The Chair of the Commission to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men is a renowned speaker. Warren Farrell, Ph.D, has also written books published in seventeen languages, including two award-winning international bestsellers. Why did he declare a “boy crisis?”
To answer such a broad question, let’s first consider more fundamental ones.
What has caused boys to grow up with less involved fathers? And why are they more likely to drop out of school, drink, do drugs, and end up in prison? Why has suicide rates of boys and young men tripled compared to young women?
If those aren’t concerning, consider the impact of the next two.
Why is ADHD in boys on the rise? And why are boys fifty percent less likely than girls worldwide to meet basic proficiency in reading, math, and science?
The last two, no less significant, reveal a paradigm shift.
Is it possible that a boys’ old sense of purpose — being a warrior, leader, or a sole breadwinner — is fading? Has this caused many bright boys to experience a “purpose void,” feeling alienated, withdrawn and addicted to immediate gratification?
“Any help given to boys is often seen as taking away from helping girls,” according to Leonard Sax, MD, Ph.D. He wrote the New York Times bestselling Boys Adrift and Why Gender Matters, and endorsed The Boy Crisis. “Farrell helps us to understand why if boys lose, girls lose as well. But what boys need to flourish is different from what girls need to flourish.”
Getting to the Root Cause
For the past fifty years, there has been an ongoing national discussion about the challenges faced by girls and women. They have made indisputable strides from the corporate world to the athletic arena and many sectors in between. It’s critical to integrate an equally nuanced discussion about boys.
Supporting both genders while helping boys to flourish begins with understanding why boys are struggling. This will get to the root cause of the problem and provide sustainable solutions. Exploring the crisis of boys’ mental and physical health includes looking at the challenges they face in education and economics. It begins by answering the important question why have we been so blind?
School shootings are homicides, but they can also on some level be considered suicides. Even if the troubled gun totting boy survives the incident, his quality of life has come to an end. Any shooting is a tragic misfortune impacting families and society on many levels.
Two factors must be considered to get to the root of the problem and provide sustainable solutions. The boys’ troubled state of mind prior to the incident and the circumstances in his life that caused it.
Getting to the root cause of what Farrell describes as “feeling depressed and isolated because he feels no one who knows the real him loves him, no one needs him and there’s no hope of that changing” is paramount. It begins with exploring the early relationship he had with his parents and then looking closely at the bond he currently has with his father.
The concept of attachment is fundamental to understanding early social development. An infant needs to develop a strong mutual relationship of communication and receive sensitive responses from a mother or primary caregiver for normal social or emotional development to occur. A neglectful or dysfunctional primary relationship will result in a child’s inability to form healthy future relationships.
“One of the most fundamental roles of a mother is to instill in her child a sense of feeling good enough,” says Linda Olson, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and founder of Georgia Childhood Domestic Violence Association. “A lack of maternal nurturing can later manifest in low self-esteem and a lack of confidence.” Olson explains that the reason many boys walk around feeling “less than” even though they have many accomplishments under their belt is because feeling unimportant or insignificant is buried deep in the subconscious.
Sustainable Solutions for Families
Empowered Fathers in Action and DreamSmart Academy have partnered to empower fathers and families. Our scientifically researched and evidenced-based program equips fathers with tools to strengthen their family units. It focuses on fathers being behaviorally intelligent and emotionally smart.
Our solution — Behavioral SuperPower Impact Training — decodes difficult to understand family dynamics and optimizes family performance using validated behavioral insights. The emphasis is on the father playing a pivotal role. By owning his behavior, he co-creates an environment that fosters self-awareness and growth to enrich family dynamics.
“We must get to the root cause of the problem," says Christopher Salem, CEO and co-founder of Empowered Fathers in Action. “There is no better time than the present to operate from within the solution rather than just manage the problem. We equip families with the tools and resources needed to shift from codependence to Interdependence. When one family shifts to Interdependence, the community in which they live will be impacted. This shift will foster more interdependent businesses, schools, and organizations while enriching the economy.”
DreamSmart Academy believes everyone has a unique set of Behavioral Fingerprints. We refer to these fingerprints as Behavioral SuperPowers. They are a compilation of life experiences, expectations, education, environments, communication preferences, passions, values, and financial temperament.
Families also have Behavioral Fingerprints. Each family member has strengths, struggles, and preferences. Discovering, uncovering, and unleashing each family member’s Behavioral SuperPowers is the key to fathers and their families thriving. Family members will develop a framework for understanding why each person behaves or communicates a certain way.
This new framework can help everyone feel more valued and confident. As a result, everyone is willing to contribute to the family ecosystem because their differences are not issues or kryptonite. The differences are their unique Behavioral SuperPowers.™ Equipped with the knowledge of each family member’s Behavioral SuperPowers™, fathers and their families can live a life of purpose, passion, and authenticity.
Joseph Cohen is the Director of Communications, DreamSmart Academy, and co-author of Write Father, Write Son: A Bond-Building Journey.