February 28, 2011

Criteria For Initiating A Young Male

In a conversation recently, I had occasion to revisit the idea that an adolescent male, poised to step out on to his journey to manhood, should know some things. In the way old days, in tribal cultures, that training took a long time. The boys, as the next generation of men, HAD to get it. The community's survival depended on it. Granted, today's world is vastly different, but none-the-less, our young men need to be prepared. I'm talking about the "How To Live" skills beyond the obvious tools we're hoping they are getting in school (different conversation). So what would be on your list of things a boy should know before he was intentionally initiated and accepted into the world of men?

A few years ago, I remembered receiving the following list from my brother in mission, Mustafa Mahdi, the director of The Rising Son, Inc., in Atlanta, GA. While The Rising Son mission has changed some over the years, I love his list of what was required of his young males before they could get an Elder recommendation for a rite of passage experience. In this case, a boy could start working anytime after his twelfth birthday, and if the tasks were completed, he could be sent up for initiation when he was sixteen.
  • Maintain a "B" average or above in school.
  • Cleans room and assists with household chores.
  • Can prepare a complete meal for the entire family.
  • Knows how to plant and maintain a vegetable garden.
  • Knows how to fish, hunt and cook small game.
  • Knows how to save a life (Basic CPR/First Aid skills).
  • Knows how to swim the length of an olympic pool.
  • Can run at least 1 mile in 10 minutes or less.
  • Knows basic auto repair and maintenance.
  • Knows basic carpentry, electrical and plumbing repair.
  • Has completed Domestic Violence Prevention workshop.
  • Has completed Abstinence & Male/Female Relationship workshop.
  • Has a basic knowledge of self-defense and conflict resolution.
  • Has a minimum of $100.00 in a savings account.
  • Has completed a driver's safety course & has a learner's permit.
  • Has visited a local college and met with an academic advisor.
  • Has visited a technical vocational school & met with an advisor.
  • Has selected a "Career Coach" working in his chosen profession.
  • Can draw a "Family Tree" listing all living relatives.  

What would be on your list?

More importantly, who was the man that helped guide YOU through the maze of masculine competencies?

What happens to boys who don't have men to show them even the basics?

If you have some suggestions for the list or a comment about teaching boys to be men in this way, send an email to me at Earl at Man-Making dot com, or add it to the Comments section of this post on the Man-Making Blog homepage.

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  1. George D.10:38 AM

    I would add a couple:

    1. Has developed basic emotional literacy skills: can identify and express all of his feelings, openly and without shame

    2. Knows that he is not alone in the universe and has learned to ask for help when he needs it.

    3. Has begun to develop a spiritual life: he is beginning to take responsibility for his belief systems and the impact of those beliefs on those around him.

    4. Has begun to explore the important question of "what is my mission/purpose" in my life? He probably does not have an answer, but he is already asking the question.

    More later. Great question!

  2. George D.11:33 AM

    One other item about young boys:

    I'd also add that they begin to appreciate their physical bodies, take care of them, and express themselves physically in healthy ways.

  3. Austin D.7:54 PM

    I was just thinking today about your most recent post. I love that list you included. I was thinking about some possible additions that are a little less tangible, but still very crucial facets of truly good men, such as:
    - Consistently considers others needs before his own.
    - Demonstrates obedience to authority when it does not violate conscience.
    - Willingly takes responsibility for his own affairs and actions
    - Exhibits honesty and integrity in all his dealings.
    - Courageously stands up for justice.

    I guess the problem with including those intangibles would be how to gauge them. And they are also characteristics that a man is improving all his life...! At what point does he exhibit them enough to be considered eligible for manhood?


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