The disengagement and disillusionment of young men can’t be healed or averted by suppressing their natural urges, but it might be possible to channel their male energy in ways that appeal to their sense of masculine pride.(Garcia, 2008)
The wrong way to go about it:
A hearing examiner supported the decision of a Baltimore-area school principal to suspend a 7-year-old boy for chewing a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun.
The parents of a 6-year-old Silver Spring boy are fighting the first-grader’s suspension from a Montgomery County public school for pointing his finger like a gun and saying “pow,” an incident school officials characterized in a disciplinary letter as a threat “to shoot a student.”
A 6-year-old boy is facing a three-day suspension from school because he pretended to shoot an imaginary bow and arrow during recess.
A second-grader in Colorado has been suspended from his elementary school for “throwing” an imaginary grenade during a harmless make-believe game he was playing called “rescue the world.”
When I was younger, I was a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BB/BS) and remember spending time with men who volunteered to be a stand-in father, of sorts. I only really remember a couple of things from my experience; one of the big brothers taught me how to play chess and another played video games with me (on an old Intellivision). I don’t recall any ‘long windy walks’ or the sort of overt mentoring and granted, I was pretty young — in my pre-teens. But I do remember that the men were married, were of calm demeanor, and were soft-spoken. I don’t know if there was intent in that, if my mother had a hand in picking them men or if it was random. But at any rate, I was exposed to men with stable, desirable, masculine traits and some of that was no-doubt mentally absorbed unconsciously.
Programs like that help when the father is abscent. BB/BS still exists, as do others like Boys To Men, who have a very prescient statement:
The most important factor of whether a boy will thrive or struggle during his teenage years is determined by the quality of the male role models in his life. The most at risk boys have the most dysfunctional male role models.
No doubt in the incidents I mentioned above, in which young boys were punished for being young boys, those punishing the ‘bad’ behavior of pretend violence believe they are doing society a favor by supressing precursors to real violent behavior. But they are missing the mark. What is actually happening is that violence, along with other harmful traits, have become the dominant perceptions of manhood in American culture.
there are some other things that we associate with men at their worst which became so dominant in cultural perceptions of manhood they kind of crowded out all the virtues. Lust, the capacity for violence, a capacity for mindless and occasionally dangerous competition. Cruelty. Insensitivity. Arrogance. All of which are qualities which I think you find in broken manhood. (Garcia, 2008, p. 101)
Just like it is wrong to say that women are bitchy and emotionally overcharged, it is wrong to say that men are violent and insensitive.
One traditional role of men has been one of ‘protector of the family.’ Our bodies are genetically built for it from a physical standpoint as well as an emotional standpoint. The changes in society that have changed that need for men to be the ‘protector of the family’ are very new and it will take time (generations) for those changes to preempt physical and emotional changes in men. During the transitional period, it’s critical that the course of evolvement for boys to men isn’t one in which natural behaviors are punished, but rather are acknowledged, understood, and redirected by an appropriate male role model — one who implicitly understands what the boy is experiencing physically, hormonally, mentally, etc. Women, unfortunately are unable to make this connection, any more than a man can help a girl understand what it means to become a woman.
As we experience one more young man perpetrating a Sandy Hook-type massacre, we are sensing that while male energy channeled well is our most constructive energy (inventors, CEOs, firefighters), male energy channeled poorly is our most destructive (mass murderers, rapists, serial killers).(Farrell, 2014)
Boys are going to play with guns, play ‘cowboys and indians,’ etc. They are exploring roles for which they are genetically pre-disposed. Acknowledge it, understand it, and redirect it*.