Packed with 100 inspiring, creative, fun challenges for boys, this project from violence-prevention organization A Call to Men answers parents' cries for building healthy manhood, respect, and emotional awareness in their sons.
• Dare to prove a stereotype wrong
• Dare to watch a movie about someone who's different from you
• Dare to ask a friend to teach you something they're good at
• Dare to be a leader
This collection of 100 original dares will help boys expand their worldview, inspire more respect toward girls and non-binary kids, and generally develop a healthier idea of manhood.
The book features a voicey intro to draw in readers, plus an afterword that's both a call to action and a resource for parents and educators. Inspired by A Call to Men's tried-and-tested curriculum, this is a way of guiding boys and young men to being their most authentic selves.
An Excerpt fromThe Book of Dares
Dare to try a sport or activity that’s outside your comfort zone
Whether you’re part of a team, an individual sport, or a group activity, we know you give your all. You train hard. You show up to your rehearsals or practices. You put everything you’ve got into it. (The rest--how many points you rack up, whether you win or lose--should pale in comparison.) But how often have you wanted to try a new sport or activity, only to stop yourself because you were afraid? Maybe you were worried that you wouldn’t be a pro right off the bat. Or that your friends would laugh at you. Boys often get teased or mocked when they branch out and explore activities that aren’t aggressive or tough enough.
If you never leave your comfort zone, you’ll miss out on some pretty cool stuff. The next time you’re interested in something new, pay attention to your gut--and don’t be afraid to go for it! You might just discover that you are a natural at the least-expected thing.
Dare to include girls in sports
Think back to when you were younger. Did you play sports with girls, either just for fun or on an organized team? Maybe it was soccer or basketball on the playground. Why, do you think, do boys typically play sports only with other boys after a certain age?
Well, it’s because boys are taught to view girls as less athletic, talented, or aggressive than they are. Which could make you think girls are weak. That can’t be true--just look at powerhouse female athletes like Serena Williams, Megan Rapinoe, Diana Taurasi, and Simone Biles.
The next time you and your boys are playing sports in the park or at recess, invite some girls to join you. And anytime they ask to play, always welcome them to your team. Don’t be surprised if you find your new go-to guard or a fierce goalkeeper.
Dare to stand up for someone who is being bullied
Kids are bullied for a lot of reasons, and it’s usually because something about them is labeled “different.” We’ve all, at certain points in our lives, felt out of place or like we didn’t belong. Imagine feeling that way constantly.
When you see someone being bullied, it can be scary. You don’t want the person to be hurt, and you also might be afraid to step in and become the bully’s next target. Speaking up isn’t easy, but if you do it, others will, too. If you see someone being bullied and you don’t feel safe intervening in the moment, check with that person afterward. Let them know they’re not alone: Ask to sit with them during lunch and at other times (assemblies, for example) when they might not have someone to hang out with. Offer to help them talk to a trusted adult, such as a teacher or parent. Be the friend you’d want to have if you were in their shoes.
Dare to encourage someone’s uniqueness
Speaking of differences . . . let’s celebrate them! How many times have you witnessed someone getting picked on for something totally harmless that affects literally no one else? It could be anything from a physical feature to the way they speak or choose to dress. People pick on others who they think are “unusual,” when really they’re just unique (a better word, and one that we prefer). Think about your closest friends and all the reasons you like them. Probably pretty specific reasons, right? We’re not all meant to be the same. We’re meant to be a supercool, uber-assorted group of people.
Be on the lookout for what makes someone special, and go out of your way to encourage it. Also spend some time thinking about the qualities that make you unique, and then embrace them with all you’ve got. Life would be so boring if we were all the same. Diversity is dope.
Dare to be empowered
Do you ever let someone else keep doing something for you, even if you’re capable of doing it yourself? Maybe it’s making that delicious turkey sandwich your parents pack for your lunch, washing your laundry, or organizing your closet. Even if someone has always offered to do those things for you, knowing how to do them yourself and becoming self-sufficient are even more empowering. And it’s meaningful to help out a parent or friend because it makes their life easier.
This week, dare to do something on your own. Bonus points if it’s something that’ll not only benefit you, but also benefit others. Don’t just put your clothes in the laundry--ask if someone else in your family needs something washed as well!
Dare to share your true feelings
“Hey! How are you?” “I’m good. You?”
How many times have you had this exact exchange? It’s a common question with an even more common (and generic) answer. Are you really fine? Boys are taught not to share their feelings. You may have been taught that it’s weak to ask for help. This means that “fine” is usually an answer for just about every feeling under the sun. Or a cover-up for something tough you’re going through.
As hard as it can be, try not to run from your feelings. The next time someone asks how you’re doing, challenge yourself to share the truth. Tell that friend or parent how you’re frustrated, worried, upset, excited, anxious, or really happy. Explain why. It feels good to share your feelings openly, and if you’re looking for help, the person you’re talking to can offer insight.
Dare to compliment someone every day
Do you ever wish there were more hours in the day? One minute you’re hitting the snooze button and the next you’re setting the alarm for tomorrow. What gives?! Life can be challenging. Most days, you’re walking a very thin tightrope as you balance your many responsibilities without forgetting homework or being late to activities, and while trying to have a social life, keep up on social media, and make sure everything is cool with Mom or Dad. Do you ever feel unseen or unheard in the chaos of everyday life? How would you feel if, during a hectic day, someone let you know you were doing something well?
Each day for one week, make a point to bring joy into someone else’s life. Cheer them on, text them, send an email, or go old-school and call them to let them know they’re doing a good job. When we shine a light on someone, that light is bound to shine back on us.
Dare to support a girl in school
Did you know that, on average, teachers spend up to two-thirds of their time talking to boys versus one-third for girls? And yet . . . boys are still more likely to interrupt girls when they’re answering questions or sharing opinions in class. It’s important to give equal time to everyone’s voices, including girls--otherwise, you’re participating in something called unconscious bias, and that’s not fair.
What can you do to actively support girls in school? It can be as easy as saying “That’s a good idea,” or “I’ve never thought of it that way,” or “She has a really good idea for a science project.” The possibilities are endless! Just let the kindness flow.
Dare to start a journal
Our society has a bad habit of labeling things as “For Boys” and “For Girls,” but there’s no reason behind it. Keeping a journal or diary is not naturally more “boy” or more “girl.” Journals and diaries don’t have a gender--they’re literally notebooks with paper in them. And they’re fantastic for keeping track of your very busy life and how things are going for you. Writing about your day can help clear your head and make important connections between your thoughts, actions, and feelings. Don’t feel limited to a pen-and-paper journal, either. You can write on a computer, on a tablet, in an app, or in your phone’s notes section. Heck, write on a gum wrapper if that’s what you’ve got!
Starting tonight, write down a few things you remember from your day. If it feels too scary to write in full sentences or paragraphs, create lists instead. Write down three things you saw today--like a slice of pizza. Or five things you’re grateful for--like that slice of pizza. At the end of the week, look back and see if anything stands out or surprises you. How was Friday different from Monday? The best part is that journals are for your eyes only--be as honest as you want.
Dare to do something you love even if it’s not something boys are “supposed to do”
Once you stop attaching gender to activities and objects, a world of possibilities opens up to you. Want to plant a garden? See a musical? Write a poem? Go for it! Are you afraid that the guys would give you side eye and make fun of you if they knew you wanted to do these things? Show them that men everywhere grow food and flowers in gardens, especially chefs and cooks. Show them that men go to the theater and perform onstage. Show them that poetry is created by men like hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper and author Robert Frost, who wrote “The Road Not Taken.” Be like Frost and try a different path. Because that’s being real. And being real means doing the things you love even if other people don’t understand why you love them. Shutting down parts of yourself because you’re afraid of how others might perceive you is unhealthy and prevents you from being your truest self.
Set out to do one thing you love that absolutely, positively brings you joy. Do it to inspire the people around you to be their authentic selves, too!
Dare to be a leader
What does being a leader mean to you? Does the title leader feel like big shoes to fill--as if it can only be applied to the president or prime minister of a country? Well, it doesn’t have to! There are so many ways to be a leader. Sometimes it can mean taking an important role in student government, on your sports team, or in drama class. Other times, it means doing things that show what’s important to you--like recycling to protect the environment, selling candy to raise money for a local pet shelter, or volunteering at a nursing home. Even though the idea of leading can make you think of being strong and forceful, listening to other people, encouraging different opinions, and challenging old ideas are also ways of leading.
Dare to embrace leadership this year. Write down the ways you want to be a leader in your home, school, or community and dare to do the things on that list.
Dare to name three emotions you felt today
Did you know that there are dozens of emotions? The list gets pretty specific! But generally, we think of the major ones as anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy. Of these eight, how many have you felt recently?
Dare to jot down at least three emotions you felt today and how they affected you. For example, if you felt joy, what was the cause? Being able to identify your feelings will help you seek out the things that help you have positive emotions (like surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy), as well as how to handle the more difficult ones (like anger, fear, sadness, and disgust). This understanding makes up your emotional literacy, which is like a big book of tips and tricks that will help you express exactly how you feel and help you be a better problem solver.
Dare to include someone who is left out
You know that feeling when you walk into a party and you don’t know anyone there? Or it’s lunchtime and you don’t see anyone to sit with? Maybe your friends are running late and you’re the first one to arrive. Or perhaps you’re brand-new to the scene. Some people have a knack for walking up to others and making new friends easily, but others need a little more time to feel comfortable. And both of those are okay.
Look around and notice who in the room is rolling solo. Walk over and start a conversation or invite them to join you at lunch or at the mall. If you’re not sure what to say, start with a simple “hello.” You never know who’ll surprise you.
Dare to be inspired by diverse stories and authors
What’s the latest great novel, comic book, graphic novel, autobiography, or story you read? Who was the author? Where are they from? What are they writing about? Think about the stories you read for school and for fun. Do those stories include people of all genders, races, identities, and backgrounds--especially ones that are different from yours?
Dare to learn more about people who come from all walks of life. Next time you’re browsing in a bookstore or reading for fun, choose an author whose story isn’t like your own. It’s sure to broaden your perspective, inspire new ideas, and help you think of different ways to overcome obstacles in your life.
Dare to talk about a time you were frightened
Most of us are afraid of something. Whether it’s a less serious thing like horror movies or spiders or thinking too long about outer space, or a more serious issue like losing a loved one or disappointing a friend--there’s bound to be something that frightens you. Do you recall the last time you were afraid? Did you keep it to yourself or tell someone how you felt? The Man Box convinces boys that they always have to be in control and completely fearless. But scary things happen all the time, and everyone needs to be able to talk about them.
Think about a time when you were afraid--waking up from a nightmare, seeing something on the news, after an incident at school, during an argument at home, or because of something totally ridiculous but still legit scary to you--and talk about it with someone today. Acknowledging your feelings is the first step to overcoming your fears.
Dare to prove a stereotype wrong
A stereotype is a super-simple idea or image of a person or thing based on the lowest common denominator. Like: Oh, you’re a boy? Then you must be the class clown; the strong, silent type; the big shot; or the action hero. But you’re more than that. There are many stereotypes about race, gender, age, and ethnicity. The Man Box creates stereotypes that men and boys feel pressured to uphold, like the ones we’ve listed above.
This week, prove a stereotype wrong. Show that you’re smart, sensitive, caring, and thoughtful. Being an action hero is cool--but you don’t need to dodge burning cars or run to the rescue to prove you’re brave. Instead, reach out to a friend or neighbor and offer your time to help them with something.