5 Things Every Dad Must Do For His Son
OK Dads—here’s the follow up from my previous post of 5 Things Every Dad Must Do For His Daughter (inspired by the Fathers.com book “5 Things Every Kid MUST GET from DAD”). With this post we’ll turn our attention our sons.
On a daily basis, our boys are looking to us for guidance as they grow up. They watch how we interact with our wives, our daughters, our neighbors, our friends, and our enemies. Whether it’s deserved or not, they look up to us and imagine themselves in our shoes. Dad, that makes you the reference point for his entire life. As the father of a son myself, this thought is both awesome and terrifying all at once. I want my son to look back on his memories of me not just as a benchmark to reach but more importantly as one to pass.
I think most dads feel this way. So, what do we do?
1) Give Him A Living Example
While there are lots of ways you will be an example, there are two that are incredibly important to your son.
First, your son needs to know it’s OK to express emotion. We (men and women) are made in God’s image—an image that shines love, anger, grief, jealousy, joy, concern, frustration, and happiness. So if it’s OK for God to display these emotions, it must be OK for us too. Show your son how God approaches each of these emotions. Perhaps you struggle with this yourself because you were never taught to righteously express your own emotions. If so, don’t be ashamed to ask for help or advice. Ending the cycle of repressed Godly emotion will model another emotion for your son—courage.
The next crucial example he needs is the treatment of women. Think about it, Dad. He will have no greater example of how to treat women than your example. Your son needs to see you hug your wife and tell her you love her. He needs to see you honoring your mother and nurturing your daughters. But your example goes way beyond how you treat your female family members. The women he sees on TV, in magazines, on the computer, and in person will either become objects to be used or people to be respected. Your example should be the loudest and clearest voice to help him make the right choice.
2) Give Him A Plan
This may sound boring but Dad, you need a plan to help your son become a man. This includes:
- Vocational Planning: Help him find his strengths and interests. Show him how those interests can become careers in ways he may have never considered. Give your son the opportunity to dream but don’t let him lose sight of reality. And of course, those dreams can never become reality without a solid education, so instill in him a desire to never stop learning.
- Relational Planning: Your son will figure out the physical qualities he admires in the opposite sex without any help from you. So your job then is to help him understand the more important qualities he should look for in a mate. Teach him what it takes to make a strong marriage. And don’t forget his other relationships too. If he grasps the importance of friendships that build him up, relating to authority figures, compassion for those in need, and setting boundaries that should never be crossed, he will go far in life.
- Rites of Passage: Build a bridge with your son that recognizes his passage from childhood to manhood. He needs to know you see his growing maturity, responsibility, and capability. By doing so you give him the one thing every male needs in order to feel like a man—respect. (And by the way, popping a beer can together makes a poor substitute for a rite of passage—it takes zero maturity, responsibility, or capability to reach the bottom of the can.)
- Goals: Literally make a list of the things you want to instill in your son before he leaves home. Specifically, think about skills he will need like managing his finances, changing a tire, or how to say “no.” Identify the values you want him to adopt like honesty, compassion, humor, perseverance, and a sense of family. Be intentional about giving your son good “baggage” as he strikes out on his own.
3) Give Him Moral and Spiritual Benchmarks
A benchmark is a goal to measure against. And there’s getting away from it Dad, you are your son’s benchmark in many areas of life. So set the bar high!
Benchmark a high level of respect for authority. This will serve him well not only now while he is under your roof but also later when he is college, in the marketplace, and teaching his own kids about authority.
Set the bar for him to think of others before himself. Take him along to help at a Humanity House, a soup kitchen, or on a mission trip. He needs you to provide an alternative to the selfishness and materialism our culture throws at him every day.
And don’t forget about spirituality. Too often Mom is the only real spiritual example in the house. Your son needs to know faith is not a feminine trait alone. Make no mistake, Dad—the world around your son will offer all kinds of misleading notions of what manhood is. Show him the real man is the one who chooses to live Christ’s example.
4) Give Him Gifts of Respect and Purity
Cursing, crude humor, and denigration of women. No, this isn’t the latest reality TV show. It’s your neighborhood supermarket, restaurant, or playground. Our culture is very efficient at producing young men with little respect for the world around them.
Dad, it’s up to you to be the counter-culture for your son. He needs to understand words and actions matter. Hold him accountable when his speech or behavior becomes disrespectful. Demonstrate how to articulate thoughts, build relationships, and speak peace through language, character, and respect. The young man who looks others in the eye, gives a firm handshake, and says “Sir” or “Ma’am” will stand head and shoulders above a foul-mouthed and disrespectful culture.
As will the young man who remains pure. Your son needs to learn self-discipline as a counter to the values the world will push on him. Talk to him about abstinence from sex, alcohol and drugs. Model for him the value of integrity, honesty, and playing by the rules.
Sure, he’ll be concerned about standing out. But encourage him that given the culture we live in today, standing out pays lifelong dividends to those strong enough to try.
5) Show Him How to Love
Dad, the best way your son is going to learn to love, trust, and be vulnerable with someone else is if you are that way with him.
Be a good communicator. Love will not travel down a road that has not been built. Use communication to build that path. Be quick to listen to him. Look for subtle clues that show he’s ready to talk. And always be available for him. All of which demonstrate you care about what he has to say.
Don’t be afraid to show your son physical affection. Studies have shown that boys with affectionate dads develop a healthy self-esteem, thrive at school, and have fewer gender-identity issues. Be sure to dole out piggyback rides, wrestling matches, rough-housing, slaps on the back, and big bear-hugs on a regular basis.
But also remember words are powerful, which makes verbal affection just as important. Give him positive words of confidence. Tell him you’re proud he’s your son. And most important tell him you love him. What you’re really saying is there is nothing he will ever do that will cause him to stop being your son or make you stop loving him. That instills in him confidence and trust.
From one dad to another, I can tell you I have not mastered every one of these suggestions for my son or the one in the previous post for my daughters. But I love my kids enough to keep working at it and give them my very best. I hope you feel the same. Maybe together we can figure this “Dad” thing out.
Live The Mission,