Jim: People have a need to connect with people. One can even get his strength (a theme for this year’s summit) from connecting with, and providing value to, others. This talk will, we hope, prompt us to do that. He hopes this panel will make us feel a bit uneasy and motivated.
Adrian has worked in journalism and in teaching. Taught kindergarten at one time, and is now the head of the Esquire mentoring initiative.
Rebecca is a mom of four (3 girls and a boy) and blogger.
Keith is a dad of three teenaged boys and helped found a prisoner mentorship program in Houston.
Keith: He first came to Dad 2.0 after Doug French called him and invited him to talk before the Houston conference after he founded the Great Dads Project. His sons were there in the car and heard the phone conversation (via the car’s bluetooth) and was excited and proud of the opportunity to speak here about what he does: coach men to be better dads, especially the ones who did not have a good model growing up. Has worked with about 600 men in prison who had about 2000 kids with whom they had no relationship at first.
Adrian: Esquire wants to capture the zeitgeist of masculinity. They devoted an issue in October ’14 about mentoring, and they’ve had articles about the struggles of boys today. They want to help change that via the mentoring initiative and turn inspiration in to action.
Rebecca: Has a son who’s nearly 10 and writes about the challenges of raising a boy vs. raising the 3 girls who are coming of age in a time when girl power is everywhere. Her son gravitated toward strong female characters in books, as there weren’t many strong characters to want to emulate that were male. Writes about raising healthy, empathic boys.
Jim: Raised three children, but the two boys were way harder than raising the two girls in the current times. Some stats from Esquire magazine: boys are more likely to drop out of school, get diagnosed with ADHD, and 12% of boys report injury from a weapon at school. Boys are 5x more likely to commit suicide than girls and 2x more likely to abuse alcohol.
Adrian: For years, men had all the opportunities in the country, and girls did not, but there still has been, and is, a decline in American boys. When they at Esquire talked to organizations about mentoring, they realized there were wait lists for boys of hundreds or thousands, as not enough men would mentor them. The motivations for volunteering between men and women are about the same, but women seem more willing to care and take action. The intensity of the desire to help is stronger with women. So, Esquire is working to “rebrand” mentoring.
Rebecca: Women tend to come together and discuss their feelings and problems. Women have a moment when they become a woman–when they have their period–and boys don’t. There’s not a moment when a boy becomes a man. When she graduated, the girls went off to careers, and most of the boys seemed to stay at the jobs they had in high school and not leave the home.
Keith: Girls are 100% more likely to get pregnant as teenagers than are boys. The fatherhood crises is causing all the men in prison. When dad is not there to fulfill a boy’s longing to grow up and become a man, that boy is lost. He heard an interview with a 65-year-old who teared up when he said the one thing he wanted to hear from his dad was “I’m proud of you,” but it never happened. Girls need to be assured they are loved, while boys need to hear their dads are proud of them. Girls tend to end up “in the arms of men” if they don’t get love from a dad. 71% of teenaged pregnancies can be traced to fatherlessness. Out of the 600 men he met with in prison, he can count on one hand the number who had a relationship with their fathers.
Jim: We all want to be people of value. As a dad of boys, it was critical for him to convince his boys that they matter to him. What is mentoring?
Adrian: Esquire is “rebranding” it because it doesn’t sound appealing if the image is an adult helping a kid with his homework in a dank library. It’s rewarding; it’s joyful; it’s fun. They want to make sure people aren’t afraid of mentoring. On their website, it discusses that the men are screened and vetted: mentoring.esquire.com. It’s not creepy old men.
Rebecca: She works with teens, and she talked to her husband about doing the same, but he was hesitant, because of how society views relationships between men and boys. They watched the Esquire tv show about it, and he signed up for the “Spark” program. He is a TV producer, and teenaged boys who are interested in doing that one day can learn about it as an apprentice. It didn’t have to be emotional; it’s teaching.
Adrian: Women often push kids to get mentored and are behind the large waitlists for it. It benefits girls and women, of course, when the boys have mentors who show them how to be a good man. David Granger has daughters, but he’s leading the charge at Esquire for mentorship.
q: Jim (@busydad): Phrasing it as “apprenticeship” will help, of course, since it sounds like Jedi training. Does word changing help?
Adrian: They are working on that. Word choice is important. Presenting the concept differently is certainly helping. Like, “Fuck off, I’m helping.” It’s energizing and invigorating to look at it like that.
q: Nathaniel (@Supermans_Dad): Is it harder to find mentors in the black community?
Keith: Predominantly worked with black and Latino men, and the fatherlessness issue has meant it’s hard to give what one does not have, so a man who’s not had a dad himself is going to make him feel inadequate to mentor another boy. A lot of men who are dying for approval are affirmation junkies and are drawn to where we can get praise, if there’s no dad, so they’re drawn to work, where they can get praise for doing well. A person like this cannot mentor a boy, if he hasn’t had a dad or been a dad himself. “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” is a great quote from Frederick Douglas. The best way to build strong children is to repair broken fathers.
q: Katherine Stone (@postpartumprog): Is it hard for a dad who’s busy at work and at home to feel comfortable doing that for another child instead of with his own kids? Are there programs where dads and kids can mentor together?
Adrian: It’s an emotional and time challenge. One can mentor while at work, like with the apprentice. Helping one’s on child is expected. Mentoring should be, too. It shouldn’t be exceptional to do that. They want mentoring to be a legal excuse from jury duty via The Mentoring Act! Spending time with children will mean they’re less likely to end up in the criminal justice system.
q: Vince Harriman (@vsherriman): He writes about etymology of science words, and mentoring comes from the Iliad, as Mentor was an advisory to Odysseus. Mentor would appear and offer words of wisdom from the elders. We can reclaim the word’s power by looking at its history and what it means.
comment: It can enrich a man’s (and his family’s) life to mentor others, as he has done with his son’s friend whose dad killed himself.
Rebecca: Her son noticed when P&G had the Olympic commercial featuring athletes thanking their moms for their athletic achievements, and this year’s Super Bowl showed how the pendulum has moved to show men/dads in a good light.
Adrian: There’s still a long way to go, and it’ll require a lot of discipline. What’s the switch that will make men get involved? They aren’t stepping up.
Keith: The program he was with screened applicants to pick men who had the desire to transform their lives. So, it was easier to work with prisoners than guys “on the outside,” because they were hungry for it. The culture is shifting with men’s portrayal and mental health, so it’s been easier to discuss the “father wound.” His honesty about his own issues with his dad helps. He wrote a book about it.
Adrian: Wants all of us to look at the Esquire mentoring website and find an organization to volunteer with today.
Rebecca: If you do it and write / blog, tell everyone about your experiences to encourage others and involve friends, etc. in your audience.
Keith: If you know all is not well within you, and it comes from your relationship with your dad, get help, as it will affect everything you do relationally. If you’re a blogger, please connect with him and would like to do a guest post on our blogs. If anyone wants to learn more about mentoring dads, he’ll put together a free webinar to help us do that.
Jim: At 3:30pm, there is a roundtable about mentoring.
**This live blog update provided by Michael (@dadcation).**