In my opinion, by talking with and listening to our young men, we can make a difference in how they view what is true and healthy manhood. To add to this, you as their mentor, have to be what you preach. It is not just about saying the right thing but doing the right thing by example as well. As part of that teaching and communicating you must be brave enough to ask the young man some straight forward questions and listen carefully to his answers. Sometimes young men’s replies may be shocking but it provides room for teachable moments
Let me give you an example. My step-grandson was visited my wife and I one weekend. He began telling us some of the things he had learned from his friends about relationships. At some point he stated that he was not worried about getting a girl pregnant. My eyebrows went up into my worry lines as his grandmother asked him to explain, we braced ourselves for the response. As we listened we became increasingly concerned that our grandson had picked up some misinformation from his buddies and potentially was embracing harmful attitudes towards young women in his life. We explained that in the real world such behavior was not only disrespectful but it would be considered abuse towards the girl to do such a thing. This of course led into an entire discussion of respecting women and not using them as sexual objects. We talked about his friends’ exaggerating or even lying about having sex. A week later we were very pleased when we heard he had confronted one of his buddies about an exaggerated sexual encounter.
In the many discussions we have had with our grandson we have never yelled or acted condescending in correcting his misconceptions about relationships and intimacy with possible partners. We want him to be able to talk with us about anything going on in his life without fear of a scolding or scoffing. Our goal was to make him comfortable asking tough questions no matter how sensitive a question was or for what to do in a pressure situation. I have shared with him some of my own missteps and mistakes in how I treated partners as I grew up. Especially those I made during the teen age years when I had no one to talk with about these things.
Teens are not stupid even when they sometimes lack wisdom. They need straight, honest talk from their mentors. They need to be able to respect you as a mentor because you are who you say you are and you act accordingly. The more men that “man up” and help young boys get through these difficult developmental years with the right mindsets about what is to be a man the less abuse there may be in our children’s future.
By Terence E Ross