As parents, there are many things we want to teach our children, be it our faith, our values, our principles and essential life and social skills. Bringing up boys comes with its own set of challenges, and definitely, some special lessons that we want the boys to grasp.
Raising Boys To Be Good Men
Here are 10 things I count as top on my list on teaching my sons about being a man.
1. You are responsible for more than yourself
Real men don’t push the blame or run away from difficult decisions. Take responsibility for your own choices, whether it be choice of school, career, car, partner or pet. Consider your every decision carefully, because they impact others as well. Think about your future, reflect on past failures and mistakes. Don’t assume that someone else is going to get your back. When you are married, your marriage, and later your children, becomes your responsibility.
2. Chivalry is NOT dead
Real men don’t need to show off to feed their ego. Instead, always strive to be a gentleman. A weighing of words in a measured tone can do far more good than a torrent of furious words or the iciness of giving a cold shoulder. Cultivate an ease of making conversation, a polite respect for your elders and society at large, and a willingness to do good whenever you can. Holding doors open for your spouse and holding hands with her when you cross the street – little things like these mean a lot.
3. Respect your parents
Real men recognize and give honour to their parents. Sure, you may one day become the head of your own family or carve out a successful career that takes you far away from home, but never forget the two people who gave you life and brought you up all those years. It shows in the way you speak to them, in how often you make the time to have a meal together, in the remembering of birthdays and anniversaries, and favourite foods and TV programs. The biggest of men will still be a little boy in his parents’ eyes.
4. Respect women
Real men treat women with the honour, care and compassion that they need. Shouting or raising your voice almost never helps to get your point across, and the use of physical force to coerce or make a statement should never be condoned. Always remember, a woman is never an accessory or a sidekick – it takes sensitivity and experience to find the delicate balance between treating women as your equals while recognizing the unique strengths and weaknesses of their gender.
5. Cultivate a compassionate heart
Real men are not ruled by the bottom line. While being objective, making hard decisions, sticking to your principles and managing people and finances are all part and parcel of a man’s work, never lose sight of what is most important – people. Take the time to know your colleagues and subordinates; be informed about the needs of your community and the world; give of yourself, your time, your best efforts and your money for the things that matter.
6. Do hard things
Real men don’t just settle for the easy way out. Of course, there’s no harm in looking for the path of least resistance, but not if it’s at the expense of giving up prematurely or just “making do”. If you want to learn the guitar, don’t just be content learning the chords to your favourite tune – spend time to master the instrument and basic musical theory. If you want to go to a specific university course, but your parents can’t afford the tuition fees, don’t just settle for a popular degree – look for part time work that will enable you to save up for your education, or look up potential scholarship and installment options. Some things are worth fighting for.
7. Take the lead
Real men lead. Not by force, as we’ve established earlier, and not by deception or guilt, but with integrity, patience and courage. Sometimes, more than one of you may want to lead a particular project or team. There are no hard and fast rules, really, but leadership doesn’t always come with a position. True courage may sometimes lie in letting another person lead and being the very best No. 2 or supporter from the ground. Such men (and women) are hard to come by – strive to be the best you can be, whether as the leader by name, or a leader in the ranks.
8. Be kind, not crude
Real men speak kindly. There are many ways of making the same point – which words will you choose? Don’t think that the words don’t matter – semantics are a powerful force in communication, and something that many men fail to grasp. And then they wonder why the ladies seem to over-react to so much of what is said.
9. Save it for a rainy day
Real men save wisely. Your generation is sometimes called the “fast food generation”, because almost anything is instantly available with a tap of the iPhone. Too many spend their earnings or pocket money on whatever is the IT-thing of the moment, throwing the proverb “Save it for rainy day” right out of the window. Don’t make money your god but, at the same time, recognize its importance and place in our lives and society.
10. Always listen first
Real men learn to listen attentively. Seek to understand, not to be understood. Reserve judgement until you’ve heard both sides. Be slow to anger, and quick to resolve conflict. Remember that “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”.
By Dorothea Chow
This was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine