It’s extremely important that we initiate our boys into manhood. Yes, they’re going to become males but that doesn’t mean they’re going to become men. There is a distinction. For our boys to become men, they have to be ushered and initiated into manhood. So, I’m going to give you seven very specific elements of initiation or rite of passage that you can incorporate with your sons or boys in the community. These seven elements will help you show them what manhood looks like and help them realize they are entering different stages of their life.
In fact, I’ve begun this process for both our boys. We’ve completed two of these with my oldest who is now 11 years old. Most recently, we completed phase one with my eight-year-old. After sharing this on social media, a lot of guys had questions on when you should start. In my opinion, you can start whenever but for us, it seems to work as our boys turn eight. At this age, they seem to have the physical, mental, and emotional capacity to be able to understand the things that we’re doing.
So, I’m going to explain how our right of passage to become a man works and breakdown each element that my boys have experienced. I’m not going to be extremely specific on some of the elements because they’re kept as closely guarded secrets between me and my sons. I know that sounds cryptic and might even sound a little strange. However, it’s a critical component of our initiation process.
Once they turn eight, their initiation begins as a campout. We go through a series of challenges that are meant to be physical, mental, and emotional. They’re all designed to push a little harder than normal. Upon completion, they receive a physical representation or manifestation of phase one. Remember, the point of this initiation is for the old boy to die in a way and for a new boy to be reborn.
Here are seven elements to help create your own rite of passage:
1. Detach From Feminine Presence
Up until phase one, these boys have been completely attached and dependent on mom. They rely on her and yell her name throughout the house. Whenever they have a little boo-boo, they run to mom. So, the initiation has to be away from any feminine presence.
By the way, let me explain more about these phases. Phase one starts when they’re 8, phase 2 is 10, phase 3 is 12, phase 4 is 14, phase 5 is 16, and phase 6 is when they’re 18. This is the last rite of passage or initiation that I’ll be taking my boys through. That’s what I mean when I’m talking about phases.
So, in phase one I explained to them that they should be working towards becoming independent. They need to know the difference between a boy and a man. A boy consumes. That’s all he does. He consumes time, attention, and resources. We are trying to transition from consumer to man which is a producer. In order to do that, we need to begin to break the dependency on mom. Please do not misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with mothers. However, boys need to let the feminine side go and begin to step into the masculine. In order to do that, they need to be exclusively exposed to masculine energy.
2. Make It Challenging
You’ve got to challenge your boy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They have to go through a demanding situation and overcome those things through your guidance. They have to come out the other end of this event as somebody entirely new. You’re going to have to push your child a little further than they’ve ever gone. There might be some tears shed, and it might be uncomfortable. That’s what the initiation is all about.
One thing we do is go on a hike. I would say it’s a moderate hike for an adult, but for an eight-year-old it’s a pretty good hike. It’s steep with some slick places. Once my son got to the top, I filmed him as he was climbing the last little stretch. He turned around and he struggled. He really struggled on the way up. He even wanted me to carry his pack but that’s part of it. When he got to the top, you should have seen the look of pride and excitement he felt. That was the physically demanding portion of it.
The emotionally and mentally demanding portion of it, I’m not really going to get too much into, but there should be a series of tasks. You could teach him how to shoot or even have a difficult conversation. You could even have your child memorize a poem like Invictus prior to your initiation. When you get into the middle of initiation, have them recite it to check off their series of tasks.
3. Have Tough Conversations
This is a great opportunity to talk with your child about what it means to be a man. I know people like to say that traditional gender roles are bad and they’re socially constructed. That’s not true. They’re biologically constructed. We are made to be men, and women are made to be women. These might be reinforced societally, but they’re biologically hardwired into the way that we show up. It’s our job to extract and to magnify that masculine energy into our boy. We are to teach our boys how to use what’s biologically hardwired into them for productive outcomes.
To do this, I went down to a hardware store here in town. They have these little animal figurines. I picked up a lion cub and a male lion. Between tasks, I explained that he is the lion cub. He’s my son who is dependent on us – mom and dad. Then, I pulled out the male lion. I explained that his objective is to get to this stage. He needs to understand this his job in life right now as this “lion cub” is to begin to move towards this male lion.
Now, the beauty of giving this as a physical manifestation of representation of what we’re doing is we can always draw back on it. When he’s not behaving in a manner consistent with our conversations, I can tell him, “Hey, you remember those figurines, why don’t you grab those figurines, come down, and we can talk about this.” Physical manifestations and representations of what you’re doing are very important in the initiation process. It gives you something to draw back on when your child gets off course.
4. Critique Unwanted Behavior
Most likely, there are certain things that you’ve recognized within your boy that he is either doing or not doing with respect to his behavior. This is a perfect opportunity for you to do it in a tactful way. I’m not saying verbally beat the child up or put him down. I’m saying do it in a tactful way. The odds are, there’s probably a deep connection going to occur while you’re up on that mountain. There will be a bond forged between the two of you. This is a perfect opportunity, free from distraction, to tell your child what he needs to hear so that he can then improve.
I had a very real conversation regarding some behavior that my son needed to correct. I’ve had to remind him, over the past couple of weeks, in some instances where he deviated from the behavior I expect of him as a man. Again, this is a discussion of how your child is showing up.
5. Create An Element Of Secrecy
There has to be a secretive nature to the initiation. I’m not saying that we’re hiding anything. Rather, there is a code to be understood and it’s not to be shared outside of the relationship with my son. It forges and bonds us together.
For example, only Michler men know the specific details of our rituals and initiation. Nobody else knows this. These are different things that we do. These are acronyms that we go through and the lessons that we teach. Frankly, it’s a code of conduct that we’ve created for ourselves that nobody else knows. There are elements that I’m sure you’ll incorporate into yours, but it’s secretive among us. I think having that element of secrecy is a very critical component of this initiation.
6. Award His Achievement
There must be a physical manifestation of the progress and the completion of this particular phase of his training. For my sons, I give them a multi-tool that they can use in a series of tasks that they need to complete on the mountain and then they also earn their very first rifle. This gave me the opportunity to teach him the four firearm safety rules and we shot. That was actually one of his tasks that he needed to shoot and successfully complete a certain score. Then, in the end, he was awarded that rifle for completing this portion of training.
I think there’s got to be some sort of physical manifestation. A firearm or knife are both great things. Maybe there’s something that you guys do in your family. Maybe it’s a bow or a guitar. Who knows, it could be any number of things, but there’s got to be some sort of physical representation of the completion of that portion of his training.
7. Build Upon The Framework
This is not a one-time deal, guys. This is simply phase one of the other phases that will occur at different points in his life. Each phase should gradually get tougher, more demanding, a little bit harder as your son becomes more capable. When we’re talking about these initiations, this is part of a process of developing over the course of 10 years from 8 to 18. These conversations happen every day. They happen before you go to bed, and when there’s a difficult situation at home or at school. These types of conversations continue throughout the years of their initiation to becoming a Michler man. I explain that being a man is earned and being a Michler is earned.
I know that’s a lot of information and not all of it is very specific. This is the framework for you to think about for yourself and what you want to create for your child. Ultimately, it’s up to you as your child’s father to fill in the blanks with what needs to be done in order to progress your boy into becoming a man.
Again, initiate the boys or they’ll burn the village down. If we don’t initiate our boys and teach them how to harness the raw masculine energy that’s coursing through their veins, they will be part of the statistics. They will fall victim to violence, drug abuse, depression, joblessness, the wandering, the failure to launch, and all of these other negative variables that we see in way too many young men. If millions of men are doing this across the planet, I think we will see a lot of the world’s greatest problems begin to dissipate and dissolve. We will begin to resolve and handle these issues the way a man resolves and handles his problems.