Believe it or not!
I was a boy not so long ago, I was a toothless, intelligent, daring little boy with a heart of gold and a HEAD FULL OF HAIR.
I got pushed and pulled and dragged and rocked, up and down and inside out as I rocketed through my teenagers on the roller coaster of life and ended up here as a 'man'.
I had a fabulous childhood, it couldn't have been better.
Now that I am a teacher of young men, there are some struggles, challenges and obstacles that I see students facing day in and day out, that I just don't recall ever facing for any length of time. Being more self-aware, educated and interested in the development of teenagers allows me to develop some interesting insights into how we raise our kids in Australia.
Some parents are incredible, some parents are insane.
Most teachers are fabulous, some should be in the nursing home and some should be make up artists. If you aren't fit for the job, don't do it!
There are some flaws in our education system that allow those that lack resilience, self-awareness, care, kindness and willingness to continue educating our children. Sadly, this has been happening for years.
There are many parents and teachers who have a responsibility to do right by our children, they can start with learning these two changes in their approach.
The 3 myths of masculinity.
It is become more evident that when growing up boys learn the 3 myths of masculinity.
Occurring during primary school boys learn out on the field and in the playground about athletic ability, size, strength, there skill set and associate these qualities with having power.
The boy that runs the fastest is the superior one. When this really has nothing to do with being a man.
In the modern day high school environment things become a lot more sexual. Boys associate the bedroom and sexual conquest with masculinity. Using a young girl or manipulating the behaviour of a person makes them feel powerful.
They associate masculinity with dominating relationships and getting what they want. A common example is pressuring girls into sexual acts and obtaining naked photos, effectively getting their own way and then using this to “brag” to other males.
As they become older and enter into adulthood they begin to associate masculinity with economic success. The most money, the nicest car, the coolest clothes and the biggest network of “mates” are examples of areas that they believe to make them masculine. Being a man really has nothing to do with any of the above.
The impact of the 3 myths is highly influencial on male behaviour at different stages of life and has a recognisable effect on young adolescent males, which can lead to a life time of problems. The above perceptions can cause psychosocial problems which are amplified through advertising, media, films, social media etc. It creates a serious mental health problem, called alexithymia.
The word means, without words, emotions or feelings. Alexithymia is the inability to put emotions into feelings or words.
I have seen this far too many times in the last few years educating young men. Alexithymia is starting to become a huge problem for men in our society.
Where does it all start?
It starts at the age of 5-6 year olds, when we are told to “stop” with the feelings and emotions.
“Stop being such a cry baby”, “Stop being a girl”.
Boys are told to stop speaking about feelings, the vocabulary is restricted or lost. This behaviour the results in boys not understanding themselves, if you can’t understand yourself how are you ever going to understand another student?
Boys inadvertently develop “empathy deficit disorder”, which is a precursor to bullying, hazing, gender violence, crime etc. This all follows a vicious cycle, creating depression and social isolation through men’s failure to establish that relationship with another human being, they lack that one person to hold them accountable, some process to face their problems and temptations that they are dealing with.
Substance abuse, violence and unprecedented crime are also common results of not meeting the 3 myths, they don’t feel man enough.
So how do you define masculinity?
If a male is on his death bed how do you determine what kind of man he was, what would you measure?
We need to all recognise that life is about relationships:
-it’s about being loved and to love
-looking in the eye and saying “I love you”
What kind of men should we have in all our lives?
Don’t compare and compete with all the wrong aspects of your life at a young age. Don’t start conforming to defend and deflect questions about masculinity.
“The heart needs to be nurtured”- Anonymous
Males need a cause? What's yours?
-Live life making the world a better place
-leave a legacy of great relationships and a commitment to a cause
-being a part of a team
What is a team?
A set of relationships working towards a common cause.
-performance goals and objectives
-mutually accountable for work ethic
-trust, respect, integrity are learnt and upheld
-dignity of all team member
As we develop our young men and future leaders it is important that as parents, teachers, coaches and mentors that we remember to let them experience feelings and express emotions. That we are open to communication about how they are feeling and we support them and guide them in times of difficulty and despair. We have a responsibility to boys and therefore to girls, to ensure relationships are the most important aspect of life and that they develop properly.
No matter the age or the interest, this powerful story by Dayne Beams. AFL captain at the Brisbane Lions demonstrates the need for supporting our young people. More fabulous stories like this are available at AFL players association.
Growing Hope in Teens
The other growing concern in teenagers today is their lack of resilience. Some people people kids are growing "soft" or lack the "guts" to survive in the "dog eat dog" world we live in. These are all pretty big assumptions to make without looking at the exact student and situation.
Dr Justin Coulson is a parenting researcher, speaker, and author, and father of six daughters. He brilliantly and collaboratively works with students, teachers, parents and organisations to build hope in teenagers. Teenagers sometimes just need that one person to have some belief in them, so they start to have hope that things can get better or that they are capable of achieving great things in a safe and supported environment Find Justin at happyfamilies.com.au.
Think of two teenagers you have regular contact with: one who is resilient and happy, and one who is struggling and languishing. Imagine you are interviewing each of them, and you ask them to respond to each of these six questionnaire items:
1. I think I am doing pretty well
2. I can think of many ways to get the things in life that are important to me
3. I am doing just as well as other kids my age
4. When I have a problem I can come up with lots of ways to solve it
5. I think the things I have done in the past will help me in the future
6. Even when others want to quit, I can find ways to solve the problem
Chances are that the teen who is resilient will respond affirmatively to these items. The teen who is struggling is more likely to say ‘no’ than ‘yes’.
These items are from the Children’s Hope Scale, and assess the hopefulness of children and teens. In terms of resilience and well being, hope is a critically important predictor of how our youth are going.
Understanding Hope According to Hope Theory, hope is belief a person has that they can find ways to achieve their goals and to motivate themselves to use those pathways. Hope theory suggests we need three things to actually have ‘hope’:
1. Goals – something we are aiming to achieve in the future
2. Pathways – at least one way (and hopefully more than one) that we might achieve those goals
3. Efficacy – the belief that we can actually make things happen along those pathways in order to get the goal
Hope vs Optimism
Hope differs from optimism in important ways. Optimism is the belief that good things will happen in the future, and the sense that the glass is half full. Hope is about taking that optimism, making it goal-oriented, and putting legs on it to make things happen.
And while optimism is great for boosting wellbeing and can act as a useful tool for inoculating people against depression, it seems hope does it better. This may be because while optimism is a positive mindset, hope is about action.
Having high hope seems to correspond with higher levels of personal wellbeing, life satisfaction, and even academic and athletic achievement and success. Relationships appear to be better for those who are hopeful individuals, perhaps because they try to make things happen if things are not working out well. Those with low hope (or who are hopeless) are less likely to act, and therefore less likely to move towards a goal or a change in circumstance.
Like several positive psychology interventions, the idea of using hope as a useful strategy is not a silver bullet. Some data indicates that increasing hope through interventions may not reduce psychological distress. Other studies show only modest improvements in psychological wellbeing. Therefore, it may be useful to ensure those with significant psychological distress or mental illness receive traditional psycho-therapeutic interventions.
How to Help Hope
For those who are not psychologically distressed but would like to be more hopeful and positive about the future, these three ideas may be helpful:
* Speak to youth about their possible futures, and have them imagine their potential best selves, and help them create visions of various pathways to take them to their best possible future self
* Ask them what they’re looking forward to
* When they’re stuck, rather than giving them an answer, ask them, “What do you think is the next best thing to do?” or “When have you overcome something like this before?”
Like gratitude, using strengths, being optimistic, building relationships, or doing any of the multitude of things positive psychology suggests; being hopeful is not guaranteed to fix everyone and everything. But for some youth, it can be the key to helping them develop a vision, create a pathway, and work like crazy (with you as an adult to guide them and keep them accountable) to move forward towards a better, more fulfilling, happier future.
How can you instill hope in your students today?
How can you have more hope yourself?
Learn more about caring for boys and developing good men or how to build hope in teens at our upcoming Mindset Manoeuvre Workshop.
Take your teaching to a whole new level at our Bali Teachers Retreat in January 2019 and develop tools and strategies to change students lives starting with your own.