Real men are makers. True masculinity is expressed in creation.
The modern video game culture predominantly communicates that men earn value by conquest and destruction. I’m convinced that boys are hooked by these games because of a natural desire for adventure, a desire to be tested, a desire to build competence and ultimately be found worthy.
I believe that’s part of the reason boys in past generations were attracted to sports. But participation in sports is waning and sports are not for everyone. Today’s video games provide a cheap, readily available substitution to meet these underlying desires with very little effort required.
But men, we can give our boys the real deal by teaching them how to make things.
Teach Boys to Make
Teach them to make fire, make a knife sharp, make a shelter, make a camp. Lead them into an adventure in the woods where they can experience some discomfort but also the joy in the effort and the satisfaction of testing themselves.
Teach them woodcraft. Show them how to whittle a stick for roasting hot dogs, whittle a letter opener, carve a spoon. Teach them to make shelves, tables, cup holders, cutting boards. Teach them how to frame a wall. Let them learn how to use tools effectively to take raw material and create something useful.
Teach them to create simple electrical circuits to light a lightbulb or run a fan. Help them build a go kart.
Teach them how to work the land, till the soil, plant the seed, nurture the plants until they bear fruit. Let them learn that the joy of the harvest comes with patience and diligence in the mundane duties of weeding, watering, and nurturing the crop.
Teach them how to bake. How to make bread. Teach them to cook. Teach them to plan a menu and make the family a meal. Let them see how simple ingredients can create something that is more than the sum of its parts.
Finally teach them to create art as a means of understanding and expressing their emotions. Encourage them to draw, paint, play music, write poetry, write song lyrics, build sculptures.
What We Learn From Making
In all these endeavors let them try, let them fail, let them try again. It’s the effort and the competence that is earned by that effort that is important – not the end product itself.
Resilience is developed with practice.
Confidence is created by seeing yourself figure things out.
Pride and self-worth come when you know you can create something useful, something beautiful.
Let’s help our boys become makers.
PS – By the way, being a maker has nothing to do with your chosen profession. It has everything to do with how you show up. You can always make someone’s day brighter, make new possibilities, and make the world a better place. (It just so happens that learning to physically make things allows you to show up more powerfully, confidently in the world. Regardless of how you earn a living.)
Next in series: Real Men are Menders
Dr. Sean Smitham, Ph.D. a licensed Clinical Psychologist and family therapist who lives and practices in Spokane, Washington.