7 Ways to Teach Sons to be Kinder Out in the World


The Book of Dares: 100 Ways for Boys to Be Kind, Bold, and Brave is a conversation starter for parents to use to discuss so many issues facing young boys today. From healthy masculinity and relationships to gender equity and racial justice, co-authors Ted Bunch and Anna Marie Johnson Teague have distilled complicated issues into accessible fun dares for boys to try.

The book is based on 20-plus years of the work of A Call to Men, an organization working to transform society by promoting healthy, respectful manhood and offering trainings and educational resources to young men and boys. There's a free downloadable discussion guide for anyone needing help getting the conversation started.

An image of two boys laughing together.

In the meantime, parents are encouraged to share the Book of Dares with their boys and create some time to read together and discuss the dares. Here are a few to get you started.

Dare to Name Three Emotions You Felt Today

Did you know that there are dozens of emotions? The list gets pretty specific! But generally, we think of the major ones as anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy. Of these eight, how many have you felt recently?

Dare to jot down at least three emotions you felt today and how they affected you. For example, if you felt joy, what was the cause? Being able to identify your feelings will help you seek out the things that help you have positive emotions (like surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy), as well as how to handle the more difficult ones (like anger, fear, sadness, and disgust). This understanding makes up your emotional literacy, which is like a big book of tips and tricks that will help you express exactly how you feel and help you be a better problem solver.

Dare to Prove a Stereotype Wrong 

A stereotype is a super-simple idea or image of a person or thing based on the lowest common denominator. Like: Oh, you're a boy? Then you must be the class clown; the strong, silent type; the big shot; or the action hero. But you're more than that. There are many stereotypes about race, gender, age, religion, and ethnicity. The Man Box creates stereotypes that men and boys feel pressured to uphold, like the ones we've listed above.

This week, prove a stereotype wrong. Show that you're smart, sensitive, caring, and thoughtful. Being an action hero is cool—but you don't need to dodge burning cars or run to the rescue to prove you're brave. Instead, reach out to a friend or neighbor and offer your time to help them with something.

Dare to Make a New Friend Who Doesn’t Look Like You 

Open up your phone and scroll through recent pics of your friends. What does your group look like? Open up your most recent yearbook and flip through the pages. What does your school look like? Are you all mostly alike—meaning people of the same gender and race and from the same part of town? Or, when you look around, are you all pretty different?

Being part of a group that has lots of diversity makes you a well-rounded friend and a more confident person. It's also just fun to branch out and experience different cultures and traditions, try new foods, and listen to unfamiliar kinds of music. Try to make a new friend this semester who maybe doesn't look like you or share the same experiences, but who you'd like to get to know better.

Dare to Break Down the Man Box

The phrase man box describes the not-so-great ways in which boys are taught to be men. The Man Box tells boys that they should be strong, and that they're not allowed to be afraid or to cry. Too often, the Man Box can hold boys back—it's much too limiting. Boys are multi-layered human beings with a bunch of great qualities that make them good people.

This week, dare to break down the Man Box. Draw a box. Inside the box, write down the ways you have felt pressured to "man up," which is something boys are often told. Outside the box, write down all the things you love or enjoy that don't fit into the box. Focus on the words you've written outside the box and incorporate those qualities and activities into your everyday life so you can lead a healthy life.

Dare to Chip in For Equal Pay

Imagine this: you and your sister are asked to take turns doing the dishes each night for a month. At the end of the month, your parents promise to pay you both. Thirty days later, your sister is paid $30, but you only get $27. You did the exact same amount of work and did an equally good job, but she got more. How would that make you feel? Did you know that women are paid less than men for doing the same job? And that women who are Black and Latina are paid even less than white women? That's called the wage gap, and it's just one example of how women are valued less than men.

This week, ask your parents if the places they work pay women the same as men. Talk about what you can do as a family to help make pay equal.

Dare to Find a Shero

Do you have a hero? What about a shero? A shero is a female version of a male hero. Just like her male counterparts, she shows strength under pressure and is an example of what's possible. She's inspiring and triumphant.

Dare to find a shero who impresses and motivates you. Write down what you admire about that person. Find a picture of her to keep on your phone, on your computer, in your locker, or in your room as a reminder of why she's your shero.

Dare to Understand Your Own Privilege

Having privilege means that you were born with some sort of advantage that you didn't haven't to "earn." For example, because you are a boy, you have male (gender) privilege. If you're white, you have white (race) privilege. If your family has enough money for food, a place to live, and everything you need and want, you have financial privilege. Having privilege doesn't mean your life is easy. It simply means no one has questioned you or your ability because of your race, gender, or status.

Dare to look at your life and what you were born with and the circumstances you were raised in. Dare to understand your privilege and talk about how you can use it to help empower others who might not have the advantages you have. 

Text copyright © 2021 by A Call to Men.

By Ted Bunch and Anna Marie Johnson Teague

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