In this powerful interview Jonathan Doyle from Choicez Media and The Men We Need interviews inspirational boys’ program founder Craig McClain from the Boys to Men Program. Developing great programs for boys is all about knowing their deepest needs and their hopes to become better men. Listen in as Jonathan and Craig explore some key issues in reaching boys and making a difference in their lives as well as experiencing the growth men can experience in their own lives when they commit to mentoring and sharing with young men.
CRAIG’S WEBSITE – HERE
JD: Fantastic! Alright, well let’s just into it. Well welcome once again to the Men We Need Podcast. I’ve got a great pleasure today to introduce you to Craig MacLean, joining us all the way from San Diego. Craig has done some absolutely fantastic works as a Co-founder and now Executive Director of Boystomen.org. Now the Boys To Men Program so far – 6,300 young men through the programme and interestingly a 75% retention rate within 12 months for boys through the programme. So here at The Men We Need we are always keen to find out the great stuff that’s being done round the world, so Craig welcome aboard!
CM: Thanks Jonathan, good to be with you.
JD: So let’s begin. I’m fascinated. Everything has a story and something as interesting at what you are doing would have a great story. How did this begin, what happened?
CM: Well it began when I was about 40 years old and I was kind of a typical teenager and never made up my mind about what kind of man I wanted to be, so I kind of fell into some bad stuff and it turned out I’d be 40 years old and I wasn’t the kind of man I wanted to be; I was kind of lyin’ and cheatin’ my way through life and doing whatever I could do to get by and I thought you know this is not the kind of man I wanted to be. So I just started thinking back well what happened? And it was I never really had a chance to figure out and nobody ever asked me, ‘What kind of man d’you wanna be?’ So, that’s when I decided well you know what I’m going to start asking kids that, and found a few friends, Joe Sigurdson, who had the same passion, and we started Boys to Men just to help a few of the kids in the neighbourhood. And boy did we discover a huge problem, well/with these kids in the neighbourhood didn’t have dads. Seventy f… Yes, and they were even worse than I was ‘cos they didn’t have a man to show them how to be a man; to teach them how to be a man, to hold them accountable. And then I started looking around at the stats and you know 33% of boys in the US are growing up without a dad right now.
JD: Correct. Yeah.
CM: And so that’s kind of when I said hey, I’ve gotta do something about this.
JD: Your own childhood – I mean tell us as much or as little as you want, but you sort of mention that you didn’t have probably what you needed – what was your experience growing up, sort of with your own father?
CM: Oh, well I…you know I was a good kid ‘til I hit Third Grade and something happened in Third Grade and I think it’s called ADD [h] but they didn’t know what it was then – that was in the 50s – so all of a sudden I went down hill and by the time I got to my teenage years I was doing drugs, I was stealing stuff, I was lying, I was cheatin’ and I was doing whatever I could and I was doing horrible in school. And so I was really going down the wrong path and some bad stuff happened to me, and kind of taught me a lesson; I had to end up spending 90 days in jail when I was 18 and that was like, okay, that’s not what I wanna do [h].
JD: So what’s the difference here? I mean so many people with a similar background would have made different choices. Can you pin-point what it was, was there a moment, was there a conversation, was there just a quiet awareness in yourself where you just went, ‘I can choose differently, I can change’? Was it a single moment or… why do so many other people not make the choices you made?
CM: It was…I got involved in these men’s’ groups, where I’d sit, you know, sit in a circle with a bunch of men who were kind of in the same position as me, and you know we’d just tell the truth about what was really going on. And it was like when I started to tell the truth about who I really was and the part that I had been hiding for 42 years started to come out, it was like that was the moment; it was like oh, I needed to do this when I was 16, or 15, or 13.
JD: Well let’s talk about that – you’re on to something very powerful and the listeners would be maybe unaware of, you know, some of the basic foundations of the Men’s Movement and this concept of telling the truth. I mean it seems that we build cultures where boys are conditioned and men are conditioned to present a persona to the world and the ability to be vulnerable and to be real… I mean how does this happen? How do we…what drives this sort of process of men not being able to be real?
CM: Well I’ll tell you what I’ve just discovered after you know listening to thousands and thousands of teenage boys as they move through the ages of 11 through, you know, 30, is they’re almost programmed – and we all do it – you know, ‘big boys don’t cry’, you know, come on, suck it up. And boys are programmed by society. And no matter how good the parents are there are still all these other forces out there that say ‘boys don’t cry’ and if you look at the difference between a baby boy and a baby girl they cry the same amount. But if you look at you know a 40-year-old man, or a 40-year-old woman that is not the case anymore. And so they’re taught ‘no fear’, not K-N-OW fear, no fear is a big logo – over here and over there – it’s like men don’t share, they suck it up, ‘come on be a man’ and you can’t be afraid of anything and you gotta be macho.
JD: So what was that experience like for you telling the truth for the first time?
CM: Oh it was brutal [h].
JD: Was it? [h]
CM: It actually came down to…just crying. Just kind of realising oh my God, and it just really hit me. It was like ah, I’d been living a lie.
JD: And you had supportive men around you at that moment?
CM: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely and that was critical. And you know the other thing Jonathan is that what I’ve seen with these boys growing up today – and me too – is that there wasn’t a community there and especially today. It’s worse today; there’s no community. You know if you take it back to the beginning of time we were a community-based tribe and you know the boys and the men would sit around the fire and they’d get to look at all these different men and hear and watch them and see what they did. And then the Industrial Revolution hit, and the men started going off to work and people started flying…living in different cities so all of a sudden what we find with these boys is many of ‘em don’t have any good men at all in their lives to show ‘em how to be a good man.
JD: Mm, and it’s almost as if a generation of men feel so disempowered that they don’t even know how to step into that space; like it seems many men are quite nervous. I mean the male fear of rejection, I mean you know, do you find in your work with the mentors that you train that…is it a process of getting the mentors to actually step into that space? I mean because so many men… ‘cos failure terrifies men doesn’t it? And rejection. So…
CM: Yeah, yeah absolutely. That’s a great question and what we found initially was, you know men did not want to go back to their teenage years, ‘cos they were… the human brain is trained to remember the bad things that protect us. So if we… You know everybody talks about their teenage years and they’re almost always telling negative stories.
CM: And so it’s like men don’t want to hang out with those negative stories [h], and see ‘em in front of ‘em. But what we’ve found is when they start being vulnerable for these boys and we teach ‘em how to tell the truth, and we tell ‘em if you’ve got tears in your eyes, show these young men what a real man does, and then they start to see that by showing who they really are the boys will all of a sudden start doing the same thing. And in this powerful experience that we change as many men’s lives as we do boy’s lives.
JM: Well that comes through on the videos on your site and for the listeners I’m going to put plenty of links to the boystomen.org site under the podcast here. But the videos on your site, you’ve got some great videos there of men talking about it and as you just said it seems that it’s not just the boys that are being impacted and formed and changed, it’s the men too. So tell us how it grew. I mean you talk about this sort of moment of change in your own life and we’re now talking about thousands of boys through the programme – that stuff doesn’t happen by accident – so how did it grow?
CM: Well it happened by need. It happened by you know there’s certain men are going [09:10 Heyay / Crazy.?]; they felt the same way I did and when they saw…you know after three or four years we build the website – ‘cos it was really working and with no intention of expanding it, and all of a sudden men started calling and asking us if they could come and see what we are doing. And, you know, we originally started off as a rite-of-passage weekend which, you know, a lot of folks in the US don’t know what that means. You know [h]?
CM: You guys across the pond you know a little bit more about that. But they didn’t know. So when they started seeing what we were doing it was like ‘Wow, we want to do this’. So we started getting guys fly in and then we’d fly in and help ‘em run their training and pretty soon we had 32 cities across the globe. And we did not intend it for that. But there’s such a great need and these boys are just dying on the vine. We have such a…numbers, statistics of fatherless boys and what happens to ‘em, over here – it’s just brutal. They are 20 times more likely to go to prison than a boy with a good dad. 20 times.
JD: Yeah. Well I think it was in David Blankenhorn’s famous book ‘Fatherless America’ was the first big wake-up call and let’s talk a little bit about the boys now. Let’s talk about what are you seeing as the top issues that boys are dealing with? What are the top two, three, four issues that are most on your heart, that you’ve seen over the years? What are boys really dealing with?
CM: Well, you know, there’s two age groups: we work with adolescent boys but we even do a Middle School Program and a High School Program. Now let me just tell you the difference. The Middle School Program – even the boys without dads – they’re still in pretty good shape. You know their moms take care of them. They just started looking around for a guy to emulate and now all of a sudden they’re noticing there’s nobody there. And so they start making poor choices – immediately. And they start getting in trouble, getting into trouble at school and at home and they start looking for role-models. And the ones that they’re finding aren’t that good [h].
CM: So, you know, let me just focus on boys growing up without dads, or with dysfunctional dads. And we’ll get to boys with dads in a bit. So these boys start looking around and if there’s no man there they start walking down their path and they go the wrong direction and they start getting lost and they start getting angry and they start getting confused. And by the time they get to be 16, which, then they’re in our High School Program, they don’t care anymore. They’ve been beaten down so much they don’t care anymore. And that’s what 100% of the boys in the High-Risk High School Programs are that way; they don’t have a dad, they don’t have a good dad and they don’t care anymore. And that’s why those Scared Straight Programs are being proven not to work; it’s ‘cos you can’t scare somebody who doesn’t care.
JD: Listening to you, it’s really moving isn’t it? Like this intrinsic father hunger…
CM: Oh yes.
JD: …or this hunger for the presence of the masculine in their lives and I loved it when you said, “beaten down” because they externalise this anger, they build toughness because they’ve been hurt, they’ve been abandoned, they’ve been rejected so they’re… Is it basically that ‘I’ve been hurt, my only response is to defend myself psychologically, emotionally, physically – so that’s the core of that anger and pain right there. Is it father hunger, is it the hunger for the masculine?
CM: Absolutely and if you just think of a little kid on the playground – you know ‘Look at me mommy, look at me daddy’. You know, ‘Look at me daddy, look at me daddy’. That…there is the deepest hunger in a boy, to ‘Look at me daddy’ and if he doesn’t have that, it just creates a huge hole in the young man’s psyche and his behaviour and, you know, his job is now to become a man and he’s got nobody to train him. So what’s he supposed to do?
JD: Yeah. And culturally – we’re at a place in the ‘cultural project’ where we’re sort of deconstructing gender difference altogether, in which we are sort of saying that there’s nothing specific to being male anyway.
CM: Oh yes.
JD: So picking up on what you are saying here – question for you – what do you think boy’s want?
CM: Well I can tell you what our /all boys want, is they want a man who will be there, who will listen to them and who cares about them – those three things. And let me just go back, ‘cos we don’t only do fatherless boys but we work with boys with fathers. What boys with fathers want is they want their dad to always be there for ‘em. I’ve heard it over and over and over again, is: ‘I just want you to be there for me, and listen to me, and don’t go off on me, just listen to me and care abut me’ – that’s what they want. But as men we try to overprotect our sons and steer them in the right direction and tell ‘em what to do.
CM: And… they’re becoming a man, they don’t want to be told what to do by the dad, but there’s a time and a place for both of those; I call it the dad and the father: the dad tells ‘em what to do, the dad hangs out with ‘em.
JD: [h] I’ve got a four year-old son at the moment so this is all…I’m taking notes here at the moment but I loved it when you talked about the ‘Look at me’ thing. Like my little boy came out the other day with two balloons and he just wanted me to stand there and watch him hit balloons around the kitchen. And I just had to stand there. And I’ve had…you know, you learn to train yourself; to kind of go ‘Right. I’ve got to be present here, I’ve got to concentrate, I might want to be on the email, I might want to be doing something else, but this is what I’ve signed up for and I want to be present to him. But I guess you’re saying…
CM: Yeah, no and that’s important – you just standing there looking at him – that’s what I’m talking about. You could be doing something else or you could tell him, ‘No, hold the balloons like this, or move ‘em around like that’. No. He just wants you to look at him. ‘Look at me, daddy, look at me.’
JD: Yeah. So there’s such a… I mean it’s something we don’t talk about much in men’s work, I mean in boy’s work, is this grief, this kind of… There must be this existential pain and grief that’s buried very deep very early for them.
CM: Oh absolutely. When they have to go through this changing from a little boy to a man with no guidance, with no role models, with nobody who cares. And I keep going back to those three things. It’s like it’s brutal on ‘em, it’s just brutal. ‘Cos it’s like if you hired someone to work in your office and you hired two people and one you gave all the training that they needed and the other one you didn’t give them any training. But you expected the same results out of both of them – well that’s just insanity.
JD: Yeah, it’s one of the points we make in our Programme is that, you know, if you want to become a pilot, a good pilot – like say you’re in the US Marines – you train with an advanced pilot, you train with a master. You want to be a great artist you train with a master, you want to be a martial artist you train with a master. But we assume that boys are just gonna figure out manhood on their own without any…
CM: And they don’t.
JD: No. No they don’t. And on your website I was quite struck by you’ve got some stuff there for mothers too don’t you? I noticed one of the…
CM: Oh yeah.
JD: Because, tell us about that. You’ve obviously highlighted that you need to connect with mum’s too.
CM: Well it’s…I mean I get moms calling me from all around the world saying the same story – you know, ‘My son is 13, 14, 15’ – dad is dead, gone, and divorced, dysfunctional – ‘all of a sudden my son is doing poorly in school, not listening to me and I think he’s doing drugs, can you help?’
JD: Yeah, yeah.
CM: And it’s like, ah my God. It’s the same thing. And what I’ve found is even the best moms in the world have a tough time overcoming that biological need of being the dad and the mom. You just can’t do it. Boys need a father figure and the mom has a really hard time doing both. So at this time of separation; especially separation from the mother, they cut the umbilical cord again at age 12, and there’s a separation there from the mother and a need to go to the father and when the mother has to fulfil both those roles it just doesn’t work. And you know god bless these moms, there’s some great moms that we work with. And they just need some more help.
JD: Yeah. So tell us a little bit about the Program – the actual nuts and bolts. So step us through…I noticed one thing on your site that was really interesting; the questions that you frame for boys. You know, sort of who am I, who do I want to become? You map out that sort of progressive strategy that they at least can be thinking about, but tell us a bit about the Program. How does it work?
CM: Well we go…it’s a group mentoring concept but I call it community and I think the two most important words to describe it are community and truth. So we go, you know, about 4:1 boys to men, we go down to the middle schools and high schools and for an hour a week and we just sit with the boys and we tell them the truth about different things in our lives – we obviously have different topics. But we start off with you know what kind of man do you want to be? And you know we ask them to choose. And I have not had one boy, not had one boy say he wants to be a gang-banger, or go to prison or get hooked on drugs. So once we identify what they wanna be then we start with different topics, you know we’ll have a check-in. But it basically goes the men will tell the truth about drugs or alcohol or bullying or you know racism, or you know girls or some of the stuff that they went through when they were teenagers, some of the problems they had and then we’ll ask the young men to ‘Tell us what you’re going through’. And that’s the key right there is to have the man share first, ‘cos the boys will…if we stood in the middle of the circle and lit our pants on fire and danced around like chickens they can do that too; they would do that too.
JD: [h] So what is that? Is it like…it’s giving permission, it’s like when boys see men make the move first they feel… what’s the dynamic? I’m always trying to drill down into the interior magic of it. So…
CM: Yeah. No you have said it; it is we give ‘em permission – to feel. We give ‘em permission and they already want to. But you know, some of these boys have never seen a man cry before. So when our mentors… just last week you know one of our mentors had one of his friends die. You know just an old 55/6- year-old guy and he…he was kind of laughing and half-crying and half-laughing. I said ‘Hey, are you sad or are you happy? Well let these boys see what a man looks like when he’s sad’. He started crying. And then the kid next to him started crying and telling his story. And he absolutely gave that kid permission to tell him the truth.
CM: That’s what the secret is. We started by kind of trying to get boys to tell us stuff; we’d try to teach ‘em. But we don’t tell ‘em what to do anymore and that’s key: we do not tell them. If they’re doing drugs, if, you know…if they’re ditching school, if they’re doing bad in their homework, we don’t tell them ‘Don’t do that’. We’ll just say, ‘Hey, I did that. Let me tell you what I did. Let me tell you how it worked. Let me tell you the good part about drugs and the bad part’. And then they get to make their own choices. And then we support them in their choices. Now when a boy can make his own choices – which is what a man wants to do…you know, no man wants to be told what to do and no boy wants to be told what to do – then they start getting power behind their decisions – and ownership. And that’s really the key. So we go down to the school and meet with you know, 10, 15, 20, sometimes the groups are 40 boys and 10 men and we do that for 8-12 weeks and then we ask them ‘Which one of you guys are ready to go up to the mountain and do our Rite of Passage Weekend?’ And we take the ones that are ready and we do a two-day weekend with them and we just do more of the same.
CM: And that is pretty much it; it’s like we’ve just got to tell the truth, give ‘em a place where they can listen to other boys and men tell the truth and there’s a deep need for community and there’s a deep need to become a good man and all boys have that. They all do.
JD: Yeah. Well I like what you said about ‘ownership’. It’s like culturally again we’re sort of massively into divesting ownership of…and responsibility. Like, you know, you’ve seen it plenty in the States but here, you know, a politician here will do something and they just do a press conference and say, you know, they throw out a couple of lines and wait ‘til the media cycle moves on. So you know, it’s a constant culture of being able to shift accountability, personal ownership for decisions. So it’s sort of…it kind of sounds like what you are doing is eventually getting into a position of going well if you want to take that path – a good path or a bad path – then you’ve got to own it eventually.
CM: Yeah, you’ve got to own it and you’ve got to take responsibility. And like I say if you want to be a gang member you take responsibility for that. But here’s what I say all the time: let me tell you the difference between a boy and a man: a boy acts first and then considers the consequences only after his act. A man considers the consequences first and then acts. And that doesn’t mean they don’t do the same, exact thing – but at least a man knows what he’s doing and why he’s doing it and the price he may have to pay for that.
JD: We make a point in the Programme here that, as Stephen Covey once talked about; the smallest, or the most important space in the world is the space between stimulus and response.
JD: You know? And…because often educators and parents don’t know that a boy’s pre-frontal cortex isn’t usually fully developed ‘til his early 20s. So I’ve had to train teachers to go, ‘Look, when a boy blows up, sometimes what you have to do is get the boy to repeat back to you what he thinks is happening because they can’t sometimes process it actually’. So it’s helping them go…you know, their ability like you just said, to kind of think – even very rapidly just to think, before I do this, what’s the outcome?
CM: Yeah, and ability to understand consequences is in the frontal cortex [h].
CM: That’s what they’re missing.
JD: So I want to stretch you with a couple of tough questions here. Think of the work that you have done – can you think of memories of what’s the saddest thing you’ve seen and what’s one of the most joyful things you’ve seen, working with mentors and boys?
CM: Oh…well, I have seen you know, horror stories and had boys – you know, sweet little boys – standing in front of me talking about getting beaten, talking about… you know, one of the boys told me when he was, when he was very young his dad came home (who’d been in prison) and started beating up his mom and he tried to jump on him and take him out and his dad kept throwing him off, so he went in the kitchen and got a knife and stabbed his dad. It was like…and he was just devastated by this. And I’ve heard you know so many stories of just horrendous abuse. But those…I know by telling them, I know by telling them – [ 25: 03? I don’t take those on] – I know by telling them that these boys are getting some healing. So the saddest thing is when the boy doesn’t get the healing and I’ve seen… you know we had one boy in one city that I was going to lead the weekend and his mom called and said, ‘Can you talk him into coming, he doesn’t want to come anymore’. So I spent about an hour talking with him and trying to get him to come and he didn’t come. And then two years later he committed suicide. So that is – you know, that’s the stuff that never goes away.
JD: No it doesn’t. And I think of the incredible potential in every young man’s life and you see that cut short; I think you’re right, it’s something that stays with you for the rest of your life. What have you seen on the joyful side? What can you remember that sometimes you’ve just clenched your fists and punched the air and said what we’re doing here is good, it’s a good thing? What are some memories of that?
CM: Oh…it’s just, that’s almost every day.
JD: Is it?
CM: Yeah. It’s just getting…I mean we’ve got it so concise in what we need to do to get these boys. They come in and we don’t even know ‘em. They come into the classroom and within five minutes they’re crying and telling me, you know what’s going on and that’s when I punch my fists in the air and go, “Yes”. You know, this young man’s got a chance now. And I think the biggest, the biggest thing for me is the kids that are going down; you know that I know are going down and they know they’re going down, they’re going to be in prison in a couple of years. And when I start to see them take that one little step – oh, yeah, that’s when I punch the air and go “Yeah!” And when they show some emotion I know we’ve got ‘em.
JD: It’s such a simple strategy. Like I’ve been around men’s work for years but I just like the simplicity of your strategy; just the ‘community and truth’. You just, you build a supportive community around them and the raw power of truth to unleash that kind of dam wall of emotion and grief and confusion. It, it’s powerful.
CM: Yeah and you know I’ve been in men’s groups for 20 years and here’s what I know though. ‘It’s easier to build strong children than repair broken men’ – and that’s a Frederick Douglass quote. And that is so true. I have been in so many men’s groups with guys that come and do the same thing over and over and over again. ‘Cos they’ve been living this lie for 20, 30 or 40 years. These boys maybe just started thinking this or maybe haven’t even thought that so the amount of change we can make quickly is where it’s at for me and you know I’m all about the boys now and what we’re finding is if we can heal the boys we also heal ourselves as men.
JD: Yeah. That comes through in the videos and I really hope people will take some time to look at those. There’s a range of men who are mentors and I watched those and it was a 5050 split: it was half the time they were talking about the amazing impact on the boys and half the time they’re talking about…you know, there’s one guy there and it’s great, he’s got tats all over him and he’s just saying when he goes home to his own kids he’s a different man.
CM: Yeah [h].
JD: And his kids see him crying and his kids see him talking and you know we have a great men’s programme here and the quote that they use is, the Programme is called Man Alive and they have the quote from St Irenaeus I think in the 3rd Century you know, who said ‘The glory of God is man fully alive’ you know?
CM: Yeah. And you know one of the things, one of my little pet peeves with the Men’s Movement is – and I had a guy say this to me. He said, ‘You know I’m gonna come and be a mentor after I’ve fixed myself, after I keep going to these groups, after I get better, I’ll be a better man and I’m gonna come’. And I’m going, ‘Dude [h]. When is that gonna be? When are you gonna be fixed?’ These boys don’t want perfect men, they just want men who are willing to show up and tell ‘em how wounded they are. And I believe this is the men’s work; is showing up for the boys and it’s…I see much greater progress than guys just sitting around in a circle talking about their problems. I’m a little jaded here, but um…[h]
JD: [h] Well there’s a great line from Henry Newman, who’s dead now, but a brilliant spiritual writer who talked about…he wrote the book ‘Wounded Healers’…
JD: …and that the most powerful healing comes through wounds.
CM: Absolutely. And we’ve found that. And you know the fun thing for me – the really cool – it’s not fun, but it’s powerful, is I get to use the wounds that I suffered as a teenage boy, and I get to use them to heal others and now all of a sudden that’s not a negative story, but I’m using my deepest wounds to help other kids and to heal them – and that feels good.
JD: Yeah, yeah. So I like, also going through your website that…I wouldn’t say there’s a danger in organisations that kind of do a big, one-off event, but I like about what you’re doing is this is… you guys are in there for the long-haul.
JD: So how does that work? How does the Program roll on?
CM: Well the reason it works is ‘cos the men keep showing up and seeing that they are making a difference. So they…we very rarely lose mentors unless they move, once they are committed. So we just stay with them you know and our so-called ‘business plan’ if there is such a ‘business’ is to go into middle schools, work with boys 7th and 8th Grade, that’s our sweet spot, before they stop caring and then follow ‘em right through high school. And go into the high schools and we’ve done that here, so you know, middle school and about four high schools and we follow the boys in the high school and then at 17, 18, they graduate from high school and they go become, use the tools we gave them, become a man and then at about 30 years old they start going hey, I need to start giving them back, I think I’ll go start my own ‘Boys to Men’. That’s the plan.
JD: Yeah. So what’s your heart for young men, what’s your deepest desire for them? If you could kind of encapsulate…if you could wave a magic wand and a young boy comes in with all these issues, what’s your deepest hope for them?
CM: Just to have a good man in their life. That’s it, that’s all. That’s it. That every boy – and it’s really clear for me – that every boy deserves a good man in his life. And that is really…that gives me the chills when I say that and if we could do that in this world this would be a different place.
JD: Yeah. There’s a story here at the moment that I came across on the news about a month ago of a little boy, a little four year-old boy called Bailey, who, his mother’s de facto partner was injecting crystal meth and this little boy had a urinary tract infection and he was home sick and crying and sick and he’d wet the bed – four years old – and the boyfriend went upstairs and just lost it completely and beat him to death. And that story – it’s in the news right now here in Australia – and I just think of that little boy and I just think you know… When I first read it I just thought, you know what he needed was like a man just to sweep him up in his arms and just to wrap him up and protect him and the poor little kid just gets the exact opposite; it’s just…
JD: Something gets to me about that. [sighs]
CM: Yeah, it’s bad.
JD: So what does the future hold for you guys?
CM: The future – you know, it’s kind of after expanding all over the globe – you know, the future for me is one boy at a time; one boy standing in front of me. And keep doing what we do and try to bring it to as many boys as possible and try to bring it to as many men as possible and just keep doing what we’re doing and you know I don’t know what the future is. So…
JD: [h] It’s probably why it’s gonna keep working because you meet…you meet, you know, people and you would have met them over the years, who are so focused on changing the world that they miss…you know that one little person in front of them.
JD: And often it seems that, that God – however people conceive god – sort of looks around for those small or humble you know groups that are just doing the work day-in, day-out and it makes the magic happen.
CM: Yeah, it’s…you know, we’ve done 6,000 boys through Boys To Men but I just can’t comprehend that; I just think of the kid yesterday – you know that I went down to the school and talked to him, or the phone call I made today, or the group on Wednesday. And it’s like that’s…that’s what the future holds for me.
JD: So a lot of our listeners, we have thousands of teachers in schools with boys listening to this and I want you to picture a classroom with a bunch of crazy, you know Year 7 or 8 boys bouncing off the walls, what do you think that teachers would benefit from knowing? What advice do you have about how they understand and engage with boys and what they could do to be more effective in the lives of young men?
CM: Well that’s a really good questions, especially for teachers, because what we have found is teachers kind of have to…only the really best are able to kind of transcend that place of being an authority figure and sharing, you know, where are you hurt? And I would say, I would say…I mean I still remember my 3rd Grade teacher who was a woman, broke down crying ‘cos her son was in the Hospital – I still remember that today ‘cos she showed me where she hurt and it totally changed what I thought of her. So I would say, you know, figure out how you can show these boys that you understand not what they are going through but the feelings that they may be feeling, ‘cos you might have felt that same hurt. And show ‘em where you hurt. They don’t, you know, they don’t care what you say. They just want to know you care.
JD: Yeah. I shared a quote last week – Marcellin Champagnat who was a great figure in France in the 18th Century – you know he said to teach young people first you must love them and you must love them all equally.
JD: ‘Cos I think maybe in schools we spend so much time, you know, needing control and having to exercise control and wanting control.
JD: And you are sort of saying well control will come more by co-operation when they feel that you’re a real person who genuinely cares about them.
CM: Yeah and you know the school classroom is a difficult place for adolescent boys without dad because they tend to resent authority, they don’t know how to treat women, and so they get in that environment and I can guarantee that, you know, 95% of those trouble-makers or alleged trouble-makers in the school – ‘cos that’s the ones we work with – they don’t have good dads. So we go in and we treat them special; we treat ‘em special and that’s the ones we work with.
JD: So two final questions: one is imagine you have an opportunity and there’s a thousand fathers sitting in front of you and they’ve got young sons and the conference organiser says Craig you can say two things to them, you can give them two pieces of advice then you’ve got to walk off the stage. So you’ve got a thousand dads sitting there in front of you, what do you want them to know about being fathers, what would you say to them – two things?
CM: Oh that’s…that a… You’ve put me on the spot here [h].
JD: [h] I should have sent you these before.
CM: No, I got it. I got it. Number one is find what you can admire in them. And Number two love them, especially when they screw up.
JD: Yep, unconditional love.
CM: That’s it [h]. Yeah, especially when they screw up.
JD: I wish you could see this on Webcam, I’m writing it down. My little boy is…he’s just gorgeous, but he lives on what I call ‘Planet Aden’, he’s just, has no idea. You could just say to him [h], ‘Mate, do you know what you just did? Like, can you see…?’ And he just looks at you blankly and I was finding even last night, I thought…I’ve got to stop trying to change him. You know like, yeah I’ve got to parent him, and give him parameters about acceptable behaviour…
JD: …but, you know what, this is the boy that I’ve been given.
JD: I’ve got to learn who he, who he really is, not who I might want him to be.
CM: That’s right, that’s right.
JD: And that’s easier to say while I’m sitting here at the moment but I’ve got to practice it so… I think most of the listeners know that everything I talk about I’m still…I’m still in training.
CM: [h] Yeah.
JD: So, the last one: You are sitting in a room, you are working with a young man and he’s moving overseas and you’ve got two things that you’d want him to know – the two messages you really want to leave with him for his journey ahead. What would you say to him?
CM: Oh man, you’re getting [. ? 38:40.? me.?] I’m tellin’ you.
JD: I know [h]
CM: Okay I got an answer: first thing is listen to your heart; your heart will never lie. Don’t listen to your head; your head will tell you wrong. Second thing, when you stop and listen to your heart just think about how I feel about you. Think of what I think about you: you know how proud I am, ‘cos I’m proud of all these kids. You know how much I believe in you; just believe in yourself a tenth of what I do and you’ll get by and you’ll be fine.
CM: Just give ‘em something…all these boys want is somebody to make them proud, somebody that they can make proud and that is so critical. Look at me daddy, look at me’ that’s ‘Daddy are you proud of me? – look at me’.
JD: Yeah. Well I don’t know what the culture’s like in the States, but here in Australia we don’t tend to give much affirmation and praise, but on behalf of so many people mate thank you for the work you do, and just in this conversation and your website I think you are doing something really special and just that you’ve taken your pain and with so many men unfortunately channel that into addiction and withdrawal you’ve kind of turned that around. So a huge thank you for the work you do.
CM: Thank you Jonathan, a really good interview. You’re good, you’re good at this.
JD: No, I enjoy it. So listen, I’m going to put all the ‘show’ notes here, we’re going to have this transcribed, we’re going to have links to Craig’s site, but …just awesome stuff, so I hope people get a chance to go through this a few times. Craig, on behalf of us all here at Choicez Media and The Men We Need, a huge thank you and have a fantastic weekend in San Diego.
CM: Thank you Jonathan.
JD: Ah mate, Godbless.