28/11/2014 09:54 GMT | Updated 27/01/2015 05:59 GMT

Time to Grow the Next Generation of Good Men

What are men for these days?

Ask any woman, and you'll get a wide variety of answers. Many are unpublishable! A lot of the younger guys I work with at schools and universities don't know. In fact, most have never even thought about it. They just pretend to be what they think men should be.

Nowadays, film criminals, gangsta rappers, rapist footballers and thugs are often held up as examples of 'real' men: uncouth, unreliable, arrogant, dishonest, disrespectful (especially of women), aggressive, violent, distant (or totally absent) and uncaring. Therefore, if you want to be a 'real' man - that's who you copy.

In 'primitive' cultures, men are brought up by a network of fathers, uncles, male friends and older brothers, and are taught by example to have a healthy pride for who they become as men. It's a big deal.

But not here any more.

In our so-called more 'civilised' societies, boys are brought up in predominantly female environments: fathers go out to work, leaving early and arriving home late; most teachers are now female, and far too many divorced, loving fathers are routinely forbidden by judges to have any meaningful contact with their sons or daughters.

It sometimes seems that men are no longer required to be a part of bringing up any children. And if a good man shows any interest in being a positive role model for boys, he's instantly viewed as a possible paedophile.

How did all this happen?

As politically incorrect as this might sound, are all these hard-working female carers simply incapable of providing direction for the next generation of men? After all, as a society, there have never been so many poorly educated, unemployed, potentially dangerous young men roaming our streets since women took over the role of bringing up boys. This is obviously untrue and extremely unfair.

But have we, as men, been massively negligent in our duties too? It seems that millions of good men are all far too busy working so hard, to give the deeper needs of boys and young men our full attention too.

A realisation came to me recently while mountain biking through the Grizedale forest in the Lake District. My partner Vanessa and I climbed higher and higher and eventually came around a corner to face a scene of utter devastation. Hundreds of massive trees had been blown over in a storm. They were strewn everywhere. What a mess. But thousands more trees were still standing.

Those lying on the ground all shared one specific quality: they all looked strong, but you could now see that every fallen tree had shallow roots. Their roots just weren't deep or strong enough to survive the storm.


Like these trees, too many young men just try to appear strong. They are not. The tragically high suicide rate among young men appears to support this.

Watch trees in a violent storm. Even though they are so tall and strong, they are flexible in those difficult times. If, during those storms they remained rigid and inflexible, they would break.

People are the same. Flexibility, coupled with a deep and broad root system allows us all to weather whatever life throws at us.

What are your roots like? What about the roots of your kids? Are they deep? Or shallow? How can we know? It usually takes a life-storm to find out for sure. Life-storms affect almost everyone; not getting a job you really wanted, losing a job, having a break up, a divorce, being involved in an accident, being attacked, burgled, getting really sick, losing loved ones.

Developing deep and broader roots help us all to be safer, more stable and resilient. Resilience allows us to cope more effectively with these setbacks, disappointments and disasters. Today's young men need these life skills more than ever before. The world is changing. And not necessarily in a good way for men.

As any gardener will tell you, a young sapling needs a stake to support it while it grows. But tie it too tight and too close, and the young tree won't develop its own root system. It doesn't need to. So when those stakes are removed eventually, their roots are under-developed.

Think of our tree trunks, branches and leaves as what we are. Our roots represent who we are. And who we become. A formal education is just one root: an important one, but not the only one.

As a society, it is critically important that we all devote more energy helping the next generation develop deeper, broader root systems.

Does all this apply to young women too? Of course it does.

Roy Sheppard helps young people grow deeper roots. Author of "Success and Happiness for Young Men" and "Free Happiness for All Young Women".

Both are currently free to download at