September 4, 2008

Group Mentoring with Boys

I'm a huge proponent of groups of men and boys hanging out together and having the occasional adventure. That's how it used to be in tribal cultures, and in small agricultural communities. The men were around, visible, and they often engaged young males in the work and play of the community. When the men went away to cities, factories, and offices, all that changed. But that's another topic.

An amazing amount of man-making goes on when boys can regularly see men in action and learn from their behavior. When a boy feels his body chemistry changing, when he has a clear sense that manhood is calling, often without realizing it, he's naturally drawn to the men around him for lessons and role modeling. That's when group mentoring can have a powerful impact in a boy's life.

In my programs, I often get questions about what can men do with boys. My answer is anything, something simple, and not necessarily a big deal. The most important thing is for you and your men friends to be yourselves and allow the boys to hang out or tag along. For boys, a group of interested men represents a huge smorgasbord of learning opportunities. Nothing special has to happen, and boys will get what they need. That said, if men want to do something with boys, there are a multitude of options.

At this link you'll find a PDF article titled What To Do With Boys. It lists a sampling of the many activities I've heard about that have resulted in successful group mentoring adventures. I also list a few questions to ask boys following the activity to deepen the man-making lessons available.

I'm pretty sure that when reading this list, the boy in you will get excited and want to head out. You could honor him and release your inner man-maker by getting your buddies together, finding a couple of young lads, doing something, and seeing what happens.


  1. Earl, Here is a pretty large list of activities (things to do with boys) we developed over the year at our "Youth Program" at Kilbarchan. Over the years we've done things like:

    Story Telling Night- especially myths or adventure type stories;
    Teaching the boys How to Write Poetry/Songs;
    Indoor and outdoor Game Nights;
    Have a Fireman come in- Discuss his job, let the kids try on the suit;
    Have a Policeman bring the special goggles that simulated how it would feel to be intoxicated or drugged, then had the kids try to walk;
    Teach Kids Job Interview Skills, most kids (especially "damaged" kids) don't even know how to shake hands and look someone in the eye;
    Build Something Together (We built Picnic Tables) under the supervision of a good carpenter;
    Design and Print T-Shirts for all the boys;
    Discuss Prejudice and stereotyping - One of my favorites;
    Drumming Circles;
    Recording Sessions- Recorded Raps, Songs, etc.- Gave kids their own CD's;
    Teach the boys "legal" graffiti art techniques- had a local artist come in;
    Career Night- brought several men with interesting and or common careers to tell the kids what they do and how they learned their trade or job;
    Several animal nights- we had birds, puppies, snakes, lizards, etc.;
    Martin Luther King night- we discussed his life, his impact and his speeches;
    We're Planning a Star Wars Night;
    Movie Nights- watch and discuss inspirational movies like: Coach Carter, The Titans, and Hoop Dreams;
    Puppet Show- got a local puppeteer;
    Set Your Life Goals/Mission Night

    If anyone wants more information about these activities, have them email me at:


  2. Mary Clare, Ph.D.7:58 PM

    Dear Earl Hipp--

    Thank you for this post and your Man-Making site. I look forward to referring my clients to the resources and insights you provide here.

    You observations regarding the support of boys into manhood are vital for the boys. They are as vital to the men involved. As you know, particularly when life gets murky, boring or otherwise difficult, taking a mentoring role can do wonders to clear things up!

    I have a woman's perspective on all of this and, as an Adviser to men at midlife, I offer that perspective alongside skills from my career as a consulting and research psychologist.

    Thank you for your work. Thanks to all the men and women supporting one another as we brave our ways through midlife.

    It's good to find your site!

    Mary Clare, Ph.D.

  3. Mary, I am glad to hear you're suggesting mentoring to midlife men. Almost to a man, those I see involved in any man-making activity with young males find that the gifts abound. For myself and most of the men I know, it's as if a whole in their masculine psyche is filled. That is specifically why I titled the book Man-Making - Men Helping Boys on THEIR journey to manhood. When it comes to men showing up for boys, all the males involved are transformed in wonderful and amazing ways.


Your response to this blog post is appreciated and welcome.