Boys Need Men, and Other Lessons I Learned From the Elephants!

Years ago, my dad shared this CNN story with me, South Africa Reins In Its Young Elephants. I found it such a fascinating story and wonderful analogy for our young men today, that I continue to reference it all these years later. Please read the story for yourself, but I can share a summary.

The Story of the Elephants

The CNN story, written by Dean E. Murphy in 1998, is about a group of wild elephant bulls on a game reserve in South Africa. The elephant bulls, considered teenagers in elephant years, were being extremely aggressive. The elephant bulls were terrorizing the reserve by killing rhinos and chasing off safari visitors. One man even lost his life to one of the aggressive, young elephants. I can just imagine the chaos!

Reserve officials were perplexed by the strange behavior of the elephants and began contemplating the reasons for this behavior and possible solutions. You see, these elephants were orphaned at a young age and relocated to this reserve. It turns out, there were no older elephant males on the reservation. Officials determined that the male elephants had no role model for appropriate behavior.

The park finally introduced a handful of elder elephants to the area. At the time the story was written, the unruly behaviors of the elephant bulls had already decreased significantly. Wow, even the animals learn from their elders!

The Lessons:

Children Need Positive Role Models. I’m not the first person to tell you how much it means that you model good behavior for your children, boys and girls! They watch our every move and listen to our every word!

More Boys Need Men In Their Lives. I see more and more young boys in my therapy office without this male figure in their life. These boys yearn for their father and appear to be seeking guidance from anywhere they can. Moms serve a precious and irreplacable role in their lives, but they can’t serve as the male figure. William Bennett, a blogger with CNN Opinion, wrote in his article Why Men Are In Trouble, “For boys to become men, they need to be guided through advice, habit, instruction, example and correction. It is true in all ages.”

We Can Learn From Our Elders. I think today we really do not place enough value on learning form our elders. Whether we are young or middle-aged, our elders can teach us a lot about life. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read many books, hoping to be prepared for this new chapter in my life. When my baby finally arrived, I found the most valuable lessons came from my mother, my aunt, my grandmother, and my friends. Their experience taught me more than any book I read! Our younger generations are facing life today with the same mentality… learn what you need to from the internet. Unfortunately, there is so much more we can teach them. But first, we have to teach them to value the lessons what we have to offer.

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Published by

Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

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