In a climate of changing gender roles and social mores, young people face new challenges as they grow up. Dr. Warren Farrell, heralded by the Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders, says there’s a crisis today for boys all over the world who are not getting the guidance or support they need.
Parvati Magazine: What is the Boy Crisis?
Dr. Warren Farrell: The boy crisis is a global crisis—in education, in mental health (depression, drugs, suicide, shootings); physical health (sperm counts, IQs, obesity, diabetes); in motivation, and in preparation for employment. In the book, I discuss ten causes. The most consequential is minimal or no father involvement (dad-deprivation) in developed nations. Developed nations allow more permission both for divorce, and for children being born to unmarried mothers. In both these groups there is a wide gulf between the welfare of dad-deprived boys versus that of boys with significant dad involvement—or “dad-enriched” boys. For example, dad-deprived boys in wealthy neighborhoods and good schools were likely to do worse that dad-enriched boys in poorer neighborhoods and schools. Therefore, in “The Boy Crisis”, I call for a White House Council on Boys and Men.
PMAG: Why are we blind to this crisis?
WF: It’s a perfect storm. First, throughout history, we called our sons heroes if they risked being disposable in war, or in work (e.g., coal mines, construction, logging). Psychologically, if we fear we might lose a son, it hurts less if we detach from him. Second, we didn’t see the conflict between training for heroic intelligence and training for health intelligence: that training for heroic intelligence is training for a short life, while training for health intelligence is training for a long life. I discuss in the book ways to integrate the best of both. Third, thinking that those of our sons who survived had the power (the presidents and CEOs), we focused on our daughters’ welfare and neglected our sons’ welfare.
PMAG: You emphasize the value of nurturing our boys in their formative years, and the critical importance of an engaged dad in their lives. Please talk more about this.
WF: Boys who are dad-deprived are hurting. And boys who hurt, hurt us. Twenty-six of twenty-seven of our deadliest school shooters between 1949 and today are dad-deprived boys. And almost all of ISIS recruits are dad-deprived boys (and dad-deprived girls). This implies a need for a nationwide call to boys for a new mission: becoming Father Warriors. Parents can nurture their son at home to become a “caring leader” or “Father Warrior” by teaching him to feed his infant sister; babysit at home and in the neighborhood; participate in food drives for the homeless; mentor a younger boy who doesn’t have a dad; or to become a leader in the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, as a camp counselor or in his faith-based community.
On the family level, there are three levels of solution. First, teaching communication skills to parents so there is less desire for the divorces that often lead to dad-deprivation. Second, understanding the differences in parenting style between mothers and fathers, and why children do best when their parents engage in check-and-balance parenting—integrating either or
both as appropriate. Third, becoming parenting experts at family involvement, such as knowing how to set up family dinner nights so they don’t become family dinner nightmares.
Families need to know the “four must-dos” [equal time, no bad-mouthing, proximity and counseling] if there is a divorce. Single moms need to know how to keep the dad involved, and how to make use of Cub Scouts, faith-based communities and other male role models if dad cannot be involved.
Our schools need to teach communication and empathy training starting in first and second grade; restore recess and rejuvenate vocational education—both of which are pivotal for boys.
PMAG: Finally, you state that “learning how to sustain love creates the single greatest opportunity for the most radical solution to the boy crisis.”
WF: Yes. Falling in love is biologically natural, and sustaining love involves creating a safe space for the negative feedback of those we love. I have found this to be so pivotal in sustaining love. I spent years teaching couples that providing a safe space for their partner’s negative feedback can be emotionally associated with feeling more loved. When this training is given to our children in the first years of school, and simultaneously to their parents, we will have fewer divorces and much more loving families.
Dr. Warren Farrell is the author of “The Boy Crisis” (with co-author John Gray). His books are published in over 50 countries and in 19 languages and include best-sellers, “Why Men Are the Way They Are” and “The Myth of Male Power”.