February 29, 2016

Nine Things Boys Need and Get
from School Groups with Men

I just came from sitting with a group of teen males in a Boys to Men high school support group. My heart is open and full, I'm in awe, and I'm feeling very proud of the boys and men in the group.

The organization I'm with, the Desert Men's Council, has been in this school for three years now and we've developed a history with many of the boys. Each semester, when we restart the group, new young men show up and jump right in.

On my list of what I continue to find amazing about these groups and the young guys in them includes the following:
  • How much wisdom these young guys have accumulated in their short lives.

  • How very naive they are about so many of the realities of life. How much they really don't know or understand about the world because of a lack of modeling and intentional guidance.

  • How quickly they seem willing to trust us men, especially when so many of them have taken serious damage from the adult men in their lives.

  • How hard it is see the difficulty they have in thinking through the long-term consequences of their choices. We men know, and even some of the young guys know, they don't have a fully wired brain. But still they continue to steam along, fueled by testosterone, and making what are often foolish and sometimes dangerous choices.

  • Their willingness to be honest about the very difficult challenges they are facing. They are almost always willing to quickly drop the mask of teen bravado and share the hard stuff they are so tired of keeping bottled up inside.

  • How they ripen with the praise and honoring the men liberally offer. You can almost watch their self-esteem straightening their spines and making them stronger.

  • What amazing resilience and courage they display in the face of the wrenching losses, real fears, and deep disappointments that are so much a part of their lives.

These are just some of the reasons for me to be in awe of these young men. I feel honored to be witness to such strength and courage. I'm reminded of the words from one memorable movie, "You make me want to be a better man." I love the fact that being "me," my gloriously imperfect self, and just showing up as a man who cares about them, is all that's required.

You make me want to be a better man.

While I'm still in the afterglow of the group experience, in no particular order, here's my quick list of nine things boys need and get from school groups with men. Most of these were present in today's group:

  • A safe place to speak their truth. Any truth. The truth which if kept in the dark and secret places will do serious damage over a lifetime.

  • Adult male allies - men who are on their side and want the best for them.

  • Solid support for their existing life challenges. Everything from their family interactions, friendships, trouble with the girls in their lives, gang challenges, money problems, value based choices, and feeling/being lonely.

  • Good information about life/being a man.

  • An evolving vision of positive manhood. Having a picture created of the attributes of a good man, a man you'd respect and who'd be a role model for you.

  • Development of emotional vocabulary – Having a language to describe the complex emotional experiences and feelings they are having. Having a place to have feelings and not be negatively judged.

  • A place to decompress, to un-shame, to not be alone with the anger and pain, talk about age specific, maturity level appropriate, and life challenge relevant issues.

  • Belonging: In a school full of cliques, in group we are all brothers, alike, included, valued, and honored. Having other guys who are so much more that just a "what’s up?" friend.

  • A place to practice being a man - where they can try on being the man they want to become. Practice showing up with authenticity, accountability, responsibility, speaking directly/assertively, supporting others, receiving praise and constructive feedback, etc.
There's lots more, of course, this is just what's in my mind and heart after today's group.

If you want to talk about how you might become "a better man," from putting your gloriously imperfect self in contact with some young guys, give me a shout. I absolutely know it will change you for the better and I absolutely know the young guys are waiting for a guy, just like you, to show up.

I absolutely know the young guys are waiting
for a guy, just like you,
to show up.

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