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As boys, we remember reading about King David and his mighty men in the Old Testament. Their exploits in battle were amazing! They lived lives of sacrifice and honor. Reading their stories stirred something deep within us. Without fully understanding why, even as small children we were drawn to the concept of being a hero.

Even today, we each still feel a deep connection to the idea of battling adversity to discover our own greatness or to help others discover theirs. Every boy is designed with a desire for heroic greatness. You may have seen it when your son uses a pillowcase for a cape and a stick for a sword. In his playacting, he may cast himself in the role of a hero, besting the monster, the odds, and all obstacles on the road to victory.

It is no accident that most stories about and for boys involve heroes (although, of course, girls also love these stories and can be heroes, too). Nor is it an accident that on every continent on this earth, the archetype of the hero plays a key role in the lives of boys and men. If you’ve traveled to or lived in other countries or cultures, you’ve seen this universally—town squares display statues of the local heroes, boys sword fight or otherwise play with one another as heroes (and villains), and teachers inspire children to high values and goals by telling heroic stories.

The hero—saver of the worlds, the slayers of dragons, the rescuer of the needy—is an archetype, an icon so enduring and universal that most people recognize it across time and culture. Archetypes motivate us and help organize our thinking. Boys need these archetypal role models to help them mature and grow.

Through the acronym HERO, we are describing a specific journey. HERO outlines a design map for male development rooted in scientific, psychological, and biblical wisdom for helping a boy to thrive all the way to manhood:

  • Honor: adhering to truth, values, compassion and principles beyond self
  • Enterprise: working at important things, whether they seem small or large
  • Responsibility: carrying important people and things throughout life
  • Originality: being a dreamer, a thinker, an explorer in the world

To employ this model in your study and parenting of boys, you might enjoy reading again a few fairy tales of heroes from other cultures. You may also find it interesting to scan through comic books or watch hero-oriented movies with your son. Whatever hero legend you explore, you can analyze the story with the honor-enterprise-responsibility-originality quarter in mind.

Your son wants to be a HERO. As his brain absorbs the heroic movie, he is unconsciously assessing the four aspects of self. Mostly without realizing it, he is wondering if he is missing one (or all) of these four elements. He is asking what his own heroic flaw is. Mainly unconsciously, he’s also noticing that by the time the hero is ready to marry the princess or win the girl (uniting masculine and feminine), he has proven himself to be successful in all four aspects of the male hero: honor, enterprise, responsibility, and originality. In fact, the wedding of male/female, self/soul, individual/community is the reward for making the tough adolescent/young-adult journey of development into HERO.

Look at this kind of thing as you watch these movies with your son, and find a hero story the two of you can experience together. Ask your son to identify moments in the story when the protagonist mastered, as a young or middle-aged man, each of the four qualities of the hero. Then, analyze how others helped him along the way.

Parents have a profound impact on the foundation of a child’s life. For better or worse, this foundation will likely continue to influence them for the rest of their life. However, if we were not provided with a healthy, loving foundation as children ourselves, it can be difficult to break the cycle and provide solid footing for our own children. Sometimes we don’t realize that we need to heal our past until faced with raising children of our own. If there is something holding you back from being the best parent you can be, there is help available. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is standing by to help you and your family.