Troubled boys benefit from having a variety of good male role models
Father’s Day is a day for spending time with our dads and honoring them for all they have done for their children and their families. It is also a holiday that brings to mind just how vital it is for children of all ages and backgrounds to have positive male role models in their lives. The influence of a male role model is crucial for all children and teens, both girls and boys. But it is of the utmost importance in the lives of troubled boys and can have a lifelong impact on how their futures unfold.
It is often said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” While everyone may not agree with this proverb favoring a very hands on approach to raising their boys, there’s no question that a parent cannot be omnipresent helping their children at every turn in the road. The proverb stipulates that a child is best raised by many teachers in a community setting.
No one is an island
This first idea is central to the philosophy. A boy should know that they are not alone in the world. Their parents and family structure are a foundation from which they should feel comfortable reaching out to other role models. In the United States, however, parents wonder who they can trust with their children. They are vigilant of who their children choose to look up to and learn from, and often not confident leaving their children in the hands of other. What they see on the news, of drugs, crime, and risk to their boys’ welfare doesn’t help. The alternatives, however, are little to be desired. Boys can be left to their own devices learning from television, video gaming communities, the internet or their peers. They can choose questionable role models around them who are often either oblivious to being observed and mimicked or simply are poor choices. Lastly, when reaching beyond their parents, boys can simply strike out and not find a role model they are drawn to. If a child is given plenty of good candidates, however, this process can be fun and rewarding for all involved. Mentors and role models can be vetted by parents in advance and the child can have the satisfaction of “choosing” one to learn from.
Children eventually resist being “told what to do”
There comes a stage in every boys life where he wants to be a man. Although to many parents this will bring a smile to their faces, as this stage happens rather early in boys’ lives, the boys themselves take this pretty seriously. There simply comes an age when parents have to choose their battles. As much as they would like to pass on all the knowledge they have, a boy will often develop “selective hearing” and resist getting so much instruction from one source. Having other men to serve as role models and mentors helps parents maintain influence without the drawbacks of constant direct involvement.
It is often said that it takes a man to teach a boy how to be a man. While everyone may not agree with that maxim, most people will concur that no parent can be all things, at all times to a child. That is precisely why positive male role models and mentors are important for troubled boys. For, as the author James Baldwin famously said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
The disproportionately larger number of female educators in our school systems means that your boys’ and girls’ are more than likely being taught at school by women. All of this equates to many children across the nation growing up without the advantage of having positive male role models in their lives. Bridges Academy’s staff is 90% male.
For boys, the absence of a male mentor to look up to and emulate can have a variety of adverse consequences that will impact their entire lives. An expansive 5-year study of children and teens conducted by the mentoring organization Big Brothers Big Sisters has brought a number of these issues to light. According to the study results released by the organization in 2013, boys who grow up without positive male role models are more likely to use and abuse drugs and alcohol, are more prone to anger and violent behavior, are more apt to be affected and influenced by peer pressure, and are more likely to perform poorly in school. Further results of the study include additional eye-opening comparisons between boys raised with male mentors and those who were not:
Boys with positive male role models are 2 times more likely than non-mentored boys to enjoy school and believe academic success is important.
Boys with positive male role models have higher grades and better school attendance than boys without solid male role models.
Boys with positive male role models are 2 times less likely than those lacking role models to bully, fight, lie, cheat, lose their tempers, or express anger.
Other studies comparing boys who have had strong male figures in their lives with those who did not, have uncovered additional meaningful findings. When boys have good male role models in their lives they have better relationships with their brothers and sisters and with their parent(s). Also, mentored boys are more secure, more self-confident, more empathetic, and more successful.
The faculty at Bridges Academy are good role models
Clearly, not only do boys deserve the presence of positive male role models in their lives, but they also need it. Biology dictates that boys will become men whether we like it or not, but ensuring that they develop into good men that contribute positively to our society takes work, influence, and participation by many. Boys become good men when they are guided by engaged and encouraging role models, male and female alike.
But the mere presence of a man in a boy’s life is not enough. And the men they admire on TV, in the movies, or on stage performing their favorite music do not suffice either. Boys need men in their lives who are supportive and consistently present—both physically and emotionally. Boys need male mentors who invest quality time in the relationship and who will text, telephone, or email regularly. They require someone who will attend their sporting events and plays and participate in activities with them.
Mentors need to be willing to invest time and even resources in the boy’s day-to-day life. They must care about the boy but also about the well-being of the family as a whole. Boys need direction to stay on the straight and narrow and a push to participate in sports and extracurricular activities. They need help pursuing a healthy lifestyle, reinforcement of good performance, and evidence that actions have consequences. And while women can teach boys to treat women with respect, a positive male role model can teach them by example. Positive male role models share stories of courage and of overcoming diversity and demonstrate with words and deeds how they became the wonderful people they are.
Positive male role models can come from any facet of a boy’s life. They can be a long-term family friend, a teacher, a coach, a friend’s father, a man from the family’s faith community, even a co-worker or a member of a mentoring organization. What matters is that the boy feels the consistent and reliable presence and support of a man.
Young boys need a man to look up to and respect, one who exhibits qualities they want to emulate and embrace as their own. They need a man in their lives who will be proud and encouraging when they meet a goal, and one who will embolden them to continue to strive when they fall short. This kind of involvement is proven to have a profound effect on troubled boys. It helps them see themselves in someone else. It enables them to imagine and explore who they want to be and recognize who they don’t want to be. Boys need positive male role models because all of us need to live in a world inhabited by good men.
Bridges Academy faculty is a great place to connect troubled boys with great male role models and mentors. Our faculty is dedicated to the the Bridges Academy philosophy of promoting a student’s personal development and emotional maturity by building a well-rounded individual with commitment to self, family and the community.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
–Frederick Douglass, 1855
Andrea J. & Diane D. Broadhurst, The Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect: Final Report,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, Washington, D.C., September 1996. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Promoting Responsible Fatherhood. www.fatherhood.hhs.gov/Parenting/ index.shtml