Phrases like “should have, “would have, “could have… are heard frequently among parents. Retrospectively, there are always things that could have
been done a little bit better. We should have
let them watch two hours fewer of TV yesterday. We shouldn’t have
let him stay home when he cried on the first day of kindergarten. We could have
attended more soccer games, gotten him into a better preschool, made him eat more vegetables, given him longer timeouts, etc., etc. Hindsight is 20/20—especially when it comes to raising our kids.
While parents of older kids shouldn’t dwell on mistakes, they at least provide us the opportunity to learn from them. Big or small, the mistakes made by those who have gone before us have the potential to help each of us better, more effective dads. Even missteps we’ve made ourselves can be righted. Our kids are young. They’re resilient. Kids have this amazing ability to forget (and also an annoying ability to remember the words they shouldn’t). While they’re young, they’re malleable. They love us despite our imperfections and are often ignorant of our mishaps.
But, as our sons get older, they become less forgetful. Approaching their teen years, the impressions and examples we set throughout childhood begin to build. Each step moves him toward learning how to become an individual, a man who makes his own decisions, develops his own sense of right and wrong, and growth into the person he wants to be. Therefore, we as dads have a sweet spot—right before our sons enter “teenagedom—where we can have a maximum positive influence.
This small window of time is a season when we can make a lasting impact on our sons. Here are five tips to help you effectively father your son into the man you want him to be.
1. Set Expectations… And Stick To Them
We’ve all done it. We say one thing and do another. Or, at least, say one thing and then let him slide…just this one time. It’s important that when we set a goal with our son (e.g., read for two hours before playing outside.)
, we stick to it. This demonstrates a direct and important correlation between what we say we’re going to do and what we actually do. This breeds discipline and integrity—two qualities essential to a man’s character. Even things as small as communicating and fulfilling expectations for after-school schedules or a toy clean-up regiment add up as impressions on their character.
2. Encourage Honesty
This requires consistent, open communication. Talk with your son about your own mistakes, how you fix them and how you’re going to do better next time. Show him that failures are nothing to be ashamed of but rather are things to learn from. Remind him that even if a wrong action results in a consequence, it’s always better to tell the truth. Decide how you’re going to place a high value on honesty. Think: consistent conversations, anecdotes, rewards, etc.
3. Invest in Quality Time
Take time—each day or each week—to listen to, encourage and play with your son. Whether that’s reading a book, climbing a tree or going for a drive, intentionally spending time with your son will show him how much you value him. Being liked
by you, not just loved, will boost his confidence and deepen his trust in you. This sets the stage for a healthy, open relationship in his teen years. Capitalize on the short season when riding around in a car with your dad is actually cool.
4. Affirm His Identity
Remind him that his value and worth doesn’t come from what his friends think of him, how much stuff he has or how good he is at sports. Those things are important, but they can’t be the sole determinants of his self-assurance. The older our sons get, the more crucial it is for them to be confident in who they are, not what they do. Communicate to him that he is loved and valuable, just because of who he is.
5. Have Fun
Spend time planning fun activities with your family. Make time spent together as positive as possible, and, for the most part, lighthearted. Think: What kind of memories do I want my son to have of his childhood? What thoughts do I want him to keep about what it means to be a family? No family is perfect, but the effort to have fun with your family will go a long way in building and maintaining a long-term healthy relationship with your son.
These are some simple, daily tips
will help you raise your son into the man you want him to be. Manhood isn’t easy, and you are a crucial player as he grows from a child into an adult. Make the most of these formative years by learning from yours and others’ mistakes to make you a more effective father. Love, serve and spend time with your son now
, before he becomes a man.
If you or someone you know has a child that has passed these formative years and is traveling down a different path, there is hope. At Paul Anderson Youth Home, they help teen boys become the men they were made to be. They partner with parents and mentors to set every teen on a path to success by navigating this difficult, yet hopeful, process together.
Drew Read, author, speaker, and COO of the Paul Anderson Youth Home is a passionate advocate for youth and strongly believes that the home is the foundation of society. Topics of expertise include identity, technology, depression, suicide, bullying, roles of the family, culture and high-risk behaviors affecting today’s youth. Learn more about the services PAYH provides and its familySTRONG resources at payh.org.