Why won’t men grow up?

As we celebrate Father’s Day, I reflect that I am incredibly blessed to have a father who didn’t just talk about responsibility, he modeled it. He provided for his family, he made us accountable for our actions, he helped with homework, he was involved in our church and community and he provided the best gift any father can give his children — he loved my mother. He led by example, providing a stable home, being kind and generous with his time, talent and treasure. And he still does.

But there are so many men who have yet to grow up, exemplifying the so-called “Peter Pan Syndrome.” These oversized kids live a coddled life (some with their parents rent-free), focusing not on the business of life, and in some cases not even the business of, well, business, but on hanging out with their buddies, playing video games and chasing multiple women. They are basically 10-year-olds with drivers’ licenses.

Being a man doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want. Perhaps the perceived loss of their prized independence is why this generation is delaying marriage. If that is their thought process, it’s hard to imagine how they will become responsible husbands and fathers.

So where do men learn how to be men?

If you’re looking for “gravitas” from the top, search elsewhere. Extended adolescence, being “cool,” and having fun seem to be celebrated at the White House.

Coming of age now appears to have risen to the ripe old age of 26, with Obamacare letting “kids” stay on their parents’ health care plans until then.

The administration exhorted families (with your tax dollars) to talk about Obamacare over the holiday dinner table. The ads featured sexual content (more of the hook-up culture on display) and the hyper-adolescent Pajama Boy (really, a “man” in footie jammies?).

President Obama himself went to great lengths to make time for the all-important March Madness basketball brackets.

Then, in May, the White House’s former national security spokesman, Tommy Vietor, went on Fox’s Special Report with Bret Baier to discuss the Benghazi talking points controversy.

Baier couldn’t believe his ears when little Vietor replied, “Dude…” Twice. I mean, what kind of “man” goes on a serious national news show and calls the interviewer, “Dude?” (Don’t answer that.)

Today’s TV won’t provide examples of manly character or behavior worth emulating. Ads and shows depict men as either bumbling, fumbling idiots or irresponsible, promiscuous louts — not characteristics that make very appealing mates. No wonder so many young men seem to aspire to nothing more than perpetual adolescence.

The antidote? Men learn from other men through mentorship. Men who model responsible adult behavior and who demand the same in return from those they influence have tremendous impact.

Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife, writes, “While none of us ever outgrow the need for having other men to mentor us, it is an absolute essential for those who would admit that their teenage tendencies are still pretty strong inside. If you find yourself grown but still exhibiting immature, adolescent behavior on a fairly regular basis, you need people around you who can call you up and out.”

Men are failing in school, getting fewer college degrees and finding their incomes slowly declining. Women are getting 60 percent of the college degrees and finding their income levels rising. In fact, single women younger than 30 have a higher median income than their male counterparts, just when the baby biological clock starts to tick loudly and women are considering their picket-fenced future. That means that when women get married — if they get married — they have a strong probability of marrying down.

At my age, I find that shocking, but it seems to be commonly accepted among many millennial women. I’m not sure what that means — more women doing things alone (including having children) or accepting a march toward matriarchy where men play an insignificant role?

Either alternative seems frightening. Perhaps we cannot return altogether to the simpler society in which, generally, men protected and provided, and women nurtured and comforted. But the implications of what has happened to gender roles and the family need serious consideration and action if we are to produce future generations of mature, responsible adults.

Happy Father’s Day.

Recommend this article
Susan Dench

About Susan Dench

Susan Dench is the founder and president of the fast-growing non-profit, non-partisan Informed Women's Network. Recognizing that many women are tired of "politics as usual," Susan decided to take action and develop strategies that are innovating the way women and politics intersect, nurturing and encouraging women in fun, energetic gatherings where views can be expressed in a supportive environment and then translated into practical solutions that produce results.