10 Rules to raising the man you want your son to be
This week, I was hanging out with two of my good friends, when we started talking about our kids… what else is knew? It’s funny, because for being pretty similar in parenting styles, their kids were complete opposites. One has a son that is really nice, gentle, soft-spoken kid. He is always polite and never raises his voice. While he is a great kid, he cries and whines a lot. He said: “It sure is hard making these kids tough, isn’t it? I never would have cried like this 30 years ago.”
On the other hand, my other friend has son that you would consider “aggressive”. Compared to the rest of his friends, he was the dominant personality. He was pushy and bossy, not worrying if anyones feeling got hurt. He said: “Yeah, it’s pretty easy to raise him to be tough- it kind of comes naturally. I don’t know how I’d try to toughen him up if he weren’t already this way.”
Which one is harder to raise? Which is easier? It doesn’t matter, because in the end, we all want the same goal:
Raising a boy is hard… Raising a boy to be the man you want him to be is harder…
Becky & I just want the best of both worlds. We are trying to raise men that are both gentle, yet strong. We try to teach them these lessons through our actions and our examples. These ones are most important to us:
How to raise a boy to be a kind, but strong man:
- Stand up for what you believe in, but not at another person’s expense. If you are going to stand up for things like morals, family and religion, be sure that you are strong in where you stand. Society is quick to cast the first stone, so be ready to defend what you believe in.
- Have an open mind and be willing to hear other’s sides. You aren’t always right, so be willing to understand why the other person has a good point, too.
- Be nice to your family. ” Yes, son… while it is easier to be nice to your baby sister, five years younger than you… and harder to be just as nice to your brother who is only a year younger than you, both are equally important.”
It is just as important is to be kind to the women in your life and teach your kids to do the same: their mother, grandmother, aunts… The best way to show our sons how to be great husbands is to be one ourselves.
- Knowing when and how apologize is important. It shows that you are strong enough to know when you are wrong or have made a mistake. As it shows strength, it is also to show that you are someone that is seeking forgiveness for making a mistake. A key to a healthy relationship is knowing when to say you are wrong, but also asking for forgiveness. When we lose our tempers (and we do), learn to apologize to your kids. They need to know that everyone has weak areas in life and we all make mistakes. We apologize and we mean it… and then we move on. Talk to your kids about it. “I am sorry. I am saying that I am sorry, because it is how I am going to own up to my mistakes. I don’t want to do it again.”
- Offer help. If you see some that needs help, you automatically offer to help, no questions asked. It can be as simple as holding the door open for the lady at the grocery store or helping that same lady carry her groceries to her car. It might not be easy, but it may mean the world to the person you are helping. Lead by example.
One time Becky stopped in a parking lot, after running into the store to grab milk. The kids and I were waiting in the car as we watched her come out of the store, into the cold rainy evening, and we watched stop at a car close by. She saw a very old man trying to get his groceries into his car. She ran over, opened his door for him to get in and then she unloaded his groceries, one by one, in the cold rain, while he sat in the car with a smile on his face, watching her with gratitude. I told our kids to watch, because that is the example that I want them to see: selflessness.
- Knowing when to say “No” may be one of the hardest things to teach. Saying “No” to bullies and to peer pressures may be the toughest things we have to do. Teach your kids to have enough faith in themselves that turning down that temptation is going to be easy.
- Find your passion and pursue it. I love woodworking, but rarely do it. This year, I started working from home and it gave me a chance to work on this. It gave the kids a chance to see that I still have hobbies and I pursue them. They don’t bring me money or success, but they bring me happiness and that is more important.
- Read. Simple, right? Read for fun. Read magazines. Read books. I want our kids to know that education doesn’t stop just because school does. I am always growing in what I know because the more I know, the more I can do and teach to someone else.
- Say I Love You. Say I love you and say it often. Don’t be afraid to tell them.
- ‘Humor’ someone today. You might not think that your brother’s joke is funny… laugh anyway. Your mom may have told you the same story twice… listen anyway. It is called humoring someone and you do it out of kindness. We teach our kids this and we give them examples. Then… we give them opportunities to try, as we whisper into their ears “Humor your little brother and watch while we beams with pride that you laughed at his joke!”
However, chances are that if a boy is raised by a real man in a structured environment, he’s much more likely to grow in to a real man himself – a strong, independent, and responsible man. So how do you raise a strong, independent, responsible, real man – a man who is honorable, intelligent, financially stable, able to take care of and protect his own family, and able to successfully raise children of his own? Here are some suggestions:
Let them play with boy toys
In spite of what the girlie men state, it’s o.k. for boys to play with boy toys. It’s o.k. for them to play ‘Army’ and ‘Cowboy and Indians’. It’s o.k. for them to use saws, hammers, drills, and other tools. It’s o.k. for them to play with toy guns.
Let them play like boys
Boys like to be boys. You should encourage that behavior, rather than discourage it. They like to play in the mud and in the dirt. They like to splash in puddles and play in the rain. They like to wrestle and fight. Provide boundaries for all of those things, but in general, let them do it.
Do manly activities with your boys
Take them hunting and fishing. Go camping and dirt bike riding. Go hiking and mountain climbing. Take them to baseball and football games. Build a fort with them. In addition to bonding time, these activities are all opportunities to teach your boys man skills: setting up camp, starting fires, cleaning game, marksmanship, respecting nature, building skills, sports rules, coordination, etc. You absolutely should also do more ‘cultural’ activities with your boys like taking them to museums, plays, movies, concerts, and fine restaurants. However, these are things which can be done with the whole family. Our focus here is specifically on manly activities you do with your boys.
Do manly activities with other men and boys
Take the opportunity to do manly activities in the company of other men and boys. For example, if you have friends with boys, you might go on hunting, fishing, or camping trips together. This gives your boys an opportunity to see other real men in action. It provides positive male role models, and reinforcements of real man behaviors.
Do manly activities with your boys regularly
It’s not enough to take your boys on a fishing trip then never do it again. You need to do things with them regularly. For example, you might get them involved in Little League during the spring, fishing over the summer, and hunting during the fall. Throw in a few camping trips and sports events throughout the year.
Get them involved in team sports.
Encourage them to join Little League or Pop Warner football. Spend some evenings and weekends practicing with them each week. They’ll learn how to work in a team environment, learn sports skills, develop confidence as they improve their skills, and enjoy quality bonding time with their father.
Teach them guidelines about crying
Our society has drilled in to our heads that it’s o.k. for men to cry at any time for any reason – the more the better. No, it’s not o.k. It is o.k. for men to cry once in awhile, but never in public. In general, you need to teach your boys to suck it up. This teaches them discipline and will power. It also teaches them to maintain composure during crisis or difficult times when they need all of their faculties to focus on solutions to problems. There are a few instances when it’s o.k. for a real man to cry:
- If your mother dies;
- If your sports team loses; or
- If you get home and find that your wife drank all of your beer or ate the submarine sandwich you were saving.
Provide positive reinforcement
At every opportunity, stress to your boys how special they are, how smart they are, and how tough they are. Tell them you’re proud of them and that they can be anything they want. Do it often.
Don’t save your boys from suffering the consequences
Our society is full of sports figures that’ve been brought up with the idea that they can do no wrong. They’ve never had to take responsibility for their actions. Instead, someone was always there to make excuses for them or take care of any problems that they created. More often than not, boys raised in this manner end up getting involved in drugs, crime, and all sorts of other nasty behaviors.
It’s difficult not to help our kids in certain circumstances. Our instincts are to care for them. The problem is that if we’re always saving them, they learn that there are no consequences to mistakes or bad behavior. Women, especially, try to save their kids every chance they get. It’s their nurturing instinct. But you’re not a woman, and you’re not rearing women. You’re tying to raise a responsible real man.
Allow your boys to suffer the consequences of their mistakes. For example, if you reminded them to bring their coat along yet they still forgot it, let them be cold rather than giving up your coat. If they suffer the consequence, they won’t forget the coat the next time. If you give them your coat or don’t allow them to suffer the consequence, they’ll probably forget the coat the next time as well. Of course you want to do this within reason. You don’t want them to become a human ice sickle in order to teach them not to forget their coat.
Don’t rush them in to manhood.
A boy will naturally start gravitating towards his father in his early teens. He’ll still go to his mother for sympathy and motherly love. Don’t belittle it. Allow him to maintain a bond with the woman who gave birth to him. Fathers always worry about their sons becoming mama’s boys – an unhealthy relationship with their mothers. You can minimize that by regularly doing more manly activities with your son.
Be firm, but fair
Your son needs a strong male figure, not a wishy-washy, milquetoast one. Set rules for him and let him know you expect him to follow them, otherwise their will be consequences. But be fair. It’s easy to get caught up in the authority of being a father and being in control. It’s easy to sometimes be unreasonable. Don’t fall in to this trap. You’ll teach your son far more by being fair than by regularly being an unreasonable jerk.
Don’t be his friend
You’re his dad, not his buddy. After he’s an adult, then you can relate more like friends. But while he’s growing up, he needs strong guidance more than friendship. By all means, bond, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company. Just don’t confuse being a friend with being a father. He’ll develop far more respect for you as his father than as his buddy.
It’s o.k. to shake your sons hand, pat him on the back, and yes even hug him. It sends a message that even though you’re tough on him, you care for him and love him. Let’s face it. As a man, it’s not always easy to tell someone you love them. If you can’t manage it, you’ll at least be sending that message through your actions. He’ll know it. If you are able to tell your boys you love them, the pats and hugs will reinforce what you’re telling him. Just don’t overdo it with the touchy feely stuff. That’s his mother’s domain, not yours.
If you follow these steps, you just might be able to beat the odds in our homo / metro sexual world, and end up the proud father of a genuine, real man. And perhaps someday, the real man you raised will discover the two things that all men do when they reach a certain point in their lives: one, that you were once a kid just like him; and two, that you are in fact a very smart guy, not the dummy he thought you were when he was a teenager. I’ll allow Thomas Wolfe and Mark Twain the final words to explain this phenomenon.
“Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later . . . that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could . . . adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.” –Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities
“When I was a boy of 14 my father was so ignorant that I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in only 7 years.”–Mark Twain