Raising Boys vs. Raising Men
When I actually sat down to think about why there is such a level of immaturity in our male youth today, I can only find one problem: bad parenting.
BY Saud Inam
We’ve all heard the phrase “Boys will be boys” when a boy does or says something immature or silly. However, there comes a point when a boy becomes a man. However, having the characteristics and physical traits that a man has doesn’t make one a man it makes one a male. We need to make a distinction between men and boys. A guy can be well into his mid-20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s and still be a boy. This is due to the nature of his inability to emotionally, spiritually and psychologically mature. We cannot seriously say the phrase “he’s just a kid” for 18-40 year old guys. This phrase removes any responsibility or accountability for a guy’s actions by simply writing it off as “they’re just being boys” or “they’re just being kids.” That argument won’t hold any water in the court of law and it most certainly doesn’t in our day to day dealings with others. Our actions and words have consequences. Every action has an equal or stronger reaction.
Pursuit of Self-Gratification
Yes, we’re all learning about life in every stage of our lives, but to not be in a mode of learning, self-reflection, self-improvement and introspection at every point in your life will not help you to mature. Many guys today simply live with their egos, lusts and desires. They seek to simply feed all three (ego, lusts, and desires) and don’t care if in their pursuit of self-gratification of harming others in the process. The guys I see today are obsessed with athletes, celebrities, movies, TV shows, food, and sports. This may not be the case for all youth, but is definitely a trend I see in our youth today. The question is how can we slowly transition these youth out of this mindset to a more mature mindset of thinking deeply about life, reflecting about how they’re living life, and how to better themselves every day? Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was surrounded by youth who took on positions of leadership, took initiative and were key figures in the early history of Islam.
The question is, do we see that same level of maturity in our male youth today? Sadly, many youth are growing up with this mentality of fast and simple self-gratification. These youth then become college students, then young professionals, and then husbands of families. Yet, as they may have progressed academically and career wise they still are emotionally, psychologically and spiritually at the level of a middle school kid. It’s scary to think that one day the youth that I see at the masjid and in our communities will be future husbands and fathers.
It’s easy to think and acts like a boy for all of your life. You can think that your actions and words have no consequences. You can think that everyone needs to respect you, demand respect from others and if anyone disrespects you, you put them in their place by cussing them out or yelling at them. You can think that everything must come to you immediately. It’s sad to say though this type of behavior will not fly in the real world. If you have this boyish mentality in your school work, your work life, your family life, and with others, you won’t live a very happy life. You’ll meet conflict after conflict, drama after drama and get yourself into more trouble than you want.
This is why I say there’s a difference between being a MAN and being a boy or simply thinking you’re a man because you’re male. A man is one who has good character, strong morals, ethics, and principles. A man is someone who is self-confident, respectful to others, builds people up and doesn’t tear them down. A man is someone who doesn’t demand respect, but earns it through his actions. A man is someone who respects women and doesn’t talk about them in a derogatory manner. A man is someone who doesn’t use bad language, yell at others or lose his temper. My question is where are the men today?
When I actually sat down to think about why there is such a level of immaturity in our male youth today I can only find one problem: bad parenting. Yes, there are different cases here and there that may be contrary to my finding, but at a core level, the level of immaturity stems from bad parenting. If the father or mother doesn’t play a big role in their son’s life by teaching him early on about ethics, morals, principles and values, then how do you expect him to start adhering to them when he’s well into his teens? If a father doesn’t encourage his son to come to the masjid in his son’s early years and stress the importance of deen (Islam) in their lives, how do they expect their sons to know the importance when they become 19 years old? We have parents going to imams, youth directors and the “cool uncle” and ask them “can you speak to my son? Can you encourage him to come to the masjid and remind him about Islam?” It’s sad that it’s come to this point where parents can’t even talk to their own children about their concern for the way they’re living their lives.
Another issue that leads to this immaturity is that we’re pampering our boys. We provide them early on with the latest gadgets, clothes, toys and demands early on and continue this trend into middle school, high school, and college. They learn to expect to get their demands at the drop of a hat. They feel entitled to certain things. They feel connected or attached to their gadgets and clothes. They feel that the latest brands are what make them better than others. They feel that can do whatever they want with no consequences.
Love of Islam
This sets up our sons for failure in life. You can’t expect by giving your sons every luxury in this life at their fingertips while neglecting their Islamic education that they’ll be good human beings and successful in their lives. If you’ve given all the luxuries in the world to your son and not a firm understanding, appreciation and love of Islam then you’ve given your son nothing. We stress the dunya (this world) to such an extent to our sons that their entire lives are consumed by gadgets, clothes, TV shows, movies, etc. Lastly, as parents we can’t demand our kids to be more “religious” if we aren’t even practicing what we’re preaching. If you aren’t going to the masjid on a consistent basis, not reading Quran, not learning more about Islam how can you expect your son to take your request seriously?
Build Strong Children
We can no longer afford to continue this trend or it will hurt our community and our world. We cannot look and say in retrospect “where did I go wrong?” when our sons don’t listen to us, or they go down the wrong path or don’t listen to you when you tell them they should go to the masjid. We reap what we sew. “It’s easier to build strong children than repair broken men” as Franklin Douglass said. We cannot easily reverse years of lack of guidance and nurturing after-the-fact of realizing the wrong we did. Sadly, for most of the immature boys we have in our community it will take a tragic event or a life-shaking event to open their eyes to change their ways, wake up and mature. I pray it doesn’t come to that and may Allah protect us from tragic events (ameen), but it will take something to shake them to wake them up to change their ways and become mature adults and men.
We need to begin raising men and not simply raising boys. We need well-balanced men who live their lives with purpose, with a vision, with a mission, and understand how to live their lives with balance. We need men who live with a strong understanding of their Islamic identity, morals, ethics and values. We need men who can become strong husbands for their families. We need men who can protect our women from the ugliness of the world. We need men who can become strong leaders for our communities. We need men, not boys. No more “boys will be boys,” let them be MEN.