25 Life Skills a Father Can Give His Son

men's life skills, life skills for men, fathers and sons, what fathers teach sons, manhood, Father's Day, importance of fathers

What skills do you wish your father had taught you?

  1. How to jump start a car, how to change the oil, how to fix a flat.
  2. How to dance.
  3. How to let the big head make decisions when the little head is trying to have its way.
  4. How to be equally at ease talking with a janitor or a CEO.
  5. How to cook at least two different, excellent meals.
  6. How to play a musical instrument.
  7. How to throw a punch, how to take a punch, how to see a fight coming and avoid it.
  8. How to speak a foreign language.
  9. How to say “no” and feel okay about it.
  10. How to understand the difference between what someone says and what they mean.
  11. How to drive a manual transmission and a motorcycle.
  12. How to clean a fish.
  13. How to say “I love you”  and “I’m sorry,” and mean it.
  14. How to tie a full Windsor, half Windsor and four-in-the-hand.
  15. How to let someone else be the center of attention.
  16. How to make eye contact, shake hands and speak with confident authority.
  17. How to use a circular saw, a jig saw and a drill.
  18. How to sew a button on a shirt.
  19. How to tell a joke.
  20. How to swim.
  21. How to think critically, how to ask questions, how to question answers.
  22. How to tell the difference between encroachment, offsides, and a false start.
  23. How to let someone else’s point of view change your mind.
  24. How to enjoy the company of a loved one in silence.
  25. How to put others first without putting yourself last.


Read more on fatherhood by JD Roberto.

Image credit: karsten.planz/Flickr

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About JD Roberto

JD Roberto is a writer, actor, and the Emmy nominated host of The Better Show, a nationally syndicated daytime talk show seen around the country. Game show fans known him from shows like The Price is Right and Shop 'Til You Drop, plus reality shows like Outback Jack, Are You Hot? and E! News Live. His writing has appeared in Parents Magazine, Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times and on theBump.com. Check out his parenting blog at The Hands On Dad and follow him on twitter @jdroberto.


  1. As someone who works with many young men whose fathers are absent, I disagree with a lot of these comments. A mom cannot teach a boy how to be a man, regardless of her best efforts. And, fathers do serve a different role in many situations with their sons than they do their daughters. That’s okay. Sure there’s some overlap here on what a dad can teach his daughter, but that doesn’t make this list exclusionary.

  2. robert5521 says:

    how to whistle
    how to grow old with style

  3. I was all set to love this article, share this article and comment on it and I can only say I was disappointed. The list is extremely gender biased and many of the skills have little to do with success in the real world. (And yes, I understand the title is what a dad should teach his sons) Some I would have liked to have seen have to do especially with women and I am teaching my sons, and my daughter to some extent, the same things.

    1 – How to love, appreciate and respect yourself so that you are able to love, appreciate and respect another.
    2 – How to ‘do’ love when it seems as if the relationship is getting stale and it is worth saving
    3 – How to make a commitment. And KEEP it!
    4 – Something technical. I am not the most technical man in the world, but I will make sure my kids learn somehow, somewhere, from someone.
    5 – That putting a woman (or man for my daughter) on a pedestal is not fair to them or to you.
    6 – Find out what you love, get really damn good at it, then go DO IT!

  4. …lost my dad at five years old. Mom did her best, but I read lists such as this and grow wistful, even half a century along… I taught myself all these things (and to cook and iron; poor mom wasn’t so good at that, either), and I wonder at many a quiet moment what life might have been like – what sort of man I might have been – had my father lived to raise and show me the way.

  5. JD Roberto says:

    I figured there would be comments of the sort ‘what about moms?’ ‘what about daughters?’ Yes, I get it. I could have called the piece “25 Skills A Mom or Dad Might Teach Their Child Regardless of Gender” or “25 Skills Even Lesbian Nuns Might Chose to Pass Along to Their Adopted Biracial Hermaphrodite” or been really clever and just called it “Some Skills That Could Be Useful”

    Truth is, I’m a Dad raising a son and I think a lot about the legacy of fathers to sons. I have my own father issues, I’m sure my son will eventually have his. But I chose to put this piece here (rather than Huffington Post or What to Expect or Parents or any other outlet for which I write) because it’s a forum for men to discuss being a Man and being a Parent and all that goes with that.

    I have a daughter – she’s 4 so I’m not teaching her to change a flat tire yet but everything on that list probably applies to her as well. And I’m fine if my wife teaches my son anything she likes on that list, she can do most of it anyway.

    • Good for you, Mr. Roberto. It’s okay for a father to want to teach his sons how to do things that (traditionally) men should know.

      Our politically correct and gender neutral society would have men believe that it is sexist to speak of our desire to raise strong men. But isn’t that the problem? That there aren’t enough strong male role models in our society? Or too many ‘men’ who abandon their families? Or ‘men’ who father multiple children from multiple women but are a dad to none?

      I was raised primarily by my mom and I think she did a great job. But now that I have two boys, I realize what I missed by not having a dad around.

      Good post.

    • Patricia Johnson-Castle says:

      My comment wasn’t “what about mothers”; it was why can’t fathers teach their daughters the exact same things as their sons? Sure you’re a father raising son… AND a daughter. Why shouldn’t your daughter learn the EXACT same things as her brother learns from you? It’s great that your wife can do most of those things, I don’t see why the teaching/learning has to be gender segregated.

    • I get your point , but the term is “intersex” not “hermaphrodite”. Some find the latter offensive – just letting you know.

  6. Jos Light says:

    While the list is pretty good, I find the title rather inclusive. Never mind that some of those things, Mom’s teach us.

    Should be “25 skills a father can teach their child” because, let’s face it… girls can use these same skills as much as boys can.

  7. Taylor Garcia says:

    All sound skills, but I am astounded shaving is not on this list. It is a crucial skill the father must teach the son how to do. My father never taught me and my face still hasn’t forgiven him for it.

  8. I’m happy to say I learned these skills and more from a very strong mother.

    • JD Robeeto says:

      I was raised by my Mom for most of my young life so there’s definitely nothing exclusionary about this list. I’m a Dad raising a boy and I think about these things, so I positioned it as skills a Dad can give his son. But I hope to give my daughter the same skills, and – as William mentioned above – all dance instruction will be left to my wife.

  9. William says:

    I’m bloody glad my Dad never taught me to dance. If he did, I’d have no chance on the dance floor!

  10. Daddy´s girl says:

    Of course all these great things can also be taught to a daughter right?

  11. Three others I’d add:

    How to tell great stories
    How to pray
    To forgive
    To draw
    To talk and burp at the same time

  12. I’m really glad I know how to drive a stick shift..could save a life.

    But my mother taught me.


  1. […] While it is clear that JD Roberto understands misfortune in the expectations and pressures of masculinity at least more than where the current societal standard is, it seems just as clear to me that he is not all the way there in his article (and comments on) “25 Life Skills a Father Can Give His Son”. […]

  2. […] What skills do you wish your father had taught you?  […]

  3. […] These are comments by Elvin Turner, Taylor Garcia, JD Robeeto on the post “25 Life Skills a Father Can Give His Son“. […]

  4. […] What skills do you wish your father had taught you?  […]

Speak Your Mind