The Critical Window is Middle School

I ask my Grandson, a 7th grader, to estimate how many boys at his school were using drugs. He said, “around 30%”. I asked him how many at his 6th grade school were using drugs. He immediately said “NONE”. Statistics show his estimate accurate. The average age of first drug use is 13, first alcohol use is 12.

Our experience, gained from 17 years of working with teenage boys, is that every boy wants to be a successful man. That no boy dreams of dropping out of school, going to prison, getting hooked on drugs or joining a gang, YET MILLIONS DO. Here’s Why.

Middle school years are a critical time when a boy’s choices, both conscious and unconscious, begin to form the foundation of the man he will become. Whether a boy’s father died, abandoned him or is emotionally unavailable, a teenage boy beginning his journey to manhood with no man to guide him will likely lose his way. One wrong step followed by another, and another, and soon his dreams begin to fade, and the reality that he must figure out manhood alone sets in. His hope is replaced with despair, his innocence turns to anger.

The longer he is lost and alone, the deeper the wound. The difference between a 13 and 16-year-old boy with no father is shocking. Our middle school groups are full of sweet 12 and 13-year-old boys who cry when they talk of their missing fathers. The high school boys are different. Anger has replaced tears. After 3 years without a man who cares, they stop caring.

Why? Because it hurts too much to care. “Why should I care? Nobody else does.”  Without care, all they have left is anger.

That’s why fatherless boys are far more likely than boys with fathers to drop out of school, abuse drugs or alcohol, go to prison or join a gang.

Millions of teenage boys are growing up without a man to guide them through these formative years.

Boys to Men provides these boys with men who show up and care. Not just one man, but a community of male role models who offer the hope, support and guidance boys need to stay on the path to their dreams.

   “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” 

Fredrick Douglass


Craig McClain

Executive Director/Co-Founder
Boys to Men Mentoring Network