028 - Role Models For Boys

Post date: Nov 30, 2015 8:47:19 PM

Counselor Notes 28

November 20, 2014 (revised 11-30-15)

Role Models For Boys

A psychologist at Yale University (Kelly Brownell) once figured that if a normal woman was to look like Barbie and have her hips remain the same size, she would have to be a foot taller, have 4 inches added to her chest, and lose 5 inches from her waist. Lots of people have been concerned about the image put forth to elementary school age girls about how they should look when they grow up.

The issue of what images are being put forth to young boys has gone largely unaddressed. As much as girls are hit with the image of how their ideal figure should be Barbie, boys are seeing the image of Hollywood superheroes like Batman, Superman, and Iron Man. Doesn't this make for another reason to monitor what our children feed their minds? Look at the pictures of bulked up superheroes (in padded suits) that Hollywood is giving us. Are these images of men realistic? Do we really want to intentionally or inadvertently hold them up as an ideal to our young boys?

As we seem to be in a national hurry to show these PG-13 superhero movies to our young boys, I can’t help but wonder what seeds we are planting and what “fruit” they bear later. Like the Barbie doll, these superheores do not have realistic bodies. Does this leave boys grasping to attain such an image – even using drugs to do it or feeling “less than” should they not be built like a superhero?

From http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/11/19/dangerous-trend-kids-and-teens-using-steroids/

A new study shows that about five percent of middle and high school students have used anabolic steroids to put on muscle, and that as many as one-third of boys and one-fifth of girls have used protein powder or shakes. Between five and 10 percent admitted to using non-steroid muscle-enhancing substances like creatine.

I was shocked to read these numbers. This is a brewing epidemic and parents need to become aware. We live in a complex world, and just like the war on drugs, we have make this a priority when it comes to our children.

Many kids see steroids as a tool to speed up the process of achieving their ideal body type and enhancing their athletic performance. And of course, this keeps them preoccupied with an image that they feel the need to achieve at any cost. And what’s even scarier, is that many people who abuse anabolic steroids often use more than one kind of drug at a time – a practice that’s called stacking.

From http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/steroid-use-hitting-closer-to-home :

In June 2004, the CDC published its latest figures on self-reported drug use among young people. It's called the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance or YRBS report.

"We had been looking at 1% to 2% of girls and 5% to 6% of guys who'd used steroids," Yesalis says. "Now the girls are over 5%. You are talking more than a million kids now. From 2001 to 2003, girls' steroid use went up 300%. Guys went up 20% or so."

And the kids taking these drugs are getting younger. Among 12th graders, 3.3% of girls and 6.4% of boys have used steroids at least once. But 7.3% of ninth grade girls -- and 6.9% of ninth grade boys -- have already been using these hormones.

Okay, we don’t have a problem with boys at the elementary school using muscle building steroids or things like creatine. On the other hand superhero costumes were quite popular on Halloween and I do see lots of children commenting on how they would like to be a superhero when they grow up. When it was time to have “Student of the Week” pictures taken, a surprisingly large number of boys chose the Avengers poster as the background. (Yes, I erred there. I am now more sensitive to the issue and have removed the poster.)

I hope that parents will be the parents and monitor what their sons are watching and holding up as heroes. It would also likely be a good idea to talk to children about who your real heroes are and what they did to become such.

Veteran's Day was this month. Our veterans served our country through times a lot longer than a 2 hour movie and did it without “superhero powers.” I would think that other qualities that superheroes may not show so prominently may come up as well. Things like graciousness, humility, dedication/persistence, temperance, and patience might be spoken of. These are some good qualities for children to aspire to, no?

There is an old Chinese saying “if you don’t change your direction, you are likely to end up where you are going.” Let’s give our boys realistic heroes and body images.

Doug Muha Ed.S.

School Counselor

Waverly Elementary School