September 30, 2010

Fighting Invisible Tigers

I remember a few years back getting a hand-written letter from a young kid in jail. He had shot another kid in a gang-banging incident and, at 15, was sentenced for murder. He had found my book, Fighting Invisible Tigers, in the library of his facility and in his letter he was begging me to "help me do something about my anger." Call this self-promotion if you like, but I get about 10 letters a year from kids, some who need help and some saying "thank you" for the perspective they got from the book.

Let's face it, the pressures on kids today are extraordinary. Academic, social, digital, economic, and then there is whatever is going on in their family life. This book was originally written in 1982 and continues to sell in the thousands of copies every year. Over a quarter million sold to date. While I'm happy about that, it's more of a testimonial to the need for support young people are expressing.

At this link you can hear a podcast of an interview I did with Bobbi Connor at The Parent's Journal. In it you will learn a lot about my views on the topic of kids and stress in the world today: what kids are up against, the risks they face, and how parents can help. I also talk about stress management skill building. For example, you can hear me define the difference between stress coping strategies (dealing with the feelings of stress) and real stress management skills. I speak to a few of the 10 stress reducing strategies discussed in the book.

My award-winning publisher, Free Spirit Publishing, has included some relaxation training mp3's on the Tiger's web page on their site. If you'd like to try on a quick psycho-physiologic relaxation break, you can hear yours truly guiding you through a short program that may help bring some calm into your stressful day. Stress management skills aren't just for kids, right?

Thanks for indulging me in this wee bit of self-promotion. In addition to my passion for connecting young males with good men, in the Tigers book, I'm doing what I can to make the world a better place for young people. I hope this inspires you to do the piece you can do.

PS: The kid who wrote me from jail got out, is doing great, and on February 6, 2011, he will celebrate 10 years of freedom. He's a nurse working in a home that serves HIV patients. He's a strong and capable young man, launched in a professional career. His anger is no longer an issue.

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September 24, 2010

Boys Come Into The Room Poem

A couple of my heroes are Chris Frisco and Jon Leidel. They are part of a solid tribe of very good men associated with the Boys to Men Mentoring Network. I have written about the network here previously. It's an organization doing the very important work of supporting boys through a rite of passage experience and then engaging the new "Journeymen" graduates in a variety of mentoring activities after their passage weekends.

While hundreds of beautiful stories about men and boys have come out of this work, this poem, written by Chris and Jon, really captures the nature of the work. I hope it speaks to you also.

Boys Come Into The Room

Boys come into the room. Mad boys, sad boys, anxious boys. Left on their own boys. Hordes of boys. Good boys. Lied to boys, "Don't trust a thing you say, man." boys come into the room. Boys who hate boys.

Boys who hate themselves come into the room. Medicated, sedated and berated boys. Marker sniffin, Weight liftin, alone driftin boys. Boys come into the room. I pod rockin, X-boxin like a toxin, "just one more level!", boys. Sh...aved heads, nappy dreads, fly threads, will kill you dead boys. Hungry for the wisdom of men boys, come into the room.

Boys come into the room. Boys that try to "man up" always tryin to one up.. Bacon eatin bully boys, beatin smarter bambi boys come into the room. Pimply boys. Squeaky boys. "Sure i've laid a girl" boys come into the room. Mommy lovin, tatoo wantin boys. "Boy that only a mother could love" boys come into the room. Street slangin, jean hangin, creature of the streets bangin boys come into the room.

Boys come into the room. Fidgety boys. Won't look you in the eye boys. "You don't know shit about me, man!" boys come into the room. Shoulders slumped, chin down frown wearin, under a boulder of neglect boys come into the room. No Father, why bother, "don't give a fuck about school" boys. Game havin, body slammin, lookin for love boys.

Boys that create, boys that destroy, boys that trade lunch for toys boys. Creative boys. Dreamin boys, schemin boys, slippin' through the seams boys, come into the room. Boys who want for nothin, longing for that special somethin from men, boys.

Boys come into the room. Wonder where the men gone boys. "Have you seen my father?" boys runnin with his home boys, come into the room. Scattered boys. Battered boys. "phatter than his weight," boys come into the room. Lugi in the lunchroom boys. Wizard cloaked, chicken choked "boys that want their fires stoked" boys come into the room. Startin to forget boys. Fresh wound bleedin, scar hidin, no denyin, world collidin boys come into the room. Thinkin bout dyin, boys?

Boys come into the room. Boys in juvi, wall taggin boys. Pot smokin, pill poppin, brawlin, crawlin, cryin, lyin boys come into the room. Full of fire, gettin higher, willin to aspire "If someone would only cut me a break!" boys come into the room. Baseball lovin, weak fist havin, killin their step fathers in their sleep boys. Boys who cant throw a strike, never been on a hike, "I cant get cell service out there, man." boys come into the room. rappin on the mic right boys. Boys with reasons to be madder than hell come into the room.

Boys will be boys - come into the room! Sword carryin, world conquerin, paradigm shiftin boys come into the room. Boys that speed, boys that bleed, boys that need come into the room. Pining boys, whining boys, shining boys, searching for a silver lining boys. Mistake makin, earth shakin, givin and takin boys come into the room. Boys with heart, boys who fart, boys who focus like a dart come into the room. Come into this room boys... a safe place to grieve, to believe, to wear your feelings on your sleeve. What will you need to leave to achieve, boys?

What do you have to offer these boys?

Chris Frisco and Jon Leidel

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September 20, 2010

Are Painful Rites of Passage Necessary?

The recent Leaving Neverland Man-Making blog post reminded me of the problem cultures down through time have faced as their young ones began to leave the things of childhood behind and started poking around in the business of the adult world. This in-between time has always been considered a dangerous phase in an adolescent’s development, a situation that begs for attention from the adults in his community.

The in-between time for an adolescent even has a name . . . it is called the liminial state. As one anthropologist, Victor Turner wrote, Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremony. Most societies considered adolescents to be extremely vulnerable and even dangerous during this time because of their social ambiguity. Does that sound familiar?

The Mende people are one of the two largest ethnic groups in Sierra Leone. Their Poro Men’s Society is the group charged with preparing young males for leadership in their community. During the period the liminial males are being trained, they are actually considered dangerous. The men of the community “play pipes and yell warning cries to prevent passers-by from coming into contact with them.”

Dogon Circumcision Cave Painting

And so it has been for societies all over the world. The community and the men have had to surround the boys, get their attention, and using the collected wisdom of the ages, transmit important knowledge, experience, and ideas that can support them on their quest for manhood.

Following his training, there was often a painful ordeal for the young male. This clearly, and without question, marked his crossing out of neverland and into a new station in life. With that crossing came a new identity and adult male responsibilities. His body (and psyche) often bore potent reminders, for the initiate and his community, that a new man had arrived in town.

In the following video, a young boy from the Dogon people in Mali is about to experience a painful practice that is believed to move him out of that middle-ground between boyhood and manhood. As uncomfortable as it is to watch, it might be preferable to the fate too many contemporary boys (and men) are paying for staying in neverland.

What do you think?

Use this link if the video doesn’t appear.

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September 11, 2010

What Knot To Do With Boys

One of the fears men talk about when they are considering stepping up as a man-maker in the life of a boy or boys is the sense that they don't have anything to offer, or at least enough to offer the young guys. While just being a man is sufficient, men have to be around boys a while to learn that seemingly simple lesson.

One way this common fear is expressed is in the statement, "I don't know what to do with a boy or boys." To help men with that issue, I provide a 3 page list of suggestions, and it could easily be twice that long. In truth, the mix of a man and boy's interests alone can keep the duo busy for a very long time, with even the simplest of activities. More on that in another post.

I was reminded of how simply I was entertained as a young guy when I came across the Animated Knots by Grog™ website. I no longer remember where I first encountered the art of tying knots. Maybe it was scouting, or maybe my neighbor, but I do remember it being both amazing and manly. There was an endless supply of knots and each one had a history and a specific purpose. The challenges of discovery, learning, and mastering a few knots kept me going for months . . . and I'm still using them today! If you want to fill a few hours with a young guy or pack of boys, just get a pile of cheap rope and go to it.

If you didn't have the benefit of knot tying training early in your life, help is at hand. There are lots of results to any internet search for knot tying. What I really like about the Animated Knots by Grog™ website is how the animations walk you through how to tie every imaginable type of knot, one step at a time. The complete instructions for each knot also include some history and how to use the knot. He has even divided knots up into neat categories like boating, climbing, fishing, decorative, and rescue! There are even instructions for tying a tie, a skill full of promise for future success in business.

If you're in possession of an iPhone and want to take your knots with you, the Animated Knots by Grog™  website has an application you can download, or you can buy the DVD for ten bucks. You'll be an expert in no time.

Check out the Animated Knots Website, learn a couple knots yourself, and if you even find yourself in the company of some young guys, you'll become an instant hero with just this little bit of guy magic.

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September 3, 2010

Leaving Neverland - Why Little Boys Shouldn't Run Big Corporations

Leaving Neverland is a very timely book, hot off the press, and sure to be a winner. The author, Daniel Prokop, states, Little boys wearing men's bodies and designer suits convinced authorities to put them in charge of the banking cookie jar. We shouldn’t be surprised that they helped themselves to our cookies. And my favorite, When little boys playing in the Gulf of Mexico broke a big, shiny toy and made a catastrophic mess, surely we can all agree that it is time for us to Leave Neverland.

Among other professions, Daniel Prokop has run his own business, is an experienced Rites of Passage leader, and a stand-up comic. He confesses he once worked as a laborer on a big turkey farm where they were doing artificial insemination . . . which he says put him off having sex with turkeys for life. He also spent 13 years working in an unnamed oil company with a BIG red and yellow logo, which has given him some perspective on big boys and shiny oily toys.

You can order the book and read the table of contents and first chapter at the Leaving Neverland website. While I'm sure the book will be an informative, thoughtful, and very entertaining read, at $39.95 a copy for those of us outside of Australia, it will take a lot of screamingly positive reviews to put it on most people's must get list. Daniel is working on making his book available via Print on Demand in the US and Europe and also as an E-book. I'll let you know when those editions come available.

The good news is that the discussion about little boys in big boy suits behaving badly is well under way. In this clip the author discusses his philosophy and the importance of Rite of Passage experiences in the lives of boys and men.

Go to this link if the video isn't visible.

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