Boys Becoming Men: It Doesn’t Happen On Accident

Todd Mayfield is the co-founder at Fearless Men’s blog. He believes that manhood isn’t defined by pink vs. blue, being overtly sexual, how many chicks you get with, or being a total fool in public. He’s certain that manhood is defined by choices. Daily, weekly, yearly, over and over again. The choices to sharpen, refine, and grow.

To Todd, manhood is taking responsibility and living with the consequences.

Are You a Man or Still a Child?

I grew up in the Bay Area of Northern California. My elementary school looked like a run-down inner-city project. It was pretty beat up. We still had tan bark to soften our fall from monkey bars that I still to this day deem dangerous.

Nearing my teenage years, my parents moved us (older brother included) out of the mesh of cities into the central valley, and lived in the suburbs for ten years. My childhood was upgraded by Super Nintendo and sand at the playground.

Starting junior high was tough. I was a tall, awkward, lanky 6th-grader. In fact, I think other kids called me “Uncoordinated.” It was brutal. The other junior high pretty-boys with nicer shoes and better basketball games owned the land. A slow-witted introvert like me didn’t stand a chance.

Fortunately, one cocky kid tried to beat me up one day towards the end of 6th grade. This moment changed my life. I won. He walked away bleeding. And I walked away with more than 15 minutes of fame. I was famous THE REST OF THE MONTH. The next year I kept getting into fights and kept emerging victorious. But I never became a bully. I just never backed down. I grew more confident, but ultimately I was still pretty much the same introverted kid.

I went to high school with most of those same classmates and never got in another fight. But people were still doosh’s. Still self-absorbed adolescents.

Here’s the weird part: some of them still are. I moved to Texas for 8 years and now I live in San Diego. But, at 29, I meet guys my age that still haven’t emerged from adolescence.

How is it possible to not emerge from high school or university a man? If someone has left home and been in the workforce for a decade, they should have attained a deep sense of responsibility, correct? Why don’t 21st century males become men and take care of their own? Get (or stay) out of debt, raise their kids well, take care of their wife, and maybe even their parents and siblings if they need a helping hand? For me, it was challenging. It wasn’t automatic. Growing into manhood was a choice, a continued commitment day by day of who I am going to be and who I am becoming.

I don’t have all the moral and philosophical answers for you. I could probably muse for a few pages and give you the answers to the meaning of life, where Sesame street is, and how to punch someone in the throat in case you get attacked while playing basketball as a 7th grader. But the World Wide Web might explode and you wouldn’t be able to read awesome blogs like Work Save Live anymore.

Let me say this, before we get to practical rather than philosophical points: boys don’t become men on accident. It’s a choice. A series of right choices. Consecutive, consistent decisions that are not self-centered. They are others centered, and a man feels an internal burden to serve others and live for something greater.

Each of us has to wrestle with that, and don’t try to do it alone. Do it with community and family around you. Lone Rangers die young.

Boys become men not just with inner fortitude, but with practical action and wisdom. Here are some leading points I think will help us check ourselves, and lend a mentoring hand to someone else on the journey of manhood.

How to Lead Your Household

I’m not here to write about motherhood or being a woman. I’m not an expert on that, and can’t really write on the subject. But I can write about the positives and negatives I’ve seen from fathers.

Live with understanding

Having a strong hand or a harsh voice with your wife or children is a way of the past gentlemen. Bouts of anger and a tone of abrasiveness is poison to a household. Take it as your responsibility to be a nurturer. It’s not just a woman’s role. We are to cultivate and mentor our kids into something greater.

Be nurturing to your wife. Encourage her in her dreams and goals. Does she desire to go back to school? Have a career path? Volunteer for an organization? Talk it through and dream with her. Fostering her dreams will only bring you too closer.

A man I once looked up to said this about his wife and him, “She is the beautiful, budding flower. I am the dirt.” He wasn’t getting down on men, he’s saying that he wants to be the nurturing and life-giving soil to the woman he loves.

Have a vision for your family

What is the character you want your children to have? Exemplify that to your kids. You can’t deposit into other’s something that you’re not.

Don’t live a life of passivity

Kids spot a lazy dad before they know what laziness is.

“Dad let’s wrestle!”

“No, I’m too tired/watching TV.”

Show a true, energized interest in your fam. Make the investment in them now, or pay the price later.

Income-earning responsibilities

There is more than one valid opinion on this. And your family has to come to their own conclusion. The ultimate goal is that with combined-or singular-income you are paying all the bills and saving a healthy nest egg. Who should bear the weight of this? The man or the woman?

I write the following to reader’s of both gender:

There are so many factors to consider, and here’s what I would encourage you to process through and decide for yourself:

A. Just one of us earns the money.

Is it the man or the woman? Is it based solely on who is going to make more income?

B. Both of us earn the money.

Would you both feel satisfied if the woman made more money than the man? If you feel dissatisfied, is this an internal feeling of the husband alone, or is it because of something that’s been stated by the wife?

I once dated someone who made about $15,000 more than me. It didn’t bother me at all. She told me that it wouldn’t bother her as long as it didn’t bother me. This was an odd statement to make in my mind. And she actually brought up the subject multiple times. It never got to the point where I felt insecure, but I did communicate that if that meant something to her she was going to have to get over it. I certainly didn’t want her making less money!

Emotional support for your wife

If we’ve emerged from adolescence we should have the emotional consistency to provide emotional support to our partner. When we still live in the teenage zone-irresponsibility, not investing in ourselves properly, filling our lives with trivial meaning-it will be hard to provide the relationship strength our significant other needs us to provide.

Taking part in the financial decisions of the household

Neither spouse should feel the lone burden of making all the financial decisions. Nor should one spouse be left in the dark of what’s happening with the finances. If one person takes a stronger load with the financial responsibilities of the household, that person should be very open, clear and consistent with where the finances are at and bring that person in to the financial goal-setting towards the future.

Shared household responsibilities

If you find yourself getting “nagged” or even “begged” to get more stuff done around the house a day of reckoning is coming! Don’t ignore this communication. If you’ve promised to fulfill some honey-do’s then get your butt in gear. If you’re frustrated, it’s time to utilize your communication ability and get aligned with expectations.

Don’t think you’re the only one that likes to mow the lawn. Talk about what you don’t mind doing and what they don’t mind doing. You can each first volunteer for the stuff you like to do. After that, be sacrificial in volunteering for the stuff that your spouse doesn’t like to do.

Boys…it’s Time to Become Men

As we’ve emerged from adolescence, we must continue to make a concerted effort to continue to develop ourselves. That’s not just with career development, but with relationship development as well. If you’re improving your character, and aiming to improve your relationship with your spouse, you won’t just be a boy, but a man. Step up, take responsibility, love your wife, and enjoy the journey together.

Editor’s Note: While I’m on vacation, it’s been a HUGE help to have a few bloggers provide some great guest posts in my absence. I want to specifically thank Todd for writing up an excellent post today and I want to encourage all of my readers to visit their site when you’re finished here (Fearless Men). This topic they’ve written about was something I specifically asked them to discuss as I think it’s imperative for all men out there to understand what it takes to truly be one. Our world is ridden with children masquerading in men’s bodies – “adults” that have yet to actually grow up – and that fact plays itself out in wives that have been abandoned by their husbands (emotionally in most cases), families that lack leadership, children that don’t have real fathers, and faithless/lost men chasing after things other than He who deserves it. As Todd said: step up. Be the husband your wife needs and the father your child deserves.

{40 Comments}

  1. Suzanne says:

    Congrats on a courageous post. It takes a lot of guts to ask these questions and bring these issues out into the open. What I love about my husband is his willingness to grow himself and our relationship.

  2. Attempt #2 – man captcha can be tough :)

    I feel abundantly fortunate to have a hubby willing to be my “dirt.” I’m hoping to return the favor when my flower starts to bloom. Thanks for the analogy, I think it will come in handy as we equip our children to follow their dreams

    • Andy says:

      Mandy, sorry about the captcha…it is extremely annoying. When I become a little more tech-savvy, I might find a new comment form for people to use.

      It’s great your husband is willing to be your dirt. Too often that isn’t the case and it’s important that men provide an environment where they’re supporting their wives and encouraging them to grow in multiple facets.

  3. Terry says:

    Todd,

    Thanks for sharing that great article and the personal information about your growing up.

    I think your experience standing up to those bullies is an analogy to what fathers must do. They can never let their guard down, and must keep putting the welfare of wife and children first.

    I have two boys and when you mentioned that parents watch TV instead of engaging in activities with their children, that really rings true. I used to do it. Now, my philosophy is that if they suggest that we do any activity together, no matter what I’m doing, my answer is always, “lets go.”

    Time passes by so quickly, I don’t want to miss a minute of it with my kids.

    • Wow that’s a great principle to live by. As soon as your kids offer an idea, take them up on it. If more dads lived like that they would certainly create a better connection with their sons and daughters.

  4. It’s not just men. Everybody tries to put off growing up it seems. I spend a lot of my time having to deal with men and women that would love to live with Peter Pan…

  5. I love this post, and the premise behind it. Great job! But as a side note, it is spelled DOUCHE ;)

  6. I’m 28 (as are most of my mates) and they all still act like they are 16. They can’t understand how I am married or that I have a baby on the way. The ideas just seem so far away to them, it’s something that grown ups do.

    I keep trying to explain to them that they are the ones who aren’t “normal” and that its really time to start thinking about growing up.

  7. Great post and nice job sharing it here. I think that it is a choice, but some people never make it. I see it at work all the time, and it is pretty depressing sometimes to watch.

    • One thing that’s tough about observing it in the work environment is there’s not a whole lot you can do. Of course you can be an example. But you can’t really confront the issue head on whereas if one of your close buddies needs a knock in the head you can do that.

  8. I’m not sure if this tendency is something new in our society or has existed forever, but I tend to lean towards the former. For some reason today, some men are not growing up and I think it has a lot to do with the example and expectations modeled for them growing up. I agree with Kim, the cycle can break at any time – a choice just needs to be made.

    • That’s an interesting thought. I would like to find out more about men in history. Is this recent apathy a new condition, or a common one throughout time?

      • Pauline says:

        I agree with Andy that it has become more obvious lately. Men were maybe just as apathetic but staying at mum’s until you were 30 was not an option. Many Gen Yers don’t seem to think it’s true. Parents don’t have many expectations, some will say “I won’t push my kids like my parents did” and accept laziness from them. From dating experience, I found many boys grow into men much later than girls grow into women.

  9. What a great post. I have mates who still act like they are young teenagers or in the early twenties. Will they grow up , who knows? They fly by the seat of their pants, don’t want to work or get an education, complain about how the world dealt them bad cards bla bla bla. In all honesty I grew up young.. I learned from my parents, and I’m happy I did. I came from a very loving home and my parents are still very much in love and married (rare these days) with the divorce rate through the roof. There was no arguing and fighting.. and I was always inspired to follow my dreams. When I told me mum about my girlfriend at the time my now wife who lived half way across the world she said “If you are in love with her than go”. She didn’t once crush my dreams of love or buying my first home so young. I had chores growing up and my dad did all sorts of work around the house. My mom cooked homemade meals everyday. I am this way today because I learned from them. I became the man I am by choice but also because I knew that was the way it’s supposed to be. I invested in me and now I invest in us. Of course I add my own personality to my life but generally I feel very lucky and hope one day to pass all of what I learned on to our child if and when we have one. Mr.CBB

  10. I don’t have any knowledge of going from boyhood to manhood, but it does stand out when you see a man who is selfish, childish, and basically a bully who wonders why his marriage didn’t work out and why the kids are in trouble. I think lots of men follow in the footsteps of their fathers like you said. If your Dad wasn’t that great, I don’t think that gives you a pass on being a good man. Cycle has to end somewhere.

    • I agree. Unfortunately it seems that in music we often hear the message of bitterness towards fathers, but the unwillingness to man up and take responsibility and break the cycle. I think at the least if we as a society expect more from men and celebrated the good ones and those that are striving to improve, men will improve.

  11. Holy cow this is a great post! And I certainly agree. There are far too many boys living in the bodies of men in their 20’s and 30’s pretending to be adults. Yet they take no responsibility for their actions and don’t give to those around them who need them the most. Its very sad. I was a young Dad, and no one can tell me differently that the point where you decide to be a man is when you make the choice to unquestionably provide for those you love.

  12. AverageJoe says:

    Bullseye. If you’re being “nagged” to help out around home, I think you forgot that a) it’s your family and; b) it’s your home. Take care of your home and family and they’ll take care of you.

  13. Vanessa says:

    Ha! Try dating these “men”. My friend and I constantly lament the fact that there are no real men out there — just boys in grown-up bodies. Great article!

  14. Right on, man, right on. Couldn’t agre more with all of it. Actually, the “harsh voice” part I did have problems with in the past. Man, did I have a temper growing up. ANd I still had a temper when my wife and I married. BUt over the years, I’ve cooled off, and things are happier. Why yell when you can ask nicely? Why yell when you can think twice and figure out yourself why things aren’t like you wanted them? Why yell when you can say thanks for all the great stuff your wife did get to that day? I think I was married before I became a man and started taking responsibilty for my wife and girls. I’m glad I’m there and stopped having childish tantrums because my girls will need a man for a father, not a hot-tempered little boy.

  15. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    Well you just solidified my annoyance with my husband! Excellent post and many great points…now I need to figure how to get him to read this.

    • Print it out and put it in his toolbox. Or truck seat. Or when you’re cleaning up dinner, pick up his plate and put down the printed out post. :-)

      • TB you’re too funny man.
        Mom of Two-do you and your husband talk much about how method/thinking about how your raise your kids. I don’t want to presume I’m the right person to give marriage advice, but what if you brought up a conversation on what type of guys you’d want your daughters to marry/date? You could mention you were reading this post on “Boys Becoming Men” that helped prompt the thought, and that you’d like him to read it and that you’d want to hear his thoughts.

        • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

          Honestly he is a great dad…I was just cranky bc I had my wisdom teeth pulled on Saturday and he suddenly fell ill…leaving me to be in agony doing everything…bc she boys are sick that is when they are the biggest babies! So as a dad he is great…

          Biggest issues are emotional support for me…he is a very non-emotional person, so he can’t understand my emotions and often rather than just listening, he tells me my feelings are silly or tries to make me feel better. I just want to cry darn it!

          He came from a home where his step father gave him an allowance (even as an adult) and paid all his bills. I work in the financial industry so he let me handle everything the same way. He doesn’t have specific goals and just wants to spend money on whatever he wants. We had to go back to an allowance system bc he would overspend and would have no idea how to pay bills. Even asking him to make a payment at the daycare is a hassle.

          When I try to explain that he needs to know in case something happens to me, he just jokes that his next wife will take care of it. If I try to tell him I need more from him emotionally he gets defensive…oh well!

  16. The said truth is that kids learn from what they see and not from what you tell them. A great example I could use is how my son has a love for sneakers. I never said anything to him, he just see me looking them up a few years ago and now he does the same thing.

    You have to be understanding but most come from your actions. Like you stated, kids don’t know what laziness is, they just follow what you do. Being a man is a way of life and a change that takes place. Not every boy is up to the challenge or have the right people in place to show them what to become. Be responsible, understanding, be willing to compromise and willing to change.

    • You make a good point in that not every boy has someone showing them the right example. In fact, I venture that most don’t. Now that doesn’t abdicate anyone of responsibility. But as we have more men being men of character to show the younger guys an example, I think a bigger portion of them will step up.

  17. Great post. I could not agree more. I think society as a whole expects us as men to be immature and free from taking responsibility. I always shake my head when I see fellow brethren fulfilling that stereotype. I completely agree that it’s about making choices. It’s about making those tough calls, putting on the “big boy pants” as some may call it, and leading your family or becoming a productive citizen.

    • “Big boy pants” are my favorite style. It’s interesting that we perceive “society” as expecting men to be immature and free. I think there’s a lot of reasons behind our perception, and a lot of truth to it. And there’s a lot of reasons why as a collective we don’t herald honor, respect and integrity in men (and women) as we used to.

  18. Thad P says:

    It is a choice. And you’ll still see some of those guys being adolescent when they are 40 or 50 too.

    It’s really sad too, because we need people to be responsible. Too much hurt, too many broken lives, too much pain because too many people abdicate on personal responsibility.

    • It’s absolutely true. It’s the pinnacle of selfishness. As men, I think we should, to at least a small extent, feel responsible to find a way to help other men change. It may not be easy being acquainted with guys abdicating their responsibility, but some guys need a friendly kick in the butt to help them even consider making that “passage.”

      It’s not too late when men are old, but it’s a lot easy if you can catch a boy when he’s in junior high, high school, or even in his 20’s!

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