It has been over two years since I first read a blog post by Justin Ricklefs titled 15 Things all Dads of Daughters Should Know. Truth is, the 15 things seem like no-brainers when you read them. But in practice, I find it difficult to feel like I am successful in all of those areas on a regular basis. As a result, I’ve revisited the article every month, religiously (I have a monthly reminder set), in an effort to remind myself of the importance of being a positive role model for my daughter, and as a regular check on how I am doing. And while I am still working toward perfecting my role as dad to my daughter, I have been thinking more about what 15 things I should focus on in raising my son as well.
After reflecting on my own childhood and the past ten years of raising my son, I have identified 15 truths for raising a strong, loving, compassionate, caring and empathetic dude.
1.- Teach him the power of love by telling him “I love you” every chance you get. He wants to be loved by you just as much as any daughter. He may shrug it off during his teen years, but he wants to hear it on a regular basis. Our family started saying “I love you” regularly from the beginning (props to my incredible wife for bringing this practice from her family to ours). Now, my son and I rarely end any discussion, phone call or text exchange without those three powerful words. Sometimes he says it first, sometimes I do. But it is a regular reminder that our love for one another is there, regardless of the situation, and it is the norm for males to openly express that to each other.
2.- You are a direct influence on how he acts with other boys and men. He is watching, whether you know it or not. Teach him that everyone on this great planet is equal and deserving of love and respect. Be the man, friend, and partner you want him to become.
3.- As he grows up, go all-in. I did some really stupid things growing up, he will too. There is a fine line between being overbearing and letting him learn from his mistakes. Science tells us that the male brain takes longer to mature than the female brain, this is partially why teenage boys do stupid things. But we should not let this be an excuse. You can be his friend during the teen years, but that should not stand in the way of your being his dad first and foremost.
4.- He is watching how you treat his mom. The way you treat his mom will shape how he treats women throughout his life, including his future partner. To paraphrase Justin Ricklefs, “One of the best things you can do for your daughter [or son] is to love [their] mom well.”
5.- Let your feelings and emotions show, and show him it is alright to cry. This one is huge, and I say that from personal experience. I grew up in a very loving family, but somehow I came out as an adult that was not confident in showing his emotions. God bless my wife — when I met her 25 years ago I didn’t have much to say, didn’t voice my own opinions and was emotionless. To this day I wonder what she saw in me. There is still resistance by males in this world to show emotion as if it is some sign of weakness. Steer your son away from this mindset, by all means necessary. I remember one time my son and I both cried together, initially in sorrow and then in laughter. I am embarrassed to admit that it did happen in a rather stereotypical male way (over the Baltimore Raven’s losing their playoff game in 2012 that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl). Since then we have seen each other shed tears during movies and other emotional times. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign that we are human and we care.
6.- Teach him how to stand up for others and what is right. Now more than ever it is important for him to have confidence in standing up for what is right and to know that his dad supports him. Whether it is standing up for a cause he is passionate about, a friend, his sister, or an innocent bystander. He needs to know that there are certain things that are worth fighting for.
7.- Make as many memories as possible, and they don’t have to occur in a “man cave”.
8.- Make sure he knows it’s not about him. As good citizens and humans, we have the opportunity to make a difference in this world every day. But in the overall scheme of things, we are insignificant — but a speck on the universal timeline. He will be remembered not for how cool he thought he was but for the type of person he truly was and how he treated others.
9.- Show up to his events, he will remember. To this day I don’t remember the score, opposing team or outcome of the majority of the lacrosse or soccer games I ever played growing up. But I vividly remember glancing to the sideline while I was on the playing field and seeing my dad leaning on the fence cheering me on. The first person a boy looks to for approval and acceptance is his dad — he needs to know that you are paying attention.
10.- Proximity does not equal presence. I still struggle with this, I’m sure I am not the only one. Mobile phones are a daily part of our lives and jobs. Teach yourself to put them away and give him your undivided attention. Do play plenty of non-violent video games with him, but leave your phone somewhere else.
11.- He smells—teach him to wash, wear deodorant and brush his teeth properly, every day. There is something to be said for not worrying about this at a young age, but our sons need to know that this is part of being respectful and considerate to others.
12.- Teach him the meaning and importance of beauty. It is important for him to appreciate the beauty in other people and the world around him. As dads, we need to help our sons understand that beauty is more than just looks. The sooner our sons understand this, the sooner they will shift the paradigm for the better.
13.- He can be friends with boys and girls alike. Growing up I was never friends with girls — boys were friends, girls were girlfriends. As a result, I was very awkward around girls throughout my school age years. I see this same dynamic play out with boys and girls today. Make sure your son knows how to be friends with girls from a young age and treats them the same as anyone of his boyfriends. They could turn out to be the most valuable long-term friendships he has. He will thank you for it one day.
14.- Teach him that he can be a feminist.
15.- Make sure he knows how to give a sincere apology. He is going to screw up, he is going to be a jerky guy from time-to-time, it is baked in our culture. Teach him how to apologize when necessary. No one is perfect, and our sons should not be made to feel as though they need to be. But if they have the right role models, they will know right from wrong, willingly admit when they have made a mistake, and move forward to change the world for the better.
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Now THIS is the right stuff!! Nearly all my adult life and thanks largely to my own dad (I am now 66) I have believed, and still believe, that three things, absorbed together, make a man out of an AMH (Adult Male Hominid): Integrity, Responsibility, and Courtesy. I wrote a post about that, to which I now furnish a link.https://nopartyline.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-three-legs-of-real-manhood.html I’m especially glad to read this since I just finished this next article from Buzzfeed which has ‘alpha male’ speakers poisoning good men and has me feeling we need to be much more aggressive about fighting these evil bastards toe-to-toe… Read more »
Ryan, please expand on #8 and make it a full article. All your other points are critically accurate. This one which is the middle point and fulcrum of all the others, will broaden your understanding and what you share.
This is a great article! I do think boys get overlooked many times when it comes to raising them. I am completely floored by the hysterical rantings of the MRA crowd. As a woman, my feminism means equality for everyone. I’m always learning. I was recently introduced to intersectional feminism & am happy to expand my mind a bit. To the commenter complaining that girls are taught to be rude & crude (forget the actual phrase used), I think women want to raise their daughters to believe in themselves & their own self worth not just see themselves through the… Read more »
That comment was made by me, so i will explain. First, your comment dismissing “the MRA crowd” is part of the problem, how we dismiss men’s concerns as “rantings”. It, again, is why so many inaccurate biases against men exist today. It is exactly why the domestic violence prevarication exists, and exactly why, if you should find yourself in a situation where one of your sons are abused, he would be more likely, under Duluth, to be arrested rather then rescued. It is also why I try my hardest to identify the difference between gender feminist and equity feminist (that… Read more »
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the kind word on the article.
I remember the first time I showed open emotion (fear) in front of my kids and I remember how it affected my son who was around 9 or 10 at the time.It was when I had just been informed that the docs were going to do a quintuple bypass on me the following morning, Having had no more then stitches or splints in my life time, the idea of this surgery scared the hell out of me, And when my wife and kids were in the room while I was being advised of the procedure, I broke down. I remember… Read more »
Agree Tom. My kids never saw fear in me until they were old enough to stand on their own. I can even remember conversations where I was asked if I was afraid when X happened. The answer was, “of course, but you weren’t going to see that as a child”.
To me sharing that is not at all showing vulnerability to our kids, it’s dumping a whole lot of unnecessary stress onto them. We, hopefully, have a wife and partner to share that with.
Kids ride free.
Tom: Thanks for checking out the article and sharing your thoughts and story. You make a great point, this isn’t appropriate 100% of the time. My son is ten, and I just want to make sure that he knows its okay to let his emotions show. I went quite a while when I was young holding mine in and looking back, wish that wasn’t the case in most instances.
“14.- Teach him that he can be a feminist.” and not be his own man. Teach him that it’s okay to have a label attached to him, as long as it’s a feminist label and by all means to believe that not being a feminist is a bad thing …
NOTHING you mentioned is exclusive to feminism.
Moreover, not everything mentioned in the OP is necessarily, automatically, inclusive to feminism; simply by wrote, simply by default. Feminists (as do most proponents of any structured ideologies or religions) believe that all of their tenets are indisputably reducible to (and thus simply interchangeable or synonymous with ) all of the positive, finite & objective attributes that they would presume of it, or assign to it: They cannot fathom that their ideologies or religions (or its structuralism) could accommodate or bolster any narrow-mindedness, distortion, discontinuity, antagonism, fundamentalism, prejudice, or anti-plurality. Of course, (at least to the skeptic or the outlier,… Read more »
If I might sum up my earlier comment that is still in moderation: In short, feminism presumes that equality, equanimity, justice, and anti-sexism cannot be fomented, forwarded, or realized outside of how it alone chooses to define, narrow, and enunciate those concepts; and only through its own authorized methodology and discourse, which is prefaced on the absolute primacy of gender in causality & inequity. In investing in any ideology there is, I would argue, the distinct tendency to drift (or be pulled) towards its more inherent narrow-mindedness or fundamentalism.
Tom, with all due respect according to dictionary.com the definition of feminism is “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men”. That said, although the ‘feminist badge’ is seldom worn by men the narrative suggests among the other 14 points raised by Ryan is that it is acceptable, and even encouraged, for boys to support the rights of girls and women. Having been raised by a single mother who was the driving force in my early childhood development that is largely responsible for the man that I am today, I am also… Read more »
Sean, you hit the nail on the head – “it should be acceptable, and even encouraged, for boys to support the rights of girls and women.” Thanks for reading!
Teach him that no woman is worth his own self-worth. That means do not teach him feminism.
“do not teach him feminism” that makes anyone, male or female, more or less important than anyone else
Already know that my first is going to be censored, so I’ll just say, C+ Some of them are worth noting, but when father’s were in the family, they were rote taught. Noting new on the important ones. A few of the exceptions: 4. Also watch how his mom treats his dad. Two way street there, and women abuse and disrespect men in equal numbers, if not more. Last thing we’d want our sons doing is ending up in an abusive relationship (which happens in 40% of the cases). 6. Teach him how to stand up for himself first. 14.… Read more »
Overall a good article on how to help your son to be a good person. Adolph below did make a good point on something. Why is it we’re always hearing how we can help men become more nice and civilized, yet at the same time there is a chorus of applause for women to become more course, crude and we’ll, just in general, nasty people? I think that’s culturally very odd.
Also the “measure of a man” predicated on how he treats women, when just the opposite is being taught to our girls.
Look up the T-shirt marketing campaign: “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them”.
Can’t make this stuff up.
Dude. That T-shirt scandal happened over a DECADE ago. Once. A dude created a stupid T-shirt and got called out. Now chill and stop with this victimization, you straight males are fine. No one is teaching girls to ~throw rock at stupid boys~.
THAT is what happens to kids: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/27/health/gender-stereotypes-smart-study/
Well, the scandal occurred 10 years ago, but the marketing has increased, and the shirts are still marketed (look up that link)…and that type of conditioning is having a tremendous effect on both our girls, and instances of domestic violence against men. Further, to study the phenomenon, one would see that we encourage violence against men through-out our culture; from Sitcoms, to marketing, and beyond. We do so because of media interpretations of studies such as you’ve posted that tend to twist and warp the truth through heavy feminist influence (gender type, not equity). We can see that effect through… Read more »
Come back, Vigari, because DJ is correct.
Its not odd when you consider that a part of so called progressivism is to carefully give women rights without matching responsibilities and to shape men to women’s liking.
It’s not odd at all, it’s actually the norm.
“Raising Dudes that are Manly in all the Right Ways” “15 truths for raising a strong, loving, compassionate, caring and empathetic dude.” _______________________________ So is OK to start calling women “chicks” now? How about “babes”. Dude, where’s your political correctness? See what a bad idea that is? Political correctness, I mean. It’s just another rotten meme floating around in the zeitgeist, rotting out prog brains. Which brings up a bigger subject. It seems like it’s OK for women to call each other “bitches”. Like when Brittney Spears says, “It’s Brittney bitches”. So is this like a thing, like the way… Read more »
I’d give a C+. Some good points, but still proceeding from the premise of, “snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails”.
First thing one teaches a son is to stand up for himself. Last thing, or not at all, is to be a feminist (provided one actually knows what feminist ideology is about, and it’s not equality).