Boys need guidance and inspiration. It is just too easy to be mediocre and underachieve. Young men are tempted daily to smoke pot, play way too many video games, get lost in social media and never consider challenging themselves to be great. It doesn’t help that pop culture provides countless questionable role models that young men are attracted to.
At the 2014 Oscar awards Matthew McConaughey gave an amazing acceptance speech that was both funny and incredibly moving. Here is one of the more memorable quotes. He said, “Everyone needs someone to look up to, something to look forward to and someone to chase.”
I think this is vital for young men.
Here are three reasons why your son needs mentors, role models and heroes.
1. Your son needs an image or a vision of who he could be in the future
A role model is a person who is looked to as an example to be imitated. I’m sure your son has already chosen one or more role models. They may be a positive example to follow or they may be the exact opposite. With limited life experience, your son needs to have a vision of the possibilities that the future holds for him. He needs an image of what success looks like. His role model could be someone who is already involved in his life or it could be a music artist, athlete or other influential person.
One suggestion is to find out who your son looks up to and watch YouTube videos about that person. I love to do this in my counseling office because it always leads to great conversations. What is it about that person that you admire? How did they manage to become so excellent at what they do? What qualities do you think they have that have led to their success?
As a young drummer, one of my role models was Chad Smith, the drummer from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I liked him because he was talented, successful and always looked like he was having so much fun. I didn’t have YouTube in the 90’s, but I watched all his videos on MTV and listened to his music on repeat. Unfortunately, I never became a touring rock drummer (yet), but I was motivated to practice and play with my band because of the role model that I chose. This gave me a sense of purpose and something productive to do.
2. Your son needs to be inspired to reach for his dreams and achieve great things
A hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. It is all too easy for young men to settle for far less than they are capable of and fail to come close to their potential. Your son needs to have opportunities to be challenged to think big and it always helps to have a hero to look up to. I think of heroes as characters who are larger than life and embody the kinds of characteristics that we aspire to (whether that is realistic or not).
I have to admit that I have never been a huge fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, I listened to a fantastic interview this week that gave me a ton of respect for him. It was amazing to hear about where he came from, his ambition and work ethic, his enormous contributions and his heart to give back to the youth of America. Not only is he an action hero (who is still pumping out movies), but he is genuinely a real life hero, regardless of your political persuasion. 🙂
3. Your son needs an experienced and trusted adviser to show him how to be a man
It is fantastic for your son to have role models and heroes, but the disadvantage is that they are often not people who are intimately involved in his life. A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser. This is someone who is committed to your son and can be an influential person who guides his development. Parents are the ideal mentors and we all strive to play this role in our kid’s lives. However, sometimes during the teen years it is important to have other mentors, because your son may not always accept your influence and guidance.
Quality mentors can be coaches, extended family members, Boy Scout leaders, youth pastors, counselors, martial arts instructors, or even school teachers. It can be anyone who takes an interest in your son’s life and someone who he responds to and wants to spend time with. He will likely have different mentors in various stages of his life.
One of my favorite things about being a teen counselor is that I get to be a trusted advisor, helping young men walk through the most challenging aspects of surviving high school and helping them be confident, successful and happy. That is incredibly rewarding for me.
Ask your son today who his mentors, role models and heroes are. Show interest in his world. Point him towards positive alternatives and connect him with supportive people who can provide the guidance he needs.