We live in a society that doesn’t reward or respect character as often as it should or even as it used to.
Today, we see people who are willing to do just about anything to create the next viral video or become the next internet sensation. The feelings of others or their reputations are rarely taken into account. Cheating in school, taking the easy route in sports, ignoring responsibilities at home–if they even have any–are no longer taboo.
Even how we deal with each other in romantic relationships goes sour earlier in life than it did even a decade ago. Younger kids have no shame when it comes to jumping from partner to partner, talking to multiple love interest in one-night, and texting is now the common occurrence in high school and beyond. We seem to be turning out a generation of self-centered egotists that have no empathy for their fellow man and who only want to know what they will get out of any relationship, not what they need to bring to it.
As a father of three sons, I am troubled at times by what I see out of my children and wonder what changed from my upbringing until now. Fortunately, this is not a common occurrence with my kids, so I try to recognize the times I get it right, and learn how to make it happen more often. The following are what I’ve learned from both mistakes and successes.
1. Never Overcommit. It’s so easy to give your child the easy answer or the answer what they want to hear just to shut them up or to feel like a super parent for a moment. However, when you don’t take into account all the repercussions of a yes or the possible obstacles to you fulfilling your promises, then you run the risk of failing your son. Be a man of your word, if you commit–follow through. If you aren’t sure you can deliver–then don’t say you will.
2. Learn to say no. This goes hand in hand with step one. When you are faced with an issue that you don’t feel good about, remember you’re the parent and its okay to say no. You don’t always have to be the good guy; you don’t always have to be cool, and you don’t always have to be liked. Our sons need boundaries; they need discipline, and they need for their fathers to show it to them.
3. Remember to say yes. On the flip side, you don’t always have to be the heavy. There is no need to be a constant negative in the lives of your sons. Being a man of character means you want those around you to know they can trust you and come to you for anything. If they see you as an overbearing ogre who wants to control their every decision and action, they will look for other sources of comfort and confidence. It’s ok to let them stretch their wings.
4. Pay your debts. This seems like an easy one, of course, we should pay our debts! However, this is more about keeping your word, not just the power bill. No matter if it’s a car loan or borrowing the neighbor’s extension ladder–when it comes time to return the favor–you need to be willing and ready to. Far too many men in today’s society are always asking for help but are rarely willing to give it. Your kids see this, it becomes about taking and not about giving, it becomes about exploitation and less about charity and kindness.
5. Always be honest with them. This isn’t always as easy as it seems, and sure, sometimes there are things that kids don’t need to know, but never lie to them. If they want the new shoes that you can’t afford, be truthful and let them know it may take some time to set the money aside. If they ask you the Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy type questions, in my opinion, they already know, and it’s better you tell them the truth. The fact of the matter is when your son comes to you for an answer he wants, needs and deserves the truth from his father. Sometimes the truth hurts, and sometimes it isn’t pleasant, but how much more painful will it be for him to find out later his father lied to him about it.
Each kid is different; experience has taught me that all too well. How you approach any of these suggestions will certainly have to be tailored to your child and to each situation. If it were as easy as just following five rules, then society would be in a much better place today than it is.
The main thing is this, we have a world that needs more men of character. If it’s not us, a father’s developing them, then who is going to do it? Mothers certainly play an integral part, and many are doing the job quite well. However, we as dads have to step up at every opportunity, they watch us, they mimic us, and we have a small window of opportunity to be a positive influence.
Don’t shut the window on them.
Photo: Flickr/ Emmanuel Frezzotti