It was the year 2000, and Cheryl and I could not wait to find out the gender of our first baby.
“Would you look at that!” the nurse said. “There’s something between his legs. You have a boy in there!” I’ll never forget how excited we were that day.
It’s been 17 years since we saw Zachary’s ultrasound pictures for the first time. Since then, Cheryl has given birth to another boy we named Trevor and a girl named Kyrsten.
In our experience so far, we’ve noticed that parenting our sons is much different than raising our daughter. Our sons seem to have different needs than Kyrsten. By the way, if you haven’t had a chance to read my post on fathering daughters, you can get it by clicking here.
The Wrong Message to our Boys
We can’t rely on anyone else to raise our sons. Unfortunately, the world we live in has changed the rules for what it means to be a man. Our boys find themselves in a society that has lowered the standards and even turned them upside down in some cases.
Without the influence of a godly father or father figure, our sons will grow up without knowing what it truly means to be a man.
Here are some of the most important needs your son has and how you as a dad can meet them.
1. Your son needs to see your Godly example.
There is no better place to start than here. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a useless saying and lifestyle. Whether you like it or not, you will most likely pass down to your son the behavior he sees in you.
Your way of life will be his point of reference. Someday, when he gets married, he will think back on how you treated his mom. When he has his first son, he will remember how you treated him and carry on your example.
Your behavior speaks volumes compared to what you say.
In fact, boys who witness domestic violence in their own home are three times more likely to become batterers. Children of alcoholics … are much more likely to perpetuate the cycle of alcoholism in their own lives … they have a four-fold increased risk of becoming alcoholics as adults compared with the general population.
The good news is that, with God’s help, you can break the cycle of sin that has been passed down to you. If you have not been able to do this on your own, get help from a pastor or a Christian counselor. Your family deserves it!
2. Your son needs your validation.
Tim Sanford of Focus on the Family has an excellent article that talks about this in great detail. Sanford explains validation as letting your son know over and over and over, through words and actions, that the following are true:
- “Hey, you exist and you matter to me.”
- “You’re good enough.”
- “You’re an okay kid.”
Psychotherapists call this the looking-glass-self principle. In layman’s terms, it means that our boys (and girls) get their earliest, most lasting impressions of who they are as it is reflected back to them by their parents. These impressions become the “records in the jukebox” of your son’s brain.
Whether they know it or not, psychotherapists did not discover this. In fact, this is the very way we find our true identity in Christ. We read His Word and we reflect what he thinks of us more and more. This ultimately shapes and changes the way we look at ourselves.
3. Your son needs your discipline.
Scripture tells us that God disciplines us because he loves us. At first glance, it seems like a cruel perspective. Wouldn’t a good father want his children to experience all the fun they can?
Not if he is trying to protect us! Being the loving Father he is, God sees what will happen to us if we continue to live with no boundaries. Eventually, we will self-destruct.
Think about what life would be like if you could go against God’s laws and never be held accountable? The adulterer would continue to destroy families his whole life. The person who drove drunk and killed someone would just get back in the car and do it again.
God’s discipline is a sign of how merciful he really is.
The same is true with our boys. As dads, we sometimes have to make the hard and unpopular choices because we know it’s for our child’s protection.
We set a curfew because we know that nothing constructive happens after midnight. We expect our sons to get their homework done because we know that laziness and lack of preparation are only going to cause them to fail later in their life.
Dads who discipline their boys think more about their long-term consequences.
4. Your son needs you to be engaged in his life.
As the one who is usually the primary breadwinner in the home (although this is changing), it’s easy to confuse the following 2 words: presence and presents
Let’s make something very clear, your “presence” is so much more important to your relationship with your son than any “presents” you could ever give him.
Our boys need us to be engaged in their world whatever it looks like. My 2 sons are so different. Zachary, who is 16, wants to be an airline pilot when he grows up. He knows just about everything about planes…well, almost!
When we are outside, he will get excited and point to the sky when a plane is going over. In less than 5 seconds, he will tell me everything he knows about that kind of plane.
Do I like planes? I do now! It’s the way I get to have an engaging conversation with him and I know that it makes him feel good to know that I am interested in something he loves.
Trevor, on the other hand, is the athlete in the family. When Trevor was 5, he would watch SportsCenter instead of cartoons because he had to see the replays from the night before. Do I like sports? I do now for all the same reasons I mentioned in Zachary’s example.
Perhaps there is something that you need to learn to like so you can build a bridge to your son.
5. Your son needs you to love his mom.
Just as a daughter needs her dad to love her mom, so does a son. Again, remember that your behavior towards your wife will be the standard he goes by when he has his own wife.
When I talk about loving his mom, I’m not talking just about buying flowers and a nice card on Valentine’s Day. I’m talking about the day in and day out sacrifice that a husband makes for his wife.
When I was growing up, my mom was very sickly. In addition to problems with her blood sugar, she had a bulging disc in her back that gave her debilitating pain at times. In fact, most days I would get home from school and my mom would be lying on the couch.
A couple of hours later, my dad would come home from work. She would try to get up and make dinner but most of the time it fell on my dad to bring it all together so we could eat.
As a kid, I watched my dad do this for several years. I had not doubt that he loved my mom dearly.
It’s so important that you show that kind of love to your son’s mom as well.
6. Your son needs you to love him.
Loving your son looks a lot different than loving your daughter. Probably the biggest difference I have noticed is that boys don’t like to show any type of affection, especially if it’s in public!
While this is the case, I still believe it’s important for a dad to give his son a hug.
While girls need to be told that they are beautiful, boys need to know that they have what it takes. A good dad empowers his son and supports him in the things that he loves to do.
Never underestimate the power of your love for your son. Boys need to know they are loved just as much as girls do.
I hope these 6 things have caused you to think differently about being a dad to your son. You have incredible influence in his life and the potential to shape him into a healthy and whole man of God.
Sometimes after reading an article like this you look back and regret the decisions you have made as a dad. I want to encourage you not to look back but look ahead. Do what you can today to impact the son(s) that God has given you.
Be strong, my friend. God will be with you!
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