Notice how most boys today prefer exercising their thumbs playing virtual sports rather than exercising their bodies through real life contact sports? How girls regularly bag top positions in school examinations though our boys are marked as “having potential”? Moreover boys in particular are labeling school as boring as they grow beyond their nursery class ages. Many parents assure themselves that this simply is the way boys are, and “it’s just a phase”, but step back and observe the young men of today.

An increasing number of young men cannot dedicate themselves to a single job. They are easily demotivated by workplace stress, and are unwilling to be productive members within their family circles. Is there a connection between the two? According to Dr Leonard Sax, in his book Boys Adrift, there is not only a connection but the situation is a growing epidemic.

Dr Leonard Sax, a family physician and psychologist, addresses educators and parents alike, as his book highlights five key factors negatively effecting boys today. One of them is video games; it’s not only the violent ones which are leaving a negative impact on impressionable boys’ minds. His book explains how sports games are also contributing to demotivating boys. Another factor is environmental toxins; Dr. Sax outlines the connection between the reason your bottled water tastes funny when left out in the sun, and the endocrine disrupters which are causing male fish to produce eggs like their female counterparts.

“Zero tolerance for violence” polices at schools, which even takes strict action against children who pretend their fingers are guns, homework assignments which can be considered unfriendly to boys such as “How would you feel if you were Piggy?” (a character from the novel “Lord of The Flies”, assigned in schools even in Pakistan), and lack of competitive opportunities to cater to the various abilities of all the children at school – these are a few things discussed under the factor “Changes at School”.

A fourth factor explains why more boys are being diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperativity Disorder), the harms of some of the medication prescribed to them, and its link with the aforementioned factors. Lastly is the factor “devaluation of masculinity” as a result of how our world now defines what real “manliness” is.

Dr. Sax narrates stories of his patients who have been affected by these factors, results of university research and quotes of various experts regarding these factors, accounts of how different cultures raise their men, as well as a few emails from amongst the over one thousand emails he received after sharing his work over a radio interview. His book includes practical strategies to help parents protect their sons from being among the boys affected by this growing toxic environment, and recounts how some schools have taken measures to give boys a healthy holistic education. In short, Boys Adrift is, as the author describes it, “A Doctor’s Plan To Help Our Sons Fulfill Their Potential”.

By Umm Abdullah