Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to keep your son from being a mama's boy

Boys Adrift: Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men Boys Adrift: Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I started reading this book after hearing about it from a mom of a teenage boy. Her son is a good kid: good student, practices his faith, athletic, mannerly, but she saw warning signs of how easily good kids can go astray when they don’t have someone to help guide them. If she was concerned about her son, I figured I ought to be concerned about mine, since I have five, and three of them still have many years before they enter the turbulent teens. Best to be prepared.

It didn’t take long before I couldn’t put the book down. Dr. Sax relates stories of real boys, told by real parents, and how they were often intelligent kids, who lacked motivation for school or life outside of video games. I could easily imagine any of my boys, given free reign, could easily turn into video zombies. Girls might spend too much time chatting with their friends on Facebook, but boys like to play action-packed video games until their eyes glaze over and their heads drop to the keyboard from lack of sleep. Neither food, nor school, nor senior prom can propel them from the game machine unless a parental foot on the backside gives them an extra boost.

So it was with a great deal of expectation that I read Dr. Sax’s book on the “growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men.”

I suspect everyone knows at least one (or dozens) of 18 to 30 year-old males who seem to have no motivation for doing much of anything with their lives, but are often content with their low-paying jobs and single status, quite frequently still living at home with Mom and Dad. Before you call me judgmental, look at the statistics: Women now outnumber men on college campuses and in medical and veterinary schools. The number of women entering traditionally male fields, such as engineering and technology, is increasing, while the number of men entering those fields is decreasing. Where are the men going? They’re dropping out of college, or not even entering in the first place.

Dr. Sax lists five reasons for the alarming trend of unmotivated males. No, it’s not all the fault video games, although that is the first reason he lists. The others are: the feminization of education, overuse of prescription medication (for ADHD), endocrine disruptors in the environment, and the devaluation of masculinity.

He makes compelling arguments for each of the five reasons and all parents of boys should educate themselves on these topics. The one I found most interesting, and the one I’d heard nothing about was endocrine disruptors in the environment. These are environmental pollutants caused from a variety of sources, including phthalates found in plastics such as plastic water and soda bottles, pacifiers and baby bottles. These endocrine disruptors have been shown to cause early onset of puberty in girls, while having the opposite effect on boys. According to Dr. Sax, “The overwhelming majority of modern chemicals that mimic the action of human sex hormones, curiously, mimic the action only of female hormones.” They have also been linked with the disruption of brain function in the area of memory and motivation, as well as ADHD, again, affecting girls differently than boys. He also refers to these chemicals as “environmental estrogen,” as they mimic those female hormones. Dr. Sax further gives evidence that the increase in childhood obesity can be directly linked to these environmental estrogens. There are other alarming symptoms as well: male genital abnormalities, lower testosterone levels and male infertility.

Another pollutant in our environment that affects males far more than females is pornography. (See my book review on The ABCs of Choosing a Good Husband). Men no longer need women for sex, just as women no longer need men for babies. As a result, men and women are putting off marriage until much later, or in many cases, forsaking it altogether. Dr. Sax cites the number of men ages thirty-five to forty who have never been married has tripled in the last thirty years. Just twenty-five years ago it was 8%. It currently stands at 22% and is rising rapidly.

Dr. Sax also mentions the rise of contraception as a cause of the divorce of marriage from sex. (Once again, Pope Paul VI was right). Dr. Sax says, “More and more boys are discovering that they prefer a sexy image on a computer screen to a real live woman with expectations…” Some of the physical results of this dependency on pornography are the increasing number of men who need Viagra or Cialis.

And now the good news:

Dr. Sax gives hope to concerned parents (and disaffected young males) by giving concrete examples of young men whose lives were turned around by some simple changes. Enroll in an all-boy school. Get off unnecessary medications. Get unhooked from the video games and get involved in athletic competitions. Have examples of manly behavior from men. Experience the real world by getting outdoors. Do something physically demanding. Sweat.

For more information read the book and go to the website: and

View all my reviews.


Charlotte (WaltzingM) said...

What a beautiful family you have! Thank you for this review.

Marianne said...

I have enjoyed all your book reviews. This one strikes me as a must read. I have been worrying about the raising of boys in the city for a while and the necessary restrictions that city life imposes on young boys and whether it will turn them in to sissies! Anyway this sounds helpful.

Anonymous said...

My family never has place a great deal of importance in/on athletics. I wonder if it would be "sissy" of the men in my family to give any one who would suggest we aren't "manly" because we aren't interested in athletic event, a head start down the road before they make such a stupid suggestion? In that it takes 2 to tango, it's not entirely a man's fault, he is slow in or never finds that woman he feels confident he can fulfill an important commitment to. ED meds treat a physiological problem, not a psychological problem, so porn doesn't lead to a need for ED medication, but that's not to say porn doesn't lead to unrealistic expectations in both men and women. Growing up in a DIY world, and working in the oil fields, I'm no stranger to "manly", but I resist keeping up with the Jones, and being sucked up by the unsustainable economy based on ever increasing consumption, beyond the necessity for survival. This review doesn't entice me to read the book reviewed. A "man" doesn't allow anyone dictate to him what it means to be a man, and feel sorry for any male that isn't taught that first, looking at anyone who wouldn't tech that to a young man in the beginning with suspicion. BTW was lead to this blog entry by the New Advent newsletter.

MilitantMom said...

Dear Anonymous,

The only mention made of "athletics" was in the suggestion to unplug boys from video games and get them involved in athletic competitions. The thinking is that boys are drawn to video games because of the desire to control and have power over something and for the adrenaline rush. These things can be found in athletic competitions, particularly in team contact sports. It doesn't mean all boys have to excel at sports to be considered "manly," but it certainly does mean getting out and doing something "real" like sports, is a whole lot more meaningful and healthy than sitting in front of a computer screen. If you have done a lot of DIY and worked in oil fields, then it sounds like you're doing "real" stuff too. Most 12-17 year-old males aren't going to have the opportunity to work in an oil field, but they probably have a chance to play sports.

As for ED meds, the author was merely saying there has been a marked increase in the number of men seeking these meds and he was drawing a link to pornography. ED can have a psychological element as well and viewing pornography releases neuro-chemicals into the brain which permanently changes the brain. Eventually the porn viewer has to view more extreme images in order to register the same pleasure. It only makes sense that one of the results of porn viewing could be ED. If the porn problem is as huge as some Christians report (see my book review of The ABCs of Choosing a Good Husband) then most men have a problem with it and are they are probably in denial. As you said, "A man doesn't allow anyone to dictate to him what it means to be a man", and I would add, "A man doesn't allow himself to be sucked in by pornography."