Our focus has been on the ways boys differ from their sisters and the particular needs that are associated with masculinity. We have also considered the burgeoning crisis that confronts our boys in today's cultural context. Working against them are the breakup of families, the absence or disengagement of dads, the consequent wounding of spirits, the feminist attack on masculinity, and the postmodern culture that is twisting and warping so many of our children. If there is a common theme that connects each of these sources of difficulty, it is the frantic pace of living that has left too little time or energy for the children who look to us for the fulfillment of every need.
Let me elaborate on that point. I hope it has been evident as this discussion has unfolded that the trouble we are having with our children is linked directly to what I call "routine panic" and the increasing isolation and detachment it produces. America's love affair with materialism has taken its toll on the things that matter most. Let's go back, as a case in point, to the epidemic of bullying and taunting that is occurring in our schools. All of us experienced similar difficult moments when we were young. So what is different now? It is the absence of parents, who have nothing left to give. Some of us as kids came home to intact and caring families that were able to "talk us down" from the precipice, to assure us of their love, and to help put things in perspective. Someone was there who clearly cared and who told us that the harsh judgment of our peers was not the end of the world. In the absence of that kind of wise counsel in times of crisis, such as my dad provided for me when I came home battered from school, today's kids have nowhere to go with their rage. Some resort to drugs or alcohol, some withdraw into isolation, and some, sadly, vent their anger in murderous assault. If only Mom and Dad had been there when the passions peaked. So many of the difficulties that confront our kids come down to that single characteristic of today's families: There is nobody home.
As we have seen repeatedly that it is boys who typically suffer most from the absence of parental care. Why? Because they are more likely to get off course when they are not guided and supervised carefully. They are inherently more volatile and less stable emotionally. They founder in chaotic, unsupervised, and undisciplined circumstances. Boys are like fast-moving automobiles that need a driver at the steering wheel every moment of the journey, gently turning a half inch here and a quarter inch there. They will need this guidance for at least sixteen or eighteen years, or even longer. When left to their own devices, they tend to drift toward the center divider or into the ditch, toward misbehavior or danger. Yet 59 percent of today's kids come home to an empty house after school each day. It is an invitation to disaster for rambunctious males, and the older they get, the more opportunities they have to get into trouble. Today, when the culture is in a tug-of-war with families for control of our children, we can't afford to be preoccupied with things of lesser consequence.
Your task as a mother or father is to build a man out of the raw materials available implicitly in your delightful little boy. Construct him stone upon stone and precept upon precept. Never assume for a moment that you can go off and "do your own thing" without serious consequences for him and his sister. It is my conviction that those who choose to bring a child into the world must give that boy or girl highest priority for a period of time. It will not always be required of moms and dads. Before they know it, that youngster will become a young man, who will pack his bags and take his first halting steps into the adult world. Then it will be their turn. By all expectations, you as a parent should have decades of health and vigor left to invest in whatever God calls you to do. But for now, there is a higher calling. I feel obligated to tell you this, whether my words are popular or not. Raising children who have been loaned to us for a brief moment outranks every other responsibility. Besides, living by that priority when kids are small will produce the greatest rewards at maturity.Book: Bringing Up Boys
By Dr. James Dobson