The latest data suggests that teenage boys are spending more time than ever playing video games. A corollary truth is that every hour spent gaming is one less hour engaged in relationship building with real people in real time. When it comes to learning manly definition and qualities, dads seriously need to be deep in the conversation.
But we can be more intentional about investing the time we do have to teach what it really means to be manly.Dads may not be able to follow their kids to school every day or turn into an avatar to stalk them online. But we can be more intentional about investing the time we do have to teach what it really means to be “manly” and to counter the destructive messages perpetuated on screen and in the incessant news cycle. Here are 7 “manly” qualities your son won’t learn playing video games or watching the news.
Whatever your son’s age, help him pick a responsibility that requires daily attention. Not for himself but for the family, or someone else (walks dog… takes out the garbage… make coffee… lock the doors…) Then, teach him how to follow through. “This is what men do, son. Men keep their commitments.”
Show this via constant example and deliberate practice. Teach him to be the kid who demonstrates compassion and treats others tenderly. Tell him, “Kindness is a special quality of tough. It takes a real man to be kind.”
The courage to do what is right. Stand between the victim and the bully; speak the truth even when it is unpopular. Talk with your son about injustices that concern him and then help him develop some kind of an action plan.
Why spend so many hours a day playing on devices when those hours could be used to actually “do” something? Teach him to take apart an engine and put it together, how to fix an appliance, how to build shelving… the options are endless.
5. Make a Difference
Channel that action into being a change agent. Manly means effecting positive change in this world. Manly means being a leader who makes the world around him better for everyone.
Stop on the highway to help change a tire – together. Hold the door for people (men and women both). Encourage him to do odd jobs for an elderly neighbor. Teach him to always put others first.
From day one encourage/require regular giving from both allowance and earnings. Donating (good) toys and (new) clothes. Teach generosity of time, teach generosity of spirit. The lesson here is that it is manly to actually have something to give. It is manly to be the person who can make things better for someone else.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your son and ask, “What do you think it means to be ‘manly’?”