Why I’m Starting a Boys Group for My Son

the boys in our backyard

the boys in our backyard

Over a year ago my four-year-old son (then 3 at the time), told me he wanted to be in a boys group.

It was a mind-stopper. I sat for a moment. Then my heart said, “okay, let’s do it.”

A year later, it has begun. I almost started the group many times, but the timing was off.  It took some time to have it feel just right.

Why did he ask for this?

It could be the fact that every week, for over a year, I run men’s groups at my house. Right before bedtime while in his pajamas, he is eager to say hello to “the guys” as we start our circle. He loves it and wants to sit with us. He knows something special is going on in that room.

Concurrently, I had been thinking about doing a boys circle for the remainder of his youth and inviting other parents along for the ride. So our timing was perfect.

I really had no idea how to run a boys group. I do well with grown men, adults, and even teenage boys, but four year olds? I had just a vague idea of what I wanted to explore and help facilitate.  It’s still not clear, but I’m trusting his call, my call, and proceeding anyway.


My wife and I are raising a boy that will be big and powerful one day.  He already is quite a force, so we want to support him flourishing as his authentic Self in whatever ways we can. This already requires a lot of commitment & presence on our part.

I’m inspired to help my son live in and from his natural essence (the sweet spot of who he really is), through effective parenting strategies and community support. If my boy is gay, straight, feminine, or masculine, I don’t care. I want my son to be himself.

So, this group is directed at raising a different kind of boy—a heart-centered boy who fosters the ability to be true to himself and is himself, regardless of the pressures he experiences to be otherwise.

Why do I want to do this?

1)   The Boy Code

Our culture disempowers young boys to adhere to the boy code—a gender straightjacket that stifles the creative life force of a young boy. Programs such as religion, pop culture, sports, and yes, even the boy scouts, all perpetuate the boy code for young boys. The boy code uses shame, fear, humiliation and other gender conditioning to stifle a boy’s essence.

So, part of my motivation to do a boys group comes from the tragic tale of boys in this culture. The “boy crisis” is real. Everyone has their opinions and perspectives on why boys are struggling so much. Mine is simple: We have trained boys, through outdated gender conditioning, to not be themselves. And, I work with adult men and women who’s lives have been exceedingly painful, hurtful, and challenging due to the gender conditioning men received as boys. The boy-code (eventually the man-code) is part of what keeps men from seeking therapy and other support later in life.

By running a boys group, I get to facilitate healthy connection, intimacy, play and communication between boys WHILE fostering whatever natural flavor of being a boy they bring to the table. All of these go against the boy-code and are a new way of raising a boy in this culture.

2)   Gender Balance

While we’ve come a long way and are much closer to gender equality, we still have mountains to move.  Check out mainstream families. Most dads are still in the traditional role of worker/provider while most moms are still raising the kids. The biggest difference is that more moms are working AND raising the kids, while there’s been a slight increase in stay-at-home, involved Dads. (read more on that here). What matters to me is that men are being true to themselves, regardless of their “role” in the family unit.

I still think many of us would agree that dads are still not as engaged as they could be and a great many fathers are completely absent altogether. And yes, some dads are stay-at-home, some are part-time work/at home dads and are doing amazing things raising their sons. But look around at your own social network and my guess is the vast majority are still in the traditional male role. So, bottom line? A boys group is one way to get more conscious men in boy’s life.

3) Gender Balance part 2

Formal education and schooling for boys is largely taught by women (in classroom settings) that largely support the learning styles of the female brain (read more on Michael Gurian’s work here). Since there are very few male teachers in schools, it leaves it up to women, moms, and single moms to teach boys in the classroom.

The same is true for therapy for boys. The large majority of play therapists are women. So, if a family does eventually want to send their pre-teen son to therapy after a bullying incident or traumatic experience, or for resourcing, tools, and support, the boy will likely go see a female play therapist.

Outside the classroom, and outside the home is another story. In this environment boys learn mostly from coaches, big brothers, dads, and other boys. Even boy codesensitive empathic boys will abandon their true essence in exchange for approval and belonging in the male peer group. And, to be accepted by girls, they tend to join what they think girls want, which is boy-coded boys. Moreover, it is disconnected, dissociated men, video games, movies, i-pads, music, and other pop culture that also has a huge influence on raising our boys. For example, when most boys and young men eventually find themselves in an intimate relationship with a woman, they have no idea how to act or be. As a result, they resort to what they think they “should” do or be (based on lame information from male peers), rather than being themselves. Then, many girls and women end up feeling insecure, unmet, and very angry and frustrated, spending vast amounts of energy making themselves wrong, or trying to change their man.

In my experience working with adult couples, men that have issues with women are men that grew up feeling violated, betrayed, hurt, rejected, or abandoned by mom, despite her best attempts. Likewise, men that have issues with older men or male authority figures are men who have felt betrayed, abandoned, or slighted by their Dads and other men when they were boys.  Even if one or both parents do a rock solid parenting job, most kids will be hurt in some way by one gender and then bring that into their adult relationships, especially if they never work on it.

In other words, my kids need both genders if they are to have gender balance in themselves. I’m going for inner masculine/feminine balance, understanding that each boy might have a natural place on the spectrum where they reside. It’s good practice to develop both sides of ourselves, and everything in between.

4)   Beyond Gender

Am I perpetuating the gender binary? Possibly. I get the limitations of “boy” and “girl” (even masculine/feminine) and how that could exclude my son, or contribute to him feeling wrong, if he turns out to be gender-queer or transgendered. And, I live largely in the binary so, for now, I’m creating this group for his essence rather than his gender. And it’s my aspiration to expose my son to all walks of life so that if he no longer wants to be seen as “he” that that is okay and just right.  That said, this is a boys group with boys run by a man and so far it feels just right.

5) More conscious male influence.

My wife often says how grateful she is to have my influence as my son and I wrestle, play rough, build stuff, destroy it, growl, tackle, fart, laugh about poo and pee, and be really loud.  It’s behavior’s she does less of and my son loves these activities! I can see me stoking a fire that burns naturally inside of him.

If I died tomorrow and my wife took over with my son, she’d be missing a few key teachings, despite her best attempts.  So, her and I have a plan. If I disappeared one day for example, she’d farm out some key areas, like certain aspect of male sexuality, to my closest male friends and comrades.  And, we wouldn’t send him to just any older male for mentoring, otherwise, that’s more of the same limited “man-code” male guidance that is already out there. The key here is “conscious” awake men who understand the full range of embodied, emotionally literate, integrated masculinity, which is what I want. I get that not every Dad wants or cares about that. I do, so I will bring it.

6) Conscious sexuality.

While my 4 year old is still a bit young for sex education, as he grows, I want him and his friends to be super informed about the truth around our sexual bodies and sexual nature. As he becomes sexually active in his teenage years, I want him completely informed and conscious about his body, what it does, where his penis goes, as well as very accurate information on the female body, her parts, how to give and receive pleasure etc.  Sex, penis, vaginas, will all be open, normal, engaging conversations in our home. We are a sex positive family.

7) Relationship.

When I look around I see boys that have no idea how to relate. They one up each other, talk shit, make fun, tease, bully, and are posturing over their essence. The way they talk about, relate to, and treat girls, is disappointing. So, I’m inspired to help boys consciously relate, to be their real-Self, and speak and live from that place. I’m inspired to teach my son how to do relationship like I do it. And, what’s amazing is that I’m teaching him very little, he’s simply watching me and picking up on everything. As a result, he is super mature relationally for his age.

What About Making him a Man?

Rather than try to make a boy into a man (which a lot of people believe is necessary), I’m inspired to help boys be their authentic-most Self, while making the transition from boy to adult. While this might sound simple, look around; most folks in this culture are very disconnected from their true nature and the culture supports this disconnection. In my judgment most adults are quite young developmentally and emotionally. The journey of being a connected human being, and becoming oneself, is a true hero’s journey. That’s why, when my son is closer to adulthood, if he’s not plugged into his core essence, he will have the opportunity, along with his peers, to get his ass kicked by embarking on a 1-2 year epic hero’s quest to unlock and birth his soul and his soul’s work. He will face the raw, gritty, arduous trials that catapult him into adulthood. Our culture lacks formal rites of passages, so my friends and I will be creating them and he’ll probably be a part of that co-creation.

Boys learn about masculinity by watching other boys and grown men. So, I am living what I want him to be and how I want him to be. In other words, my presence is the teacher, more than anything I say or do. Parenting is a transmission folks.

Back to the current Boys Group

All of this said, I will be tracking the following aspects below and use everything as fuel for each boy’s growth and development. Initially, this is simply a boys play-group. As things arise, I will meet those with my creative self and seek out guidance from my male friends and mentors if I ever get lost. We have started with 3 boys total. I may add one or two, we’ll see.

Below are the following values I will be promoting, adhering to, and keeping an eye on:

First and foremost I will establish boundaries—boundaries help kids feel safe. I’m committed to holding them so they can work through their stuff in their language of play. I will not use shame to set limits, yet I will be firm in my limits


Relationship to Self (Self awareness)

Embodiment & presence
Self trust-internal compass, intuition, creativity
Self respect & Self Love
Self-responsibility-the notion that I am responsible for my choices and actions and willing to face the consequences
Emotional literacy-the ability to know one’s own experience. kids need help labeling their experience

Relationship to other (other Awareness)

Relational literacy–kids need help sharing, getting along, and co-existing without bullying or shaming each other.
Attunement & empathy
Basic social skills
How to share, how to give
How to set a boundary, say NO, and take care of yourself by using your voice
How to do conflict and stay in relationship

Our first group met in late July and was essentially a boys play group. I did a lot of observing while setting up some play experiments. The boys found their own natural rhythm as well and I made a few course corrections when necessary.

We’ve met twice now and a lot is happening already. It’s like a micro Outward Bound (I used to work for OB) course. Fascinating…

Stay tuned….

1 Comment

  • Damien

    Reply Reply August 23, 2013

    I feel so inspired reading your stuff Jayson.

    Can’t wait to meet you in Boulder some time!

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