raising a boy

Raising a Boy: 1985 vs Now

My son turns 10 years old on November 1st. The age of 10 is one of the greatest years in a young boy’s life. Something about going from single digits to double digits makes you stick your chest out a little. You start asking about using deodorant and shaving and all those things you see your dad doing.

For me, that happened 30 years ago. Seeing my son as a soon-to-be 10-year-old brings back those memories but also has me looking at it from a different perspective—the perspective of a dad. Things are different now. Here is a comparison between raising a boy in 1985 versus now, plus 3 key things we must do.

We still love robots, but cartoons are no longer just cartoons.

One of the top 10 toys for boys in 1985 was a Transformer. One of the top 10 toys for boys today… Transformers. I remember playing with Transformers and watching the cartoon. It was all pretty innocent.

Today, our boys can still play with Transformers and watch the cartoons on streaming video services. They can also watch a full feature film. The challenge we face now is these full feature films aren’t necessarily created with young boys in mind. The violence is graphically shown at a level I never saw watching the cartoons in 1985. In addition, the sexual images of women dressed in revealing clothing are alarming and desensitize our boys. I believe it can open the door to problems with pornography in the future.

We still love sports, but it’s not always for fun.

In 1985, I played both little league baseball and basketball and absolutely loved sports. My boys are the same today. They love sports and play them all the time. However, youth sports today aren’t the same carefree, play-for-fun type of youth sports I played in 1985. Everything seems to be organized, and it all seems like more of a business than fun games.

Almost every sport offers travel, club ball, or year-round opportunities. Kids are being trained exclusively in one sport by professional trainers. Most parks and neighborhood courts are empty because most kids play in a league, for a team, or are at a facility with a parent or coach being trained. As dads, we have to guard this special season in our boys’ lives even from the things we love and they love. Yes, it’s important for us to show our kids how to enjoy and appreciate sports, but keep it fun, not succumbing to the “business” that exists in the youth sports world today.

We still start noticing differences in girls, but gender relations are a lot different today.

I really don’t remember distinguishing that many differences between boys and girls I was friends with prior to age 10. Yes, we went to different bathrooms, and most of the girls didn’t play the same games or with the same toys we did. But right around 10, things began to change. Today noticing these differences begins much younger. What most viewed in 1985 as very inappropriate dress and conduct by both men and women is very acceptable today. This is an area where we have to be very intentional and not passive. My philosophy: I want my kids to hear it from me or my wife first before hearing it anywhere else. Conversations about the “birds and the bees” must happen, and they must happen earlier than they did while raising boys in 1985. We are inundated with messages and ideals almost 24/7, just about anywhere we turn. Be proactive in all areas but especially in this area.

If you are raising boys today, there are many things you may have experienced, but some of this is new territory for us. Be intentional as a dad of sons. And I encourage you to embrace it and attack it head-on. Your sons need you.

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Sound Off

What is your biggest concern with raising boys now vs. 1985, or when you were a young boy?

Jackie Bledsoe

Jackie Bledsoe is an author, blogger, and speaker, but first and foremost a husband and father of three, who helps men better lead and love the ones who matter most.

  • KJ

    I’m 41 yrs old. Much has changed in the last 30 yrs but much is the same. The article mentions wardrobe changes in acceptable attire for girls these days. I suggest looking back in time to refresh ur memory. And the cheerleaders at the sporting events u take ur son to are a great example of same old same old. The sex talk…same as always,it’s when the particular child is READY. Not when they are too young to understand just cuz they see girls wear short shorts. I had the FIRST one with my son when he was 9 cuz he had questions. My Dad had no such talk w me. Boys still love video games today as much as I loved my Atari,coaches and parents still take kids sports way too seriously and not all boys want to be a part of that ridiculous scene. My boy loves art and music over sports and his future looks brighter to me that way as I do not see the “importance” of sports in the world anyway. I always played baseball and it had zero impact on my real world adulthood. My son is an honor roll student,amazing son, brother and friend,huge heart and logically competitive. Raising a boy for me has been easy due to our open communication. It’s so simple…talk to them about everything,don’t punish them for being honest, ask questions and answer questions and pay attention to everything. It’s not rocket science, unless of course sports define your child’s identity. In that case,good luck with the womanizing and ironic self esteem issues from adults constant brow beating in the name of “Sportsmanship” and “Team”.

  • Irishlitherican

    Sports have become a plague to parenting in my opinion. My wife and I have 8 kids and we basically just came to the conclusion that we’re focused on our faith, our family, their schooling, relationships, community involvement. With all that who has the time to drive kids around to sporting events every day or week!? And what of those things I just listed are less important than sports? I really think this is more an epidemic problem of parents with low self esteem from not being the athletes they wish they were trying to live vicariously through their children. I also think the rising costs of college influence parents’ hopes that kids will get scholarships for sports. But it’s far, far more likely to get academic scholarships so that’s not a great plan either. It’s a shame, kids are driven to grow up too fast today. We’re trying to keep our kids young as long as possible, within reason. And sports plays and will continue to play a small (but fun) roll in that. Thanks for the post, APD.

  • Max

    I agree with KJ. I’m 52 and a lot of the issues you mention have been there as long as I can remember. My son is 22 now, and we went through all these issues. I think the key is and always will be open and honest communication. We have to be honest with ourselves about the issues and we have to be ready to communicate at all ages. The details we give will change as their understanding matures, but starting early makes them comfortable when it’s time for the tough conversations.

  • Aaron

    Drugs. Kids are exposed to it in the media and especially social media, and with the legalization of marijuana in the news it’s more prevalent today. Access is the about the same; but again, as pot becomes more “accepted” in mainstream as an alternative to alcohol, what truly scares me is my 12 year old trying and getting addicted to something harder, like heroin, which is becoming more of a pandemic than ever

    • Trent

      Cigarettes. Much more dangerous than pot or alcohol. Media has been the same since the 80s. It is all about context and how you want to consume it.
      I thought Bruce Willis was awesome in Die Hard but it didn’t mean I wanted to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes when I was 14. Meth is more prevalent where I live as far as illegal drugs go.

  • jmuttley

    My son (and daughters) is grown and married but now I’m concerned for my grandsons who while active in swimming and other activities, are into video games most all their free time. I’m also concerned about the things they are learning in school–things I didn’t learn until I was in high school. My 11-year-old grandson asked me about gays and lesbians and ‘why are they not treated like everyone else?’ The school curriculum starts as young as first grade introducing students to sexual topics that were left until teens or even later back in my childhood or even in 1985. I’m also concerned about the lack of spiritual training in today’s world which has impacted my grandsons in very negative ways. I fear for the generation of 10-year-old boys and those that follow them.

  • Buffalo1022

    The real question should be “what’s the difference of raising boys between 1965, 1985 and 2005”? Since the early 80’s there has been a MAJOR war on boys. Boys can’t play “rough” during recess anymore, that exercise was used to expend a lot of their energy so they wouldn’t act out in class. The answer was to medicate them. There has been a concerted effort to emasculate boys which is detrimental for society. To be a boy since 1980 is inherently considered bad because men in previous generations have held down other demographic classifications. As a Father and Grandfather I believe we must first raise boys in a Godly environment and teach them to embrace their spiritual masculinity. Then teach them to be a gentlemen to everyone especially the females they interact with even if the girls elect to NOT act as ladies. Finally, we need to be open with our emotions regarding their mothers and treat them with honor, while hopefully the mother will treat their husbands with respect. Boys need to be taught though watching their dads that in order to stand up straight with dignity they have to start by first bending their knees in prayer.

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