Connie K. Grier shares a few tips for boys to develop healthy bonds with other males.
In a recent mentoring session I held with a group of young ladies, the topic of friendship was discussed. As girls mature, they formulate relationships with their peers, and while we caution them regarding the quality of those bonds, we accept the fact that our young ladies have friendships that they value and that these friendships can impact their well-being. These friendships may very well last into adulthood and remain active for a lifetime.
The friendships cultivated by our young men are just as important to them, and should not be seen as “weird”. As young men mature, society often expects them to be “cool” “aloof” or at the very least, not in to be in NEED of friendships with the same level of attachment that we witness in our young ladies.
Our sons may not actively manifest these peer bonds in the same manner (hanging on the phone, shopping, swapping information about each other) as our young ladies, but the bonds of their friendships are just as important.
When it comes to friendships, young men tend to put a lot of value on their ability to trust one another. They may not have conversations with multiple peers about something that is bothering them, but they will often have one friend who they discuss things with. As they grow older, however, there is a “… cultural pressures to become a “man” are intensified during this period of growth.
In American culture, becoming a man is linked with being emotionally stoic, autonomous, and physically tough,” says Niobe Way in her book Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection. In essence, any behaviors that society sees as contradicting those described above are seen as a red flag and worthy of censure. This forces young men to feel defensive and often embarrassed when it comes to accepting just how important their friendships are.
Along with recognizing the importance of friendship between boys, here are a few areas of focus to help our young men develop HEALTHY bonds.
1. Friendships must involve GIVE and TAKE.
If our young men are in friendships where they are doing all of the giving of support, (for example, one young man is ALWAYS the dependable one and the other can NEVER be counted on) and not receiving any in return, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship.
2. QUALITY over QUANTITY:
Your friendship “status” does not increase with the number of “likes”. It is extremely difficult to develop a true friendship with large groups of people. You cannot be everything to everyone, and your ranking as a “good” friend is not increased by the number of friends you have.
3. Be the type of friend you want to have:
Be trustworthy, honest, dependable and helpful. Encourage your son to think of qualities that are important to him in a friend and remind him that his behavioral example will be the best determinant of what will be expected and accepted between friends.
Photo: Huzaimi Mat Zali/Flickr