After 20 years of concern over the status of girls raised by the women’s movement, some experts say it is boys we need to turn our attention to now. This crisis is one in which the traditional patriarchy experienced by boys and men “is transforming, leading men to generate a second discourse- of impotence and frustration-that differs markedly from the [previous] confident displays of authority.” There are disturbing statistics to support this concern. Girls now outnumber boys entering college and boys are four times more likely to drop out of high school than are girls. Four boys are diagnosed as emotionally disturbed for every one girl. Six boys are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder for every one girl. Boys kill themselves five times more often than girls.
As much as 16% of boys are diagnosed with some disruptive behavioral disorder. Of those diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, 25-40% will develop conduct disorder and almost half of those will have Antisocial Personality Disorder in adulthood. Behavioral disorders are characterized as having instability in school, jobs, relationships and finances. Behavioral disorders include problems such as bullying, intimidating, fighting, cruelty to people and animals, illegally carrying weapons, stealing, drug use, truancy, running away and arson. These children usually have low self-esteem and are very unhappy.
Economically, behavioral disorders cost a great deal for society as a whole. Thirty percent of consultations with general practitioners are for behavior problems and they are present in 28% of pediatric outpatient referrals. Education for children with behavioral problems often requires placement in special schools with low teacher to student ratios and constant supervision raising the costs of their education. Law enforcement, probation and social services expend a great deal of energy and money on fighting delinquency and its effects. There are also the costs of property damage, medical bills for personal damage and the later costs of unemployment, welfare and maintaining the prison system.
If not treated in adolescence, adult manifestations of behavioral disorders may include alcoholism, depression, drug addictions, antisocial personality disorder, theft, illegally carrying and using weapons, violence towards self, others and property, drunk driving, vandalism, unemployment, child abuse, divorce and marital violence.
But don’t let all these statistics get you down! Let them inspire you to have children who never face these issues because, there is much that parents can do to help their sons.
Do not Shame them
One of the most important things is for parents to avoid shaming them. Many parents are extra hard on their sons because boys need to be “tough” to survive in our world. This is certainly true; however, when boys are made to feel bad about their emotions or need for support it actually weakens them instead of strengthening them. The boys who seem to be able to handle the tough world they live in with no problem are actually more in touch with their emotions than the withdrawn, anti-social, nerdy and bullied boys.
Work on yourself first, then your relationship with your son
Many parents are exasperated with their sons, but often their children’s problems come from their parents. Nobody wants to admit that they have problems and even worse-their problems are affecting their children. When you are fighting nasty with your spouse, yelling at your children or (heaven forbid) abusing them, a workaholic who is never home or the silent parent who is physically home, but not emotionally home, is it any surprise that your son is getting into trouble? Which brings us to the next subject.
Recognize the signs of Depression in boys
There are many reasons for depression in boys: divorce, death of a loved one, falling behind in school, chemical imbalances, etc. When people think of depression, they usually think of someone who is sad, listless, cries a lot. However, in our culture boys aren’t allowed to act like this (they have to be tough), so they express their sadness in anger. They act out instead of acting in. Signs of male depression are: getting in trouble, getting in fights, breaking things, wearing lots of black, self-destructive behaviors, yelling, etc. A boy who acts like this isn’t a “trouble maker,” “oppositional,” “defiant” or just plain bad, instead he’s depressed and sad and lonely and desperately needs someone to help him.
Spend time with your boys and let them know you love them
Our sons are desperate to spend time with us. Yes, even our bratty teenagers who claim that we embarrass them. Youth who are at risk are afraid. They’re afraid that if they open up and tell their parents that they need their love and attention that they will be rejected-the same thing the rest of us are afraid of. As parents, we need to realize that our boys need our love and attention no matter what they say. And really, the more our children say that they don’t need our love, the more they actually do.