This started as a letter to my three growing boys, which I gave to each of them when they reached their teens. I have revised it slightly with each kid. Below is my most most recent version as my youngest just turned 13 years old. The letter started after many conversations with my partner, their mom. We wanted to write down some guidelines for our teen boys as their lives take them more and more out into the world… and out on their own. After sharing it with my oldest boy at first, and then several friends, I was encouraged to share it with others.
To Young Men Near & Far,
As a parent, my #1 job has been to keep my children safe. When my kids were younger, I thought of that in terms of keeping them safe from others. As they’ve grown, I realize that my #1 job is still the same, but the dangers have shifted.
As a teenager, and forever more, you (your judgment, your actions, your inactions) will probably be the most likely source of danger – for you and those around you. As you spend more and more time out in the world on your own, your parents will no longer be there to intervene in the moments when you’d benefit from their decision-making. YOU are in charge of you.
I’m writing this letter to you, because I want to do everything in my power to help you obtain wisdom without needing to gain it through awful mistakes. You have the opportunity to keep yourself, and those around you safe… or to do the opposite.
I was raised with a fairly short and simple list of rules given by my wise and wonderful parents. It served me well, but times have changed quite a bit, so I have created my own, more current and comprehensive list of ways to keep you and those around you safe. (Blue text below shows the rules from my parents; black text shows my additions.)
1. No drinking and driving (and no getting into a car with someone else drinking and driving).
No drugs of any sort while driving or operating any vehicle. Ever. That also means: no bicycle, skateboard, scooter, flying car when those become available, etc. #DrinkingDruggingDrivingDead
2. No texting and driving either.
No Snapchatting. No Instagramming. No TikToking. No use of your phone when driving. Ever. Never ever. Lock up your phone when you are on the road. Use Bluetooth or smartphone apps to help keep your attention on the road and let others know you are not available. If you need to use a directions app, use another app that locks everything else down. If you need motivation, just google: “texting while driving accidents.”
3. No cigarettes.
No vaping. No e-cigarettes. We know you aren’t stupid enough to smoke cigarettes, but vaping is new enough to fool you and your whole generation. #VapesArePoison
4. No means NO (in the context of relationships).
Only YES means yes. Silence means no. “I’m not sure” means no. “Maybe” means no. Consent must be crystal clear. Don’t assume: ASK. At. Each. Step. #CONSENT
5. Always wear a condom.
No, not during masturbation or when you’re actually trying to get your partner pregnant. If you end up with a husband though, you don’t have to worry about getting him pregnant. And not just while walking around, but yes, during sex.
6. No chiropractors.
We’ve evolved as a family to embrace chiropractors, but are still wary of quacks in any profession, so I like this rule as a general reminder.
7. No motorcycles.
8. Be nice to people (on the way up, because you’ll need ‘em on the way down).
Be nice to animals too. Be a rescuer. Build genuine relationships. Be loyal. #BeKind
9. Never stay silent in the presence of bullying, harassment, or oppression.
You are obligated to stand up for yourself, your friends, and strangers around you who need aid. Silence is never an option in the face of an assault on you or someone else. #NotOnMyWatch
10. Be a free thinker. Be a critical thinker. Be a skeptic.
This includes being watchful of the constant influx of fakery, lies, and manipulations, especially on the Internet and your beloved social media channels. For example, learn what a “deepfake” is (and know that the definition will continue to evolve with technology). Deep fakes may be the single most dangerous thing to someone who has excellent judgement and has learned to trust themselves, their eyes, and their ears… so your judgment needs to reflect this awareness. #DeepFakesAreReal
Technology, like your iPhones, will get more and more addictive. Be aware. Track your usage and use technology intentionally. Let the tech add to your life, not be your life. Eye contact and non-verbal communication are where much of the magic of human relationships occur. Don’t let the tech addictions stop you from developing, using, and enjoying these abilities. #BeSmarterThanTheTech
12. Porn is not the place to learn about sex.
Porn is not going to teach what you to do during sex. The stuff you see online with pain, fear, force, or aggression is not what the vast majority of women (or men) want from you, nor what the vast majority of men want to do. The only way to know what your partner likes is to ask, and to explore with permission. Porn is addictive. Porn can spoil your ability to enjoy sex IRL. Watch porn if you want. No judgment. Just know, it’s not real life. You are watching a movie, and just like Batman can’t really fly and Transformers aren’t real…. #PornAintRealLifeBruh
13. Masturbation is a great thing.
It is totally normal, so enjoy it. Best done in private. Learn to do it without porn. Just close your eyes, use your hands, and figure out how to make it happen. No need to soil your sheets or your socks or t-shirts, just get some Kleenex. Once you’re in a relationship, you can do it simultaneously with your partner. Until then, best to avoid the legends of the circle jerk and the asphyxiation stuff tends to kill people, so avoid that. But, you’ll learn ya like what ya like, so explore as you see fit. #TreatYourselfWell
14. Sleep is important for your overall health.
Do it well. #SleepWellDaily
15. Read ingredient labels to avoid toxic ingredients.
16. And… Take excellent care of your teeth.
Brush ‘em. Brush your tongue. Floss. Do all of it. Twice a day.
May you – and everyone around you – be safe, healthy, and happy.
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