Middle school was a very difficult time for me. It was a time when I really wanted to be treated like a grown up and yet I wasn’t. My friends were having growth spurts and maturing but I still looked like a third grader. My cushy existence as an elementary school all-star was no more. I was feeling very self-conscious and insecure. School didn’t help my situation much as it basically served as a holding tank for me to be held in close quarters with numbers of others who were also going through this stage of temporary insanity we call puberty.
What I really longed for was for someone to understand what I was going through and to help supply me confidence in who I was and where I was going. I wanted to know how to be a man and what that looked like. I needed a constant voice of affirmation that would convince me that I could make it through. I needed a steady stream of help on how to respond to my circumstances.
So here are my top 5 tips for being this person for our young men:
- Be on offense. I’ve never had a middle school boy come up and ask me for help in becoming a man. We can’t sit around and wait for them to initiate.
- Be transparent. Actually, be painfully transparent. Let them have the inside scoop about your mistakes and failures as a man and don’t skimp on the details. The boys love when I tell them all the stupid stuff I’ve screwed up on and how I was able to come through it. Transparency helps build trust quickly.
- Don’t speak down to them. Appeal to them as men not boys. When we set a high standard for them they will rise to it. Remember, they long to be treated this way and will respect you for it.
- Tell them who they are. They are struggling with finding their identity. It is our job to let them know who God has created them to be and what is expected out of them. To tell them we believe in them and to not let their failures determine who they are.
- Don’t be quick to give out advice. Lead with tough questions that will make them think for themselves. Questions that will lead them to truth.