1. Stop the “boys” don’t talk about feelings language.
This builds up a stoic and false masculinity that needs torn down. In my experience, if a boy isn’t given a true understanding as to why emotions are important and how to handle them, he will live internally hidden and live a frustrated life. This often develops into an stand offish and angry man that has a difficult time connecting heart to heart. A man is to be a safe person to go to spiritually, emotionally and physically. He needs to know his emotions are not liabilities, but tools to help him and others to be fully known.
2. Create space for normal conversations.
Non-rigid environments help to spur fun. Boys, having fun on their terms (playing catch, drawing, fishing, etc), will more naturally open up and it won’t feel like prying.
When my son was much younger, I started making special “guy trips” to an A&W/Long John Silvers. We enjoyed the frosty mugged root beer and crispy fish, but we went there to connect emotionally and relationally. This became a special tradition for us that we still talk about today. It was these types of intentional trips that built a foundation for many meaning conversations while in his teen years.
3. Talk about what your boys want to, so you can talk about what you want to.
Time is a tyrant. Time will put artificial thresholds on your patience if you let it. Prioritize time to allow your boys to just talk about whatever they want to talk about. If it’s video games, sports, girls, etc., let them talk about it so you can gain a relational footing to talk about more meaningful things. Don’t demean them if they have a hard time expressing how they feel. Wait for them to gather their thoughts and listen. To be a better communicator be a better listener. It may take five minutes of listening to their favorite subject to open the door into a meaningful conversation and those five minutes weren’t wasted; they were invested. If you can find a common interest, this can be even better!
4. Put your boys in situations were they can be compassionate.
We live in a ME centered world. Shake it up by placing them in situations where they can serve or at least observe those that are vulnerable and in need. A great place to start would be a nursing home, homeless shelter, or a soup kitchen. Afterwards ask them about what they saw and how they felt because of what they experienced. @anewkindofman is trying to help men provide security, service, and to sacrifice themselves in the interest of others for the glory of God and the good of the world. A man without compassion is not a safe man. In the words of Frederick Douglas, “It is easier to raise strong kids than repair broken men.” We must raise them right.
5. Ask good questions in smaller settings.
Boys and men will more openly explain how they feel about something when a girl/woman is not around and in a smaller group. Classrooms, today, are not the best environments for boys to explain things. Boys often have to deliberate longer to give answers or explanations and they feel inferior when compared with girls that are usually more talkative. Dinner tables can even be too big of a setting to talk about the deeper things of the heart. Find a smaller setting for a big impact.
Men, our boys need us to help them to be fully known. To be fully known is to be finally free. Free to be all who God has made us to be and to do all the things he has planned for us.
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