How Do We Provide Direction?
Let’s begin with a simple list of steps anyone can take:
1. Build a relationship with them, one at a time.
2. Spark conversation based on their interests, not yours.
3. Ask them questions that will encourage them to think about the future.
4. Use metaphors and experiences to teach them principles they’ll need as an adult.
5. Meet regularly and dependably. You may be the only male they learn to count on.
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