Raising Boys

100813Some time ago I read an article in First Things by Sally Thomas entitled: The Killer Instinct. The article ponders the modern aversion to the male psyche. Young boys are full of zealous energy, full of spit and vinegar, and have a a proclivity to rough and even violent play. Many modern parents and educators seem troubled by this and often attempt to soften boys, make them behave more like girls. Sadly there is even an attempt by some to diagnosis typically rough-house and energetic boys as having ADHD and they are put on medicines to suppress what is in the end a normal male energy. I do not deny that there can be a true ADHD diagnosis in some cases, but it may also be a symptom of an increasingly feminized culture that finds normal male behavior to be violent and a diagnosable “disorder.” What I have said here may here may be “controversial” but in the finest male tradition, remember, we can always “spar” in the comments section!

I’d like to present excerpts of the article here and then add some of m own comments in red. You can read the whole article by clicking on the title above.

The default mode of many parents is to be as alarmed by [the] proclivity in their sons [to shoot and stab at things and be aggressive]…..An obvious fascination with shooting things might seem like one of those warning signals we all read about…It used to be that parents waited for Johnny to start torturing the cat before they worried. My generation of parents seems to worry that owning a rubber-band shooter will make Johnny want to torture the cat. A friend of mine told me that he and his wife had decided not to give their boys guns for toys. What they discovered was that without the toy everything became a gun: sticks, brooms, scissors, their fingers. In the end, they “made peace” with the fact that boys love guns and swords and stopped worrying about latent tendencies to violence. Somehow it was in a boy’s nature and they couldn’t “nurture” it away.

As a toddler, one of my sons liked to stand behind his baby sister’s chair and pull her head back as far as it would go, to watch it spring up again like a punching bag on its stem….and then she screamed….From my son’s point of view, it was altogether a gratifying exercise. My intervention was always swift and decisive…I implored my son, “Don’t be rough. Be gentle.” …I am struck, now, by the strangeness of what I said to him. We don’t tell someone struggling with lust simply not to want sex; we don’t tell a glutton that his problem will be solved if he stops being hungry. Yet, I might as well have said, “Stop being a boy.”…. What I think I have come to understand about boys is that a desire to commit violence is not the same thing as a desire to commit evil. It’s a mistake for parents to presume that a fascination with the idea of blowing something away is, in itself, a disgusting habit, like nose-picking, that can and should be eradicated. The problem is not that the boy’s hand itches for a sword. The problem lies in not telling him what [the sword and itch] are for, that they are for something. If I had told my aggressive little son not, “Be gentle,” but, rather, “Protect your sister,” I might, I think, have had the right end of the stick.(This is a very brilliant insight. It is essential that we not try to destroy the innate gifts that God gives us in order to “control” them. We must learn to harness them and sublimate them so that they achieve the end to which they are intended).

Anne Roche Muggeridge, who reared four boys in the 1970s and 1980s, observes that

prevailing society now thoroughly regards young men as social invalids. . . . The fashion in education for the past three decades has been to try to make boys more like girls: to forbid them their toy guns and rough play, to engage them in exercises of “cooperation and sharing,” …to denounce any boyish roughness as “aggressive” and “sexist.”

Muggeridge writes of a visit to a doctor who urged on her a prescription for Ritalin, saying that a child as constantly active as her two-year-old son must be disturbed. “He’s not disturbed,” she responded. “He’s disturbing.” It is to realize, as Anne Roche Muggeridge did while watching her sons take turns throwing each other into a brick wall, that what you have in your house is not a human like you but a human unlike you. In short, as Muggeridge puts it, you are bringing up an “alien.” Yes, it has been very frustrating to be a man in the modern age let alone have to grow up under the tutelage of social scientists and education bureaucrats who scorn and suspect your very nature. Boys are aggressive. That is natural and good. They must be taught to master it and focus the energy of their aggression on the right object, but they should not be scorned for who and what they are. Such scorning has become for too many a sense that they are socially “enlightened.” It is time to see this attitude as a the type of bigotry and sexism that it too often is. To many women (and some feminized men) a boy in his raw state may in fact seem like an alien, but even aliens deserve respect 🙂

[There is an] initiation rite, devised and performed by our parish’s young priest twice a year in the church. This rite involves a series of solemn vows to be “a man of the Church,” “a man of prayer,” and so forth. It includes induction into the Order of the Brown Scapular, the bestowing of a decidedly manly red-and-black knot rosary, and the awarding of a red sash. What the boys look forward to, though, with much teasing of soon-to-be inductees about sharpened blades and close shaves…is the moment when a new boy kneels before Father and is whacked smartly on each shoulder with a large, impressive, and thoroughly real sword. Great idea. I’m going to work in my parish about initiating something like this.

These Holy Crusaders are, after all, ordinary boys—sweaty and goofy and physical. For them to take the Cross seriously requires something like a sword. For them to take the sword, knowing what it’s for, requires the Cross. …A boy’s natural drive to stab and shoot and smash can be shaped, in his imagination, to the image of sacrifice, of laying down his life for his friends. In the meantime, this is the key to what brings these boys to church. It’s not their mothers’ church or their sisters’ church; it is theirs, to serve and defend. Yes, yes! Amen. Greater love hath no man that to lay down his life for his friends. Christian manhood needs to be rediscovered in some segments of the Church. Too many men stay away from Church because it seems feminine to them. Sermons about duty, courage and fighting the good fight have given way to a steady diet of compassion, kindness, being nice, getting along, self actualizing and, did I mention being nice? These are not wrong virtues but they must be balanced by virtues that call us to stand up and speak out with courage, accepting our duties and fighting the good fight of faith, if necessary unto death. Men respond to the call when it is given in a way that respects their manhood. Balance is needed in the preaching and teaching of the Church and it seems that in recent decades we may have lost this in many settings, IMHO. If you think I’m crazy, remember this is a conversation. Hit the comment button and have it.

Sally Thomas, a contributing writer for FIRST THINGS, is a poet and homeschooling mother in North Carolina.

Here’s a video summoning boys unto manhood:

52 Replies to “Raising Boys”

  1. I apparently have/had asperger’s. I think psychologists, personally, are, well, just a more scientifically acceptable profession for “psychics”. I’m skeptical of the entire field of psychology.

    1. I tend to agree with this statement.

      Psychology to me seems like a ways of putting something which is very beautiful and has no bounds into a box. To me, it seems like the secular world trying desperately to make sense of something they can’t put their finger on. Something intangible; The soul. Biologically, there are good things that can come of Psychology, such as the medical diagnosis of chemical imbalances in the brain, but when you’re “diagnosing personality disorders” with no biological proof, it’s merely just a bunch of hooey and the “intellectual psychic”. Especially when we look at the way people are treating their kids with drugs these days to make them more docile… It’s so sad.

      Let kids be kids. They have a lot of energy because GUESS WHAT!? They’re kids!

      1. Thank you for that. I have a beautiful mind and it does not need to be stripped away to nothing.

    2. Newenglandsun,
      I don’t blame you for being skeptical about psychology. I am too, at least towards “pop” psychology. If I may recommend an Aristotelian-Thomistic rational psychology at http://www.hopeforme.org, taught by Dr. Denise Mari and her staff. There are videos of Dr. Mari teaching on both Godtube and Youtube.

      Another Catholic alternative is taught at the Institute for Psychological Services

      Hope you find these helpful. God bless you.
      Br. Antonio Maria, CFR

  2. One of the things I am thankful for is that both of my son’s have majority boys in their grades. I also think our school has a lot of common sense about those rough boys because we have a nearly 150 year heritage to remind us of the strength of men along with a lot of families that still have a parent at home to deal with and be patient with the roughhousing.

  3. I always hear parents make the excuse that, “I tried not giving my son guns and swords and he just turned every other toy or stick he found into a gun or sword.” And then they conclude, as Monsignor has, that it is somehow in boys’ nature to be obsessed with weapons. I have two sons (ages 7 and 3), and neither one of them has ever tried to turn their toys into weapons. We have had a strict “no weapons” rule in our house, but more importantly we have had an even stricter “no violent media” rule. (Of course Johnny is going to turn every screwdriver and baseball bat he can find into a gun or sword if he constantly watches shows or video games where the heroes wield weapons.) And even more important than either of those, we have a regular dose of gospel reading, making sure to emphasize what Jesus says about peacemaking, love of enemies, and non-retaliation. Virtues must be cultivated. It is not enough to deny a child toy weapons; you must help him form and protect a Christian imagination. This is admittedly very difficult in an age where electronic media creep further into every corner of our lives, casting an ever stronger influence on our imaginations, but it can be done.

    I’m also a bit concerned about your use of the term “feminized” as a pejorative. Perhaps the problem is not “an increasingly feminized culture that finds normal male behavior to be violent and a diagnosable ‘disorder’.” One might argue that it is rather the long history of a masculinized culture that has accepted and even celebrated violent behavior as normal. And if you find that assessment off-putting, perhaps that should be an indication that we shouldn’t use “feminized” or “masculinized” as negative terms.

    The root problem here is the insistence that there are universal masculine and feminine character traits. Are there characteristics that show up more often in men than women, and vice versa, that we heuristically call masculine and feminine? Absolutely. I think those who try to deny that and insist human nature is neuter are foolish and are ignoring solid empirical evidence showing gender trends. But I think it is also foolish and ignoring clear empirical evidence to insist that all men (qua men) have specific character traits. There are gentle men and rough women. There are nurturing men, and competitive women. Is competitiveness a trait found more often or more strongly in men than women? Yes. But it is a mistake to conclude from that fact that there is some Platonic form of maleness that includes competitiveness as one of its essential characteristics. I think we would do better to follow a more Aristotelian method here, recognizing and classifying the variety of male and female types rather than trying to posit some single essence/form of masculinity and femininity. There is a wide range of masculine types and a wide range of feminine types, and those two ranges overlap significantly.

    Gentleness is not a feminine virtue. It is a virtue. In fact it is a fruit of the Spirit (along with peace, and yes, kindness.) St. Paul does urge us (men AND women) to put on the armor of God, but only in the service of the gospel of PEACE (see Ephesians 6:10-17). I agree with you, Monsignor, that a saccharine overemphasis on what might be called the softer virtues needs to be tempered by the harder virtues of temperance, fortitude, self-sacrifice, and the like. But I don’t think it is helpful to unnecessarily genderize the discussion. The Church would be much weaker if she did not also have tough women and gentle men. To paraphrase St. Paul, we should all be striving for ALL the highest spiritual gifts (and fruits!).

    1. You’re missing the point, Vincent. No doubt there is a spectrum of personality types. Some women are coarser and more masculine than some men and vice versa and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

      The valid concern that Monsignor Pope and Sally Thomas have is that perfectly natural masculine traits have been denigrated as unnatural in Western culture over the past several decades. Many social scientists have argued incorrectly that masculine traits are “socially constructed” and unnatural and that society would be better off if these traits were discouraged and eliminated. The feminine has been privileged over the masculine. One of the results of this is that boys do less well in school than girls and there is now a 60% female majority in most universities. Another result is that fewer males practice their Catholic Faith than females.

      No culture that denigrates males for merely having masculine traits can thrive. A thriving culture requires active participation by both males and females and recognition of the necessity of traditional gender roles.

    2. Dear Vincent,

      I believe that instead of banning violent media from your home (which implies you cannot watch Ben Hur, the Ten Commandments, The Passion of the Christ, For Greater Glory, or just about any movie depicting the Old Testament or any military or king canonized Saint), that you should ban gratuitously violent media from your home (e.g. just about every modern secular action movie.)

      There is nothing wrong with genderizing discussions of virtue, to an extent. Scripture does it on numerous accounts. Think of St. Paul who condemned the effeminate, or the author of 2 Maccabbees, writing of the woman with seven sons, who “stirred her womanly heart with manly courage.”

      I end by quoting St. Therese of Lisieux “…the spirit of the Crusader burns within me, and I long to die on the field of battle in defence of Holy Church…”

      1. That’s a mostly good point about violent media vs. gratuitously violent media. The reason I say “mostly” is because I think in the early years shielding from ALL violence is a good thing. I’ve been very much influenced by the writings of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman on this topic. He used to teach psychology at West Point and has written several important and interesting books on the psychology of killing (from a military perspective) and the effects of violent media. His basic thesis is that the same techniques that the military uses to psychologically enable soldiers to kill are replicated in our mass media without the same controls that are in place in military training. Grossman’s recommendation is that children 6 years old and under be exposed to no violent media whatsoever due to their inability to fully distinguish between fantasy and reality. After that, he believes it is important that exposure to violence be limited, and when it is shown that it depict the negative consequences of violence and not just glorify it. So, in principle I don’t have an objection to my sons seeing something like The Passion of the Christ, but not until they are older.

    3. Overall, I agree with both of the original article and with Monsignor’s post. Furthermore, I am certainly a gender complementary an, so I definitely believe that there are distinct characteristics that correspond to sex. That having been said, I do agree with Vincent’s point about his own sons. I too have 2 ( soon to be 3) sons. They are not exposed to tv or video games at all. They are naturally rough and tumble, wrestle with each other, and are what my mom would call bulls-in-a-china-shop. But as yet, they are not obsessed with weapons, nor do they fashion things into weapons. I wouldn’t ban toy guns, but it just hasn’t come up, perhaps be ause their dad isn’t a hunter or shooter. So I think Vincent is right to point out the more dangerous stereotypes of masculinity that are hyper-violent.

      To Vincent directly: just because gentleness is a virtue, does not mean that it will be employed in the same way by all. I think male and female gentleness look profoundly different. A woman might express gentleness by nursing and cuddling a baby. A father may show gentleness through quiet strength in adversity. Gentleness opposes the vice of inordinate anger. Thus, a soldier might be profoundly gentle with gun in hand. Are women and men provoked by the same things? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

    4. Vincent:
      Gentleness is not a virtue. I think you may be confusing the social expectation of gentleness, with the Christian virtue of meekness. Gentleness is not found in any of the traditional formulations of the virtues–pagan or Christian– but meekness is a Christian virtue of tempering anger. Meekness is a requirement of Christianity, and is specifically addressed in the Our Father under the command to forgive. Gentleness is simply an interpersonal style or trait of temperament, and is only peripherally related to virtue.

      1. Gentleness is a fruit of the spirit that is specifically named in scripture.

        “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
        -Galatians 5:22-23

        The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses these fruits of the spirit in the section dealing with virtue, so I think it is safe to say that from a Catholic perspective, gentleness IS a virtue.
        See CCC #1803-1845, especially #1832

    5. “We have had a strict “no weapons” rule in our house, ”
      How will you explain to your children that the Apostles carried the assualt weapons of their day, equivalant to our fully automatic M4 rifles? They even had assault weapons at the last supper. I think you confuse legitimate force (for which a gun is a tool) and violence or the execessive use of force. Being a pacifist is not Catholic and meekness does not mean willful weakness.


      1. “How will you explain to your children that the Apostles carried the assualt weapons of their day?”

        1) Swords aren’t the equivalent of modern assault weapons.
        2) I will explain to my children that the disciples remained confused right up to the very end about what Jesus was trying to teach them. (This was why Peter rebuked Jesus when he explained taht he would have to die; the disciples thought Jesus was going to Jerusalem to lead them against the Romans and become their king.) There’s a reason Jesus chided Peter for striking with the sword and told them it was enough that they had two swords when they mistook his symbolic words about procuring swords for a literal command. (The article you reference tries to address these concerns, but only succeeds by twisting the text to says things it clearly does not say.) You will note that there is no mention of any of them carrying weapons after the resurrection.

        Here is what the Church actually says about pacifism:

        “Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2306

    6. Vincent, you can try to raise girly-men if you wish, just remember that your right to do so is paid for by he-men who used guns and swords to commit violence when necessary. They also have the self control to use violence when indicated.

      1. My right to raise my children as Christians was paid by Jesus on Calvary, not by those who use violence in the name of any other gospel, even the gospel of democracy and American exceptionalism.

        “If you enroll as one of God’s people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver. And what are his laws? You shall not kill, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. To him that strikes you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Clement of Alexandria)

        “And we who delighted in war, in the slaughter of one another, and in every other kind of iniquity have in every part of the world converted our weapons into implements of peace – our swords into ploughshares, our spears into farmers’ tools – and we cultivate piety, justice, brotherly charity, faith and hope, which we derive from the Father through the crucified Savior.” (St. Justin Martyr)

        “Christ, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.” (Tertullian)

    7. First, the feminization of a thing in the sense of removing the masculine aspects that should be there and replacing them with more feminine ones is bad. By definition. It is taking what should be there, removing it, and replacing it with something else. But this does not say at all that femininity is bad. Not at all. It is the imbalance, the dishonest emphasization of the feminine over the masculine that is the problem.

      Second, you may, by cutting off all of a boy’s contact with anything violent, manage to make them not terribly interested in swords. It is true that it is hard to be interested in something you haven’t experienced. But it is false that all aggression is bad, or that there is an obligation to prevent children from seeing it at all. And it is not true that you have curbed your son’s nature – it may very well be that when he is older and sees these things outside of your control, that part of him will instantly be attracted to them. Perhaps not, but then again perhaps – and if so, this does not mean he is doing something bad, or that you have failed as a parent, because it is not necessary to try to kill off all tendencies towards aggression.

      Thirdly, it is all well and good to read the Gospels, and emphasizing the peaceful and nonviolent passages is extremely important – but if you do so in a way which denies the importance of the scourging of the temple, or the various times when Christ chews people out for being hypocrites, or the image of the Church Militant and the battle with evil, or even the fact that violence is often necessary (see the OT) even if it is never the choice of first resort, then you are doing both the Gospels and your sons a disservice.

      Fourthly, while it is bad to assume that all men or all women will have the same traits, it is equally bad to ignore the blatantly obvious facts that men tend to be one way and the women tend to be another – that men and women are fundamentally different. Men are more aggressive, as a rule. To deny this, or to say that all aggression is bad is simply false.

    8. Thank you for this. You will get no support from this website or any of its writers, but I very much appreciate your insight. The writer of the original,post wants a world where boys are rigid authoritarians and girls and women are cowardly, dimwitted, doormats.

      Given the practice at right wing websites of wantonly banning dissenting commenter, I doubt this comment will ever be published.

    9. Vincent,

      I recommend that you read JP2’s “Love and Responsibility” and “Male and Female He Created Them” (translated by Michael Waldstein) as your STARTING books into human sexuality and the Church’s understanding of the differences of the male and female person: that there is a complementary in the distinction. Get more acquainted with JP2’s theology of the body… it’ll change your life and your view on masculinity. Cheers!

  4. @Newenglandsun I so agree with you! … in my “wee” little LIFE, I alone have seen so much damage wrought by the Science of Psychology… runs deep to fully realize how much damage we have all been done by this “science” … there “might” be some shreds of developmental items, etc. things but in large part this Science has run over us!

    AND where and when are they held accountable? How do we hold them accountable?

    Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s “Some Heard Thunder, Some Heard God” is a wonderful record on the beginnings of this destruction unleashed!

  5. Great Article Monsignor. Thank you. I applaud it. It is high time we recognize the unique and special gifts given by God to males and realize the inherent and beautiful differences in both character and nature between men and women. It is what makes sacramental marriage work so well. I deplore the feminization of boys that has taken place over the past 40 years or so.

  6. The article makes me feel proud to be a man, great job! And yes, even my two year old will use anything as a weapon….he has to have something to attack or counter attack his six year old brother and occasionally myself. Life and the spiritual life takes courage and discipline. Discernment then attacking or defending is what it is all about.

  7. Vincent: I really think you are missing the entire point of the piece…stop looking at the trees and look at the forest.

  8. The psych evals are appropriate for little boys who do not get a kick out of breaking or burning or fighting things.

  9. On the one hand, we aren’t supposed to be too nice, and on the other hand, we aren’t supposed to be sour-faced saints.

  10. As a parent of 5, (2 boys, 3 girls) and g-parent of 12, I agree that boys tend to be more aggressive in play than girls. This is a tendency, not invariable. Some boys are bookish, and can experiment with toys w/o interacting. Some girls (a minority, I think) can be aggressive in pursuing a toy that they favor. But the boys are more likely to push around those perceived as “in their way”. This behavior is usually outgrown before age 10, but it exists.

  11. “The root problem here is the insistence that there are universal masculine and feminine character traits.”
    Well . . . yes, there are. That does not mean that being competitive makes a woman masculine, or that a sort of natural gentleness is unbecoming to a man. But, YES, despite what our society insists, some traits are more fitting, more useful for, the natural and traditional roles of the sexes. We’ve seen what happens when this is completely denied and undermined, no more so than in the Arts, or what might be the expression of loving Beauty, In the past, this produced Shakespeare, Chaucer, Michaelangelo, Caravaggio, Barishnikov, etc etc. Now it is a “homosexual” who most often pursues these things, or a man thinks he must be one if he loves beauty and drama and such; and it is considered “liberated” in a woman to despise the beauty of her body. Obviously, women love beauty and beautiful things, as well, and sad for all if they didn’t! But what is a proper, normal pursuit and expression of beauty in a man is just not the same as in a woman. To deny this difference is beyond folly–this denial, in fact, is the root of all modern problems. As a mother of two boys, I am reminded constantly how instinctive our society’s horror of the warrior has become. My boys want to fight–they need to be taught to fight FOR something, and for the *right* thing, not to be taught that their fighting instinct is wrong. It is okay and right and good for them tkpo want to fight, and to know that the proper thing to fight for is truth and beauty and goodness and innocence, and what to fight against is tyranny and oppression and ugliness and lies. We as women need to value our womanliness enough to let them do this!
    Nor does this always mean with a sword. Plato and Aristotle fought intellectual and moral corruption with words–but they still fought. Ruskin fought the solipsism of Impressionism with his incredibly detailed drawings. Itzak Perlman fights the ugliness of “heavy metal”. But, regardless of the medium, the fighting instinct is the same, and whether you have a “no violence” policy or not, that instinct should not be denied to our sons.

  12. Your phrase “fought the good fight” caught my eye, which of course is a quote from 2Tim. 4:7. Someone who worked on the New American Bible sanitized that verse by changing it to “I have competed well.” That translation sounds like St. Paul was a contestant on “Jeopardy.” It also reflects our society’s prejudice against normal male behavior.

    1. The NAB actually has the more accurate translation here. The Greek says “ton agona ton kalon egonismai” which literally means “the contest the ideal I have contended” or more loosely “I have competed ideally in the contest”. ‘Agona’ refers to an athletic competition, not to combat. It is the same word used elsewhere in the New Testament to describe races and other athletic competitions (Heb 12:1, 1 Cor 9:25).

  13. You hear this every now and then. Usually it seems to me like an attempt to plug men back into the matrix and turn them into batteries. People like when men work like slaves and produce, as long as they DON’T GET TOO PUSHY. What the want are the “good” male traits that make men worker drones without the pesky traits that allow men to enjoy themselves. At this point I just shake my head and change the channel when someone starts getting excited about men sacrificing themselves. Men haven’t changed, women have changed. When I start hearing speakers getting excited about women being soft spoken ans submissive and wives giving absolute obedience to their husbands, then I might be interested in sacrificing. Yeah, it could be considered selfish and shallow, but at this point it’s the only rational response. People should appreciate and revere sacrifice, and not expect or demand it for nothing.

  14. Vincent’s comment is just boring grey mush. I for one will never go along with his effeminate understanding. It’s gay. Of course I’m not really doing anything else either besides carving out my own space as best I can where ever I go. Course I work in oil so it’s a fairly masculine environment already. And now we have Pope Francis getting all feely. Doesn’t bode well.

  15. Vincent said, “The root problem here is the insistence that there are universal masculine and feminine character traits.”

    I think Vincent is part of the on-going feminization of western culture, but doesn’t realize he’s part of it.

    Scripture clearly says: And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.”

    There it is. Couldn’t be more to the point.

  16. Get over the “educators” thing — I’m a teacher, and a Viet-Nam veteran, too. I know boys are rough. More than that, though, I know the threats by parents, school administrators, physicians, and lawyers of lawsuits and criminal charges if little Cody / Shane / Rocky / manly-name-of-choice suffers so much as hurt feelings during a school day.

    Any public school is exactly what the public wants it to be through their democratically-elected school board, who have a lawyer on retainer to protect them but not to protect a teacher.

    Have you ever voted in your local school board elections?

  17. I have begun to reflect: to what degree is our typical masculinity a truly Christian virtue? Go to Africa or Asia and you find very different notions of manhood.

  18. I for one, am with Fr. on this. I have raised a boy and girl in the 70-80s, and now three grandchildren, the youngest of which is a boy, aged 6. I am in the middle of a war with his first grade teacher in a Calif. catholic school because of roughness vs. gentleness issues during recess, and our grandson’s using his fingers as a gun. I forwarded this entire post to my grandson’s principal. Boys need to learn to defend and protect, if necessary with force, their sisters, family, county and God’s church. I would love to know more about the ceremony for turning young boys into knights. Although we do not allow violent video games, we do have the news on. Children need to know about the world in which they are living, and anyone who thinks that those who hate our way of life, and Christianity and going to respond peacefully might want to try some kind of psychotropic medication.

  19. Wonderful article! It is a pity how boys have been feminized in our culture. The natural masculine aggressiveness needs to be properly channeled. An emphasis should be placed on the powerful passive virtues of patience, fortitude, and endurance. Boys should be introduced to the great male, lay martyrs; I suggest The Victories of the Martyrs by St. Alphonsus. St. Epipodius and St. Alexander were two young men who gave their lives for Christ at Lyons under a Roman emperor. There were many boys martyred in Japan for the faith. Boys will be attracted to such examples of real masculinity.

  20. I’m glad to see Monsignor raise this topic. I grew up with two brothers. My mother grew up in a family of four girls. My father grew up in a family of four girls and five boys. When I was young, I can recall hearing my dad say to my mother, it’s OK, that’s how boys act or behave, and things of that nature. I feel we were a bit hard on my mother and it could be hard on her while raising three young boys in the 1960s while my dad was deployed twice to Vietnam.

    When my son was in elementary school, I regularly had to talk with many of his female teachers who would keep my son out of recess as punishment for talking in class or not quietly sitting still all morning. Few of the young female teachers knew anything at all about a young boy’s high energy, since many grew up as single daughters or in a family with a couple girls. Boys and girls are different, and as hard as we try to distort that, it won’t work. For all reading this, and for Heaven’s sake, please let young boys be boys. And, please, never tell a boy or any guy to “connect to his feminine side”. When I was in school, if a school girl told a boy to stop acting like a sissy, the guy would stiffen up and could eat nails, those over 50 know what I’m talking about. I told my high school daughter and her friends to stop laughing at boys who act feminine and tell those males to stop trying to be a girl. That’s another aspect missing from our society which I hope will return. Last thing parents, don’t be afraid to let your sons play football. Yes they’ll get banged up and bruised, but it’s good for them. I attended Catholic schools in the 1960s and was an alter boy, I remember we argued before every Mass, because we all wanted to light the high candles on the alter using the long candle staff. If the wick line was pushed out too far, the flame would flare up. That was way cool, and sadly is another lost treasure from the Church.

  21. My oldest son was still sleeping in a crib when he chewed his peanut butter sandwiches into “guns” and dried and hardened them under the mattress. ( We did not even own a TV.) I bought him a cap gun and holster. He did not grow up to be either violent or a cowboy, and he no longer sleeps in a crib. Imagine that!
    I find it interesting that the segment of the Church that promotes and creates feminized men often also de-feminizes women through its unquestioning acceptance of birth control and even abortion.

  22. “Sermons about duty, courage and fighting the good fight have given way to a steady diet of compassion, kindness, being nice, getting along, self actualizing and, did I mention being nice? These are not wrong virtues but they must be balanced by virtues that call us to stand up and speak out with courage, accepting our duties and fighting the good fight of faith, if necessary unto death. Men respond to the call when it is given in a way that respects their manhood.”

    As usual, Monsignor, you’ve hit the nail right on the head. (Anybody got a better suggestion for getting more boys to want to serve the Church?)

  23. Sadly this even occurred in the late 1960’s and early 70’s in parochial school as boys we were not allowed to roughhouse during recess and both boys and girls were separated during recess the girls on one side of the school building and the boys on the other…. The area along the sides of the building were off limits….. so boys not only had to not be boys but learned no socialization skills to be able to interact with girls….. I was in parochial school from 2nd grade through 5th entering public school in 6th grade was a culture shock on so many levels…. I was a stranger in my own town…. I was awkward in so many ways and those years in Parochial school did not prepare me for the real world….. Or what would come with High School…… I applaud this article it brings up many points that need to be looked at, Ritalin …. Do we really know what it is doing to the developing mind of a child? Are we stealing their childhood and creativity? And are we creating the monsters that use violence against others at school shootings? It’s time for the attack against boys and childhood to end…..

  24. We have a lovely manly priest, and he has authorized some of the men in our parish to spiffy up the altar servers. The men devised a Guild of St. Tarcisius, where the boys prove their skills in serving and their knowledge of the Mass to advance through levels that are signified by small changes in vestments. They accompany Father on an annual hike. All of these these things celebrate the boys’ competitiveness and desire to be part of a “club” led by the priest. Female servers are allowed but dwindling in participation, and the boys are serious about their service. It’s wonderful.

  25. I’ve seen this very issue debated strongly in our community. An outspoken father here has for years been raising boys as boys, as outlined well in this post. He has always been proud of the return to the true male philosophy of “hunter and gatherer”, and while I was leary of it at the start, I have come around with my youngest (a boy) already owning his own bb gun at age 9 (with restrictions and rules). What I found disconcerting about my community member’s approach was that his eldest was playing rough (in the pool) with one of my daughters. When she called him out and told him he was too rough, the boy said that’s the way he was supposed to be. In this turnback age of reclaiming manhood, fathers must be careful to truly teach virtue and self-control, perhaps moreso than nurture the true nature of manhood. This article articulates that well, but I felt the need to reiterate, as I have met more than one family whose children are missing the self control.

    1. Does Anne not think that girls need to be taught self-control? In this debate we seem to be confused about a number of issues. Firstly, there is a truly muscular and manly side of Christianity, which reflects itself in the Catholic Church’s rejection of pacifism and in her support for morally justifiable wars of self-defense, and in the acceptance of Aquinas’s Just War Theory by many Protestant theologians. Secondly, the science and practice of Psychology is not the bad guy here. There are psychologists who support the rearing of young boys in ways that recognize their self-identification as masculine. Gender Schema theory, for example, recognizes that whatever the genetic, phenotypic or hormonal differences there are between men and women, there is a recognition by little two-year-olds that they fall into schemata or patterns. They say to themselves at an astonishing early age “I’m going to be a mommy some day because I’m a girl like mommy” or “I have body parts like my daddy’s so I’m going to be a daddy some day too.” The recognition of these schemata has nothing to do with hormones or genes or whatever–it’s simply a part of life. Thirdly, we continually get confused over the precise contributions that our Catholic faith can or ought to make to the wider culture. A Catholic worldview ought to respect persons, even little boys who want to run around playgrounds shooting imaginary guns at each other. The denigration of masculinity is radically anti-Christian, insofar as it is part of a wider trend in secular culture towards radical feminism. Then there’s the question of the secular culture’s creeping infiltration of Catholic education. Americans are far more likely to diagnose ADD/ADHD among schoolchildren and prescribe dangerous mind-altering drugs to overactive kids, than are other countries. This reflects the willingness of secular educators in the U. S. to capitulate to the whining, anxious demands of helicopter parents, who swoop down on schools constantly, demanding special treatment for their little darlings, demanding that every “inappropriate” behavior be labeled as an illness. American Catholic schools ought to know better, and do better, especially since they are part of a wider international Catholic educational world. Instead they look more and more like secular schools every day, capitulating to whining parents and rolling pills into the mouths of perfectly health kids. Sending your little boy to a Catholic school ought to make a noticeable difference in his life as a man-in-the-making as well as in other areas of his upbringing. But does it do so? What a desperate need we have to rethink Catholic education in this country, from first principles, to make our Catholic schools genuinely more Catholic and noticeably so!

  26. I think there has also been a kind of “masculinization” of women in Western societies:

    – Use of typical masculine rude words.
    – More women smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs.
    – More (visible) lesbianism.
    – Sexual promiscuity.
    – 2, a or 0 children.

  27. Bravo! As a mother of one of these “100% testerone boys,” I applaud you for bringing this up. I was chased by my son’s school for years to have him tested for ADHD, and when upon finally allowing the school psychologist (who proclaimed that ours was his most extensive testing in 30 years) to conduct his testing and analysis, and who (as completely expected) diagnosed him as ADHD. I immediately countered back to the whole staff group that “he’s still not going on medication, but now you can accommodate him,” and to which statement all of their faces drained of color and jaws dropped. I never told my son about their diagnosis, nor did I tell our family doctor. A year or so later, after being railroaded by the school administrators, and my son being expelled for over 30 days that school year (to my shock and dismay) for ridiculous and numerous “boy” antics, I filed a civil complaint to the US Dept of Education, Civil Rights, and the whole school district was found to be in violation of my child’s rights. They had to come into compliance within the ensuing months or face losing their federal funding. It’s noteworthy to mention that the very next year, we had not one single incident on my child’s behavior chart, and it was not his behavior that had changed that significantly, if you know what I mean 🙂 That was just two years ago, and I am happy to report that we still have a 100% testerone boy, who just might someday end up being our “Rambo.”

  28. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZGMqKLGFpA


    He bore the holy cross who broke the power of hell
    He was girded with power he rose again the third day
    The christ has risen
    And shone upon his people whome he has bought back with his own blood
    He bore the holy cross who broke the power of hell
    He was girded with power he rose again the third day
    The christ has risen
    Now he doesn’t die death willn’t master him
    He bore the holy cross who broke the power of hell
    He was girded with power he rose again the third day
    The christ has risen
    The stone that the architects rejected he has become the chief cornerstone

    He bore the holy cross who broke the power of hell
    He was girded with power he rose again the third day

  29. I’m a mother of 8, 5 of whom are boys. I home-educate them.
    Firstly, As Christians, we shouldn’t fight with each other. Vincent offers some interesting points for reflection. As Christians – how *do* we respond to Christ’s radical call to peace and non-violence? How ought we respond to violent persecution? What would Christ have us do? ISIS enters your home with guns and wants your wife and daughters, takes your sons out back to slaughter them… Christian male: how are you called to react? These are excellent points for reflection. I would love to have this discussion. I don’t fully know the answer!

    I see the words “violent” and “aggressive” being applied to boys as though these are the natural, good things which make up ‘boyness’ – I think there is a lot of equivocation going on throughout the discussion re these descriptors. Boys, as all mothers certainly know firsthand, have different ‘wiring’, shall we say, to girls. There is a beautiful energy in boys which is readily observed and is often generalized about, as in this article. Boys have a unique and wonderful psychology, which, when allowed to thrive with proper discipline will one day — with the help of a good father or other male mentor — blossom into well-rounded, well-adjusted manhood: all good and noble, I think we can all agree. What is disagreed on is: What are acceptable, normal boy behaviors? What is it to be an authentic Christian man? For surely to be a Christian man, is to be a complete man. Christ perfects our nature..

    I think the author of this article is ultimately (whether you agree w his examples or not) trying to make the point that the beautiful, unique energy in boys shouldn’t be squelched. That it’s healthy and normal.
    However, aggression and violence are not qualities that are normal or okay in our boys. Aggression and violence are exactly the qualities – I believe – which come out in boys precisely WHEN their boy-like energy is being suppressed or squelched! Most boys don’t want to sit in a chair at a desk for hours on end! It drives them mad and completely stir-crazy. They don’t want to be lectured at by their mommy for words-on-end about how they should be behaving. (*guilty as charged) They want to play and wrestle and make things and take things apart and climb trees and kick balls and read at their leisure and find out how stuff works and get filthy and help dad and bond in the most beautiful boy friendships! (Have you ever witnessed boys making friends with other boys/playing? it’s the most beautiful and adorable thing ever and done in a completely singular boy-like manner. It makes me glow with happy wonder at that which is singularly “boy”. So unlike how my girls are – and yet so lovely, nonetheless.)
    My boys have guns and swords and shields and bows and arrows. I’m not against these things. I don’t think they are bad or evil in themselves. But we do try to instill in our boys a sense of good and evil. Of looking after each other. Of being self-less. Of being truly noble; of being responsible; the idea of respecting and protecting women, without being weird about it… without lording anything over girls… About allowing that beautiful boy-energy to flourish with discipline and Christian guidance.

Comments are closed.