September 2011 - Vol. 52..

What's wrong with boys?
by Michael Shaughnessy
When asked what's wrong with boys today most people can give you a list. At the top of nearly  everyone's list is irresponsibility. Why are young men so irresponsible? Why are boys taking so long to become men? One reason is social change. It is no longer necessary for a young man to be responsible at thirteen, twenty, or even thirty. If it isn't necessary, why bother?

A boy growing up before 1950 often went to school during the day, but every night and all summer there were jobs to do. Jobs that gave him real responsibility and impact. He might feed the chickens (that fed the family) or he milked the cows (milk they drank). Or maybe he was the paperboy. The news was delivered to everyone in the neighborhood, not by the TV or the internet, but by him. He had responsibility and it mattered. At 18 he probably went away to defend his country from a clear and evil enemy. His life counted. He had to be responsible.

A baby-boom boy didn't have the same need to be responsible. He had chores to do, but many of them were domestic: clean sinks, pull weeds, vacuum and dust. He had chores, not responsibilities. He might have had a job bagging groceries, stocking shelves or working a till. His job was important if his income was helping him to get set up in life preparing for responsibility but not if was spent on self indulgence.

Many a boy today has no need to be responsible. Nothing (or no one) depends on him, so he stays home and plays video games (boys games games of war and competition because he wants to be a man, a winner, important.) He is the man in fantasy baseball. He makes his trades on time but he still doesn't take out the trash in the real world.

Every boy is a Sherlock Holmes. When needed Sherlock was sharp. The adrenaline flowed. But when he wasn't needed he was full of lassitude and could sit for days doing nothing.

A boy without real responsibility does not become a man. When real responsibility is delayed until the mid-twenties it should be no surprise that many boys are not becoming men. There are still ways to make boys carry real responsibility. Parents just need to find them.

Mike Shaughnessy is an elder in The Servants of the Word and the Director of Kairos in North America. Kairos is an international federation of outreaches to high school, university and post university aged people..
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