Every time we turn around it seems like there’s yet another school shooting. And, from what I can see, we’re addressing this from a very surface-level perspective. This is not about gun control. This is not about gun regulation. In fact, I don’t even believe it’s fully a gun problem. I think it’s a symptom of the problem but not the problem.
Obviously, it has to do with the young men who are creating these situations. But more so, we ought to put the responsibility where it truly lies, which is on us as men. I’m going to explain what I mean by that. Bear with me, because I think you’re going to agree at the end of this conversation that we’ve got a real problem with the way that we, as men, are showing up. And the symptom of that is school shootings and some of the other atrocities that we see in society today.
Before I get into the details, I do want to say again, this is not meant to be a gun debate but there are a couple of surface level issues that I do want to address first and foremost before we get deeper into this.
So, let’s begin by addressing how we physically protect our kids when they’re at school. There are some very simple solutions to this:
LIMITED ENTRY POINTS I see so many schools that are open. People can come in and out wherever, there’s no entry point, and there’s no stationary exit point. If we can limit entry points in schools, we can more easily regulate who is coming in, who is going out, where they’re going, what they’re doing, what they’re up to, and what their business is there. Having limited entry points to schools is going to solve a lot of these problems.
METAL DETECTORS If you have limited entry points, and you can put metal detectors at these entry and exit points, it’s likely you’ll catch and even deter any would-be shooter from entering a school with firearms in the first place.
That said, I am mixed on that because it’s difficult for me to think about my kids going to school and being on lockdown, and having metal detectors, and turning this into a policed school. That’s difficult for me to think about but I do believe that there’s validity to being able to protect our children in that way.
ARMED VETERANS This is a subject that has been brought up over, and over, and over again. America has spent billions and billions of dollars training military members. We have men and women who come home who have lost their purpose because they’re no longer in the military. Having a new mission – a new purpose – could potentially eliminate a lot of these problems right off the bat.
A bully goes for the weak target and we’ve allowed our schools to become the weak target. We’ve made them vulnerable to attacks and we’ve exposed our children to potential threats, including death.
So, how do you fix the problem? You stop making it an easy target. We do that by implementing limited entry points, metal detectors, and armed veterans in the school system.
CONCEALED CARRYING SCHOOL TEACHERS I would also suggest we consider allowing qualified school teachers to carry firearms – not forcing them to but allowing them to.
Now, like I said, I didn’t want to make this a gun debate. That’s not what it’s about, but I think those are four very simple solutions that we can implement fairly quickly that would alleviate a lot of the problems that we see.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s drill down a little bit.
Young boys are the ones who are creating these problems. They’re the ones in the school shootings. They’re the ones doing the shooting. And, if you look at the way that we have begun to treat our boys, I think it becomes very apparent that there are some real problems in the way that we address our boys in the school system.
First, the school system is stacked against young men. If you take a look at any metric – from crime and violence to grades and drop out rates – you see that boys are falling behind. That’s partly because the school system is not conducive to teaching boys the way that they need to be taught.
Surprise, surprise, there’s a difference between the way boys and girls learn information, consume information, and get ideas about the way this world works. If you have any doubt as to this being the case, go ahead and listen to my interview a couple of weeks back with Dr. Leonard Sax, or you can go read his books, Boys Adrift and Why Gender Matters, which highlight the problems in the school system.
Couple that with another problem I see, the drug epidemic with children. And, I’m not talking about illegal drugs either. I’m talking about the way we medicate our boys. Our boys get a little rambunctious, a little rowdy, a little upset, they fight, they compete, they do the things that boys do, and rather than say, “this is healthy behavior for a boy,” they say it’s unhealthy and begin to medicate them.
We were at the park last night with my boys and my daughter. One of my came up to me to show me a stick he found looked like a gun. He’s said, “Dad, look, I found this stick. It’s my gun.” Then he picked a handful of wood chips and said, “These are my bullets.” From there, he ran around “shooting” his brother and sister with his gun and his bullets.
If he did that at school he would be suspended, if not expelled, from school. And yet, that’s completely healthy behavior. There’s nothing wrong with a boy playing Cowboys and Indians. There’s nothing wrong with a boy who wants to pretend that he’s shooting the bad guy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with a young boy drawing a picture of a violent war scene.
Why? Because that’s the way they engage. That’s the way that they create. When those behaviors are channeled into the proper outlets, they become the skill set and the characteristics for boys who will eventually become men who protect, provide, and preside.
If we strip that away from them and pretend there’s something wrong with them, we’re going to see some real problems. We are experiencing the real problems from over medicating our young men now. It’s horrific.
Instead of medicating our boys (and I’m not saying that there aren’t boys who need medication) for ADD and ADHD, why not create a system in which boys can learn the way they learn, through experiential learning? Let them go out and roll around in the dirt, hike, pick up bugs, explore rocks, and do the things that we as boys always wanted to do. If we strip that away, we see these problems.
The next issue here (and this is going to be the meat of the conversation today) is fatherless homes.
As I was researching this topic, I started looking into some of the data. What I found is absolutely crazy. The ramifications and impact on our young men of not having permanent father figures in their lives are scary.
I grew up without a permanent father figure. I get messages every day from men who listen to our podcast and read our articles that grew up without a father figure. This statistic is getting worse. More boys are being born out of wedlock. Dad is physically, mentally, and emotionally out of the picture. And, now, we have more boys who have this raw masculinity coursing through their veins and yet they have no example of how to harness that masculinity into something that’s called “manliness” that will actually help the world.
I look at my boys and by their very nature, they’re destructive. They go outside and they destroy stuff. It’s my job as a father to harness that and teach them how to use that in a constructive manner. Rather than be destructive, it’s my job to help them to be constructive – help them to build things, help them to lift other people up, help them to use that creativity and that imagination in a way that’s going to benefit their lives and the lives of the people that eventually they’ll have a responsibility for. They don’t get that when a father is not in the picture.
Take a look at some of the problems that are magnified when dad is not around:
- Behavioral problems
- Prison time
- Crime rates
- Abuse and neglect
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Drop out rates
That’s eight factors that get worse statistically when a father is not in the home! If that doesn’t show you how important it is for fathers to be in the home, I don’t know what else I can tell you.
There are people that will argue with me about that. There are people that think that I’m attacking single mothers because I share that data (which is absolutely ridiculous). I was raised by a single mother. She did everything that she could to raise me and my sister. And yet, when I have conversations with her today, she will readily admit that she wasn’t able to provide me, on her own, with everything that I needed to transition from boy to man.
Fortunately, she recognized that early enough and got me involved in competitive sports. I learned a lot about what it meant to be a man on the football and the baseball field through my coaches (In fact, I just had one of my high school coaches on our podcast a couple weeks ago to talk about his impact).
This is not a gun problem. We can talk about that, sure, but it’s not a gun problem. It’s not even a young man problem. It’s a fatherhood problem. Plain and simple, it is a fatherhood problem.
So, how do we address this?
First (and I know this is going to upset people) if you aren’t in the space – mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially – to have kids, don’t. Why in the world would anyone bring a child into this world that they cannot possibly take care of?
Please notice I didn’t say “ready.” You can’t ever fully be ready to bring a child into this world but at least, to some degree, you have to be capable of providing for a child. And if you’re not, please do not bring a child into this world. It’s not fair to you, it’s not fair to that child, it’s not fair to society. Be responsible.
Second, we have got to be present for our kids. It’s not enough to provide financially for our children. It’s not enough to put money in the bank account. That’s an important component, no doubt, but it’s not enough. It’s not the full deal. It’s not the full definition of provision. When I talk about providing, I’m talking about physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I can see my boys (specifically, my oldest) struggling with how to behave, how to become a man, how a man acts, how a man interacts, how a father shows up, how a husband shows up, how a guy shows up in his community. I can see that in my son now. He’s 10 years old. If I’m not physically present providing an example for him, where does he learn that stuff?
Well, he learns it from athletes. He learns it on the news. He learns it from people on social media. He learns it from his friends who don’t have fathers. That’s where he gets his ideas of masculinity and manliness, and guess what? It’s not healthy.
The healthy way to provide an example for a child is to be the example for your child. Be there physically. Be there mentally. Get your own house in order. Get your own stuff situated so that when your boy comes to you with some challenges, or you recognize them in him, you have the capacity to do something about it.
If you can’t get yourself right because you’re fat, or overweight, or out of shape, or you have abuse issues, or your financial situation isn’t in order, or you’re depressed, or you’re not doing the things that you know you should be doing, how in the world are you ever going to provide what that young man needs in his life? How are you going to be the beacon he needs? How are you going to have the capacity to sit down, shoulder to shoulder, with your son and say, “You know what, I recognize something’s not right, bud. How can I help you? Here’s what I did. Here’s what I have experienced. Here’s what I went through. Here’s how I dealt with the things when I was wrong, or when I was off, or when I was going through what you are going through right now.” You can’t do that if you haven’t fixed yourself first.
Get yourself right, guys – emotionally as well. And that’s the last component I wanted to talk about here. Be available, emotionally. A lot of us have this macho/”alpha” idea of what it means to be a man. But it’s okay to express your emotions. It’s okay to be happy. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be an emotional person. You are a human being. We don’t need to hide our emotions. We don’t always need to express them, either. There needs to be a healthy balance between the way that we use our emotions to serve us and those that we have an obligation to serve.
So, when you recognize in your son that he’s dealing with a difficult time, whether he got rejected, failed the test, got cut from the team, went to a party, been exposed to pornography, got into drugs and alcohol, you can be empathetic to what he’s going through. You can be there the way that he needs you to be there so that he takes these experiences – positive and negative – and uses every single one of them to be a contributing member of this society.
Be there. Be present as a father.
The last thing I want to talk about is fathering other boys in the community. You have a responsibility for that, as do I. I see a lot of guys who are great with their kids, and yet when you ask them to volunteer to coach a sports team, or to step up in sort of leadership capacity, or serve in some sort of young men’s type organization, they won’t do it, or they can’t do it.
That’s a problem. You are not just the father in your home but you are also a father-figure in the community. You have an obligation to your community. You have a responsibility for your community. It’s not enough to father your home, you’ve got to father the community. That’s our job. That’s our responsibility.
If there’s an opportunity for you to coach your son’s team, take it. Not only is that an opportunity to forge a new bond with him, but it’s also an opportunity to forge a new bond with 20 other kids who need your help because they’re not growing up without fathers, because their dads aren’t listening to this podcast, because their dads aren’t around, because their dad is too busy working, and because maybe they don’t even know who their dad is.
We’ve been doing stepping up as men in the community thousands of years by operating in packs and tribes and serving each other and helping each other where we can, lifting each other up when we fall.
And yet, I look around in society and I see so many people who are absolutely consumed with themselves that they have no capacity to serve other people. It’s easy to do. I get it, you’re busy. I’m busy, I’ve got stuff to do. I’ve got my own stuff to take care of. And yet, if we can’t find a way to serve in the communities in which we live, we’re going to continue to see more and more horrific school shootings, violence, crime, drug abuse, neglect, and all of the things I talked about earlier.
I don’t have all the solutions, I certainly don’t. I’m figuring this stuff out just like you. I’m a young father, 37 years old, with four kids. I’m trying to make just as much sense out of this as anyone else.
But I can tell you that I look around in society and I see some very, very serious issues. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, with every fiber of my being, that if we can learn to be the type of men that we are called to be these problems may not go away, but I guarantee that we’ll make a dent, that we’ll make an impact, that we’ll see improvement. And, if we can compound those improvements over time, over, and over, and over again, generationally, we will see the change we know we need.