Is society telling boys something is wrong with them?

From “Boy Is Beautiful” in Psychology Today by Mark Sherman, Ph. D.

What was the picture? Was it a gun? A bomb? The scene of an explosion? No. It was an anatomically correct stick figure of a man. Yes, it was a man with a penis.

My son was very upset – not with my grandson, but with the school, for forcing my son to leave work in the middle of the day to pick up my grandson for what my son felt was an absurd reason. And my daughter-in-law also thought it was ridiculous, as did my wife, and my son’s in-laws, who are far more conservative than we are.

I think my son handled it beautifully. My grandson was upset to be sent home, and felt like there was something wrong with him.  And that is how kids feel; you have to be pretty grown up to feel that maybe it’s not you; that perhaps there is something wrong with “the system.”

The whole article is here.

The Primacy of Moderate Self-esteem

The Primacy of Moderate Self-esteem by Marty Nemko (This article first appeared in the commission newsletter, The Proposal)
Careers Tips for Boys’ Parents: Toward Moderate Self-Esteem

Part one of a four-part series that helps parents help set the stage for their boys’ career success. Some advice applies to girls.

    If a boy’s self-esteem is too low, he can’t envision a significant career goal let alone be motivated to do the work to achieve it. On the other hand, too-high self-esteem risks complacency or the unrealistic belief he could do anything—Not everyone has a realistic shot of becoming a doctor, lawyer, or astronaut. Self-esteem should be just high enough to engender the sense that, with effort, there’s a range of rewarding careers in which he could succeed.
Alas, it’s harder than in previous generations for boys to acquire even moderate self-esteem. When I started out as a career counselor 30 years ago, my male and female clients were equally confident in themselves. Today, my female clients are, on average, more confident.
That’s understandable. Disproportionately, today’s boys get messages that female is good, male is bad. For example, I just googled the terms “Girls Rock” and “Boys Rock.” There are 300% as many listings for “Girls Rock.” There even are books and posters that explicitly encourage girls to be violent against boys. For example, most books go out of print in a couple years but the book and poster, published by Workman, a major publisher, “Boys are Stupid. Throw Rocks at Them!” remains in print a decade after publication!  Even if the book were an attempt at humor, if it were “Girls are Stupid Throw Rocks at Them!,” a publisher would not even have agreed to publish it and if it did, groups would immediately demand it be pulled from the shelves.
Of course, books, posters, and tee-shirts in themselves won’t destroy a boy’s self-esteem. What increases the risk is a boy who is already vulnerable and then experiences a daily retinue of negative imagery and few male role models. Many boys already think they’re inferior. That mindset is unlikely to open them to a reasonable range of career opportunities. So parents might want to do one or more of the following:
Identify and frequently remind him of his strengths. Is he bold yet fair and only takes reasonable risks? Is he usually kind? Able to fix things?  Does he write well?  Stay alert for his latent as well as apparent strengths and point them out to your boy. Do it often.
Conversely, praising trivial accomplishments and excessively tolerating bad behavior leads to the aforementioned too-high self-esteem. Limit praise to legitimately praise-worthy behavior. Of course, do set limits and issue criticisms as appropriate, although corporal punishment  is a no-no. That teaches that an acceptable response to bad behavior is violence.
Keep on the lookout for boy-friendly teachers at your son’s school. Perhaps visit classrooms and ask parents of boys at your child’s school. 87 percent of elementary school teachers are women, among the highest percentage in the world, so you may not have a high-quality male teacher to vie for.
But female teachers vary in how well they treat boys: Do they allow for plenty of movement: Active boys have a harder time sitting all day than do many girls. They may prefer reading about insects and monsters more than do girls.  They may like plot-driven stories of adventure and heroism more than talky books about relationships between girls who are clearly superior to the male protagonist. Does the teacher accept a measure of “hyperactivity” or is she too quick to refer the child to the principal or to a physician for Ritalin
Encourage your child to pursue extracurricular activities that are respectful of boys’–especially your boy’s ways of being. Sure, for some boys, that’s sports  and rough-housing but if your boy is, for example, artistic or bookish, of course, respect that. After school, some boys would rather read a book, draw pictures, or yes, watch TV or play a video game. In moderation, there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, recent research finds that video games yield a surprising array of learning and personal development gains.
It’s long been argued that role models portrayed on TV and in movies affect kids. So boys need to see positive role models in the media, especially since their teachers will overwhelmingly be female

So…. Show your boy books with positive male protagonists. PBS has assembled this list, “Best Books for Boys.” It offers many types of model boys, not just athletes, soldiers, etc. nor just hyper-feminized types.

Do remember that even as boys get beyond the traditional age when parents read aloud to kids, your 6 to 10 year old may still enjoy it, and it’s a good parent-child bonding experience.
Similarly, encourage your child to watch TV shows and movies that present positive boy and men protagonists, who demonstrate heroism, prudent risk-taking and drive, used to admirable ends. Alas, there is a dearth of recent such movies so I’ve had to dig into the archive. Fortunately, all are available on NetFlix, Amazon Instant Video, etc:  Back to the Future, Home Alone, Dead Poets Society, ET, Field of Dreams, The Black Stallion, The Great Escape, James and the Giant Peach, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Lion King, Rocky, Big, The Red Balloon, Rudy, and the first Harry Potter movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Helping your child acquire reasonable but not excessive self-esteem lays the foundation for a thoughtful, fair-minded exploration of career options. How parents can facilitate that will be the subject of my next article, to appear in the next newsletter.

Marty Nemko is a career counselor and on the Coaltion for a White House Council on Boys and Men. His bio is in Wikipedia.

Happier thoughts: Changing Perception of Fatherhood in Pop Culture, aka #DadsInAds

Recently the oafish dad characterization has changed. After the complaints to a Lowes paint commercial in 2014, advertising agencies changed how they potrayed dads, and the public encouraged it. This is an ongoing collection of positive dad commercials.

#RealStrength Dove Men+Care January 2015

“Dave” Vicks Nyquil January 2015

#HowToDad Cheerios December 2014

“To Be A Dad” Toyota January 2015

“Life Lesson’s” Uncle Ben’s August 2014

“The Value of Room to Run” True Value Hardware

#SwifferEffect Swiffer January 2015

“Dad & Andy” Whirlpool May 2015

Thoughts on Men After Paris and Before the Second Democratic Debate

From Leslie Loftis at the PJ Tatler:

The decline of manliness is not a new observation. We have discouraged men from acting like men for decades now….now that the little danger, and the three-quarters of a century without a world war is questionable, or should be, did we defame manliness when we did not think we needed it, only to find it rare, now that we obviously do?…We have discouraged boys from becoming men. And now we will likely berate them for not defending us from terrorism today.

The article is here.

A Disadvantaged Start Hurts Boys More Than Girls

From Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times:

Boys are falling behind. They graduate from high school and attend college at lower rates than girls and are more likely to get in trouble, which can hurt them when they enter the job market. This gender gap exists across the United States, but it is far bigger for poor people and for black people. As society becomes more unequal, it seems, it hurts boys more.

New research from social scientists offers one explanation: Boys are more sensitive than girls to disadvantage. Any disadvantage, like growing up in poverty, in a bad neighborhood or without a father, takes more of a toll on boys than on their sisters. That realization could be a starting point for educators, parents and policy makers who are trying to figure out how to help boys — particularly those from black, Latino and immigrant families.

The entire article is here.

The Boy Crisis: A Sobering Look at the State of our Boys

Warren Farrell Ph.D. discusses the Boy Crisis at TEDxMarin. A few highlights:

  • “If our very survival has been dependent on our sons’ willingness to die for us, then being sensitive to male death competes with our survival instinct.”
  • “Dad deprived boys go from their dad deprived homes to male teacher deprived schools. We didn’t used to know the importance of that.”
  • “The feminist movement and society helped introduce women to the STEM professions but no one introduced boys to the caring professions.”
  • John Lennon story at the end.

 

Men Are Dying Because They Can’t Talk

From Christos Reid at Medium, Men Are Dying Because They Can’t Talk:

The Silence Problem

Men are more at risk of committing suicide, states professor and chair of the National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group in England, Louis Appleby, because they are “reluctant to seek help”, in addition to being more prone to heavy drinking and self-harm. The problem isn’t going away, even internationally—every country in the world has seen male suicides outstrip female ones, and it’s because men are silent. Or, rather, they are trained to be.