how to become a man

Teaching Your Son How to Become a Man

When I was in my mid-thirties I had a life-changing epiphany. I worked on the road a lot as a financial advisor, but on this day I was in the office on my computer. When my boss walked in I buried my face into the computer screen as she spoke with others. I was filled with anxiety and hoped I would go unnoticed. I realized at that moment that was how I normally responded to my bosses. Then a question reverberated in my brain, Why are you hiding? I wanted to find out why I was afraid of the authority figures in my life.

Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t feel like an adult. Physically, I was in my thirties, but internally, I felt like I was twelve and I was afraid they would find out. That fear kept me from being comfortable with my true self. Instead, I would try to play the part I thought they wanted in order to mask what was going on inside. I would always be in awe of those I felt like had the keys to a kingdom of which I didn’t have access.

Sons need their dad to show them how to be a man. My dad was amazing in so many ways. He taught me a lot. I loved him, he loved me, and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else as a father. There were many reasons I felt the way I did that had nothing to do with him. However, somewhere along the way, there were things that were missed in bringing me into manhood. As I have studied what I was missing, I have narrowed down the following things in teaching a son how to become a man.

Identity

Unfortunately, the world communicates to our kids that they need to be a certain type or way to be “successful” or perhaps even “acceptable”. When they believe it, they conform and/or perform for approval. In other words, they hide their true self. If they have been rejected by an authority or their peers, they will bury it even more. Our boys need a strong understanding of who they are as individuals. Until our sons are able to authentically be themselves, they will remain in perpetual childhood. [Tweet This] Bringing a boy into manhood involves nurturing his real self to the surface. A man is not made, he emerges. We draw him out with unconditional love, listening, encouragement, and gentle coaching.

Belonging

Although being independent is often lifted up as a virtue, we were never meant to live that way. We were meant to be connected to one another through love and belonging. It is a major factor in our maturation process. Our sons need to know they are worthy of belonging otherwise they will never feel good enough. They will always feel as though all others are a step ahead. It will inhibit their ability to be vulnerable which leads to stunted emotional growth. A father is one of the most powerful factors in a son feeling worthy. Our boys need our presence and approval. Merely spending attentive time with him verifies his dignity. Affirm his value so that he knows it is not based on his accomplishments, but who he is.

Voice

In Walt Whitman’s poem “O Me! O Life!” is the line, “That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” Our sons are made with gifts and talents. They have wisdom gained through their own experience; a story to tell. They have powerful things to offer the world. A child shrinks into his parent’s arms (or computer screen), but a man stands up and contributes his verse. Help him find his gifting by encouraging him to try new things. Give him room to toil and let him know it’s okay to fail. Give him space to find his voice. Don’t sculpt it for him or be quick to shoot it down. Affirm it instead.

Ceremony

I believe this is something our culture has lost when it comes to bringing boys into manhood. There are still cultures that do it, but they are declining. Have a ceremony that communicates he has gone from a boy to a man. We have weddings and graduations. This is equally important. Here is an example of a blessing ceremony.

Sound Off

How are you bringing your son into manhood?

BJ Foster

BJ Foster is the Director of Content Creation for All Pro Dad and a married father of two.

  • ● Steven Burda, MBA

    Excellent post. Thank you for sharing !!

    • BJ_Foster

      Thanks Steven!

  • Good stuff, BJ!

    • BJ_Foster

      I appreciate it Jackie!

  • Devon D

    This is an awesome post! Not only have you given me an understanding of what I can do to help my boys grow (and why we have a really strong bond as it is now), but you’re also letting me know why I have had some struggles in my life. Although I knew my dad loved me while he was here, he was still that strong silent man and those actions stunted a lot of my emotional growth. Even as I am 43 years old now I struggle with an identity but I am hoping that by the things I experienced in my childhood that I can help propel them into much more than what I feel that I am now.

    • BJ_Foster

      Glad to hear it gave you some insight Devon. Great job with your boys!

  • Barry Rowland

    Awesome post….sorely needed today!

    • BJ_Foster

      Thank you. Glad to hear it Barry!

  • Identity is something I’ve been working on as a father trying to demonstrate to my children as I think it is easy to try and copy or replicate role models rather than be our authentic selves. I’m also trying to create rites of passage that my boys can share as they grow older. Not just one but during certain milestones such as adolescence, graduation, marriage and others. Spent this past summer with my son hiking the Shenandoah Valley, taking time to discuss adolescence and celebrate this time in his life.

    • BJ_Foster

      Way to go Kirby! I’ll bet your son will cherish that hike forever. I’m interested in what rites of passage and ceremonies you are coming up with. Feel free to share if you’d like.

      • Well I can’t take credit but I went to a one day workshop presented by Family iD – Greg Gunn and his crew. Great way to get the family on board with the same values and goals but he also went into how to raise value based children. This was one his ideas that you have a boys out bonfire at a certain age, give you son a plaque after he has read a reading list you assign him. Books like Steven Covey’s and many more others. Check it out http://family-id.com/home/resources. This is a personal recommendation, I get nothing in return. It has had that kinda impact for me and my family.

  • I am often asked if I want to have number four to “try for a boy” and I almost get sick at the mere suggestion. Yes, that is partly because I can’t bear the idea of adding another child to the household when I can’t give those already in it as much of my time than I would like, but because I genuinely do not want to raise a boy. When I found out my third was a girl, I was quite relieved. I have spent so much time trying to learn to be a father of daughters, I fear I would really mess up the responsibility of teaching a boy to be a man. Heck, I am not even sure I am doing it right in my own life!

    • BJ_Foster

      The fact that you are thinking the way you are, particularly the amount of time you desire to spend with your kids, makes me think you would probably be better than you think. You clearly want to do well at being a dad. Sounds like you’re doing it right to me.

  • Chill out b

    I really like the ceremony idea. I don’t have any kids of my own yet but I will put this in the archives

  • Noheterosexual

    Heterosexualist. :-I

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