The Problem with Boys

I don’t believe there’s a single fix-all solution to America’s “gun problem.” I do believe gun sales need to be better monitored; that semi-automatic rifles should require even more tightly-controlled licensing (perhaps the NRA can help with this process, rather than fight it); that an early-warning system needs to be instituted among psychiatrists and psychologists (including school counselors), requiring additional counselling and clearance before flagged persons can purchase guns; and that much harder long-term sociological steps need to be taken.

But another crisis has emerged: The Problem with Boys. Last month, a high-schooler less than an hour from where I live shot eighteen people. The incident got limited national attention because “only” two kids died, a number that’s no longer front page worthy.

The 15 year old shooter’s answers to police questions were startling. He is not obviously “mentally disturbed.” What he is is deeply alienated: from his family, from his friends, and from himself. He acted on impulses he only vaguely understands, in response to programming he didn’t even know he had. And neither did his disconnected parents. He is, I suddenly realized, terrifyingly typical of thousands upon thousands of American boys.

This hugely important phenomenon is analyzed in a New York Times Op Ed by Michael Ian Black entitled The Boys Are Not All RightI would also refer you to two related blog responses, both entitled Lost Boys with Guns, one at Perspective and the other at Navigating by Faith. Please, let us read these articles, talk about this issue…

And consider what action we may be called to take.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to The Problem with Boys

  1. Thanks Mitch, for raising this important issue and for providing the links to additional reading. I think school administrators should critically look at the social environment in schools where “different” students are not just bullied but vocally ridiculed and ostracized. Many of the mass-shootings have been perpetrated by “outsider” kids, who have suffered under this type of treatment.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I tried to read the article but was told by NYT “You have reached the limit of your free articles…” The it tried to get me to subscribe. The same thing happened when I tried to read a WAPO article. People can’t afford to subscribe to multiple newspapers just to read the occasional article. I could do a whole blog post on the stupidity of such a business model. But, I guess if the model works, that people really are willing to pay an annual subscription rate to the NYT just to read the op-ed page, they’ll keep going with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said sir. This isn’t going to be solved by taking a single simple action. It’s complex problem with a complex solution. I like all your suggestions.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I have been reading up a storm (if that’s possible) on today’s teenagers – junior high (middle school) and high school preparing to convince producers a weekly TV series on Jesus life would go over with them, not just the WWII generation.

    “Generation iY” by Tim Elmore is 275 pages. He has formed an organization called “Growing Leaders” (among teens) and seems to be doing well. One of his chapters is “Lost in Neverland: The Special Challenge of iY Boys”. I am not going to go into all his statistics and proposed fixes. But one thing caught my attention: When 15-29-year-olds make up more than 30% of the population, violence occurs. Our last census (2010) revealed that 25.7% of America’s population is under 18, and 9.6% are age 18-24.

    But, his book is not all gloom and doom. He goes around to schools and universities with his program and is doing well with it. Interestingly, he ended his book by saying this new generation in elementary and middle school is going to rebel against the “entitled generation” of kids we have now, the Millennials (Generation y) and are going to be down to earth. They are already being called the Homelandersa (Generation Z).

    And, what is so exciting is what I am now reading in the 500-page book “Generations” by sociologists Strauss and Howe. We all know lifestyles go in cycles. They have analyzed and been able to show past cycles. And guess what? My generation was ~ get this ~ The Homelanders.

    Overall, what the sociologists are saying is that kids need to get their noses out of screens and spend much more time with friends and older people face to face. That’s the big beginning.

    I read the three articles Mitch suggested, but didn’t see any problem solving. I saw “the boys should start expressing themselves like the girls do,” “statistics show it’s getting worse” (they need to check back farther), and back to imitating the way girls communicate. I think this Millineal generation is analyzing too much. Today’s teens need to leave their virtual non-real-person world and re-enter the world where the rest of us are. As for the boys? Train them to be leaders of little things, big things, showy things, mundane things. Boy love to be in charge. Channel it.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I was thinking that in a sense, boys have been disadvantaged in the recent generations with all the focus on reinforcing the right for girls to be whatever they want to be. After reading Black’s Op-Ed, I see he was going in the same direction, but saying that it’s feminism that can save our boys, just as civil rights was monumental in feminism. But he also states,

    “But to even admit our terror is to be reduced, because we don’t have a model of masculinity that allows for fear or grief or tenderness or the day-to-day sadness that sometimes overtakes us all.”

    This is a very reason Christ came to live on earth, to be this model showing the wholeness in embodying one’s masculinity and femininity (though I’m not a fan of those terms for describing simply living from the soul.) But the secular world is not ready to hear about Christ, ever thinking we can somehow root through these complex issues by ourselves and eventually come up with a solution. But claiming that we have no model, as Black does, is a blow. Because we absolutely do, and not just in Jesus the person but in other men who have conviction in their hearts to do the will of God, such as Martin Luther King Jr, as just one example. It is boldness to be a martyr for both faith and human causes, and cowardice to make martyrs out of others.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. smzang says:

    Reblogged this on Pitching Pennies Poetry and commented:
    Take a moment to read the article below from The Power of Story,
    and to follow the links included. Everybody is busy, nobody has the time to stop, but stop we must…The problem is in our laps. Each and every one of us bares a responsibility for contributing to a solution.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. says:

    Very interesting articles. I’ve long been concerned that the feminist movement has done a lot to emasculate our young boys, men and dads. Women, in their desire to be equal to men have taken away some of the duties men felt responsible for – like supporting a family and taking a leadership role. The Bible has s clear on man’s role as

    Liked by 4 people

  8. says:

    Spiritual advisor has all but been lost. I could go on, but as you see
    My thumbs don’t work well on my phone’s keyboard. There’s a lot of healing that needs to begin first.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have an idea for a scoring system that helps us prioritize threats. But it’s going to take more resources than I have to make it practical. The advantage would be making it harder for bad guy to get armed without infringing the rights of rest of us.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. nancyehead says:

    Reblogged this on Nancy E. Head and commented:
    The gun discussion will go on. Now, it’s time to seriously discuss boys. They are the real issue.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. As a mother of two teenage boys, my fears sometimes swallows me whole. What will happen at school? Are they ok inside and not just on the outside? Are my husband and I doing all that we can to raise secure, thoughtful boys who are kind and empathetic? I have chosen complete honesty in raising them. After a kid in his school struggled with thoughts of suicide he asked me if I had ever thought about it. My first reaction was a definite NO! Maybe if I say I never thought of it he won’t either. But then I realized he needs to know that having feelings, even ones that terrify him doesn’t mean he has to act on those feelings. With great trepidation I asked if he was having those feelings? He said, “No but all the adults at school said that most people never have suicidal thoughts.” I sat quietly with him and said, “I have had feelings of wanting life to just fade away and that it was ok to have those feelings. But suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and there is nothing we can’t work out if we just keep talking.” So we sat snuggled up, (his a teen so treasuring these moments is like panning for gold) and sat with the thought that sadness can turn to depression and anger and pain and suicide. I wish all of these boys had someone to snuggle with to work out their fears and feelings. That bravery is about facing your fears not running away from them or worse, striking out at innocent people when the pain overwhelms us. Thanks for the thought provoking post, well done

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Most of these boys in serious trouble come from single parent households. I’ve heard it said that raising a child by yourself is like trying to drive a car one-handed; it’s possible but very difficult. Sure wish I knew how to help young men and women understand the value of waiting for marriage before having children, and how to help young married couples with children to stay together. God’s plan for one man and one woman committed in a marriage relationship really is the most successful model for raising emotionally-healthy children. I also heard a commentator on the radio this morning talk about the problem of anger growing in our country. People do not know how to properly handle their frustrations and allow their anger to get out of hand. That seems to be a factor in these tragedies also.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Lucie says:

    Yes, yes, and yes. And once again, we’re in agreement…….

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Excellent post and links; thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Jennie says:

    I think about this a lot. I’m a preschool teacher and see troubled children. Yes, it is usually boys. The best solution is a strong supportive school AND family. I get parents involved if I see something amiss. Together, we can help children. When there is no family support or a dysfunctional family, teachers have a greater responsibility. And that’s why we need smaller class sizes and more trained counselors in schools. Thank you, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ann Coleman says:

    Thanks for this post, Mitch. I’ve also been thinking that while the first step is obviously more effective gun control, that there are other issues behind the school shootings as well. Unfortunately, we are all so busy arguing about guns, and possibly mental health, that nothing else is ever mentioned. I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t even considered the issue from the perspective of a problem with our boys, but these articles made sense. When children are isolated, unsupervised, lost and trouble, they can make very bad decisions. And it does seem that we need to do more to help our boys understand how to become good men, and we need to do it as quickly as possible!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I used to hate sports because I was lousy and couldn’t take the criticism of teammates. I would hide out at the front of the school until P.E. was over. I now realize, however, that young men need a way to impress young girls. It’s far better to turn them into sports heroes in the eyes of the girls than to require them to seek admiration by becoming mini-criminals, tough-guys, gang-members, etc.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. Gritty Momma says:

    Agreed. I’ve posted thoughts of my own about this, but I did not highlight boys in particular. However, I think you’re right. I shared a version of these thoughts on one of the blogs you linked, but am adding a comment here in case it helps anyone:

    As the sister of four gun-loving boys with very poor parenting–and two young sons of my own–I share your concerns. I believe that boys, worse than girls, are routinely and deeply emotionally stunted by their environment: fathers or father-figures are so completely steeped in the perception that emotions just aren’t really that important for them (my husband will attest that for most of his life, he shared this exact same view, and he inherited it from his dad). Women and girls have been taught that emotions are naturally their wheelhouse, so they more readily embrace exploring, understanding, and mastering them. Boys have been taught the *exact opposite* for generations: leave the emotions alone, specifically negative emotions (aside from anger, which is perceived as a source of power), and they won’t get you into trouble. You’re strong enough to push them aside, and you have no use for them. They are only a distraction.

    But this is not true: humans, all humans, are emotional beings. It is a trait deeply grounded in our very biology, across genders, and possible to monitor with objective medical equipment. Furthermore, if you are a Bible-believing Christian, it’s hard to ignore the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” from Luke 10:27. Heart and soul–the seat of the emotions–are the *very first* aspects of our humanity that Christ mentions. Why, then, do we suppose that *any* of us can neglect their maintenance, their cultivation, and still expect to serve God well with them??

    Failing to maintain such an integral system, and a God-given one at that, will lead to it backfiring in the worst ways, and I believe that is a large part of the systemic problem plaguing men–old and young–in our country.

    An *excellent* book worth reading to begin changing the conversation around emotions, specifically to address the fact that they are a fully *human* system innate to all of us, is How We Love, by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. They work from a Christian background and also provide well-researched and well-documented information in a very accessible format. This book cuts to the core of the matter with great insight. My husband and I are reading it together, and it has already been an invaluable help to me personally as well as within our relationship.

    Additionally, Dr. Laura Markham, PhD, has some incredible insights about how to raise emotionally intelligent, responsible, compassionate, empathetic children. My husband and I went to a lecture by her just last night, and it was a huge eye-opener. Her expertise is founded both in her academic study of clinical and developmental psychology, including the biological science behind it, and in the fact that she successfully raised two remarkable children with the principles she teaches. Highly recommended.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Thanks for your message, Mitch, and for sharing these resources. It’s clear we have a lot of work to do.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. You made a really good analysis of the difference between the way we rear boys vs girls, plus your writing style is very readable and effective. You made me think of that two-word scripture, “Jesus wept.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Gritty Momma says:

      If you’re talking to me–thank you! I do have more thoughts on this topic as well on my blog, specifically my post “We Can All Agree.” Would love to hear your thoughts on that. Peace and grace!


  20. CSL says:

    Good post, Mitch. I’ll see your Michael Ian Black and raise you one Christine Hoff Sommers’ classic War On Boys and one Camille Paglia interview:

    Liked by 2 people

  21. jrusoloward says:

    There are definitely two problems that need to be addressed. One is the gun laws, and the other is the psyche that makes it OK to go into a public place and take out people.

    I keep going over it in my head. Guns were readily available when I was a kid. I was picked on (yes, I’m not now nor have I ever been a boy). So were other kids in my class. We never considered a killing spree as an option. I wonder if it’s because parents and schools try to remove obstacles for their children without guiding them as to how to handle issues for themselves. Or if it’s because we’re raising children to believe life is always fair (on a FB page I follow, one mother said “I don’t want my 12 year-old to think life isn’t fair”). Or if we discourage certain behavior (kids use to get into fist fights, and no one batted an eye as long as it wasn’t to the extreme) but don’t offer releases in other ways (more physical activity). Is this behavior because of a lack of parental involvement as both parents have to work and not everyone lives near family (what mom didn’t see, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc would). Also, do we remember to tell our kids this is not acceptable behavior because we don’t believe they would do it?

    My mother always told us “sticks and stone may break our bones but names will never hurt us.” And that we should work to prove the bullies wrong and show them up. Is this still done? I don’t know.

    I have four kids – three boys. I’m not judging, just thinking out loud. I try to raise them the way I was raised – sans chain smoking and no car seats – but who knows?

    Liked by 4 people

  22. Pingback: An Antidote for Gun Violence: Choral Singing – Gritty Momma

  23. I like your idea of the “early warning system.” I would like to hear more about that.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I challenge you to find a course or program on a university campus that affirms non-minority men. They are despised. The societal messages that bombard our young men are frightening. And for heaven’s sake, don’t get involved with a girl…there’s no such thing as working things out… gettting me too’d is a real threat for good boys, too. As the mother of 3 boys this link resonated with me as well:

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Lack of fathers. Lack of responsibility. Lack of an outlet for energy. I used to run down the gravel road as fast as I could in my bare feet for no particular reason, just to vent energy.. In the urban environment where a kids only options are the street or a TV screen, I don’t know how any of them turn out right. Both parents working, little supervision, single parent homes, I could go on and on. A boy is not meant to be raised with only a mother.It’s not guns. It may be the way guns are now viewed in our society. Guns are one of the primary things that guys bond around. We need more training on guns and hunting and fishing, and woodworking, things that build confidence in a young man, that there is a way to use his strength righty. It’s a cliche perhaps, but generally boys that hunt, fish, and trap don’t Rob little old ladies. Okay I’ll get off my soapbox and quit being Politically Incorrect.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I learned today, from a very judgmental and typecasting sort of person, that three boys who I thought were simply rowdy and rough-edged were at severe risk for devolving into potential mass killers. This person’s involvement is likely to result in police monitoring of the boys, and perhaps get them the help they need. Few are that lucky.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. When the media and society influence children into thinking men (boys) are all wrong and that they must admit their evil….And who does this? Women. You can dance around the issue all you want, but look at your schools and see who’s teaching them. I’m not saying this is a plot, but that men need to step up to the plate and begin being involved with children’s live. It’s a shame when the peers of a kid are those who are part of ‘Grand theft Auto’ or other killing, sadistic games. This is their reality. It’s a reality of superheros and villians and death and blood and points for winning and nothing to do with the real world of empathy involving real people. All of this begins with the man….our laws and who’s calling the shot. We might want to admit that the past 20 years is a failure. Okay, so let’s continue and see how really confused kids become. Many are so confused they don’t even know what gender they are and we are to declare this as normal? Not on your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I do not see it as a boy problem. Girls are just as angry. Scout around Facebook and you will see it is the girls spouting hate. Maybe we should go back to the farm where the kids helped dad out in the fields and mom in the chicken house. It used to be there was no such thing as adolescence. That term was “invented” a few years ago. It used to be kids went from being kids to being adults without being identified as a member of a group that is exclusive and does not include adults.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. toutparmoi says:

    Fascinating topic. I particularly liked the NYT article, and I also left a comment on the Perspective post (some of which I’ll repeat here). I’m disappointed though, to see how the gains made by women are denounced as “emasculating” by some.

    That War on Boys video is toxic. Sure, boys should be encouraged to read. All kids should be encouraged to read. You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that nobody, regardless of their level of literacy, is ever going to be enthusiastic about reading stuff they’re not interested in. But really, if classrooms in the USA are as dire as this video suggests, you must also be raising unadventurous, self-obsessed, or just plain moronic, girls.

    On the other hand, some good points have been made here and and in response to the Perspective post about the lack of positive male role models. And about the lack of opportunity kids today have for burning off their energy in the free-range childhoods that earlier generations enjoyed, resulting in a culture of sloth and violence – for boys, anyway. (For girls, would it be a culture of sloth and spite?) However, neither of these problems is unique to the USA.

    I’m not all that convinced by the “natural differences” arguments. I’m not denying the existence of differences, but many women of my generation can recall being punished for behaviour that would have been routinely excused, or even praised, in their brothers or male classmates.

    However, women have always had more incentive to question the messages – subtle or not – that are part of their socialisation because those messages are traditionally based on concepts of female inferiority.

    So perhaps it could be a good idea for men to start examining the messages they get as part of their socialisation?

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Pingback: My Top Ten Blog Posts of 2018 | Mitch Teemley

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