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Teach Love

How Boys Town Teaches Love

June 1, 2021     By Boys Town Contributor

Boys Town, Teaching Kindness

At Boys Town, #TeachLove is more than just a hashtag and unique way of spreading the positive message of choosing love over hate and acceptance over intolerance. Boys Town Family-Teachers and staff teach the skills and behaviors of #TeachLove as well as demonstrate them as values and character traits to the kids in our Family Home Program. Many of our boys and girls have been abused and mistreated, never truly knowing what real love is…what it looks like, sounds like and acts like. The following is  an inspirating talk from Fr. Steven Boes, Boys Town President and National Executive Director, given at a Boys Town youth retreat. It's a shining example of Boys Town's commitment to teaching love to kids so they can learn how to build strong, healthy and secure relationships as they move forward in life.        
 
Human Love and God's Love
There is a lot of confusion about what love is in our culture. We use this same word for how we feel about our parents, our friends, our cat, our sports team and even our favorite food. We say, “I love French fries!" In today's hook-up culture, some kids are having sex with others they barely know, mostly because they find them physically or socially attractive, and calling that love. There is a lack of clarity about what is required for human love at its finest.

I think Boys Town is excellent at teaching kids about what true human love should look like. Our philosophy is that adults who love you do three things:

  • Loving adults know you well. Boys Town believes that to truly love children you must get to know them. Our Family-Teachers and other staff work hard to learn about you…how you grew up, what you want for your future and what you'll need to be successful. We have a core set of social skills all kids learn, but we create a unique treatment plan for each one of you.
  • Loving adults see the best in you. Father Flanagan taught us that, “There are no bad children; only bad environment, bad training, bad example." We follow that philosophy today. It is not easy to create that kind of environment. Adults are naturally inclined to catch kids being bad. If you filled this room with a thousand kids, any adult would have no problem spotting and describing the behavior of the few kids who were behaving badly. But it requires extensive training to help adults commit to focusing on the best in kids and describing their good behavior accurately. This is a major part of what our social skills are: ways to help adults focus on and describe good behavior. At Boys Town, we use the technology of the point card to help kids see that they do lots of good and bad things in a day. We also make sure the adults are not just focusing on the bad. Only when adults can truly see and communicate to kids their positive behaviors can they become good examples of true human love.
  • Loving adults hold you accountable. If you know a child well and see the best in them, it follows that you would want them to live up to their “best" self by holding them accountable. If we see that a child is talented at art, the only loving thing to do is to encourage this talent so the child can become the artist she was meant to be. If we see that kids can behave well some of the time, we must help them build on this and learn to control themsleves and behave well most of the time. This is where many adults struggle and fail in their relationships with kids. Why? Often, it's because many parents' circumstances can make it very difficult to hold kids accountable. It requires energy, strength and a deep desire to help children become the people they were meant to be. When you don't hold children responsible, you are not really loving them. This doesn't mean you chain kids to their bad behaviors and “make them pay" forever. No, at Boys Town we teach kids all about apologizing, starting over and getting second chances. The high standard stays the same because we love children enough to help them live up to this high standard.
 
The cool thing about human love is that it is a great way to learn about God's love. Like human love, God's love involves three things:
  • God knows us. God knows us better than any human ever will. Since the day we were conceived in our Mother's womb, God has seen everything we've ever done, said or thought; even those things that we've so carefully hidden from others (Psalm 139). Despite seeing everything, God still loves us. 
  • God sees the best in us. Because God worked with our parents to create each one of us, God can clearly see all that is good in each one of us. That's because God put it there! Everything that is good within us reflects God's best qualities: intelligence, compassion, strength, beauty and even love. God gives us these things so that we can give them back to the world. Each one of us is a unique combination of some of God's best qualities that the world desperately needs right now.
  • God holds us accountable. If you read the teachings of any religion, you see that we are called to a high standard of behavior. The Ten Commandments, Jesus's command to “love our enemies" and the Buddhist call to enlightenment all contain high standards that are tough to reach. Of course, God forgives us when we fail, but that doesn't make the standards any lower. 

So be careful about how you use and apply the word love. Correctly understood, love is powerful. It can change you and it can change the world. 

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