Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thomas Matlack: Building Humility

Today we are once again joined by Thomas Matlack of the Good Men Project. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Matlack about the importance of building humility amongst kids. It isn't a character trait often discussed in education reform conversations, but the emotional well being of our children should be at the top of the priority list. After all, without a well balanced emotional outlook in life, their physical achievements will not hold proper significance.
We dedicate a lot of time in our child rearing culture to building self esteem, but how much time is too much time to spend heaping praise onto a child? In a culture that wants everyone to be a winner and receive a trophy, a star or a pat on the back, how do we teach our children the benefits of working hard and earning praise?  Unnecessary praise of kids stunts their emotional development and they transform into adults that can't clearly understand their actual strengths and weaknesses. Allowing a child to be too much the focus of attention doesn't allow humility to blossom. How can parents and teachers find balance between praise, fostering a sense of community and an honest picture of personal success for each student? How can we begin this acceptance of our children and how can we teach them to accept their limitations? Read on to hear about Mr. Matlack's personal experience with fostering humility with his sons.
Mr. Matlack co-founded The Good Men Project in 2008 and since then has appeared on national and local television and has traveled the country promoting a new kind of conversation about manhood, one that pushes men to think deeply about what they believe and how they define themselves in the twenty first century. 

How does a boy find humility when parent spends too much time building self esteem?

My own experience of ego is that it is based on fear.  All these guys (myself included by the way) going around beating their chests all puffed up is really about fearing that we are not good enough, won't measure up.  Ego is a very fragile shell that is easily cracked.  Underneath is terror.  I see this in my 15 year old son who is the most upbeat, charismatic boy with plenty of swagger.  Just one well placed sentence, often unintentional on my part, can reduce him to tears.  

So how do you cultivate humility?  Through love.  And teaching your boys that they are perfect just the way they are.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Thomas! And true. When the culture is asking us to raise young men who are more "sensitive", they go over the top. Good Men and Strong Fathers still feel and act like men, they emote like men, and they do it right when they realize that this fear is at the heart of how and why we behave at times. John Eldredge in his book "Wild at Heart" says that every boy's question is "Do I Have What It Takes?" That is the fear that you speak of and is universal in boys and men. When we work to find our own answer and get help along the way, we become more of a man, a man of masculine sensitivities (that our children and wives long for) and we beat our chest with a little more understanding and humility. If I know I have what it takes, I can allow and mentor other men into their own understanding of this question for themselves.