by KIERAN FOUHY
A cursory reading and/or watching of the news does not sit well for parents of young men.
If the alcohol-fuelled hoon doesn’t grab the airways, it is the “trusted” financiers who have run away with the till of other people’s money.
The graduation rates at university for males are depressing. The imprisonment stats of males are woeful. The unemployment rate, because of no skills for males, is frustrating.
In some schools, there is the feeling that young boys should be “feminised”, that they should be stopped from taking risks, their need for movement curtailed and their innate competitive streak curbed. The lack of male teachers at primary school level compounds the problem. The egocentricity that surrounds many male sporting celebrities, the self-centred “follow your dreams” team talk and the adverts that depict men as stupid, non-discerning and shallow can be self-fulfilling prophecies.
In short, a young man growing up could believe he is “toxic” — simply because he is a male!
As a community of New Zealanders, we need to find ways to ensure that half the population is worthwhile and that we don’t transmit the inadequacies of one generation onto the next.
There are some commonsense ways we can “bulletproof” our young men so they can take their rightful place in society. These are not meant to be exhaustive or complete.
1. Surround your son with a controlled-freedom environment. The younger the boy, the more control, and, as he becomes older, the more boundaries move out. Even then, there are still some constant boundaries and structure. This is not to deny aspiration or creativity, but to remind him of societal limitations.
2. Fill the personal ledger with very good relationships with other boys, friends and family. This doesn’t happen by chance — and for boys it is generally a byproduct of doing some activity with others: sport, music, dance, study, etc.
3. Teach him to delay gratification and to control impulsivity: For example, “I’m hungry!” Answer: “Dinner is ready at 6.30 pm!” “I need the latest iPod.” Answer: “Wait until you save up for it!”
4. Remind him there is no room for any sense of entitlement in life. He was born from the earth. He is destined to return to the earth. The expectation on a daily basis is to ensure that his life, his time and talents are used in the service of others. The “free” lunch, the “free” educational opportunities and so on are not free!
5. The time is now! Kicking the can down the road in terms of an essay to be done, study to be done, dishes to be washed, and the like, is now! Procrastination is a problem with young men!
6. There is an elephant in every room of his life. The task is to help him name the elephant and then ensure something gets done about it. Naming gives control and security.
7. Increase the words about the need to practise (now), the need to study (now), etc. Boys can overestimate their potential and underestimate the effort required to reach that potential.
8. The greatest asset your son has is in his head. Remind him to keep it on at all times, to limit what goes to the head through the mouth, and what comes out of the mouth in talk is authentic. Don’t accept grunts as a substitute for conversation.
9. Teach your son to weep — not for himself, but for the plight of others, their poverty and their lives. Remind him that, in terms of the cosmos, he is insignificant but still loved. His job in life is to be a “Man for Others”.
10. Teach your son to pray (now). Not always in formulas, but with a heart that recognises a dependency on a loving God.
When Scripture speaks about, “Which of you would give your son a stone when he asks for bread . . .” it is speaking about providing life (bread), rather than the deadweights that drag down young men.
“Toxic Males” — what a terrible indictment.
— K. F. Fouhy is headmaster of St Peter’s College, a school with 1200 young men.
by KIERAN FOUHY