Unpredictable Behaviors by Boys is Normal
I’m blessed to have my best friend, Steve, as a roommate in my house. That means I also get to frequently interact with his twin boys, Jacob and Benjamin, who just turned seven years old. As their “Uncle Mark”, I’ve participated with them in a variety of ways: being playful, mentoring them to figure things out, engaging in serious talks about life, helping them get dressed, etc.
I recently walked into the family room, where Steve and his boys were sitting close together on the couch, talking. As I walked by them, they both called me silly names and giggled for being disrespectful. While they were laughing, I humorously told them that I respected them for their defiance and they would have to pay a price for their boldness. Naturally, I swiftly charged right at them and, one at a time, tickled them wildly!
As a seasoned mentor to adolescent young men, I wanted the twins to know that I accepted their male brashness and praised them for it. I also needed to convey that there can be consequences for their outbursts. I enjoyed being silly and serious at the same time. After those bonding moments, I went into my home office to get some work done.
The Big Surprise
About 20 minutes later, I just happened to be opening my office door, just a few feet from the couch where the three of them were still playfully talking. All of a sudden, Benjamin shouted out the word, “Shit!” That was the first time I ever heard either one of them curse. It sounded like it was a “baptism” for Steve as well.
Steve and I are the cofounders of a rite of passage initiation event, The Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend (www.ymuw.org). He and I have lots of experience dealing with adolescent male energy, as our organization has initiated over 3000 young men in the San Francisco Bay Area. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised at how calm Steve was with his sons’ newfound courage.
I Had to Do Something
I was so excited that I was privy to this ceremony – I felt like this was Benjamin’s initiation from a boy into “dudehood”. I ran to the couch and thrust out my right hand to high-five him. I started to get back to my business, when Steve laughingly said, “Don’t congratulate him for this!”
Immediately, Benjamin shouted out to me, “Thank you, Uncle Mark!” In that moment, I could sense the two boys celebrating the safety they felt because the adults did not make them wrong for Benjamin’s masculine eruption.
Boys & Men Love to Celebrate
I believe boys need to grow up with a deep respect and trust for older males. Horsing around is an important way to develop camaraderie between boys and men. If boys don’t have elder men to guide them, they tend to grow up with a deep-seated feeling that they’re separate from everyone and everything else.
And for those of you parents who have sons who are withdrawing from you, you know what I’m talking about. It’s just what they do a lot of times, even when you have amazing parenting skills. It’s the nature of the “male teenage” brain.
Humor is the best way to get boys comfortable being mentored by adults. When boys consistently have healthy fun with family, friends, coaches and teachers, they’re much more willing to be vulnerable, accountable and responsible.
Photo by Flickr/Brittany Randolph