Our family went to spend a few days skiing recently. We were sharing a holiday house with three other families, which included three teenage boys and four fathers.
My wife suggested us men have a chat with the boys to share some of our life experience as men. This sounded like a good idea. An opportunistic way to carry out some mentoring to help the teenagers feel more included in the world of men and a chance to provide some inspiration about the direction their own lives might take.
We suggested this to the other men. I was interested to see how well this suggestion would be received. Two men were in favour, with one father in particular commenting on how he would have loved to have had that same opportunity when he was a teenager. Another father was not so keen to do this in a group, preferring to mentor and reflect individually with his son when the time was right. The remaining man was also in favour.
Overall, what struck home with me then was that men do have a real interest in mentoring and sharing their life experiences with the younger generation. They just need to be asked.
Then we had to decide on how to do this mentoring. We elected to call the boys over to the dinner table one evening and have a chat while other family members kept their distance. We decided to focus on two main topics:
We spent about an hour and a half talking. The vast majority of the talking was done by us men. We did ask the teenagers questions, but responses were generally brief. We tried to keep to sharing our own stories rather than dishing out advice, but were not always successful. I also reflected that at times we sent contradictory messages:
Feedback from the boys afterwards was limited and not particularly positive – “its not something you enjoy”. There did, however, seem to be some genuine engagement during the talk, so I believe at least some of it was well received.
Feedback from the men was that they thought at least some of what we shared would be useful, but wondered if we should have asked the boys to write down some questions first for us to answer, so we could focus on their needs, rather than on what we wanted to share.
For me, one of the positives was sharing different cultural expectations around study, monetary success and business. I felt much of the learnings from this talk were as much for the men as the boys. It also brought us men closer as a group.
So what can I conclude from the above?