by Dorothy Dimitre
“Fathers have the power to inspire. By modeling the best traits of masculinity rather than a caricature of machismo or emotional illiteracy, fathers have enormous influence over the template of their sons’ manhood.” – When Good Men Behave Badly by David B. Wexler, PhD.
Recently a concerned parent wrote a letter to the editor (of the San Mateo (CA) Daily Journal) suggesting that since there is an “International Day of the Girl” that there should also be the same for boys who need far better role models for what it means to be a man, especially a father. I’m not sure what particular approach this person had in mind in relation to promoting the above, but he got my attention. Over the years, I have written several columns about the plight of boys in our culture, and such awareness and concern continue to be badly needed.
For some time now, authors who have the welfare of boys at heart have been trying to inform us about what boys and men have to deal with on a daily basis in our culture. On my bookshelves I find at least 10 books specifically about the challenges of raising boys other than those quoted here. One of the best is Guyland by Michael Kimmel. I have at least 10 more about parenting in general – one of my favorites is Raising Happiness by Christine Carter PhD. — and many others with specific relevance to the male dilemma in today’s culture, including Your Children Are Under Attack by Jim Taylor, PhD.
The premise of all of these books is that male characteristics should be respected and channeled into productive pursuits, that this doesn’t just happen, and that parents (hopefully two of them) have an inherent responsibility to guide young males and give them what they need to fulfill their purpose. They all emphasize that boys must receive dedicated and nurturant parenting in order to grow into a well-functioning adult who contributes positively to society.
As Wexler wrote: “A child has a compelling need to look into the face of his mother and see reflected back to him eyes that say, ‘You are wonderful!’ and a smile that says, ‘You make me happy’… A father’s belief in his son is one of the most powerful mirrors that a boy will ever experience…We never shed the need and longing for positive mirroring, the need to look in the mirror of an important person and see a reflection of ourselves as fundamentally good and valuable.”
It seems that as girls and women have been making so much of the noise – earning important advances for their gender — that many boys and men are feeling somewhat intimidated – like the wind is being taken out of their sails. Some haven’t found a good way to compensate for their perceived losses. Instead of rising to the challenge, they either shrink back into their shell or pump up their macho side, unsure of how to cope. They must have a purpose, a way in which they feel accomplished, potent and in charge on their way to being, as Dr. Phil has said, a provider, protector and teacher. Boys need to feel important and challenged and if they don’t find a positive way, they will take it out on society by causing all kinds of problems for themselves, those around them, and society.
As Kathleen Parker writes in Save the Males, “A man who has been initiated into manhood by his father has no need to be macho. An insecure, uninitiated man takes on the symbolic, exaggerated masculine role because he has never been given the real thing.” Boys need to observe and experience how good men operate, how they do good things and make something of themselves instead of the idiots they see in movies and TV and other media.
How about a “National Day (or year) of the Boy” that would emphasize the following?
- The importance of dedicated quality nurturing by mothers and fathers and/or others who have the boy’s best interests at heart.
- The importance of the positive male characteristics that benefit society and how they can be nurtured.
- The way our despicable media encourages the negative aspects of males by featuring terrible role models for boys to emulate.
- That studies need to be done to bring to our attention what has gone wrong when a boy turns to violence and what to do about it.
It all boils down to this: “We who care today about the lives of boys and men have an immediate and profound mission, inherent in our position as mothers and fathers, teachers, mentors, citizens, and friends. Our mission is nothing less than to help each boy develop into a creative spirit, trustworthy friend, moral leader, and meaningful man. Our mission is nothing less than to protect and nurture the future of humanity.” – The Purpose of Boys – Michael Gurian
Since 1984 Dorothy Dimitre has written over 600 columns for various local newspapers.
She graduated from UCLA with a degree in education in 1951. She taught first grade for a while before having two sons and a daughter. Dimitre was presented with her first great-grandchild on March 30, 2012. The new baby’s mother is the oldest of Dimitre’s 7 grandchildren, who range in age from 27 to 3. Dimitre has always been interested in children’s issues.