5 Ways to Build Confidence in Sons

In his book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge explains that deep down, every boy and man is asking himself the same question: “Do I have what it takes?” He went on to explain how a father is supposed to be the one to teach his son that he does, in fact, have what it takes to be a man. Eldredge says that when dads can’t or won’t answer this question, boys go looking in other (often unhealthy) places to get their question answered.

When I first read this book, I thought a lot about my life and my relationship with my father. Now that I am a father to boys, building confidence in sons is important to me. I am looking for ways to help my boys answer this question themselves. When a boy knows his dad believes he has what it takes, he has the self-confidence to do great things. Here are 5 ways to build confidence in sons.

1. Wrestle with him.

Sons love to measure their strength against their dads’. This is why most boys love to wrestle their dads. Wrestle with them. You can have a wrestling match in the living room, an arm wrestling match, or even a round of Mario Kart. In doing so, you’ll teach your son he has what it takes by letting him try to take you down. Your son will never forget the day his strength matches up to yours.

2. Trust him with dangerous things.

In the early years, dads work hard to keep their sons away from dangerous things: things that are hot, sharp, or otherwise potentially harmful to them. As they grow up, a simple way to build confidence in your son is to trust him with some of these things. Let him use power tools under your supervision. Let him steer the boat while you’re out on the lake. Show him how to build a fire, and then let him do it on his own. Your son will see your confidence in him as a clear sign that he has what it takes.

3. Say yes more than you say no.

Sons often want to build or try things out for themselves. Often, when a son explains his crazy plan, we want to protect him from disappointment by talking him out of it. Let your son know you believe he has what it takes by saying yes as often as you can. If his plan or risk works out, celebrate the success with him. If it doesn’t, be with him to see what he’s learned from the experience. He won’t forget the trust you have in him and in his ideas.

4. Be honest about your failures.

Boys and men often see their failures as a sign that they don’t have what it takes. See the moment that your son fails to make a team, flops a test, or gets his heart broken as an opportunity to build up his confidence by sharing about your own mistakes and failures. Tell him about your small mistakes and your epic failures. Your openness and honesty will show your son that you trust him and encourage him to keep on trying.

5. Hold him to a high standard.

People often excuse boys’ bad behavior by shaking their heads and muttering “boys will be boys,” as though it’s in their nature to act badly. Make sure your sons know that this isn’t the case, and you have high standards for their words, actions, and behaviors. Make the boundaries clear, and (in love) hold them to these standards. If they fall short of what you ask of them, correct them as needed, but make sure you let them know you love them even if you don’t love their actions.

Sound off: Is building confidence in sons challenging for you? What has worked and not worked?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you really love to do with your dad?”