Responsibility to our boys

I mentioned to my 11-year-old niece Whitney that I needed to write a blog post about the book Boys Adrift.  She has heard me talk about it a few times and read the cover and first few pages.  She wrote the following in her effort to “help [me] get started”:

Have you ever wondered what a teenage boy thinks and feels?  Do you ever question yourself as a parent that you did everything in your power to help your son keep motivated, determined, and educated?  Well then Boys Adrift is interesting for you.  Boys Adrift is a great way to get inside a young male’s mind.  Of course, many men feel the need to fail in school, as if that makes them popular or fit in better in society, but in reality that is what isolates you farther from the community.  We really don’t realize how much peer pressure takes its toll on these boys but he [author] really changes your perspective on how boys think and challenges us.  As a therapyist[sic], I really recommend Boys Adrift for any guardian that struggles or has fear for their soon to be men.

I was struck by how accurately my young niece characterized a now common dilemma facing our society – the apparent absence of motivation in our young men.  It is so evident that an 11-year-old girl can articulate the trend fairly well (she’s in middle school with these boys).  I have found myself noticing the trend more often as time passes.  It is frequently the topic of conversations in a variety of settings.  The questions vary in words but carry the same sentiment.  “What keeps my son from flourishing?  As an employer, why can’t I find any young men motivated to work?  How do I get these boys away from their video games and out into the real world?  What is wrong with these boys?  Where have I gone wrong in my parenting/teaching?”

I’ve often thought I’m just being critical and pessimistic when evaluating the younger generations but Boys Adrift author Leonard Sax put that suspicion to rest for me.

I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat (actually my couch cushion) as I poured over Boys Adrift:  The five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men.  The author, Leonard Sax, is both a psychologist and a family physician who has skillfully integrated an impressive breadth and depth of research related to the phenomenon of  lack of motivation in young men.

Sue and I facilitate equine-assisted workshops called “Choices” that are geared toward young men and women who have made choices that have gotten them into a “relationship” with the law.  Our objectives for the workshop are to help participants develop an awareness of what they’ve done and are doing to contribute to unhealthy/illegal/problematic behaviors and choices and to help them develop alternatives to them.  Typically the participants are:

  • young men
  • very passive when faced with the challenges of working with the horses
  • not particularly disturbed by inability to accomplish task
  • not able to tolerate frustration of figuring it out
  • not too upset to be mandated into workshop
  • not concerned about consequences of behavior
  • not aware of impact of behavior on their lives, relationships, futures, communities
  • not competitive about their performance

We’re watching firsthand out in the horse pasture what happens when our boys can’t find direction and motivation in their lives.  In fact, all of us are experiencing the consequences of this epidemic – whether or not we have sons.  We are paying for these boys’ failure to succeed in many ways.

Sue and I believe that Boys Adrift provides us with an excellent starting point for discussing this phenomenon.  We are committed to making a meaningful contribution toward improving the future of our boys and girls, our society in general, our world ultimately.

We are offering a parenting workshop this year that will help parents deal with hard-to-motivate kids.  We would like to hear from others about this issue and are encouraging everyone to read Boys Adrift.  The book’s website provides helpful information and direction.

Watch our website and blog for further discussions, workshops, and responses to this issue.  We look forward to hearing from our readers, participants, colleagues, etc.


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