Last Saturday I was coaching my son’s basketball team and I watched my 5+ foot tall 3rd grader politely go up for rebound after rebound. Rather than push anyone out of the way, my gracious son, who is a head taller than anyone else, allowed his teammates and opponents a chance at the ball.
After the game I was talking with one of the dads about it. He commented, “Well, he may not win at the game of basketball, but he will win at the game of life.”
That got me thinking. Will he?
There has been a societal shift over the last few decades for boys to be nice and girls to be tough. There is nothing wrong with being nice, but as a society are we emasculating boys?
Admittedly, I did not go to school to become an administrator, but apparently they have classes on how to overreact and make stupid decisions because boys are suspended for pretending their finger is a gun or for chewing a pop tart into the shape of a gun.
When my cousin was in high school, he was a computer genius. He still is. Back then computers were still relatively new in schools. One day he hacked into the school’s system and changed his grades. What the school did was genius.
Instead of expulsion, his punishment was to work for the district to help them make sure that wouldn’t happen again. Today he works in computer security for a large bank.
We are so obsessed with protecting our children or schools from harm that we act like insurance adjustors, constantly analyzing and removing the risks of childhood. When I was a kid, learning to navigate a bully on the playground was my responsibility. It prepared me with the conflict resolution skills that I use on a daily basis today.
Listen, I don’t condone bullying and I have dismissed students for it. But here is my point, we hear all this research from Ivy League universities about how grit and resilience are major indicators of success and read in the bible about how suffering leads to perseverance and perseverance to hope.
If we want our boys to become Godly men, WE MUST STOP emasculating boys and then turn around and complain about a generation of men who lack ambition and drive.
I believe we have allowed the media, and it’s propaganda of fear, to infiltrate our psyche as parents and school administrators.
Over the past few years I have sat through hours upon hours of meetings about school safety. We brought in members of the SWAT team to do safety audits, we wrote anti-bullying policies, we wrestled through whether or not I should carry a gun on campus…you name it, and we probably discussed it. After all, we love our students and want them to be safe.
Are we trying to promote real safety or the perception of safety?
You see, we are scared. We are scared that something bad will happen to our children. So in our attempt to do what we think is right, we rush in to avoid anything potentially harmful. So then how does a child develop grit? How will he learn, as Paul writes, that perseverance leads to hope?
Do we want our boys to be nice and kind? Sure we do. I coach my son’s teams so I can emphasize character along with competition. But there is a gap between research and practice. Kids need grit. They need to be resilient. We want them to have hope. Yet, we don’t want them to struggle?
My upper school director has seen a shift over the past 10 years at my school. Every fall we take our students on a retreat. Ten years ago the boys were the ones doing all the challenging activities. Each year we see fewer boys trying the toughest tasks.
I’m glad we are raising more confident and bold young ladies. I really am. I’m glad we have youth programs that give both boys and girls opportunities to taste success. As the father of two boys, I want my sons to grow up to be bold and confident. I want them to have the resilience to bounce back when life is hard. I want them to look at obstacles and see opportunities.
That will never happen if I remove all the obstacles for them.