Volumes of research, articles, and literature have been written on the crisis facing young men and school-aged boys across the world. Headlines call it the “boys crisis” and it is part fact, part fiction. Our work with students and parent’s life-long mission of raising children force us to face this crisis. We must see it for what it is and understand it before we can formulate a response.
On boy’s mental health, we know that they are at an increased risk of suicide or forms of violence towards others. Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people in China. Parents, teachers, and those working with young men and women must be aware of the risk. Beyond awareness, these trusted adults need to develop and maintain a relationship with these young people, which serves to reduce their risk of clinical depression. Parents must also recognize that they can sometimes become a significant stressor for their children. A careful balance must be maintained between pushing our children to excel and accepting when limits have been breached.
A crisis of purpose also affects our young men. The traditional roles of men as sole-providers and warriors must transform into modern versions of providers and father-warriors. Young men must develop the emotional, creative, and vocational skills of the future, not the past. Schools along with families are the crucial factor in this preparation, but here too our boys face new challenges.
Across the world, girls are overtaking their male peers in terms of academic achievement (looking at the top students from each class, shows more girls than boys). Woman are now passing men in the accomplishment of bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. Schools must use knowledge of physical, cognitive, and social/emotional development to educate young men in ways that are appropriate and accommodate their unique learning styles.
A final look at the mollycoddling, feminization or other criticisms of how boys aren’t boys or men aren’t men any longer. Takes this conversation into controversial and perhaps even useless territory. There are too many different cultural divides, generational gaps, and changes to societies for me to comment on. You must look to your own families and situations to decide for yourselves how a man should behave and avoid regressing into outdated notions of machismo.