On his first day of kindergarten, my oldest son wound up in the principal’s office after a fight on the playground. Another boy had taken a swing at him, so my son swung right back. I’ll be honest: I had mixed feelings. I didn’t want to condone violence, but I also felt a little pride that my son stood up for himself in a difficult moment. One of the great challenges dads face in raising sons to become men is helping them figure out where and how they should use the strength they’ve been given.
As a dad, I find myself in a privileged position, trying to teach my sons what’s worth fighting for. To help with that, I try to expose them to stories like Braveheart and Gladiator. I also share stories with them about real-life examples of men who have fought wisely and rightly, using their strength to do tremendous good. What we’re learning together from these examples is that there are 4 fights your son shouldn’t avoid.
1. A Fight for Yourself
While it may not always look as clear as it did to my son—a fist swinging at you on the playground—the fact is that it’s unlikely our sons will get through elementary school (let alone life) without facing adversity and opposition. They need to know there are moments when it’s critical to assert yourself, stand up, and respond with an appropriate amount of force. They also need to know that the opposite can be true as well: that there are many times when it is equally important to turn the other cheek and to walk away from opposition.
2. A Fight for Family
If you ask most boys to be honest, they’ll tell you that they love teasing their sisters and fighting with their brothers, but if these same siblings were being targeted by a bully, they’d be the first to stand up and do something about it. The difference is simple. When boys pick on their siblings, they don’t intend any (permanent) harm. The same can’t be said of bullies. When boys learn to stand up for members of their families, they also learn that there is a group of people who will have their backs, too.
3. A Fight for Those Who Can’t Fight for ThemselvesThe smallest act of kindness and compassion can have a dramatic effect on someone in tremendous need.
When you look at the history of war over the past century, we often read about how we’ve sent soldiers overseas to defend those who lack the ability to fight for themselves against aggressors or oppressive regimes. As much as we’d like to say these battles only happen in faraway places, it’s hard to ignore the many moments the weak and vulnerable can be found in our own back yards. There are moments when these people need someone to stand up and be an advocate for them and there are moments when they need someone to commit a simple act of kindness on their behalf. We need to teach our sons that even the smallest act of kindness and compassion can have a dramatic effect on someone in tremendous need.
4. A Fight for a Friend You Could Lose
One of the most difficult battles your son should fight is for a friend who is in some kind of trouble. This might be a friend struggling with addiction, crime, relationships, self-harm, or even suicide. Friends in these sorts of situations often confide about their struggle along with the condition “don’t tell anyone.” Fighting for this friend may mean reaching out to someone who could help, which may damage the friendship. We need to teach our sons that it is more important to have a friend who is safe rather than a friendship that is safe with a friend who is in trouble or danger.
Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 50 Ways to Connect with Your Son.
Sound off: What are some of the other battles we should encourage our sons to fight?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How do you feel about speaking up for yourself? Is it difficult? Why or why not?”