“One of the reasons I think adolescence is perpetuated is because we don’t let our children bear the weight of responsibility.” – James MacDonald
Young men do not mysteriously become “self-starters”, “go-getters” and “commitment honorers” — in most cases they need to see it modeled, and they need to practice getting up off the video game couch and engaging consistently.
Small tasks, equal to their maturity and immediate skills, introduced at an early age (and progressively expanded over time) will go a long way to transforming a young man from “indifferent passivity” (who may respond to repeated “nagging”) to “urgently action-ed” (understanding what must be done and setting his own mind towards accomplishing that goal himself).
To ignore this mentoring process (being passive as a father or related mentor) sets up young men to become husbands whose wives may be forced to act more like mothers instead of equal partners and that’s both unfair to the wife and sets up a cycle that could be passed for generations.
Youth clubs which are organized and run by the young men themselves (and have to own their successes or failures) may serve to help in this regard (aka Trail Life USA, Christian Service Brigade, Frontier Service Corps, et.al.)
Setting up surmountable obstacles like planning, organizing and preparing for meetings, outings and events give boys the opportunity to take the reigns and have a brilliant time with their friends, or to fail to plan for contingencies and end up having a miserable (but valuable) learning lesson. Adult mentors provide a measure of “fail-safe” protection against genuine safety issues, and may coach the youth to work out the needed details without “taking control” of the process and doing the work for the boys. Fueled by early successes, the group will be enabled to try harder things with greater reward.
Along the way, the older boys become mentors to the younger ones, as well. This enables a self-sustaining cycle and actually helps older boys learn about mentoring for the time when they become husbands and fathers in the future.
Personal growth is equally important to learning to function as a team. Advancement programs that acknowledge personal achievement (i.e. mastery of specific skills, knowledge of future career opportunities, investigation of new hobbies and athletic interests, etc.) build motivation within the boy to do more. When that spark of wanting to tackle new things comes from within, it can be a powerful drive that benefits many areas of his life — initiating action instead of being passive and waiting for instruction from someone else.
Outdoor adventure also helps break down the tyranny of self-centered-ness when the group can only succeed as a team instead of a pack of individuals:
- Backpacking may require all participants to break down their gear and redistribute among each other for better fit, balance and weight distribution based on each individual’s strength.
- Camping requires teamwork in organizing the site, prepping meals and cleaning up when done — the ugly tasks can’t be ignored in favor of the fun ones. Everyone must commit fully to make it work.
- Boating requires teamwork to coordinate paddling, portages, and productive propulsion (it’s easy to work against each other if not concentrating or if not everyone contributes equally)
- Climbing with belay partners builds trust and confidence — the person on belay helps spot grab holds and acts as a safety in case the climber falls.
Outdoor adventure clubs aren’t the only way to introduce responsibilities to young men, but they’re a good mechanism that have been proven helpful for generations. If you’re looking to develop a strong, godly man out of your son, you might consider participation in one of these programs.