February 14, 2019

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

If you haven’t yet read the latest claptrap from the American Psychological Association bemoaning ‘toxic masculinity’ or seen their guidelines on how clinicians are being instructed to deal with it, don’t waste your time, unless you are into self-punishment.

Some boys and young men are lagging behind today – fewer young men than young women attend college, more young men than women are into drug use, and they likely won’t live as long as their female counterparts — etc.  But the symptoms and ‘corrective measures’ that the APA describe are truly off-base.  Feminizing boys and men as inferred by the APA is not the correct prescription.

Boys growing up in the 1940s and coming of age in the 1950s didn’t exhibit the characteristics of boys described by the APA today.  But then, in the 40s and 50s, parents actually practiced parenting.  They set rules and established boundaries.  And ‘correcting’ sometimes included a slap from Mom – and if our ‘act’ was deserving of something stronger, Dad would be called upon to use the belt when he got home from work.  Nobody’s psyche was ‘damaged’ by this kind of ‘parental guidance’; rather, it reinforced in our minds that we mustn’t do things like that again.

The same was true in school.  Disruptive behavior was not tolerated, and ‘talking back’ or sassing the teacher was taboo.  We were made to understand that we went there to learn – and our parents made clear that if we were to misbehave or embarrass the family, we’d be punished at home, too.  Before a child left home for school the first time, he or she was coached on how to act and had a pretty good understanding of what behaviors would not be tolerated.

Few of us got the slap or the belt very often.  Remedial ‘lessons’ weren’t needed, and love and affection was soon restored all around.  Don’t misunderstand; we don’t need cheerleaders for corporal punishment.  The point is that grownups need to parent.  They should be proactive and provide guidance rather than wait until their kids do something wrong.  Parental guidance starts when the kids are born and never ends until they leave the nest.  But guidance also means being a good role model and taking pains to set the proper example: no cursing or arguing in front of the kids.  Smoking or over-indulging are also bad exemplars.  And guidance also means smiles, and hugs, and love, and warmth.

Of course, a big problem for families today is that often both parents work, and the child-rearing – especially in those vital early years where parental love and guidance are so necessary – is done by someone other than Mom or Dad.  It is left to a preschool, or a nanny, or somebody else.

We in the 1950s were blessed to have regular meals — real meals — at the dinner table, every day.  That provided an opportunity for mom and dad to ask questions about our days and to listen to our answers.  Those interchanges meant that there were fewer surprises, unlike today, where the parents are ‘shocked’ — ‘shocked!’ to learn that one of theirs is on drugs, or worse.  Nightly dinners at the table also reinforced familial love and caring and support.

Going to church and Sunday school was also helpful.  Kids followed their parents’ example and looked forward to getting all cleaned up and putting on their ‘Sunday best.’  And, on the drive back home, the parents could ask their kids about their Bible lesson that week.  And all of these things reinforced family, love, and nurturing.  None of this was maudlin or trite.  It was real, widespread, and it worked!

We had very few ‘class disrupters’ during those years.  Such would not be tolerated either by the school officials or parents.  And ‘toxic masculinity’ hadn’t yet been ‘discovered.’  Boys need both dads and moms who are engaged in their upbringing.

Bottom line:  Parenting is too important to be left to school teachers or strangers.  It is a vitally important, full-time obligation.  Its rewards are pride and joy.  Those not up to it need not apply.

Old Timer, Frank

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