For me, schooling is what challenged my family and me to look at the divine design of boys. In grade school and even through middle school, I often found myself bored and unmotivated, trapped in a curricular purgatory of meaningless worksheets and monotone lectures. I (and therefore my parents) would get comments from teachers such as “Gregg is disruptive in class” and “Gregg is not working up to his potential.”
After many discipline referrals to the principal, I finally learned to play the game. I was mentored in how to power through the tedium of what I was expected to do so I could finally get to what I wanted to do. And contrary to some of the dire predictions prophesied to my parents and teachers over those early years, I actually did graduate high school and even went on to earn my doctorate.
As I established my career, I thought I had put all of that early anxiety and struggle behind me. Imagine my surprise when many of those feelings came flooding back as my sons began their schooling. Through my sons’ eyes, I realized that not much had changed since I’d been in school. The tipping point toward looking at the design of boys for the sake of my sons came soon after my oldest–my namesake, Gregg–started sixth grade at a new school. One day he reported a weird thing that had caught his attention. At the start of each day, a line of boys paraded up to the teacher’s desk and took some sort of pill. When he relayed this oddity, my heart sank. The only conclusion I could draw was these boys were being medicated, probably with Ritalin or a similar drug, probably for ADD or ADHD.
Not long after we learned this disturbing news, my wife and I were advised by school administrators to consider putting our son on medication as well. Hearing a recitation of what he was like to “deal with” in class was like reading over the comments on my own childhood report cards.
Please hear me: As a seasoned counselor I know that some children absolutely need medication to cope with very real issues. But I also know that medication is being overprescribed; far too many social systems today, while being truly devoted to helping children succeed, simply do not understand the way boys are designed.
In our case, I knew my son did not need a prescription; he needed an environment that valued his male learning style, his male brain and biochemistry, his male culture. As I became even more intentional and involved in my sons’ academics, I came to realize it wasn’t just my boys who needed this shift in perspective from the adults in their lives and it wasn’t just about school. Boys as a group need us today as never before. They need to know that they are made in God’s image; they need to know they are not inherently flawed or inherently defective simply by being born male.
Raising Boys by Design begins from the perspective that boys are designed to value and strive toward a mantle of maleness and that our culture is very hard on that maleness. Often a boy’s natural energy is seen as disruptive. A boy’s inquisitiveness is seen as disrespect for authority. A boy’s competitiveness and his fits and starts at leadership are seen as presumptive or flawed. A boy’s resilience is seen as uncaring and even too harsh. A boy’s tenacity is seen as arrogance. Many of the strengths designed into a particular boy become suspect or devalued. Gradually, the boy either instinctively rebels against this harsh interpretation of his inner self or withdraws into a deep loneliness.
I love my sons and their friends, and I know you love your sons and their friends. Whatever challenges you are facing, whatever joys you are experiencing, your boys are filled with the wonder and design God intended for them. Protecting that design is our sacred work as parents of faith. Our choices in parenting will impact our child’s present and future and potentially hold eternal consequences. As parents of faith, we recognize that our children belong not only to us but first and foremost to God.
Excerpted from Raising Boys By Design: What the Bible and Brain Science Reveal About What Your Son Needs To Thrive by Gregory L. Jantz and Michael Gurian, 2013. Dr. Jantz is the founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources in Edmonds, WA.