There is no greater influence on a man’s life than his father. For better or worse, your paternal habits, or lack thereof, will mold your son into the man he will become. Your traits will become his traits, as your strengths and weaknesses will, in some form or another, be passed on through learned behaviors and adapted to fit his personality. In order to set him up for a successful life, you, as a father, must set the example for what you want your son to be.
Influence is not always a positive thing, though. The degree of which you influence your son depends on your availability and willingness to actively participate in his life. Negative influence is a real pitfall here, and it will be up to the individual constitution of the boy to interpret and decide the effect it will have on him.
Growing up around my step-father, I was subjected to negative influences almost daily. The drinking, gambling, scheming and abusive tendencies of that man made me feel not only scared, but inadequate, and I was often told that I was the source of his problems. Internalizing theses feelings for years left me conflicted and confused, but through it all I persevered and achieved more than he could ever dream. Thankfully, I had the support of my grandparents and mother to help guide me through these tumultuous times. Instead of falling into the trap of negativity, I was able to harness those emotions, and although they left their indelible mark on my personality, I was able to use them as motivation for what I didn’t want to be.
I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of quality time with my grandfather, who helped take on the role of raising me, and it’s him who I modeled my life after. He was a self-made man, who spent his life working hard and learning in every role he had ever had. He had a position in leadership at his main job, and also ran a successful business on the side. This taught me what was possible and gave me hope for my future.
Raising my sons
I have four sons, aged nine years through twenty-two months. My home is always loud and filled with the results of excessive testosterone. Teaching my sons about becoming men has been a challenging, interesting and rewarding journey, as their personalities and temperaments are very different.
My oldest boy is at the age where he will soon begin progressing into manhood. In many cultures, it is not uncommon for boys of eight to ten years old to undergo rituals inducting them into manhood. Having no formal induction rites in America, some instead rely on the medium of sports to transition our boys into men. I’ve watched my son wrestle and play football and he’s even followed me into the weight room. This bonding time with my son has become one of the best experiences of my life, and getting to watch him mature into a young man has been nothing short of amazing.
My other three sons are too young for such a transition, but I strive to maintain frame for them and show them what it means to be a man. Simple things, like involving them in my activities, go a long way in teaching them the basics of manhood. Whenever I’m working on a household repair, yard work or fixing some gadget they are right there next to me, observing and learning to take charge and get the job done.
What is Manliness?
The concept of being a man may mean different things to different people. It can be defined by physical strength, attitude, success with women or a plethora of other ideas that are far too much to mention here. I’m not looking to start an argument on what is manly and what’s not, as your life experiences will dictate that for you, but rather what fits the frame of my idea.
I consider myself an alpha provider, meaning that I support my household financially and spiritually, and I determine the direction of my family. We all have clearly defined roles in this system, although there are always occasions that require some degree of overlap. My wife is the primary caregiver for the younger children and I focus more on the development of the older three. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t spend time with the little guys and she doesn’t help the older ones with homework. We just have our primary roles and help supplement each other’s as needed.
As an alpha provider, I take on the responsibility of determining discipline and showcasing our family’s honor in all transactions. If I fail to show the proper decorum, then what example do I set for my sons? With no decency, you cannot be the moral compass by which examples for the young are set. Lead by example in all things, as your children are eagerly absorbing everything they see you do, and will certainly mimic your behaviors. Your son is your mirror, and if you don’t like the reflection you have only yourself to blame.
Showing your children integrity and purpose is paramount to their future success. A few years ago my oldest son found three hundred fifty dollars in fifty dollar bills at his sister’s cheer practice. His immediate response was to show me the money and ask what to do with it. We turned the money into the nearest club representative for safe keeping until they could find the proper owner, and it ended up being someone’s rent money. Small victories like this are the seeds of integrity and honor that he will harvest in the future.
What does it all mean?
Whether your influence is positive or negative, your son will model his behaviors after yours, either through mimicry or abstaining. If your goal is to raise your boy into a man you can be proud of, you need to be the shining example of what a man is supposed to be. Show up for your kids and sprinkle the seeds of greatness within them. When you see them start to take off on their own, through victory or sound decision making, you will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that you never thought possible.
Be the example, not the statistic.