I was recently drawn-in by this question. Before diving in to give my best answer, I paused to consider what is the current state of affairs with our young men. I know it's a varied landscape with different perspectives, some being very positive and others looking at the current state with despair as the word "Millennials" has become code for "f'ing kids!"
After consideration and a little research I came to the general determination that, while the current state of affairs is not entirely pretty, it cannot be said to be significantly worse than that of different eras. Different problems sure, but we're still talking about young men here!
So then I examined, "parenting". Can only a parent do parenting? How might we be experiencing parenting from people that are not our parents? Weird, but I know that some of my best "parenting" was for someone else's kid ;)
This line of thought dropped me on the footsteps of one my favorite gurus, Osho. He is very cautious of the role parents should play and sincerely hilarious if you've never heard him before: https://youtu.be/5ocbZhRQS9I
(Parenting commentary begins at Minute 6:40)
To expand upon Osho's words and to finally attempt to answer the question:
I believe a parent's contribution is a very strong indicator of a young man's well-being, especially as we consider most American's experience in terms of the isolation of the family unit. Due to our "non-communal" lifestyles and single-family housing (even in multi-family apartments) kids today do not have a "village" to raise them, and we all know the old adage. So what is a parent to do? "Good" parents try to do it all attempting to a. care for, b. motivate, c. instill character and d. correct. "Bad" parents are e. none of the above. But that's too black and white...
A good "Good" parent will lead by example and leave plenty of room for the child to learn and grow. A bad "Good" parent will smother a child's fire with their desires and demands. A bad "Bad" parent will aim to do a,b,c, and d without actually doing much of any. A good "Bad" parent will trust that the child can a, b, c, and d more effectively without much "parenting". Follow me? If yes, and you are a parent, you might recognize yourself in all 4 categories of parenting at different times and in different ways.
Truth is parenting is really hard as each kid and each situation requires a special touch. That said, I will share some trends that I believe are mostly true most of the time...
1. Lead by example: Far and away the best form of parenting as it's much easier for a child to follow a good lead than to have to listen, learn and apply abstract teachings. They may stop hearing us, but they never stop watching. Too many parents have too many unresolved issues and poor habits that are being bred into our kids. Those parents who are rocking it in their personal and professional lives, may not be around or inclusive enough to lead by example. Kids are not welcome in corporate atmospheres and otherwise too busy themselves to have much of an opportunity to learn from their parents.
2. Know how to give and receive: Parenting needs to be a 2-way street. The better job parents do of receiving their children for who they are and for what they want to give, the better our kids will be at receiving "parenting". Too many parents fail to open themselves to receive direction and insight, while crying foul that their kids don't listen. This can be attributed to a parent's pre-biases as to what is right and wrong, and how to define success; as well as a parent's booked agenda that can shut the door on their kids wishes and needs.
3. Have good timing: Timing is everything! There's a time for parenting, ie. when a kid can most easily receive a, b, c, and d. Other times parents are better off going with e. Timing this right is not easy and made more difficult in that parents are always fighting the clock. Racing to get them off to school. Racing to get them fed and in bed. Racing to see them crawl, walk, and talk. Racing to have them grow-up. Speed does not work in parenting. Kids need time to adjust to new circumstances and time to gather their thoughts. They need a patient listener that cares more about their well-being then them getting "there" on time.
These trends are systematic and no parent should assume full-blame. Working parents cannot be late to work. Distractions in the form of always available digital entertainment and easily available harmful substances (not to mention the underlying lack of communication skills) make it difficult to give and receive. Apathy resulting from non-purposeful work, poor health routines, and disconnect from community leave a less than an ideal example to follow.
What about young men specifically? I think young men have some additional factors to consider as far as parenting's contribution. So do young women, but that's for a different discussion. I would argue that as young men approach manhood (puberty) they are best served by moving more into the realm of men -- and at least partially away from women. Why? Men and women are different. We have different levels of hormones and physical attributions. We have different dreams and desires along with different perspectives on which to form our world views and place within. Today's culture often dis-empowers men, especially in the raising of their children. While things have certainly found more balance as of late, I would argue there's still often an overwhelming presence of the feminine (including among dads) and lost manliness in our child's upbringing. The result is that boys don't know what it means to be a man. Many men exhibit boyish tendencies and the world is right to be suspect of giving more power to men -- as what's really happening is that we are putting boys with bigger bodies and bigger toys in positions of power. This vicious cycle may be broken in a single generation with the right kind of men securing their hold so that women feel safe letting go of their boys.
What is the right kind of man? Someone strong in body and mind powered by a courageous heart that is sensitive enough to know the truth, while being smart enough to know what to do with it. Martin Luther King the great civil rights leader, John Wooden the hall of fame basketball coach, John Muir protector of the environment, President John Kennedy, President Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi are just some of the very real men that come to mind. Each showed incredible strength, courage, sensitivity and smarts in their non-violent protests, morality, determination, and true reverence for life. Capable of great feats and willing to endure great lengths for their fellow man. Humble warriors. Empathic leaders.
All men have this potential. It must be cultivated and fine-tuned. We have a shortage of highly cultivated and finely-tuned men in the world today. Education is the key to developing future generations of such men. Not just any education. An education that focuses on the emotional growth and resiliency of the children. Not easy to quantify, but easy to see and feel.
The Empower Project
empowering young men and their communities.