Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Young Boy's Problem - My Take on Boys Adrift

I have 3 young boys. They are very normal happy, fun loving, rough and tumble boys. None of them possess any problem of grand proportions.  At least not any that they are aware of at their tender ages of 9, 7, and 4. What they may not be completely aware of is that the world that they will grow up in is quite different from the worlds of both of their middle age parents. This, among other things, makes us quite unexperienced in the consuming world of parenting. Believe me, I'm not blaming myself. It's just the way the cookie crumbles, as my oldest would say. Here's another thing stacked against their probably of having an experienced "mom", I'm a female. I have very little ability to understand some things about the male species. So, my three little sword wielding, bug catching, energy expending boys are stuck with me most of the time. This is not the only, nor the largest possible brick stacked against them.

It is extremely common now for many 20-30 year old male human beings to find themselves out of the house, unprepared, unmotivated, unneeded, and grossly misunderstood. Many of them find their way back into the house and onto mom and dad's couch. Their daily wins on the computer or game console being their greatest victories. What happened and how can I help mine not end up 32, unemployed, and living on my couch. According to Leonard Sax, a doctor and psychologist, who has written a book entitled Boys Adrift, a clue to understanding what is happening is by looking at what boys are built to be.

According to Sax, boys are wired to do all of the things that man through history was required to do to stay alive. It is built into their DNA. It is what kept us alive as a species these thousands of years. So, what exactly are those "things". Well, they aren't things that I relate to much, unfortunately. Boys, like men, have a very real psychological need, among other things to be a respected and integral part of a tribe, to survive through hunting and engaging in "warrior" type behaviors. Our society as a whole, does not appear to need or respect many of the things that boys and men are set up psychologically to do. Furthermore, there are many "quick fixes". These quick fixes include things like video games or pornography. Why pursue successes in life the hard way when you can achieve them at home on your computer or game console?

Another very big take home from the book for me was that most public schools in the United States are not set up to teach the typical boy the way he is designed to learn. This is a bit alarming for me as I see this in my own boys. Some of the things he suggests are finding schools or a different method of schooling that is more competitive in nature or finding something to balance the missed successes with something that might give the boys healthy "wins".

Sax lists 5 factors in his book that are leading to this boy epidemic: Changes at school, Video Games, Medications For ADHD, Endocrine Disruptors, and the Revenge of the Forsaken Gods.  Whether these problems will result in a major disruption in society, I don't know. I do know that for me and my three warriors, we are continuing the hunt for ways to teach them that regardless of the difficulty involved in not going "adrift", a respected, well-rounded, successful male is what they can and should keep trying to be. I don't think this is beyond reach.

Dr. Sax has a website that might be interesting to check out, here's the link. Or, here's a link to an interview he did on NPR.

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