There are many ways to interpret this saying, but it seems we have used it to stereotype young men. As such, it provides not only an excuse for behaviour, but can create expectations of how they are supposed to behave. Are males supposed to be boisterous, aggressive, unemotional, strong and able to cope with whatever life throws at them? I know I certainly don't tick all those boxes, and because of that I have struggled with various aspects of masculinity.
In my work in schools, I have worked with many disengaged boys who have been labelled with behavioural issues. However, out of the classroom, working on various practical projects, I was always touched by their warmth and the level of emotion they were able to express in a safe space.
As a Life Coach, I have clients ranging in ages from 14 to 76. Many of them are young males, and what I invariably see are beautiful young men with good hearts and a sensitivity that has for many reasons, been suppressed. Many will comment: "But I'm supposed to be the strong one in the family!" It's a heavy weight to carry around! I also suspect this pressure is what lies beneath some of their anger and aggression. My youngest client has been suspended from school several times for fighting. Following meetings with the DP (Deputy Principal) and Counsellor, he was advised to "just walk away". I've worked in leadership roles in schools and appreciate the difficulty in resolving such issues. Stretched resources and complex backgrounds make it difficult to apply any real solutions to this issue. In my leadership roles, I always searched for more effective solutions to this problem but could never find anything that really worked.
What I think is needed however, is a more focused approach with each of these young men - whether they be students at school or young men in our community who have left school. When I was a student, we engaged in many contact sports or physical activities - some of them quite brutal and ones I would not like to ever reintroduce. However, I think we have gone too far the other way. Boys do need to be boys...many (not all!) need to burn energy, be physical and active and to have some form of outlet to release the build up of emotions - particularly during adolescence. However, perhaps even more than that, they need someone to confide in, someone who understands them and someone who accepts them for who they are - unconditionally.
I have always enjoyed working with young men and have been inspired by their capacity for compassion and affection towards each other. In the right context, these traits shine through and the behavioural issues simply vaporise into thin air!
As a Life Coach, and utilising my school experience and counselling skills, I enjoy focusing my energy on working with young men. For adolescent clients, I try to adapt the sessions to suit their specific needs. For instance, for one client, I am arranging a boxing session in an effort to channel his aggression and learn self-discipline. He has a history of trauma which needs to be processed. Repeated suspensions at school in response to angry outbursts are not likely to resolve these issues and will in fact just reinforce his already low feelings of self-worth.
I am currently working on a range of programs designed to help other young men (not just students) in a similar way, tailoring the activity to suit the context. For example, a student suspended from school who sits at home on the play station, isn't going to learn a great deal about changing his behaviour. A face-to-face counselling session is also an intimidating place for many young men to be, so engaging them in some form of activity that suits their interests and engages them, will assist in working out what is really going on! All behaviour tells a story, and I have learnt that the best way to find out what that story is, is to work or play alongside the young man. That might mean sitting on the wharf fishing, doing a boxing program at the gym, sitting out the back on a surf board or just going for a walk with the dog.
If you have any thoughts please feel free to respond. I would love to hear about your experiences and ideas!
It's incredibly rewarding helping young men discover who they truly are.
If you think this would be of some use to a young man in your life, please get in touch. In the meantime, if you would like to know more, connect with me on my social media:
YouTube: Steven Centra
Facebook: Steve Centra – Counsellor, Life Coach, Reiki Practitioner.
(Cost will vary depending on length of the session. In some cases, a whole day program might be useful, but for others, an hour or so might be enough).