Every so often I read an inspiring article or book regarding the most difficult job in the world- being a parent- and I feel compelled to share it. Mr Peter Moulds, Director of Curriculum and Staffing at The Scots College in Sydney, where my son attends, recently wrote this article in the school newsletter. It is directed at boys but I think it could equally apply to girls...
How do we give boys opportunities to be warriors, heroes and kings?
Boys have a longing to be trained. It is one of the reasons why the Star Wars movies and the first Matrix movie were so successful. We need to accept this invitation and challenge.
Boys need the opportunity to be physical. Play games with him and let him win (most of the time). Choose books and movies that have noble warriors, heroes and kings. Teach him that he is dangerous and powerful, and that he needs to use this for good. Don't teach him that aggression and strength is wrong, this will teach him to be passive. Teach him when and where it is appropriate, and the importance of self-restraint and respect for others.
Teach him the importance of bravery and courage. Winston Churchill believed that courage was the foremost of virtues as all other virtues depend on it. For example, it takes courage to love as loving means that you may be hurt. We need to raise men who are physically and emotionally brave. Physical bravery is learnt through adventure and sports by intentionally putting yourself in harm's way and taking risks. Emotional bravery is developed in situations of physical bravery, as he will have to overcome his fear, but is also developed when he takes risks in relationships. For this we need for the boys to learn not to quit, and to rise above adversity and heartbreak.
The young men I teach tend to have a strong sense of justice (particularly if they think an injustice has been visited upon them). Use this to teach him the honour of right and wrong. Let him see it in you. Let him get angry, emotions are important. Allow him to confront evil and make a stand against it. Boys need causes and battles to fight.
Young men need to learn the difference between worthy and entitled. He needs to have and believe in a noble heart. He needs to know that it is important, and that it is possible to have a noble heart. This has to be done through actions of the adult males about the young man, living in a noble manner. It is actions that speak much louder than words.
Young men need to have control over things. Give him a sense of governance and dominion over his room, his money, what sports he chooses to play or not to play. Offer him guidance, but also allow him to make mistakes and to fail. After he fails then journey with him as he learns how to deal with his mistakes and failures.
We need to place our boys in situations where they need to act decisively, and strongly on behalf of others. The noble heart is further developed in these situations where actions meld with beliefs and intentions. This is especially true when these are decisions that place others before our own desires or interests, or are difficult stands against great odds or opposition.
Being a warrior, a hero and a king however, can only ever be part of the story and must never be the only story. Love, beauty, stillness, relationships with others (to name a few) are all other components that a boy needs opportunities to experience and appreciate as well.