“My son, he is so much like me. I hope you don’t mind my saying this, but he is very bright and he works very hard. But like me, he doesn’t have the ability to work well with other people. He is better – or at least more comfortable – working on his own. So I can see him working some day in a large organization and doing reasonably well – but doing so only within a function. He’ll be good at a task or a project. But I fear that, unless he improves in this other “people” dimension, he will never be a part of the leadership group. He’ll be the designated doer, but because of his inability to connect well with others, he may shortchange himself.”
If the dad’s assessment is right (and I bet he is), how can we help a boy in this situation? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Talk to the boy’s advisor to get his advice.
2. Encourage him to get involved with groups, especially those that emphasize “teaming.” (Football might be more helpful than squash.)
3. Other options to consider: the debating team, Model Ontario Parliament, the World Affairs Conference, and community service. The latter is especially good because service can be the antidote to the great narcissism of adolescence. It helps combat the natural developmental challenge, what Walker Percy described as the “suck of self.” The adolescent concerns are often about “my hair, my face, my pimples, my transcript, my university, my future…” and working with a grade 3 boy on math or English, can help a truculent high school boy put things in better perspective.
4. Explore the possibility of co-ed experiences. For example, the boy can take Theory of Knowledge with Branksome Hall students, and he can do drama, music, art, and service with girls from BSS.
5. Consider an international service trip. Sometimes spending ten days in a distant land can create a very positive bond among the dozen or so boys who go on this service learning venture together.
Are there other approaches that can help a boy in this situation?