signs of manhood

5 Ways We Want Our Sons to Rethink Manhood

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What do you think the signs of manhood are? Who do you think displays them? Your favorite professional athlete like Lebron James or Tom Brady? Or perhaps a mogul or business leader like Jay-Z or Elon Musk? Maybe you think of your own dad or grandfather. There are lots of characteristics and people we tend to associate with manhood. And some of these are really positive—but many are often unhelpful and even exaggerated.

We need to be intentional about helping our sons rethink manhood. If we aren’t, then they’re often going to absorb from our culture the most exaggerated but seductive messages: that “real” men have power, make lots of money, are “tough guys,” have frequent sex. I don’t know about you, but I want more for my son than any of these things. Here are 5 ways we want our sons to rethink manhood.

1. Men are responsible.

We need men who take responsibility for themselves and for those they care for. Our sons are often taught that the most important thing is that they have fun and that they are happy. Of course there is a time and place for fun and happiness and a life without these things is a lot harder than a life with them. But we need young men who can take responsibility for their lives, for their futures, and for those around them.

2. Men are courageous.

As dads, we work hard to protect our kids from danger. This is crucial. However, sometimes we can take this too far and teach our children that the world is a scary and dangerous place where it’s far better to take few if any risks. But we don’t need men who are risk-averse. We need men who are courageous, can risk speaking up when something is wrong, and can make unpopular choices.

3. Men are sage.

When we think about the “signs of manhood,” the word sage rarely comes to mind, but that needs to change. We need sages more than CEOs. We need elders who have experienced loss and failure and come out the other side having learned what’s really important, who are willing to pass what they’ve learned on to others. If that’s going to happen, we need sons who know that the point is not to win but to learn and grow.

If you are given the gift of influence, use it for the well-being of the people you lead.

4. Men are servant-leaders.

We want our boys to become men who lead. We also want them to understand leadership not as a top-down, ego-centered power move, but as a way to help others become their best. If you are given the gift of influence, use it for the well-being of the people you lead. Use your influence to move us toward a more equitable, just, and beautiful future for all, not to secure power for yourself.

5. Men are accountable.

One of the biggest signs of manhood I believe we need our sons to embrace is that of accountability. We don’t expect our boys to become perfect men, but we need them to be accountable. When they mess up, they need to fess up. When they misstep, they need to own it. We need a world in which men gladly submit themselves to being held accountable for their actions so that they are much less likely to do things for which they will be ashamed.

These are the signs of manhood we want our sons to have embedded in their understanding. This is what we want them to aspire to as they mature. The key is, if we want them to rethink manhood, it begins with the most influential man in their lives: you.

Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: The 3 Cruelest Words You Can Say to Your Son.

Sound off: What other signs of manhood do you want to ingrain in your sons?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How would you describe what it means to be a man?”