Today I wanted to write about something I very rarely see addressed from other men, and that is how to raise young boys into men. Not just men. The kind of men who inspire. The type of men that are respectful, caring, nurturing, yet can work hard, get dirty, be rugged, and use a firm hand when needed. The kind of men who become great. Great in the eyes of all those around them, all those they encounter and especially by the children they raise.
I speak from my own experiences, from childhood to fatherhood. It has been a long road for me to get where I am today, and my goal was and continues to be to raise my boys to treat their spouse the way I treat mine, to love unconditionally, but to protect at all cost, to parent by unconditional love and respect, but not through the power of fear. Make no mistake; my children are disciplined (I am a militant father), but they do not fear me. I have taught them that the power of respect is far greater than the power of fear.
Fear vs Respect
Fear has a firm grip and is typically used for control, and manipulation, but when we use this to raise our children, they will, in turn, use this sense of false power on portions of their lives, from friendship to relationships. Fear is a recipe for disaster. It’s not to say it does not have a place, because at times it is a tactic that works, but it should not be the primary tactic for raising our boys into the men of the future.
I have seen this throughout my life, my father was an alcoholic, he spent time in jail, at times he was off the hinges, and when my father was drunk, he would use his size, and his strength to control the situation by instilling fear into all of us. Not only is this tactic something that is not sustainable, but as a result, you begin to lose the respect of the ones you may love or think you love (love has many forms).
Luckily for me, he left early in my childhood. It didn’t stop every situation. I recall a severe argument when he came around one time, in which I was ripped from my home, and shortly after the police had to arrest my father. He was drunk, as usual, and while the screaming and shouting ensued, he grabbed my mother, held a screwdriver to her throat, and threatened to kill her. Among many things my father was a cheater, a womanizer, and led his life by using fear to control others.
Those days eventually faded away, and that was my introduction on how to be a so-called man, later in life, I was accompanied by more alcoholic men that ran away from their children, be it for drugs, women or other reasons, I had a pretty horrible image of how to be a man.
When I was old enough, I knew that I didn’t want to be anything like the men of my past, nor did I want to raise men to be anything like that. Sadly, though that same treatment goes on daily, and young children are forced to live with it. I guess this is why I started to blog. We have too many men, strong men, whom of which are afraid to speak out, to show we exist, to prove we can be strong, and yet have the feelings to love and nurture.
Caring does not make men weak. The capacity to hold all these values makes us stronger. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying to go out and cry at everything you see. I am saying be strong, but be loving; there is no need to be cold-hearted.
How To Raise Them To Be Men
So, back to my point, the way to raise men, real men is through teaching them the value of respect. Not just to respect others, but to respect themselves, and yes, eventually to respect their girlfriends, spouses, and close friends. This task can be easy, but yet hard all at the same time.
As parents, as men, as mothers, we all have different views. Some of these views are on how to, and how not to discipline our children. Again, make no mistake discipline is vital, and yes, I have spanked my children, all of them, but should you ask my teenage boy the last time that has happened, he would tell you that it was many years ago.
The relationship I have developed with all my children are the same ones I would expect from friends and employees. I have taught my boys that you have to carry the burden of both your failures and accomplishments. They know and are learning that
I hold myself to the same standards and values I instill upon these men to be. Teaching is not just through text, videos, or words, but by actions. From the day we are brought into this world we become visual beings long before we begin to speak.
This reason is why it’s imperative to be great role models. Show your sons that you are willing to make sacrifices, even when there is not always something in it for you. Show them that the ability to control one’s self is more important than proving you a bigger, faster, and stronger than the others around you. There are times and places for that, but it is rare, and why it’s called self-control.
DAD TIP: It is crucial they learn to stand up for what they believe, but not at the expense or risk of belittling others; however be sure to teach them that when standing up for what you believe in others may try and find faults and break them down. Encourage them to be vigilant, determined, and above all respectful when defending their values.
As an example, my 12-year-old (then 7) was in a wrestling tournament, one match away from the finals, and he lost. As he and the other boy walked to the center of the mat, he was in tears and refused to shake the hand of the other child or th coach. As he was walking back towards me (I was his coach), he threw his headgear and almost hit another parent. This day he got a swift lesson in discipline, self-control, and respect.
Directly after that match, we headed out to my truck, and we had a let’s call it a “chat.” That chat consisted of a few things. One of which was the teaching that the behavior you display in front of others reflects not only on you, but that of both your mother and I, and we are not raising you to act in a manner that allows you to be disrespectful to anyone, or bring disrespect upon yourself, or your mother and me.
After our chat we headed back into the arena and searched for roughly 30 minutes for this boy and his coach, at which point he apologized, shook both of their hands, and we headed home (we forfeited his next match), he cried, but he didn’t need the medal he needed the lesson.
From that day forward it has never happened again. Show them that life has its consequences and you have to live with those consequences, this small lesson will help them to develop and understand the choices of their actions.
Failure, Success, and Sacrifice
Let them learn to fail or succeed on their own. Children need to learn, to fail, and succeed, and we as parents have to lay out consequences. The real world is going to do it for them if you don’t, and it’s easier to instill the value now then it will be when there are in their twenties.
DAD TIP: Some of you might not agree, but here it is. Let them fall, let them get bumps, bruises, and cuts. Don’t hover, allow them to get hurt (within reason), sometimes this creates lasting memories and valuable lessons.
While I’m on the subject of sports, I’ve said it once before, but I feel they are essential. Not to get them trophies, not to make them winners at everything they do, but to teach them how to work together, and how to lose. It is one of the first activities that prepare them to work towards a goal, and that we can’t always win.
DAD TIP: Sports can be a powerful tool. Use it for lessons. Life is not about winning; it is not about participating. It is about being challenged and working to overcome that challenge. I have said it before, and I will say it now. Of all the sports I have played, the sport of wrestling teaches values no other can.
Dads I can’t stress it enough spend time with you boys, you can’t raise men if you are always too busy, if you teach them that you are too busy to spend valuable time, they will repeat this later in life. Do things with them; I know our society has changed and the kids of today are not into the stuff we were as kids.
It’s okay, make scarifies and teach them to make sacrifices, but for god sake spend quality time with them. Play army with them, take them camping, have bonfires in your back yard (we do this all the time, and the boys love it). Play a video game, even if you’re horrible at it, show them that you are willing to take an interest in what they hold valuable, and they will eventually do the same for you.
There are so many fathers in the world that don’t take an interest in their sons, and I can promise you it has a lasting effect.
Mold Them into Men
Molding your boys into men is an activity you have to continue to do every day. You can’t just walk in on Wednesday and say hey I’m proud of you, spend an hour with him, walk out and expect him to be a man you might envision or hope he inspires to be. Tell them you are proud of them. Let them know you recognize their accomplishment, no matter how small they may be right now. Let them know you love them.
Let them spend time with their mother, and be sure they see you spend time with her. Make sure they understand you talk to her, and not at her. Your boys need to see you respect her, listen to her, and above all see you love and support her. We have too many men in this world that don’t respect their significant others because they weren’t shown how. All I can tell you is to raise the man you would want your daughter to marry. The man that makes her cry tears of happiness, the man that isn’t afraid to tell her that he loves her and the man that understands their marriage is a partnership and not a dictatorship.
DAD TIP: Spending time with mom is essential, as fathers we will tend to be a little rougher it’s who we are. Moms tend to give that soft touch when needed. She will help re-enforce all of the things you have already taught.
Fathers, it’s okay to show your emotions, anger (not violence), sorrow, love, pain, fear, and any others I have missed. Showing emotion is not a sign of weakness as a man, but instead, it is a lesson for you boys. You are teaching them how to deal with everyday emotions and not bottle them up, which can, in turn, turn into fits of anger and rage, which can cause them to lose self-control.
Finally, teach them how to apologize. We are all wrong at times, but they should know when and how to apologize. Owning up to what we have done wrong shows and teaches our young men, that it is okay to make mistakes. Teach them that it is just as crucial that we go back and attempt to fix them, it is okay to be humble.
As a result of all of this when you finally release this young man into the world, you will know that he has learned the values to govern his life by love and respect, instead of fear and manipulation.
DAD TIP: I don’t have daughters but if you should, don’t forget, she’s not fragile, she can one day become a strong leader, let her know she matters and that the men of the world that were not raised correctly cannot bring her down. She can learn this from all of your actions. Teach your daughter to be the leader the world tells her she can’t, she can break any barrier, and overcome any obstacle when you raise her that way.