Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Making of a Man

I had the pleasure of attending a Young Men’s Program meeting in Boston last week hosted by John Snow, Inc. (JSI). The goal was for us to learn how to better engage young men in teen pregnancy prevention work, but the result was so much more! As a female, I have taken for granted how differently our boys and young men think, act, and believe because I have not had the experience of being male. As we kick off Let’s Talk Month, there are some things to keep in mind when communicating with our young men – full credit for these concepts goes to Ozvaldo “Ozzie” Cruz and Mario Ozuna-Sanchez of the National Compadres Network and National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute.

Society teaches young men that they are supposed to be strong and not show emotion – they are supposed to be the protectors. They must be respected.  If not taught how to be protective, our boys and men can express this sentiment through violence. We need to talk to our young men about the difference between being a warrior and a soldier – soldiers follow orders as they go into war. Warriors try to protect and avoid situations that would be unsafe. Our boys are often entering into battle to show that they are strong because they don’t understand that using their head instead of their fists shows greater strength.

 Our boys seek relationships, but if they aren’t taught what a healthy relationship looks like, they begin to equate sex with relationships. The media teaches our young men that they aren’t “real men” if they aren’t having sex as often as possible with as many women as possible.  We need to help our young men understand that while relationships can certainly be sexual, having sex with someone is not the same as being in a meaningful, fulfilling relationship. It’s also important for them to understand the importance of having strong relationships with other men.

Males value honor, but if not taught how to live honorably, it is easy to determine that honor comes with money and material possessions. When our young men equate success with the size of their paycheck, selling drugs (for example) may seem like a really good idea. Making money at all costs makes sense. We need to work with our young men to develop a different understanding of success and what it means to be a man of honor.

The final thought from Ozzie and Mario that stuck with me is that we, as adults, do not give our young people purpose. They already have purpose. Our job is to help them unearth what their purpose is. I’m hoping that Let’s Talk Month will push me to meet some young men where they are as they are and help them learn their purpose. And I hope that you will do the same.

For advice on how to talk to your child or other youth, visit our Parent Portal.

by Dana Becker, Spartanburg Community Mobilization Coordinator, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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