Stop Telling Your Kids They Are Not Doing It Right
"Whether you’re hammering a nail, gutting quail or sculling ale – there’s a fine line between doing it right and doing it your way."
“You’re not doing it right”, the perennial catch-cry of domineering fathers to their inexperienced sons. The implication of this throw-away line is that dad’s always right- but hang on, what if there was another way to do it? A way that had never even been tried out?
Whether you’re hammering a nail, gutting quail or sculling ale – there’s a fine line between doing it right and doing it your way. What I’m getting at is this; young men’s creativity and sense of independent thought can be undermined if they are too often told “You’re not doing it right” by their father or father figures. And all too frequently, this phrase is followed by nada, zilch, zippo. It’s not “You’re not doing it right because this way is better because…because”, it’s “You’re not doing it right, I’ll do it”. This teaches young men to submit to their fathers, instead of challenging them and carving their own paths.
Let’s take a look at some of history’s most respected men. From Leonardo Da Vinci to Martin Luther King Jr, one thing is evident – these men were beholden to none – they trod their own paths. I’m pretty sure they weren’t always “doing it right”. Da Vinci’s innovations in the arts were bound only by the shortness of the human lifespan and Martin Luther King Jr mercurial persona remains a timeless example of masculine grace and speechmaking skill. Of course, these examples are the top of the spectrum and not everybody can expect to reach these dizzying heights. However, we can apply their principles of free-thought and self-belief to both ourselves and our young men.
"If we want communities full of conscientious and open-minded young men, we have to foster the attitudes and values that sow the seeds for real growth"
When we talk about freedom of expression and creativity, our minds instantly revert to the arts; writing, the visual arts, music, drama etc. Depending on where you hail from, these things can either be the very best of qualities, or the most useless, lolly-gagging waste of time – pure folly for any young man to pursue seriously. Casting aspersions on the latter definition would be futile, after all everyone is entitled to their opinion and invariably, these opinions are deeply ingrained in us due to where and how we were raised. In short, instead of ridiculing this oversight, we need to fuel our young men with a broader definition of what creativity or freedom of expression can mean.
This means encouraging independent and innovative behaviour in our young men’s (and women for that matter) formative years. It means allowing for a good deal of error without the self-righteous face of disappointment that so often accompanies it. If we want communities full of conscientious and open-minded young men, we have to foster the attitudes and values that sow the seeds for real growth; compassion, respect, creativity and harmony (among other things). After all, perhaps the worst and most damaging thing we could have told our younger selves is that “we’re not doing it right”, right?
The unavoidable fact is that “Not doing it right” is nine tenths of life and if that doesn’t resonate with you then maybe, just maybe, you just aren’t doing it right…