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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Many Christians are notorious for bashing the media and blaming the media on undermining the parenting of their teenagers. I think Christians should practice some restraint or caution here and re-think this position. I believe if we went back several generations that we would find that it was “X” or something else that undermined good parenting. I think we use the media as our scapegoat much too quickly and conveniently. The Puritans damned the arts and theater-going folks because they believed these art forms were a bad influence in the 1600s (see the book, A Vision for the Arts by Steve Turner). It seems to me that each generation by consensus picks a ‘whipping boy’ to pick on and to blame for the woes of parenting teenagers and for many it is the media. All this borders on vilifying or even demonizing the media in my view. I think we need to ask, “what do we mean by the media?” I also think we can find some good things about the media that we can affirm. For example, Bonhoeffer’s parents discovered that their son, Dietrich, was dead via a radio broadcast. TV/Cable is an excellent way to keep abreast of world events. For example, I learned of the bombing in Nigeria earlier this week because of the media. Now I can pray for this country. When a TV news channel reported on Bostonians a year later after the bombing, a man (a stranger) started a fund in memory of the young boy who was killed. Sure, the ‘media’ has a bad influence and sure sometimes the content is biased; and sure one needs to be a careful and critical listener and observer of media but we must apply this same practice of due diligence to everything and everyone else because all things are capable of being used for ill means. I think youth pastors can serve their parents well by adopting Walt Mueller’s goal when engaging with media artifacts (like film, Internet, blogs, literature, TV, Facebook, etc.); Mueller urges “not mindless consumption, but mindful critique.” In other words, we must train parents to engage their minds as they interact with the many forms of media so that these same parents can teach their kids how to engage with all forms of media critically.

I encourage readers of this blog post to conduct a little experiment: ask your parents and grandparents – what was that thing (or things) that sought to undermine good parenting when they were kids?

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This topic of delayed manhood in young men started with this post on my Facebook: “young ladies often say/lament, ‘what is wrong with me?’ My response: ‘there is nothing wrong with you, young men are taking longer and longer to mature.'” I think there are several factors delaying young men from reaching manhood. These factors include the following: radical feminism, over-mothering/hovering-parenting, an over-emphasis on building self-esteem and TV programming.

Radical Feminism
There are some things about feminism that we must commend; namely, Gloria Steinem and others fought against the exploitation of women, for women’s rights, etc. However, radical feminism has taken feminism to some unhealthy extremes. Consider this article: “The End of Men” (see http://www.theatlantic.com/…/07/the-end-of-men/308135/). Notice particularly the title: The End of Men. This article claims that many women, if they had their way, would opt to have girls and not boys; many cite this reason for this choice – men have dropped the proverbial ball and there seems to be more opportunities afforded to women in our culture. The article, as the title implies, suggests that women can actually go or do life solo. Just think for example about available reproduction technologies. Women, if they wanted to have a kid, could simply visit their local sperm bank and request a donor that meets their ‘specifications’ (e.g., tall, blue-eyes, musically inclined, etc.). The sperm once acquired would be used to fertilize the woman’s egg; implant fertilized egg into woman’s womb and ‘wallah, there you have it” a child in the womb without the drama of a relationship. This form of feminism ingested by men has likely challenged their manhood and even their necessity.

Over-mothering and Hover-parenting
I contend that over-mothering is also a culprit for this delayed manhood. This idea is captured in the phrase, “mothers raise their daughters but love their sons.” Over-mothering has led to weak boys and that purgative title, “momma’s boys.” The impact of over-mothering and hover-parenting hit home several years ago. Often during my son’s middle school football games, parents were asked to volunteer to operate the first down markers, etc. So, I volunteered. During a timeout, I will never forget what a referee said to me. He said essentially, “I have been refereeing middle school football games for a long time but I have noticed sadly how soft these boys have become.” Over-mothering and hover-parenting (or smothering or helicopter parenting) has as its aim to make life for children as safe, comfortable and risk-free as possible. This aim also carries over to playtime; but exploration and risks during playtime is normal and necessary for a child’s development. When I was a kid, we played cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers; rarely, do you find such outdoor games being played because it is too hard to ‘control’ for parents. But such uncontrolled activities involving risk, fear, excitement and exploration are good. For instance, Hanna Rosin writes this, “growing up is a process of managing fears and learning to arrive at sound decisions.” However, if parents strive to make their son’s growing up as safe as possible, he is robbed of this development and kids grow up unable to think for themselves (something I see with college-aged young people I teach). Rosin also writes that kids these days spend a lot of time with adults and they can think and talk like them, but “they never build up confidence to be truly independent and self-reliant.” For more from Rosin, see The Overprotected Kid, see http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/03/hey-parents-leave-those-kids-alone/358631/.

“Everyone gets a trophy”
We live in a culture where building our kids’ self-esteem is paramount. This means of course that everyone is a winner; so everyone gets a trophy! (I have written a blog on this.) My son has participated in every sport imaginable, including basketball, football, volleyball and baseball. During little league play, all the kids – regardless of skill level or contribution to the team – received a trophy. Sadly, this breeds a false sense of one’s true talent and skill set. Also implanted is this idea that I deserve recognition. I am glad when my son played high school sports; this was not the practice and good for him and other players. In other words, everyone did not get a trophy. My son did not get bent out of shape over not receiving a trophy in high school for playing sports; but some kids don’t do so well. I am biased of course but not too many kids are like my son because professors, like myself, see the impact of this over-emphasis on building self-esteem in the college classroom as many times students expect to get a good grade without putting in good grade effort. Dare I say it: if a person receives a trophy or recognition too many times, especially, when he did not deserve it, this creates a sense of entitlement.

TV Programming
TV programming is also to blame for this phenomenon. Just consider TV programming that portrays men as buffoons and irresponsible. Think about Al Bundy (of the ‘Married with Children’ Sitcom); a man who most times sat on the sofa watching TV and with his hands in his pants. Homer, of the adult TV cartoon The Simpson series is portrayed as a weak man. Finally, the ‘sex-crazed-air-head’ character Walden played by Kutcher on “Two and A Half Men’ sitcom suggests that men are not thinkers but are primarily pleasure-seekers. Couple these sitcoms that portray men as weak or buffoons with TV shows that portray women as rough and tough persons; e.g., Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Ziva on former NCIS shows. These women could kick someone’s butt. Some may bulk at the impact of TV programming on men’s behavior and thinking; I suggest these folks simply read books like “Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue” (by Robert K. Johnston), “Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture” (by William D. Romanowski) and finally “Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective” (by Ted Turnau) before dismissing this idea entirely.

That’s my story and I am sticking with it!