Oftentimes the expectations we have for our children have a tendency to come to fruition. With that in mind it is important we have high expectations for our boys. We should strive to have them aspire to greatness. Why not exhort them to aspire to greatness? The rule of thumb in the business world is that employees are only capable at best of living up to about 75% of the expectations that an employer has for them. Why should we strive to produce mediocre men by having low expectations of our boys?
Unfortunately, our culture not only has low expectations for males, it seems to revel in trying to destroy masculinity. We expect boys to act more like girls. In Unleashing Courageous Faith, Paul Coughlin comments on what our culture does to boys, “Boys are being gunned down by manliness gone bad and by those who do not accept or appreciate it. Our culture tells young boys that traditional masculinity is bad, that men are stupid and deserve to be the object of disdain, contempt, and ridicule. Then we expect them to grow up and exemplify honor, integrity, and valor.” Just watch nearly any television sitcom or commercial if you doubt that statement.
True manhood accepts responsibility for others’ lives by protecting, providing, nurturing, and leading those under its sphere of influence. But how do we teach boys the lessons they need in order to accept that responsibility and develop the mindset necessary to fulfill those roles.
In many cultures throughout history manhood was something that was earned through overcoming difficult challenges or dangerous initiations. It involved initiations, rituals, and ceremonies generally supervised by older males. Frequently the instructions passed along during these rites of passage contained life lessons that taught boys what it meant to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of manhood.
Teaching young men to have empathy and compassion for others is very important in the development of a healthy man. It has been my experience from raising two teenagers and working with many others that they are often idealistic about the world and troubled by the injustices that abound within it. Young men should be indignant and disturbed by things like poverty, victimization, and exploitation of those who cannot defend themselves. That righteous outrage means he has heart. It is much better than the passive, apathetic, and self-focused attitude many young (and older) men posses today. Instead our culture tells them that self-gratification and self-indulgence are the only goals worthy to strive for.
So how do boys learn to have passion, courage, and empathy? By watching the examples of their fathers and other older males in their lives.
Question: What expectations do you have for your son that will teach him to be a man of integrity?