July 30, 2012

2nd Edition Man-Making Book is out!

The second edition of the Man-Making book
is now officially available!

This edition has a new look and lots of fresh content updates. If you want to purchase a hot-off-the-press copy at the best price anywhere on the planet, DO NOT use the order link on the right side of this page. Instead, use the "secret link" at the end of this post to get the limited time, half-price offer. It's my way of saying "Thanks" to my blog readers for your interest and support.

If you're not familiar with the Man-Making book, it is built around a "Continuum of Involvement." The continuum is both a graph (below) and a collection of chapters in the book describing the wide variety of ways men can make a difference in boys' lives.

The continuum stretches from men actually doing nothing on low-commitment end (yes, there is a powerful way that helps boys), through descriptions of many simple actions men can easily do to support young guys. There is a section describing the important idea of "natural mentors," with men's stories about the men who did (and didn't) show up at that important time in their adolescent development.

In the chapter about one-to-many or group mentoring, you'll read about activities in which men share their personal interests and hobbies with groups of young guys. There are lots of stories about men and boys on teams, in a guy pack, or on different kinds of outdoor adventures. I've also included information about the good work being done by men working with groups of boys in schools, and those men intentionally initiating adolescent males on Rites of Passage experiences.

On the higher-commitment end of the continuum, I discuss a variety of approaches to one-on-one mentoring, and then describe some of the many ways men are involved in ongoing events, programs and national groups that support boys. It's in this section you learn about what I call, "Masculine Gravity," a force that pulls men toward increasing involvement with adolescent males.

Taken together, the stories from all the different places on the "Continuum of Involvement" are great examples of men doing some large or small thing to positively influence boy's lives.

WHAT MEN GET: While much of the book is about boys and what they need on their Journey to Manhood, the book has another purpose and it's hidden in the title of the book. If you notice in, Man-Making - Men Helping Boys on Their Journey to Manhood, the word "Their" is capitalized. That's because so much of the book, both directly and indirectly, is about what men get for themselves on Their Journey to Manhood.

The book contains a couple of very important sections describing both what men get from even minimal involvement with young males, and the cost to men of choosing not to get involved. The latter idea is a discussion of what men miss out on in terms of their own masculine development. It's about the price men unknowingly pay for not engaging their innate man-making potential (hard-wiring) and responding to this ancient call to men's work.

At the heart of the book is a call to men to find some large or small thing they can do about the epidemic of under-male-nourished young males in their communities. The book is my attempt to help men understand no matter how unprepared for man-making they may feel, the man you are today, right now, without any training, CAN make a positive difference in young male lives. That men, without much effort, and in their glorious imperfection, can change the trajectory of a boy's life for the better and get something important for themselves in the process.

To get started, get the Man-Making book at half price using "this secret link."

(This is for single book orders to U.S. addresses only. If you would like more than one book or live outside the U.S., please send me a message and we'll get shipping worked out.)

Your life and the lives of a few boys will very likely
be changed for the better as a result.

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July 20, 2012

The Next CRoP - Becoming Men

A group of good men and their female allies are gathering together in Hobart, Tasmania to do a Rites of Passage program for their boys and, at some point, their young women. They are calling their first effort for boys, Becoming Men and their organization CRoP, or Community Rites of Passage.

I'm offering up their story because together, these stalwart folks represent a community of people, with diverse backgrounds, but sharing the common passion for supporting teenagers. It's really a tale of courageous adults because none of them have done this before. They are supporting their young people as they move toward adulthood because, if they don't, no one else will, and their children may be lost.

Their first big event will be in August 2012 in southeastern Tasmania. The flyer for the passage event asks these questions:
Boys will be boys, but will your boy become a capable and responsible man?

All boys get challenged and tested as they move toward manhood, but will these challenges:
  • Enhance self-esteem?

  • Develop a sense of responsibility?

  • Give a sense of belonging to community?
A Community Rite of Passage does!

Here is their story as told by Nick Hall, a member of the TasMen organization, and one of the founders of Community Rites of Passage program (CRoP) in Hobart.

The program we'll begin doing for young blokes is called Becoming Men. The idea for our Community Rites of Passage program, or CRoP, initially came out of a national program called Pathways to Manhood. The Pathways program did some absolutely brilliant work with men and boys over the years, now we're adapting that work at a local level to provide maximum grassroots tailoring for our community.

Many of the men and women on our core team come from the health/therapy community. We've also attracted a wider circle of supportive allies made up of a diverse collection of families from the community, men from the local TASMEN network, and women that are interested in what we're doing. Some of the women on our team are looking to eventually set up a program for girls.

Most of the organizers of CRoP have worked with boys and men in other settings. In our experience, we've all regularly encountered young males struggling to find their way toward adulthood, usually with a large degree of trial and error, and not much support. In addition, we've all encountered adult men, well into their maturation, who had become developmentally stuck in their lives, or settled into patterns which put them on a treadmill of relationship dysfunction. They had become men who were miserable, a little lost, and didn’t quite know why.

Another very troubling thing we've all seen is men in positions of power who were essentially uninitiated or partly made men. Men who have never moved out of their self-centered, boy psyche, and, because of their power and influence, have become really dangerous individuals. Men who felt they belonged on a pedestal, who are selfish, greedy, impulsive, aggressive, and creating unhappy and unsafe environments, often on a community, national, or global scale.

For the past two years we have been building up our team and developing our program approach and service delivery methods. All that planning has now come together for our very first camp late this August. It will be a three-day program for men and boys on a beautiful, remote site.

At the moment our program is for boys who are known to our community. They are young guys doing fairly well, with the "normal" range of adolescent male issues. I guess you could call it a preventative program. After we've gained some experience and consolidated our model, we'll be looking at offering some weekend slots to higher need boys and families.

At present, we have very little money. That means we've had to be very creative, resourceful, and supportive of one another. But we are united in our common vision. To a person, we love what we're creating. It’s been a whole heap of fun, even the planning stage.

Tasmania is absolutely lousy with beautiful locations, and we've been enjoying going out together, exploring possible program sites. In the process, we're imagining being there with a large group of guys, excited about doing something meaningful, hanging out under canvas and around the fire, and sharing this adventure. Most importantly, being together, and imagining the impact we'll be having on the boys . . . and the men.

Want to come join us?

If you want to join in on the fun, or simply find out how the CRoP adventure came out, send Nick Hall an email. Or better yet, send an email congratulating him and his friends for caring enough about their young people to even try to do something that is very important in the lives of emerging young men. That alone is worth of a big CONGRATS!

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July 12, 2012

Men in Schools - for Boys

Dave Bolduc is a development coordinator, board member, and mentor for the Boys to Men Mentoring Network of Virginia, Inc. (BTMVA). This group has been doing Rite of Passage (ROP) programs, Journeymen groups (for ROP weekend graduates), and group mentoring for boys since 2010. As a result, BTMVA already has a staff of volunteer, background-checked men who know how to work with young males. It was a natural next step for them to look at other ways to serve their community.

I spoke with Dave because the men of BTMVA have recently completed a site-based pilot program for boys at the local Tomahawk Creek Middle School. That pilot program consisted of BTMVA men, and occasionally Journeymen, being in a support group circle with selected boys from the school. It ran for an hour each week during the 2011-12 school years.

I really like the school-based model of supporting boys because it provides a perfect and regular location, supportive school teachers and other staff, access to parents, and especially because it solves the big problem of getting adolescent males all physically located in one place.

In the following interview, I asked Dave about the experience, how it got started, what did he learn, and most importantly, did it work for the men and boys involved.

Earl: How did you get connected with the Tomahawk Creek Middle School?

Dave: My partner just happens to be the Librarian at the school. She connected me with the Principal, who then put me in touch with the Assistant Principal who was the coordinator of their Leadership Development program. They all really liked the idea of a program that had adult men involved with their boys.

Earl: Once you got those connections, were there any major bureaucratic hurdles or approvals necessary to proceed?

Dave: Not really. Our own rigorous background checking process to screen men for our BTMVA program met their security needs. All of our participating men did fill out the school volunteer forms. The biggest early challenge was how to fit a group like ours into the school schedule.

Earl: So what did the pilot program look like and how did you select the boys?

Dave: We started out utilizing a block of time that was already allocated to their PACK program. PACK stands for Peers Acting with Care and Kindness. It’s a social skills development program, so our program was perfect for that slot. Our pilot program commitment was for the full school year, meeting on average three Wednesdays a month, from 8-9 AM. That time slot allowed for the men who could flex their work day to attend the morning sessions.

The boys for the pilot were recommended by the school’s teachers, counselors, and the Assistant Principal. Some were kids having behavioral issues or boys who the staff felt would most benefit from this experience. Twenty-four middle school boys, age 12-16, were initially selected.

Earl: Prior to launch did you have any communication with the parents of the recommended boys?

Dave: Yes. We put together a one-page overview of the program, and the Principal put a supportive cover letter on it and sent it to the parents. In the letter, the boys and parents were told our school-supervised program would include regular meetings with a variety of male role models who will, “. . . show up consistently, tell the truth about their struggles as men, ask the boys what kind of men they want to be, praise them for their unique gifts, support them when they screw up, and encourage them to become the good men they all want to be.” We explained that, in addition to the weekly meetings at school, there would also be a 48-hour Rite of Passage Adventure Weekend at the end of the program. The boys were invited to attend an initial meeting, and 22 out of 24 recommended boys showed up.

Earl: So how did that initial program go over?

Dave: Earl, you know how powerful these circles can be, especially for young guys who have never experienced honest, open, caring, and vulnerable men. We did our standard Journeyman Circle format with men and Journeymen speaking personal truth on topics we know are big for these kids. That had the boys wide-eyed and sitting on the edge of their seats.

Almost immediately, many of them began to participate and support each other. After that first circle, permission slips were handed out for the boys to take home, and thirteen boys came back the next week. A couple more showed up a few weeks later after hearing about the program from their peers.

Earl: How many men do you have anchoring these weekly groups?

Dave: We typically have 4-5 men who show up. Initially, there were three women counselors from the school, but after the second session, they (wisely) stepped out and recruited the male band teacher. He came to 90% of the sessions and added a lot.

Earl: Does each session have a specific content focus / topic or do you just go with what the young guys bring?

Dave: We do have a series of themes we are prepared to offer in a program that gradually ramps up the importance of the topics discussed in the circle. We know the issues these young guys are living with, like bullying, divorce, grief, drugs, and more, so we can target these topics if they don’t show up naturally.

It’s amazing though, how quickly this age group is willing to go deep. After hearing from men and Journeymen, the personal vulnerability bar quickly gets set pretty high. Just as beautiful is how naturally the boys in the circle pick up the ability to be supportive for each other. In every group there are moments when kids will offer verbal or other kinds of support for a peer who is struggling.

Next year we’ll have returning kids from this year’s group, who are comfortable in our circle, and they will have been through our powerful Rite of Passage weekend too. This will really help us to set the tone for the new kids. These guys really like belonging to a tribe where other men and boys can be trusted and have their back . . . where the really feel safe.

Being part of a support group that shares feelings and understands yours, having mentors to help you realize that you’re accountable for your actions, having a shoulder from a peer when you need one and being a shoulder for your friends to lean on...these are things that have been shown and validated to my son thru Boys To Men. He’s learned that people do care, it’s not just a bunch of talk. He now truly realizes that he’s never alone.
Christine B. (Jaired’s mom)

Earl: So how about sharing a few of your big lessons after your first year.

Dave: Well there are several.

At the top for me are how important it is that we did this at all. Like so much of this work, there have been huge gains for the kids, the school, families, and considerable impact on the men involved.

Getting enough time from the school to do the program is hard. The school has a lot of other important things to accomplish. With 15- 20 males in the group, we really needed more than an hour. We’re thinking that next year we’ll move to an evening program at the school. That way it’s still school-based, but we’ll have more time for fun and the important work in the circle. An evening time frame will also allow the boys going into high school to come back and continue to be part of the group.

Next time, we are going to put more energy into connecting with parents early on. We’ll meet with the parents once the boys are identified and have expressed interest in joining the group. We may hold an Open House at the beginning of the year, and then have additional gatherings during the year to keep the connection with parents strong. It will also give us another check on the boy's progress from the parental perspective. Community building is important in this work, and letting the parents make connections with other parents is a very good thing. It’s interesting to note that out of 14 boys we had in our group, only 4 of them were in stable, two parent households. There are a lot of parents who can use the support of a “tribe” too.

Finally, we’re going to do a more in-depth application package. We want more detailed parent contact information to do a better job of staying in contact with parents. We also want the permissions necessary from the parents to get more personal data on their boys from the school. In addition to knowing our young guys better, we can have approval for counselors to talk to us directly about their issues. In these ways, we’ll be even better equipped to give these kids the focused kinds of support they need.

I’m thinking that Dave and other good men like him, showing up for all “our sons” in these school-based initiatives, could represent the vanguard of a powerful movement to change the trajectory of the lives of boys, families, schools, and our communities.

If you are inspired to get a few men together to do something similar, send me a note or send Dave Bolduc an email. You never know what a very large difference this small action by a few men might make!

You can download a PDF copy of this post on the Man-Making website.

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