Monday, June 9, 2014

Helping Boys Become Men: A Checklist

You aren't born into manhood. It's a process of becoming one. A boy's character is developed over time, and learning life skills and how to handle situations helps. Masculinity, at its best, is about strength, gentleness, patience, loyalty and responsibility. This week as Father's Day approaches, I've been thinking about all the people----fathers, mothers, stepfathers, uncles, coaches, teachers, grandparents and others who contribute to helping boys grow into great men. Sometimes it's Dad, and sometimes Dad isn't available and other people can step in and help with raising boys to turn out well.

I recently ran across a cute book aimed at pre-teen and teenaged boys called The Manual to Manhood: How to Cook The Perfect Steak, Change a Tire, Impress a Girl & 97 Other Skills You Need to Survive, written by education consultant Jonathan Catherman (Revell Books, 2014). It got me thinking about what boys need to survive and thrive in modern life as they prepare to launch their own lives, and later partner and start a family of their own.

So, what do boys really need to know to become great men? It would be helpful to parents to have a quick check-list to work from. Here's a list to get you kick-started, including some of his and some of mine:

1. Master manners/social skills in social situations: how to greet people, meet people, introduce people to others, shake hands, make eye contact, have small talk, open doors, treat wait staff and retail cashiers, table manners, how to calculate a tip. Quiet confidence is appealing, a combination of humility and confidence.

2. Relationship skills with girls: how to show interest in a girl and get to know her, how to ask a girl out for a date, how to plan a date, how to meet her parents, how to have the big conversation about defining the relationship, how to treat a girl with respect, how to break up in a humane way (not by text, please).

3. Figure out how to fix things: change a tire, turn off the water, unclog a toilet, hang a painting, basic house stuff. It's great if you can go beyond this level of skill, but at least do the basics.

4. Learn to do your own laundry, change and wash your bedding, and learn how to iron.

5. Learn kitchen basics. Practice how to cook a few breakfasts, lunches and dinners, how to grill, how to grocery shop.

6. Understand finances: how to save money, earn money, manage credit,set a budget, balance a check-book, and stay debt free. You are setting an example with how you lead your financial life.

7.Job skills-how to apply for a job, work hard, strong work ethic, being punctual, write a resume, get a reference, ask for a raise or more responsibility, how to interview well, how to resign.

8. Maintain your car. Wash it, take it for oil changes, rotate tires and understand car maintenance. A car is a reflection of your self-esteem, so it may be modest but keep it clean, maintained, and take pride in it.

9.Maintain good hygiene and grooming. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.

10. Strive to be independent. It's not attractive to be helpless. As a young adult male, you want to aim for doing as much as possible for yourself. (Don't have your parents rescue or prevent you from individuating, instead of manning up.)

11.Respect elders. Treat your parents and grandparents, your girlfriend's parents and other adults with respect, kindness and sincerity. Don't forget the eye contact and firm handshake!

12.Learn how to have conversations: get outside yourself, interview other people rather monopolizing the conversation, don't hide behind shyness. Be interested in other people.

13. Make your word mean something. Keep your promises and honor your commitments. Be a man of your word, so that people can count on you. This includes relationship commitments, so be faithful and loyal.

14. Pick up after yourself. Clean up your own clothes, belongings, and dishes. Learn how to clean the bathroom, kitchen, and how to do windows, vacuum and dust. If your mom still does all this stuff for you, let her know you want her to teach you how to do it yourself.

15. Manage your own stress and moods. Get off the technology and find ways to unwind outside, and be active. It keeps you fit and happier.

16. Develop empathy for others.Try volunteering to develop your understanding about the needs other people have, expand your compassion, and help you see beyond yourself.

17. Be honest and direct. Live with integrity.

18.Learn how to tie a tie. Sometimes you need to wear one, and it's good to know how.

19. Develop your faith and spirituality.

20. Learn to be kind to younger siblings and other young children. You might want to be a dad someday, and it's going to be good to know how to relate and care for children.

I would recommend Jonathan Catherman's book, especially for boys 12 to 15 or so. The concept is a good one. We can all help identify the life skills and character traits boys need to grow into great men,and begin this week helping to teach them. If a boy has a father who can teach these skills it's ideal, but if not, we can each pitch in. Sometimes it does take a village.

If we leave behind us good young men with these skills and values, we make the world better. Perhaps becoming a man isn't about reaching a certain age, but a state of awareness about one's relationship to the world, women, other people, and yourself. Good men are both strong and gentle, and they make a significant difference in the lives of their family. Great men learn to respect, protect and nurture others.

I'm thankful to the good men and good fathers that I know, and this is a good week for us to express that appreciation. Let's help raise more great men, our world needs them.

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