We are all a product of the influence other people have had on us throughout our lives. All of the good and all of the bad are, many times, caused by interactions we’ve had, over the course of our lives, with other friends or adults.
Remember those times you would ask about spending the night at a friends’ house or about going over to someone’s house to play? How many times did your parents say, “No. They are a bad influence on you?” If they never said it, they were thinking it!
Your parents knew what their parents knew before them: We are a product of the other people’s influence in our lives.
If that’s the case, parents need to realize the impact they can have on the development of the children in their lives. We can never overestimate the impact we have on who our kids grow up to be.
Dads, if you have sons, your relationship with your boys can leave a legacy that creates ripple effects in your family and in the world.
Why? Boys want to grow up to be just like their dads. It’s just true. They want to be a mirror image of all of the good and bad that comes along with mimicking their father.
That also means that you have a responsibility to teach your children the kind of lessons that will set them up to become the best version of themselves as they get older. So, to get you headed in the right direction, here are 8 important lessons that every dad should teach his son. These are pieces of wisdom that have been passed down for generations by father figures and other male influences. May they be helpful to you as you impact the next generation.
Lesson 1: Respect Women
Respecting women is important for two reasons:
- Your son will find the right kind of partner. Like attracts like. And if your son is respectful, he will find a mate that respects herself and him. If your son isn’t respectful, and someone wants to be in a relationship with him, there’s probably an issue.
- It’s the right thing to do. Not because women are lesser people. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s because women have inherent value as human beings.
This can be said all the time, but it’s really going to stick when your son sees you model this behavior. Whether you think he is or not, your son is watching how you treat your spouse, how you handle conflict, how you treat women when you’re in public and how you talk about them.
Lesson 2: Look after your Family
This goes without saying for a lot you, but you’d be surprised at how many dads didn’t have a good example growing up. If you were raised by a Baby Boomer, your dad might have been distant. If you were raised by a dad that had to work two or three jobs to provide a house and food, you may not have had a strong connection with your father.
Don’t let the past define who you can become.
Teach your son, by way of example, to look after his family – in every way. Not just financially and not just by providing food and shelter. This is about the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of a family unit.
Extra tip: Start giving your son the job of watching his sibling at the playground while you sit on the side. Tell him he’s in charge of protecting and helping his sister or brother. Then, debrief the experience with your son, asking questions like, “Was it challenging to protect your sibling? What was it like helping your sibling around the playground?”
Lesson 3: Take Responsibility
The truth is that a lot of people want to solve all of the world’s problems (or want someone else to do it), but they aren’t willing to clean their own room.
In other words, there are people who don’t want to take responsibility for their own actions. When they do something wrong, it’s everyone else’s fault but theirs. When they make a mistake, they aren’t willing to own it.
People like this rarely succeed in life. So, teach your son to take responsibility for his own actions – the good and the bad. When he does something wrong, don’t let him pass the blame to someone else. And if you mess up, own it.
Lesson 4: How to Win and Lose
It’s likely that your son is competitive. Most boys are. And it’s also likely that he loves to rub his victories in the faces of anyone he beats. We’ve all been there and can understand the satisfaction of winning.
But, if your son is going to be a functioning member of society (assuming that’s what you want), he needs to win and lose the right way. Here are some examples of ways to help your son reign in his competitive streak:
- Teach him to say “good game” after every game, win or lose
- Give positive reinforcement when your son encourages someone else he’s playing with
- Model good winning and losing behavior
- Show him that, even when you’re losing, you stay focused until the game is officially over
Lesson 5: Stand up for Others
If there’s one truth in this world it’s that nothing is fair. Inequality exists all around us. People are hurting everywhere.
But, at the same time, people are working to bring justice, beauty, and healing into places that are full of inequality and pain. Be real with your son about the fact that there is so much injustice in the world.
Then, talk with him about ways he can be an agent of change in his family, school, and community. Here are some easy ways your son can start helping people who might be hurting:
- Sit with the kid who gets picked on
- Stand up to the bully that’s bothering other people
- Share food with the kid that doesn’t have lunch money
Podcast Ep. 173 – 8 Life Lessons Every Dad Should Teach Their Sons
Lesson 6: Be well-spoken
Leadership comes with the microphone. The way you communicate impacts the amount of influence you have over others. If you want your son to grow up to be a leader and not a follower, he needs to learn the importance of good communication. Here are a few pointers for teaching your son to be well-spoken:
- Teach your son to speak appropriately and respectfully to peers and grown-ups.
- Show them that there is a time and place for certain kinds of humor.
- Have them practice table manners, interview skills, and conversational skills while they are at home
Lesson 7: Fightback
Some things are a science while others are an art-form. Learning how to drive, to do the math, or how to tie your shoe are scientific. There aren’t really any other ways to do them. Discipline, leadership, or knowing when to sell your stocks are all art-forms. They require intuition and life experience.
Learning to fight back is an art. There are times when you should walk away and when you should stay and defend yourself. A father’s job is to teach his son how to be confident, strong, and capable of fighting when necessary. It’s also his job to show his son that, sometimes, he needs to walk away.
Ultimately, you have permission to cultivate your son’s natural inkling to stand up for himself and for others. Our world will try to stifle that part of his masculinity. But it’s okay to teach him to be strong.
Lesson 8: Money Management
Eventually, your son will have a job and will be making more money than he ever has in his life. What will he do with his money? Will he save it? Will he spend it immediately?
What he does with his money will be a reflection of what he values. So, it’s up to you to bring your son alongside you as you manage your family’s finances. Show him the details, the good and the bad, and explain the reasons behind your decisions.
Why do you set aside money to give to non-profits like the church or local charities? Why do you designate money to go to retirement, a car fund, or college fund.
If you don’t force it, but model the right kind of money management for your son, he will grow up and be even better at it than you.
What lessons have you received from male influences in your life? What lessons have you begun to share with your own son? We’d love to hear about it!