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5 Ways Parents Can Dare Boys to Be Kind, Bold, and Brave

by Ted Bunch and Anna Marie Johnson Teague

Image credit: John Howard/Getty Images

Society is in the midst of a great transformation when it comes to masculinity. Parents of boys are confronted with terms like “toxic masculinity” and “male privilege,” and the headlines are dominated by stories about men behaving badly.

But there’s an opportunity to change the way boys think about masculinity during their youth. To make every boy’s lived experience the best it can be, we have to be intentional about encouraging their authenticity, helping them develop empathy, educating them on healthy relationships, promoting emotional literacy, and supporting social emotional learning. After 20 years of working with and educating men and boys, we know that healthy manhood is the solution. It’s the antidote for some of the most destructive problems in our society. We’ve turned the pillars of healthy manhood into 100 dares that support boys’ authenticity and advance gender equity. Here are five fun “dares” to help the boys in your life be kind, bold, and brave.


Dare 1: Name three emotions you felt today.

You’d be surprised how many boys (and men!) cannot do this. When young people talk about something important, the adults in their lives are quick to offer opinions and solutions. One of the best ways to respond is by asking, “How did that make you feel?” Prompting boys to articulate their feelings builds emotional literacy and helps them process what is going on. It sets them up to be better communicators in their personal and professional lives.


Dare 2: Try a sport or activity outside your comfort zone.

Our culture bombards boys with messages that they are supposed to be winners. They are socialized to dominate, and when they fall short, their manhood is questioned. But all that does is keep them from pursuing things they might love but are afraid they won’t be good at. This dare challenges boys to try something new and see what happens. Maybe they will be good at it, and maybe they won’t be. But in the end, they will get comfortable with taking a risk.


Dare 3: Chip in for equal pay.

You need siblings — preferably one girl and one boy — to complete this dare. Ask them to do the dishes for a week. This dare is great because it presents a scenario where a brother and sister do the same work, and both do a great job. But at the end of the week, the girl is paid more. Young people have a radar for what’s “fair,” and they immediately identify the bias and speak out. It’s a simple, effective way to talk about a complicated issue that persists in our society and will encourage them to question it.


Dare 4: Stand up for someone who is being bullied.

So often differences are considered weaknesses. But we should be celebrating our differences! This dare is designed to help boys identify things they might call out or pick on someone for, and speak out on their behalf instead. This helps build trust and deepen friendships, and encourages boys to accept their own unique qualities and ultimately love themselves.


Dare 5: Be a leader.

If your son shies away from student leadership, that’s okay. Boys are socialized to believe that if they aren’t the class president or the team captain, their voice doesn’t matter. This dare helps boys recognize that everyone can make a difference in the world, and the best way to start is by leading by example.