Have you heard about the new book by Lisa Bloom? It’s called Swagger:10 Urgent Rules for raising boys in an era of failing schools, mass joblessness, and thug culture. In this book, Bloom makes the case that there is too much swagger in our culture.
In fact, the first of her ten rules for raising boys right now is “Lose the Swagger, Kid.” She says the first thing that is needed is “a major attitude adjustment.” According to her research, we’ve become a culture seeking fame and fortune. For example, in the 1950’s, just 12 percent of high school seniors felt that they were a “very important person.” Now 80percent of high school seniors feel that way. Bloom said that in an effort to support self-esteem in kids, we’ve gone too far and created a culture that over estimates our capabilities and accomplishments.
Unfortunately, our kids do overestimate their proficiencies. While 85 percent of American teen-agers are confident in their math and science abilities, the real rate of proficiency is somewhere between 20-30 percent. In comparisons with students in other countries, the only place that American kids rank first is math confidence.
So wait, what? Confidence and swagger are bad? At first, Bloom’s whole theory seems to say yes, swagger is bad. But on closer look, it becomes clear that Bloom is saying the same thing that we are saying in the swagger movement. Boys in our culture have too much swagger and girls have too little. In our purpose statement, we say that our culture has become out of balance with too much male energy and too little feminine energy.
Digging a little deeper into the statistics on estimating competence at math, you’ll find that while boys and girls achieve at the same rate, boys over-estimate their abilities, while girls under-estimate theirs. The same is true of job performance. When men are asked to rate their performance at work, they consistently score themselves higher than their boss does. Women score themselves lower.
Doesn’t it seem like the solution is a culture where there is a better match between perceived competence and actual ability? At the swagger movement, we think so.
In reading Swagger, I found that I supported all ten of Bloom’s suggestions for raising boys. She suggests encouraging reading and setting the expectation that your son will go to college. She recommends being aware of all the ways the media hits your boy every day and teaching him how to be critical of the messages that are being sent.
Rule number 8 is “teach him to respect girls and women.” In the swagger movement, we believe that this idea is equally as important as encouraging girls to stand up for themselves and have high self-esteem.
If you are raising a boy or are concerned about the challenges that boys face, I highly recommend Bloom’s book. We all need a little swagger. Boy or girl.