Raising a Gentlemen: Helping Boys Transition into Adulthood

Raising a Gentlemen: Helping Boys Transition into Adulthood

Helping your son, nephew, or younger brother transition into adulthood is actually not a process that starts at puberty. The reality is, bodies change but values do not. Parents have a HUGE job to educate children at different levels as they age, but basic principles and values do not change, they become a deeper part of who the child is.

It’s like my father said when I was a young boy, “Should I prepare you for marriage now or the day before you get married?” Of course, by then it is too late! Education starts from infancy.

Becoming an adult man that is a gentleman is a process that starts before “the talk” when bodies, hormones, and emotions go through any kind of drastic development on the road to adulthood. And it’s not just about firm handshakes and holding doors for others, although both make good habits. 

But don’t panic if your child is on the cusp of that plunge into his teenage years and beyond. We are all on the road to develop ourselves and there is no surefire formula to make anyone perfect overnight. However, there are some tips that can help you and your family support each other in becoming more courteous, honorable, and considerate towards others.

Many boys may not be eager for a sit down with their parents for a heart-to-heart, but consider that they do need to feel your support in other ways.

1. Make a habit of acknowledging the good things he does on a regular basis. Praise him when he helps out around the house or takes care of his siblings.

2. Know who his friends are. You can’t entirely control who your child becomes friends with, but it is important from a young age to develop trust between you and your son and his friends by getting to know them from time to time. Ask about how they are doing and show interest in and support for the healthy activities they participate in. 

3. Have a good role model that isn’t a parent around. Your son may not find out how cool you parents are until he’s full-grown, so it’s helpful to have a slightly older male role model around for him to emulate. Young boys (and girls) look up to older kids and having someone around that treats him with respect and who models good behavior will naturally encourage him to emulate the same behavior. It’s called peer pressure and, in this case, it can be a beautiful thing.

Remember, change happens over time and with consistency. As most children will notice as they age, as I have, we get to know our parents better because we start to see their reflection in ourselves. I quoted my father earlier, something I find myself doing more often now. What we will learn in time is that it’s not just words that are quoted, but actions, a far more telling indication of how my father raised me.

Seeking Out the Divine

Seeking Out the Divine

Religious and spiritual leaders must lead this peace process. Instead of advocating their own narrow doctrinal perspective, they must help all people of faith to recognize the shared values and principles that come from our common heritage in one God.

 —Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon (Global Peace Festival 2008) 

Seeking out the Divine

The founder of the Family Peace Association, Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon, has always emphasized the central importance of placing God at the center of our families, communities and nation, and world. He has also advocated for the special role of spiritual leaders and faith communities in doing this:

We have discovered that relations between faith traditions are not about mere toleration of one another’s prayers and rituals. A true interfaith experience is a celebration of the core principles that bind all God-affirming people together as one family.

It is with this understanding that we seek to provide a platform for like-minded partners to collaborate for the cause of building strong, God-centered families. Through attuning ourselves to look for spiritual truths in everyday places and through sharing the wisdom of our respective faith traditions, we hope to become ever-more conscious of how we need to live our daily lives. In this, faith communities need not approach one another as rivals but as brothers and sisters of faith in the journey of building greater spiritual consciousness in our nation and world.

Faith and wisdom traditions have always played a seminal role in helping people explore the meaning of life and individual purpose in life. The many people who go through life seeking meaning and purpose find them in his or her faith community. Whatever word that we might use: Ultimate Reality, the Absolute Being, the Transcendent, Brahman, Creator, etc., when we root our origins in the Creator, we then become grounded in the idea that we have a purpose. In order to know that purpose, we need to know then, the Creator, God. Different traditions may know this Being by different names but for our purposes, we use the term God to represent something that is ineffable and could never be fully expressed in words.

On a practical level, becoming spiritually conscious means to become more and more attuned to the spiritual laws and nature of life and then to align ourselves accordingly. Dr. Moon’s father, Rev. Sun Myung Moon outlined the most practical way to do this: in our families. In True Families: Gateway to Heaven, he explains:

Whether it concerns issues in your family or problems facing the nation or the world, the same formula applies: we must deal with relationships to those above and below, on the right and on the left, in front and in back. […] This is the case whether you are relating to your parents or your children, to your husband or your wife, or to your brothers and sisters.

True Families, Gateway to Heaven, pp 9-10

It is in the family that we learn to love and care for our mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles. It is within this network of love and care that allows us to develop our character and cultivate emotional ties with other people as well as learn how to deal with others. What we learn in the family we can then extend to those around us:

The same applies as you relate to the nation and world. Your family should take the lead in your nation to embrace families in the east and west and north and south and encourage all families to do the same. Your family should embrace the civilizations of East and West and of North and South and embrace all the people of the world as your brothers and sisters. This is the way to bring about one world family.

True Families, Gateway to Heaven, pp 9-10

To do this, we challenge ourselves to create plans to practice and embody God’s eternal truths in our everyday family life as concrete actions, behaviors, and habits. The following is an activity to develop our spiritual consciousness – to seek out God in our everyday lives together as a family. 

 Activity

Creating Healthy Family Habits: Seeking the Divine Image

The steps to this activity are really very simple.

  1. First, plan out time for your family to go out into nature. The setting doesn’t matter so long as it is in nature – the forest, a beach, a field – somewhere you can ‘study’ nature. The purpose of this time is one in which we seek out reflections of the “Divine Image” in nature.
  2. Take something for each person to take personal notes, questions, sketches, etc. While it’s fine to talk as you go along, you want to make sure that you don’t lose focus on the activity of investigating.
  3. Some general themes to observe:
    • What does nature need to grow?
    • What limits growth?
    • What are the different stages of growth?
    • What is the general dynamic of life in an ecosystem?
    • Did you observe important roles each species plays in the ecosystem?
    • Did you observe instances where the energy did not flow (air, water) – what did that look like?
    • If or when you observe “invasive species” – what are the qualities that make them invasive in that ecosystem?
  4. Then, to wrap up you want to take some time to share with one another your observations and questions. What patterns did you see?

This might be a bit awkward in the beginning and we encourage you to try it in different ways until it starts to feel more natural. For some people, it is like training a muscle and we need time and consistency to see or feel results.

It will also take time to be able to draw lines of connection between observations made about nature and the laws that govern nature and the laws that govern the human world. These types of shared experiences together as a family are important as they set a basis for which to later explain lessons from the natural world to our spiritual lives.

The more we engage and learn to share and explore with one another about life, universal laws, growth and nature the easier it becomes to share on anything and everything else. We encourage you to treasure these moments and make efforts to make it a central part of your lives together as a family.

For all these reasons and more, this is an activity that can be repeated without end. In fact, all of the activities we include in this book is of that nature. And every time the activity is done, a new layer of knowledge, consciousness, skill, etc. is added – we ourselves have become different. In that way, every time we do an activity, in some sense we are different people from those who did the activity before!

For an approach for younger kids, click here.

Storytelling Brings the Family Together

Storytelling Brings the Family Together

Parents and elders have been storytellers since the dawn of humankind, passing on wisdom, knowledge, caution, or simply entertainment. And what is amazing is that we cannot grow out of being the listener. There is always something we can learn from in the words and stories of others.

Have you ever watched your younger sibling, maybe your students, niece or nephew, or even your own child as they were discovering that those beautiful depictions of their hero or heroine on epic adventures were not always fantasies woven in their storyteller’s mind, but rather the ability to interpret scribbles on a page? In wonder, they grasp the book in their own hands, squinting and proudly declaring, “Now I will tell the story to you!” Made all the more adorable when the entire book is upside down.

Children are drawn to the sound of language, learning to love being read to before even noticing the existence of printed words. Reading books out loud to children is essential to stimulating imagination, creativity, and comprehension skills in preparation to become the storytellers themselves.

Reading with others is a great bonding activity. It’s a chance to bring up topics in the story and hear how the child is doing, how she interprets the world, her dreams, and aspirations. Children (and adults!) automatically find the commonality and differences between themselves and characters in a story. It helps to ask questions and engage with your young listener when you can or just relax and enjoy the reading session because even the act of reading together will benefit everyone involved. 

It is also an opportunity to create a family ritual. Intentionally spending time to read and learn together feeds into our personal excellence both inside and outside the home while building a common language, so to speak, and points of reference between family members.

So, go ahead, read together and share stories, from books on science and history to tales about dragons and lands far away. Incorporate diversity and listen to what that special child in your life is interested in reading about as they grow because whatever the topic, they are bonding, expanding their knowledge and vocabulary, enhancing concentration skills, and learning to love learning!

Alternatives to Screen Time

Alternatives to Screen Time

Ah, the convenience of technology. Smartphones, tablets, entertainment subscriptions, and online video streaming is making it easier to keep kids busy when mom and dad are working hard running to work, taking care of other siblings, cooking meals, or anything else on the endless task of keeping the family healthy, wealthy and wise.

In an age where some jokingly refer to the TV as “the babysitter,” it’s beginning to become difficult to remember a time without our modern conveniences. Some may furrow their brows at the idea of the access children have to technology and entertainment. “Kids these days!” they exclaim as they see an oblivious teen almost crash head on to a street pole on the sidewalk with their eyes on their phone.

Kids these days…

Parents and children playing video games together

What about kids these days? Kids these days are great! In a world that sometimes likes to take the pessimistic view of modern technology, let us take a different approach.

The truth is, technology itself is value-neutral. There are great ways and absolutely terrible ways to utilize it, depending on the values developed by each person within their family. Technology itself is not bad. We can talk with and even see loved ones from halfway around the world and have an endless library of knowledge at our fingertips thanks to modern technology!

However, it is also important to recognize that too much screen time can adversely affect our children’s appreciation of the world they live in. Instead of focusing on what limitations we can set on children when it comes to technology, we can think about alternatives to screen time that you can participate in as a family.

Here are some things you can encourage as an alternative to screen time. Some activities don’t even require more than the child herself. Encouraging kids to find creativity and contentment in unaccompanied activities (that don’t involve a screen) will help them be self-motivated to mature and expand their skills, knowledge, and creativity.

  • Family game night: board games, card games, charades— nothing like some friendly competition to spark some energy.
  • Exercise, teambuilding, fun… what’s not to like? Parents can teach kids how to play or encourage them to sign up in a community team.
  • Go to the park: from playgrounds to National Parks, parks get the family outdoors for some fresh air and exercise
  • Kids saying they’re bored? Tell them to take a hike… and go with them of course. Don’t forget to dress for the weather and bring some tasty snacks. For younger kids, go on a simple nature walk to a more level-ground trail.
  • Arts and crafts: There is an endless array of possibilities online, including holiday and educational themed activities. Need a creativity “renaissance”? You can sit down with your child and draw or paint a portrait of each other.
  • Toys that build: Blocks, logs, gears, you name it— stackable/buildable toys promote creativity and problem-solving, not to mention it’s cool to just build the tallest tower ever.
  • Baking together with mom and daughter

    Cook together. Have a picky eater? Learn more about your child’s taste (while helping them build an essential life skill) by picking a recipe and cooking together. Involving them in the process might also help them appreciate the hard work others put into their own meals and make them more likely to finish what’s on their plate. They were the master chef after all.

  • Read. Read. (Okay, maybe this one will have a screen— looking at you, tablet owners) There are SO many fantastic reasons to read together with young children and to encourage silent reading for older children.
  • Have multiple children at your house? Whether they are all yours or their friends as well, you do not have to resort to a movie to please the masses. Here’s something fun. Encourage them to create a skit to be performed in front of a prestigious audience (that’s you, mom and dad). Let them borrow clothes and create props with arts and crafts supplies… or their sibling’s favorite stuffed animal, with permission of course.
  • Puzzles! From jigsaws to sodoku, puzzles are nice, usually calm, activities to stimulate the brain and give you a little piece (get it?) and quiet.
  • Have a jam session. If you have a little musician in the house, practice some songs together and perform for the rest of the family. Music has so many benefits for children of all ages. Even if you don’t want to risk an expensive instrument quite yet, for little fingers you can create homemade music makers at home.
  • Got a green thumb? Get out in the garden. Some kids love getting in the dirt and watching life grow day by day with the seed they got to plant themselves. Bonus: harvesting vegetables or fruits is a wonderful experience itself and provides delicious, fresh produce for the whole family.

There’s a big, wide world of adventure outside your screen. What’s on your list?

Leading My Pack

Leading My Pack

Dad was away a lot this summer.

He had a number of very large projects that took him away to the other side of the world for months at a time.

When he was away from home, he missed his wife and baby badly. His son was not quite a year old. He missed the feel of baby’s weight in his arms at night. He missed the drool and toothless grins that greeted him when he walked through the door at night. He missed his wife’s voice and smiles.

This year was difficult. Things that he usually could count on, things he thought would already be worked out by this time in the game, were still up in the air.

There was a point where even he, the perpetual optimist, wondered if he would be able to pull off this year’s programs.

On one such evening, after a hard and seemingly fruitless day, he called home to check in. His wife talked about baby’s latest milestones. Baby was trying solids now, and finally learning to move forward when he crawled. It was good to hear baby’s squeal and gurgles in the background. “Thanks dad, for all that you do,” his wife said before saying goodbye.

Before he clicked off his phone, Dad saw the wallpaper of his wife and son smiling out at him. “My son is depending on me,” dad thought.

He was being asked to trailblaze unknown territory, just as the leader of a pack at the turn of the season. In the front of the pack, dad was being asked to face his insecurities and fears. At times he felt lost, inside and out. But it was up to him to embrace his fear, overcome his uncertainty, and try every route in order to find new opportunities. Someday, baby would have to do the same when he led his own pack in an uncertain world.

Right now, baby’s trailblazing consisted of moving two feet forward and trying to swallow butternut squash. But soon, he would need to learn self-control and self-sacrifice, build strong relationships and eventually tackle social issues in school, his community, his world. At those times, dad’s advice and example would be critical.

Dad took a deep breath, “I can do this,” he whispered. “If I can, so will you.” He flipped off the light for the night, his heart full of resolve and optimism that no matter what faced him the next day, he would find a way to make success, even if it seemed impossible.

He would lead the pack to greener pastures.

Baby was watching him.

Love in Nature

Love in Nature

As parents, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a love for and time in nature.

Since moving to Japan, we’ve become attuned to the seasons based around the things we can gather and catch. Summer is long-awaited, and despite the abundance of mosquitoes, we look forward to the season as a time of beetle and cicada catching. In the fall, we look forward to gathering acorns and gingko leaves to turn into crafts and toys to proudly display on our shelves. In spring we go crabbing and in late summer we look for crayfish. And of course, in winter we dream of the advent of spring, all the while hoping for a rare glimpse of snow.

In nature, we see the natural rhythms and patterns of life. There are no “social constructs” or of “conditioning.” Nature is what it is; nature makes no excuses, there is no room for debate.

It is this kind of classroom that we want our children to learn the “bigger picture” and to see, experience and interact with the “laws of nature and of nature’s God.” It is in the natural world that we can seek out facets of the “Divine image” and to understand that we are a part of a larger ecosystem. In nature, everything has its place and role. It is where we might learn that the most harmful behavior is the kind that does not understand its place. The “invasive species” that live and eat without regard to its surrounding environment creates a blight that must be addressed. We can also see how it’s in the spaces where air and water aren’t able to flow and bring in change that things grow rotten.

The family explores the outdoor environment

Change and movement allow for growth. And, there is beauty in knowing how the smallest mosquitoes and even the microscopic bacteria underfoot contribute to the entire ecosystem.

It is because of this understanding that many of the FPA programs are designed in God’s greatest classroom, nature. It is here that things are not directly taught but rather become understood through observation and experience.

Whatever the season, parents can cultivate a love of nature in their children, through books, songs, stories but above all, through giving them the gift of experiences in nature.

Creating Healthy Family Habits: Seeking Truth in Nature

The steps to this activity are really very simple.

  • First, plan out time for your family to take some time in nature. The setting doesn’t matter so long as it is in nature – the forest, a beach, a field – somewhere you can ‘study’ nature. The purpose of this time is one in which we seek out reflections of the “Divine Image” in nature.
  • Take something for each person to take personal notes, questions, sketches, etc. While it’s fine to talk as you go along, you want to make sure that you don’t lose focus on the activity of investigating.
  • Some general themes to observe:
    • Nature crafts inspired from a family trip.

      What does nature need to grow?

    • What limits growth?
    • What are the different stages of growth?
    • What is the general dynamic of life in an ecosystem?
    • Did you observe important roles each species plays in the ecosystem?
    • Did you observe instances where the energy did not flow (air, water) – what did that look like?
    • If or when you observe “invasive species” – what are the qualities that make them invasive in that ecosystem?
  • Then, to wrap up you want to take some time to share with one another your observations and questions. What patterns did you see?

This might be a bit awkward in the beginning and we encourage you to try it in different ways until it starts to feel more natural. For some people, it is like training a muscle and we need time and consistency to see or feel results.

It will also take time to be able to draw lines of connection between observations made about nature and the laws that govern nature and the laws that govern the human world. These types of shared experiences together as a family are important as they set a basis for which to later explain lessons from the natural world to our spiritual lives. The more we engage and learn to share and explore with one another about life, universal laws, growth and nature the easier it becomes to share on anything and everything else. We encourage you to treasure these moments and make efforts to make it a central part of your lives together as a family.

Father and daughter spend quality time together in nature

For all these reasons and more, this is an activity that can be repeated without end. In fact, all of the activities we include in this book is of that nature. And every time the activity is done, a new layer of knowledge, consciousness, skill, etc. is added – we ourselves have become different. In that way, every time we do an activity, in some sense we are different people from those who did the activity before!

This activity can be applied to many ages, including teens and older. Experience in nature can help detach from the distractions of life and connect to the divine.