Blog by Michael Gurian
In thirty years of working with children, I have never been more worried than I am right now for our sons. Some boys are doing very well but millions are disappearing into violence, imprisonment, social withdrawal, listlessness, virtual worlds, and real life self-destruction. If we don’t end this national pattern, our boys and young men will become increasingly destructive, both to others and themselves because nearly every social problem we face in our civilization today—unemployment, income equality, incarceration rates, religious extremism, domestic abuse, mental illness, health care inequities, and painful violence against women—intersects in some way with the state of boyhood in America.
My fear for young males extends to young women. As the father of daughters, I know that every social movement we spark on behalf of males will help females. All of us are interconnected. A nation of males in distress is very bad for girls and women. To help you not only raise and support boys but also, hopefully, to inspire you to become a part of what I believe to be a growing social movement, I have written SAVING OUR SONS.
The book begins by proving these eight precepts of boyhood in the new millennium, then provides solutions and practical strategies to help boys survive and thrive.
1. As we have all felt and sensed, many of the social systems within which we raise and care for our children—schools, neighborhoods, social programs, and families—have changed in the last fifty years such that males in general face systematic neglect despite our public presentation of males as inherently privileged. Seeing our sons—really seeing what so many of them are suffering—makes up the first chapter.
2. To help boys survive and thrive I argue in the book that we must alter our thinking to include all three parts of gender--nature, nurture, and culture. In the book I show that our academic and media attention to “masculine norms and gender stereotypes” is no longer enough help for boys (or girls) because these stereotypes and norms are not the primary causes of the problems our children face today.
3. As we look at all aspects of boyhood, we must make nature our starting point and baseline. There is a natural boy we can understand, assist, and protect, one boy at a time. Among the elements that assault this boy today are hidden neurotoxins that attack male genetics and socialization and, thus, can utterly derail male development yet often go unrecognized in our everyday lives. In this book, I will help you find these neurotoxins and construct family plans to protect your boys from them.
4. A non-malicious but also not-benign Dominant Gender Paradigm(DGP) has emerged in the last fifty years in “The Big Three” (our academic institutions, governmental/legislative agencies, and media). This DGP deploys often superficial ideas about males that keep male life underserved, under-funded, and under-nurtured. The book features way you can understand and confront this paradigm in your daily life and local community.
5. Ensuring gender equality for girls and women does not require gender sameness. In the new millennium, neuroscience shows us that males and females are not the same, though their brains overlap a great deal across a wide gender spectrum. We can now build equality without the false premise of sameness, and we must do so if we are to help all children.
6. It’s been difficult to revolutionize the lives of our boys, and thus our men, in part because we confuse the ordinary lives of most males with the lives of alpha and criminal males. Hyper-focused on “the 10 percent” (the leader/alpha males and frightening/pathological males), we neglect the deep needs of too many of our sons, which makes the boy crisis worse, and puts females in greater danger.
7. Now is the right time for revolution because there are now significant child development institutions already in existence around our nation and our world that show specific success-data for saving our sons. I’ll provide examples of these proactive and revolutionary communities and schools throughout this book.
8. What we do now to help boys will help girls and women, because their needs are interdependent. The oppressor/enemy approach to women’s rights popularized over the last fifty years has created a false impression of separation between women’s and men’s needs so it could uplift women. Now, however, the situation of our sons has become so dire we will not be able to advance the cause of girls’ and women’s equity any further without ending the cruelties and neglect our culture perpetrates on our males.
Overall, I believe an advanced kind of parenting is essential in our complex technological world so this book provides you with science-based best practices for ensuring male maturity and developmental milestones from birth to 25 that fit our new millennium’s technological and social revolutions. The newest research on screen time, videogames, cell phone use, and social media addiction grounds this book.
And if you’ve read any of my other books, you know that my work is multi-cultural. This book will not be a repeat of my previous books except that, like them, it includes current and new research from more than two dozen different countries and cultures.
Ultimately, I hope you’ll find that this book is a bridge. Wherever you fit on the ideological spectrum, I hope the insights and suggested policies in these pages will inspire and resonate for you personally. If you have daughters, as I do, I hope you’ll also feel inspired to spread this word and mission with personal vigor as well.
To learn more about the new book by Dr. Michael Gurian (February 2017), please click www.michaelgurian.com or find it on amazon.com and other booksellers.
About the Book
In Saving Our Sons, Michael features the latest research in raising and helping boys in all settings, including the development of social-emotional depth and emotional intelligence, male motivation, and resilience. He tackles topics of significant importance in the new millennium, including neuro-toxicity and the male brain, and electronics and video game use. Linking practical solutions with strategic new policies based on thirty years in the field and twenty years of institutional work through the Gurian Institute, Michael provides a seven-stage model for the journey to manhood in the new millennium.
The book also tackles social and cultural issues facing our sons. Two of the book’s chapters provide readers with successful ways to challenge governmental and academic institutions, as well as the media, to see boys fully and fairly.
In its eight chapters, Saving Our Sons is a unique combination of powerful writing, new research, practical strategies, and passionate social advocacy that helps our nation act on behalf of boys and young men—one home, one school, and one community at a time.
“Michael Gurian is a leading edge teacher with the rare ability to combine the personal, the practical, and the political in very accessible and powerful form. In Saving Our Sons, he has written a real pageturner. Its eight chapters take on one of the fundamental issues of our time—how we raise boys—from a science-based perspective that will catalyze new thinking and new strategies for families, schools, and communities in need. This is a very important book.”
—Daniel Amen, M.D., author of Unleashing the Power of the Female Brain and The Brain Warrior’s Way
“Michael Gurian’sSaving Our Sons is an immensely powerful mirror on the state of boyhood in America. Dr. Gurian’s depiction of the problems and issues facing our sons is remarkable in its thoroughness. The book’s tone is forceful but not strident, warm and engaging without sentimentality or hyperbole. Gurian provides practical solutions for each issue he explores—economic, social, emotional, political, and personal. This is a must read for everyone in America and indeed the world who cares about and is caring for our boys.”
—Troy Kemp, Executive Director of The National Center for the Development of Boys
This week was a wonderful week of planning, executing, and pulling together many groups from around the globe as I pulled together the Gurian Winter Institute in Florida. I liken it to a wedding...plan, plan, plan, and then poof! it is over. While it was not as permanent as a wedding in the sense of vows taken, it was in a sense the same as educators from around the world came to hear new and innovative ways to reach their students.
On the plane home I was saddened to read that my elementary school principal from the early 80's had passed away. As I scanned his photo and news piece that the newspaper had laid out, it brought me right back to being 7 years old when I first met Mr. George Dodson. He was always friendly, smiling, and most importantly visible. There were many days where it would have been easy for him to hide in his office, but Mr. Dodson was out and about, playing with us, laughing with us, and inevitably, pretending to be one of us.
Mr. Dodson epitomized the role of servant leader. He consistently was visible, he was constantly giving, and he cared for his students and faculty. As sad as it was to read that he had passed, a half smile spread across my face knowing it was a life well lived, full of touching others, and giving 65 years to his spouse and profession that paid him back a millionfold. He was an icon in my mind, and one of the many role models and reasons I went into education.
In this world of frenzied media, tweets and re-tweets, the topic of servant leadership and its' true meaning begs to be heard.
What is your calling?
How can we connect and care for our children in the ways they need it most?
While the rest of the world fixes the popular vote and defines alternative facts, our children need us.
As the first month of 2017 comes to a close, what will be your contribution to being a servant leader?
Show up for someone and something.
Namely our students and the programs that support them.
There are many things that fascinate me. Human behavior is one of them. The brain, how we protect ourselves from danger, how we sometimes don't listen to our gut, and instead rely on the past or our own lens, to make decisions.
Recently I saw the movie "Fences". I really enjoyed it, some did not. I enjoyed it not because it was Denzel Washington, although he was the driving force behind me going to see it, but even more important was the underlying themes it left me with.
Without ruining it for those who have not seen it, there were themes of "fences" that we build--some to keep things in, and some to keep things out. As a parent your duties include but are not limited to raising, serving, and protecting your children. The movie also outlined the powerful relationship between parent and child, specifically son and father. It was an incredibly intense relationship, as they often are.
Sometimes I think we forget that in our protection, we at times need to protect ourselves from ourselves, and not pass "our stuff" on to our children.
Each experience we have is part of a puzzle, a journey, some of them dramatic, some of them every day ho hum, but they all stand to create a pattern and path to ultimately who and what we become as parents and families.
In my work, I have seen my share of transference. I have seen even the best of parents shed their "stuff" on their children. Not because they are trying to hold them back, not in a mean or disingenuous way, but because of the "fences" they have unknowingly created to protect, so that their own kin don't go through what they did. Or they want so much better for them that they go to great lengths to save them from any kind of bump, blip, or off road moment.
As of late there have been many articles and research done on this subject, entitled "What Successful Kids Need Most", "Hovering Helicopter Parents", "How To Raise Resilient Kids", etc.
I keep circling back to the same theme in my mind that goes along with these articles....teaching kids to listen to their intuition, and teaching parents to let some things go, to let the failures and mistakes happen.
We were not born with inner radar, flashing burning ember lights in the bottom of our stomach to ignore them. We are innately wired with this "gut" instinct, it would behoove us to listen to it ourselves and to model how to for our children. And as parents part of guidance is to mentor, coach, and to sometimes step back and let things just play out, even if it means watching our children struggle.
Over the years, I am reminded of the one liners thrown my way by caring souls in my tribe that ever so gently reminded me of this....
" The only thing that should surprise you, is that you are surprised", a la my beautiful sister, Christy.
"Where there is a whisper, there is a scream", from my smart and sassy friend, Lisa.
"Katey, watching you try to make this decision is like you are standing in the burning house and your hair is on fire, and you are saying to me "Something smells like smoke"....stop, drop, and roll...out." from an anonymous source :)
"When you go to the refrigerator and smell the milk and it is a little funky, don't go back and smell it again after you put it back, it is still spoiled"....from my funny friend, John.
What is it that we think we can rationalize with intuition? It is insanely accurate from protecting us from all sorts of things. Like a fence, it is almost always 100% steady and sturdy, and dead on. Gavin DeBecker wrote an amazing book called "The Gift of Fear" and in it he outlines the unyielding power of intuition from a personal safety standpoint for children and adults. Listening and watching for signals of success and failure are critical for both children and adults.
It would behoove us to examine our own "fences" during the first month of the year and to figure out how to continue to build the right ones. Up and over. As my Mom says, "Always listen to your gut", and in times of success and failure, "Look for the helpers".
How is your son doing? How are YOU doing?
If he is struggling or withdrawn, complaining about school, acting out, bored, or volatile - isn’t it time to address his hatred/dislike/disdain of school?
Mark January 24th/25th on your calendar. This never-been-done-before FREE WEBINAR brings together two boy-experts - Janet Allison of Boys Alive!, a Gurian Master Trainer and Educator AND Jennifer Fink of Building Boys.net, mom of 4 boys and nationally acclaimed writer.
Janet and Jen are your hosts for: “Help! My Son Hates School!” Save your seat here.
Hating school, disinterest in learning, not feeling connected to friends or teachers — these are not minor issues: they can affect a boy’s self-esteem & attitude toward learning, creating some really unpleasant mornings (and afternoons, and evenings), and causing significant family stress. (Not to mention how his life path will be affected when he disengages from academics and a love of learning.)
As a parent (or teacher), you may feel trapped, helpless - and hopeless. It’s a tough situation yet you have to make the best of it. And Janet and Jen are here to help.
The best and easiest way to do meet your tough situation is to lean on each other for information and support. You are not the first parent whose son is struggling in school, and you don’t have to find answers on your own.
Join us for our free webinar (Jan. 24 & Jan. 25, choose the time that’s most convenient for you), and you'll gain insights that will empower you to make immediate changes for the better.
More from Jennifer and Janet here:
By Katey McPherson