Developing Men for Others
Throughout their youth, boys are often surrounded by societal messages of “manhood.” Most of these messages about what it means to be strong are often demonstrated by physical power, social power, or some form of dominance over others. You have to win, you should be big, strong and fast. Being cool means not showing emotion. Among the challenges embedded in these messages include the fact that they create a zero-sum game; for you to win, someone has to lose, discouraging any effort to lift others up. This may be a sure path to isolation, loneliness, and unhealthy relationships.
I work closely with 8th grade boys, ages 13-14 years old. During our time together, we focus on what qualities make strong leaders. I acknowledge that not everyone wants to lead, however, we all benefit from recognizing good leadership when we see it. Over the course of a year, we talk about several things that will help them be successful. Some of these topics are:
Self-discipline Most successful people have developed practices or “disciplines” in their life that allow them to earn what they want. Leadership certainly requires self-discipline.
Ownership It is important that boys learn to take responsibility for the choices they make. No blame, no excuses, not buts or ands.
Teamwork We need each other. Dispelling the myth that successful people arrived where they are without the support, advice, or direct help of others is very important.
Non-judgment It’s often a mistake to think you know who someone is, what they value, and what they can contribute by simply looking at them.
Perseverance We are often capable of more than we think. Pushing past the discomfort of challenge, error, and loss, and learning from these things can make you stronger.
These are just a few of the conversations we take on together, but also some of the most important ways to develop healthy social and emotional skills in growing boys. As they head to high school, and beyond, it’s crucial they learn about themselves. What comes easily to them? What is hard? How do they ask for help? Where can they offer help to others? This knowledge will help them succeed, recover from failure, and support those in their community in working toward group, team, or organizational goals. Developing men for others means men who understand they can succeed or win (however each one defines success and winning) while also helping those around them, their team, their friends, and their families.
It does not have to be one or the other.
NFCC Advisory Board Vice Chair