15 Things I'd Want a Son to Know
By Kari Kampakis
As a mom of four girls, I often write about raising daughters. And on many occasions, I’ve had moms with sons ask for insights related to boys.
Obviously, I don’t have first-hand experience, but I do know many parents who do a great job cultivating boys into men. Besides taking mental notes from them, I’ve developed a hypothetical list of my own, things I’d want to instill in a son based on personal experiences, the qualities I like to see in a man, and what I’m learning about teen culture through my work with adolescent girls and books for them.
Following are 15 things I’d want a son to know. This list is by no means complete, just a few things I consider important and which I hope my daughters look for in the boys who enter their lives.
#1: Your talents are a gift from God that you could lose tomorrow. Be grateful for every day you have them and remember that the point of using your gifts is to point people to God, not to show off.
#2: “Boys will be boys” is a lazy and overly used excuse. Please don’t buy into it. Set a high bar for yourself and be the kind of leader this world needs, a young man of integrity, character, and self-control.
#3: You are responsible for a girl’s reputation the entire time you’re with her. Part of becoming a man means growing a protective and dignified mindset toward girls and acting as their protector, not a predator. This is counter-cultural thinking. Many boys won’t understand it, and you’ll definitely have friends who give you grief for not being a player with the opposite sex, but it’s the right approach and one that will enable you to have healthy relationships that go the distance.
Just as importantly, proving you’re a trustworthy and respectable guy makes you the one who girls will ultimately trust and respect. And when a slumber party of 10 girls starts a conversation about how immature and rude the boys at school can be, you’ll be singled out as always being nice to girls.
Trust me, these conversations start in elementary school, and there is always a handful of boys who the girls unanimously agree are nicer than the rest (“He’s the only boy who lets the girls go first in getting their books from their locker” or “He’s polite and got Allie a chair when we were all at a restaurant, and there weren’t enough seats”). Be that guy who stands out in a good way.
#4: You aren’t invincible. You will die one day. Doing reckless things – like diving off cliffs or blindly following a pack of boy wolves in the name of adventure – drastically increases your risk of dying young.
In other words, use your brain. Remember this formula that a mom of 4 boys once shared with me – 1 boy = 1 brain, 2 boys = 1/2 brain, 3 boys = no brain – and think twice before you jump.
#5: A strong work ethic begins with knowing that no job is beneath you. You aren’t entitled to anything, and if you want to move up the corporate ladder, do even menial jobs well and with a good attitude, because eventually someone will notice and give you a bigger opportunity. Whether you’re mowing grass or running a business, stay humble and appreciate the grunt work that has someone has to do.
#6: Develop a healthy ambition. Let your motivation for success be driven by the likelihood that one day, you’ll have a wife and children to provide for. Your willingness and commitment to protect and take care of others is a cornerstone of your manhood.
So instead of seeing your future job as a fund for a lavish lifestyle that includes mountain homes and sports cars, view it as a means to support your future family and community. Think selflessly instead of selfishly, because that creates a meaningful life.
#7: Stay on guard against pride. It is the downfall of many men and boys.
#8: Strength, confidence, and courage are rooted in kindness, compassion, and love. Keep a thick skin and a tender heart. Embracing virtues doesn’t diminish your masculinity; rather, it enhances it.
#9: Practice respect and respect boundaries. When a girl says, No, it means No. When a parent says, Stop, it means Stop. When a teacher says Enough, it means Enough. You’re responsible for your actions and reactions, and for treating every human being with dignity, from the custodian of your school to the coach you deeply admire.
#10: Learn how to fight, but only use that skill when necessary – like when someone is being mistreated, threatened, or attacked.
#11: The woman you marry will be the mother of your children. Choose wisely, because what can make a girl really fun to date – like being wild & crazy or the life of the party – often doesn’t translate well into marriage and motherhood.
#12: Be a gentlemen, take initiative, and always carry cash. When you see a mom carrying groceries into her home, help her out. When you’re with a girl – a friend or a date – open doors and let her go first. Always pay for your date and don’t mooch money from friends. Be a giver, not a taker.
#13: It only takes one convincing leader to make a bad idea sound good. Even among friends, it’s imperative that you learn to step back, evaluate a situation, and think for yourself. Prepare for those moments where you either have to stand alone or stand up for what’s right. And if you aren’t sure about something, don’t do it.
#14: Shake hands, give hugs, smile, and look people in the eye. Be honest about who you are and passionate about the dreams in your heart so you can develop real relationships and reach your God-given potential.
#15: God created you to serve your generation like no one in the universe has ever served before. He’s grooming you to be an amazing leader and influencer. Listen to His voice in your life and pray for clarity, wisdom, and direction. Be the guy who steps up to the plate to do hard things and uses his power to empower those around him. Our world needs more men who create a sense of security and help others become brave. Our world needs more boys like YOU.
Above all, I’d want my son to know how deeply and unconditionally loved he is by his family and his Creator. I’d then remind him to take the love he’s been given and pass it on to others. This would include, of course, loving on his mom, and making sure he remembered to call and check in once his life of independence begins.