The old adage ‘boys will be boys’ gets a lot of well-deserved flak nowadays. The saying has been spread thin, weakly covering behaviors we should never condone from anyone, boy or girl. As a father of not one, not two, but three sons, it is important to me that we take a hard look at how we are raising the next generation of men.
There’s a talk every father plans to give his sons at some point in their life. I have always called it ‘The Talk.’ Not to be confused with the sex talk, to me, The Talk is about how to be a man. Aside from the birds and bees, it is one of the more important talks a father and son will have in their lifetime.
When my wife blessed me with twin boys, I began to contemplate how our talk would go. I thought about the type of people I would want my children to be. How they should act. What they should be prideful of and what deserves their humility. As I wrote down advice I wanted to share for them, a voice in the back of my head spoke a gentle reminder.
Whenever someone tried to push advice upon you, you shrugged it off or ignored it.
The voice was right. I spent most of my life running in the opposite direction of where I was told to go. When adults tried to help me, I responded with ignorance and defiance. Now, as a father, I was left wondering how to get through to my sons in a way grown ups never were able to get through to me.
How do I tackle these issues? I asked myself. How do I raise boys into young men? Young men into gentlemen?
A hard look in the mirror lead me to my answer.
You show them.
Through your own actions, you raise them. You set the example for how boys—how men— should be.
I won’t deny it was a scary concept to me. As I said, a greater portion of my life has been spent being ignorant and defiant. There are days my flaws outshined my redeeming qualities. But, as a father, I knew I had to be better. I couldn’t write down some how-to list and pat myself on the back as I handed it to my children. I had to live it.
That’s when I realized a sad truth. I wasn’t being the man I wanted my children to become. Because of how I fought and clawed my way through life, I developed an “everyone is against me” mentality. Being a father, I finally began to understand it is better to live a life filled with love and compassion than to rage against the machine.
The first lesson I wanted to teach my children was it was never too late to change. To be the man you want to be. Life is a journey, but you are firmly in control of the direction you travel.
I kissed my wife more. Especially in front of the children. I wanted them to see how important love was to our household. I wanted them to see that after all these years and three kids, love was still alive and well. In today’s world, the word 'love' has been diluted. It slides too easily off the tongues of some. Showing the magic and power of true love still existed became important. For their sake and my own.
I worked on treating people with dignity and kindness. Even when it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Taking the time to be there for people reminded me of the times I lashed out in anger because I felt alone. Sometimes people don’t seem deserving of your kindness. Those are the people who need it the most.
I began to stop everything I was doing, simply so I could take in what other people were doing. I learned that when someone shares something—anything—with you, it's because it matters to them. Taking the time to be supportive and encouraging helped me see the real flaws in our world. It has become commonplace to tear people down. The real way to rage against the machine was to build people up. People flourish when they have a cheering section, and it made me feel good to to be a part of.
When I started being more supportive, I started listening. Not just waiting for a chance to reply, but actually hearing people’s amazing stories. This lead me to form bonds—something I had always struggled with throughout my life. Once the surface was peeled away, connections were forged. Simply listening created diverse friendships I cherish every day.
My journey through fatherhood has helped me get out of my own way. I want to raise men. Before my sons, I underestimated the kind of man I could be. I have begun to grow with them. Maybe the biggest lesson I have learned is that being a man has nothing to do with being a boy and everything to do with being a good person.