At-risk Boys Become At-risk Men
Billions….yep, Billions of dollars are spent EVERY YEAR incarcerating and treating boys for criminal and negative behaviors. The Department of Justice reports that 95 percent of state and federal prisoners under the age of 25 are male. Society is slowly waking up to the fact that we must change the way we raise our boys. We have got to address the vital connection that is missing between boys and men. Sadly millions of boys are growing up today without a good man in their life. Divorce rates are over 50 percent, out-of-wedlock births 35 percent, combined with a loss of community involvement are creating generations of boys that lack fathers, mentors and positive male role models. Boys need men… good men in their lives. To be a good man you must see a good man, it’s called “modeling.” That speaks to the power of role “models” but more important is the mentoring that good men can provide to boys.
One of the most reliable predictors of whether a boy will succeed or fail in high school rests on a single question: Does he have a man in his life to look UP to? Too often, the answer is no. Teenage boys need good men to help them become good men. They are being propelled by their biology toward manhood. These years are a critical… I will say it again, critical time for boys. They are faced with choices that may affect them for the rest of their life. They need a community of men, fathers and role models to teach, believe-in and support them through this critical journey.
What is At-risk?
Here’s the deal for a boy in this country with too few positive males to guide him — he’s at-risk. Overcrowded prisons, escalating gang membership and the dramatic increase in the number of absent fathers are the visible tip of the iceberg. If you pay attention you will see the hidden impact of boys growing up without fathers or living with disconnected or dysfunctional fathers. We’ve ignored all the evidence of male achievement and ambition deficits and stood aside as our sons have experienced a growing record of failure and disengagement. It’s time we did something about it, wouldn’t you agree?
What can we do to prevent this?
Boys don’t need more rules, more discipline or shaming; they need to be listened to, admired, accepted and affirmed for who they are as a person. Boys need adult male role models, encouragement and direction to stay on the straight and narrow, a push to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, help to pursue a healthy lifestyle, recognition that they must be accountable for their actions, and reinforcement of good performance. Boys grow when a man pays attention to them and spends quality time with them having fun! The thing the boy most wants to know is, “Am I prized?” Go talk to boys. You just have to listen to them. Ask them who they are. The answers they give may not always make sense, but talk to enough of them and you will surely realize that boys themselves are not the problem. The problem is men, boys with beards as we call some men. Young Warriors founder, Jason Hill still refers to himself as a “Boy With A Beard”, because he knows there is still much for him to learn, based on the lack of positive male role models afforded him in his adolescence.
We have to embrace mentoring and we have to be conscious role models. And young men undoubtedly need that more than any other group in America. If we can get them through the years during which they’re particularly vulnerable, they often will flourish.
Younger men, men without children, and men with grown children must take a stake and volunteer to coach, to counsel, to reach out to boys. We need to build communities of men mentoring boys. This can’t be done as effectively by women although we ought to recognize and honor the valiant efforts single mothers make to raise their boys.
The problem is the men who are absent. The question is really one of commitment and caring enough about the well-being of our communities to step up and mentor at-risk boys so they can become capable, compassionate men of character. This can’t be done in a weekend or a day, mentoring is a process that takes time. Commitment from the mentor should be long-term. Think about it. A person steps into your life out of know where, tells you how awesome you are and gives you some great insight then poof, he’s gone. This can be devastating to a boy who has been abandoned by a father. He craves affirmation from a man he trusts and trust take time to build. As men we MUST step into our leadership and stop waiting for someone else to address this issue. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
Get a committed positive male mentor in your son’s life. It will make a huge difference for him and for you.