initiation into manhood

5 Initiations Your Son Needs From You

When I was a kid, my dad took me to help a friend whose home was destroyed by a tornado. Our job was to salvage anything we could find in the rubble. After several hours of work, we got back in the truck and I will never forget what he told me that day. He said, “Son, we are Cooleys, and when someone needs help, we help them.” It was part of my initiation into manhood. That day, my dad initiated me into a life of serving.

We all have ideas of what an initiation looks like. For most of us, we think of college fraternities or military-type initiations with physical challenges. But the act of initiation is to invite someone into a new way of living that will affect his or her future. Inviting your sons into manhood should not happen by mistake. We actively have to create moments of initiation. We should be intentional with a son’s initiation into manhood. Here are 5 initiations that your son needs from you.

1. An Initiation Into Adventure

When my boys were younger, they would grab sticks at the park and have epic sword fights. In the hearts of our young men is a desire for action and adventure. We must initiate our boys into understanding that this is a normal part of healthy manhood. They shouldn’t suppress these desires. Too often when men get older, they live boring and unfulfilled lives. When we include our sons in our own adventures, whatever that may be for you, we are inviting them into a life of excitement and fulfillment.

2. An Initiation Into Love

Chances are, if your dad didn’t express love well, neither do you.

With a desire to raise tough and resilient boys, we often overlook teaching them about loving others well. Chances are, if your dad didn’t express love well, neither do you. Initiating boys into a life of loving others is critical for their emotional health as adults. Initiating them into romantic and brotherly love starts when you recognize that they have the capacity to understand what love is. This initiation is founded on open and honest conversations and setting an example of how you, as a dad, love your wife, friends, and kids well.

3. An Initiation Into Learning

I truly believe that leaders are learners and I want my son to have a heart for learning. He may not love school, but I want him to be curious about the world and find ways to learn new things as he grows. To initiate my son into learning, I took him to Home Depot for a class on installing tile. In the middle of this class, he asked “Dad, do you already know how to do this?” I said, “No.” His eyes lit up—he realized we were learning something new together. Learners are coachable and willing to take advice and for this reason, I want my sons to value learning.

4. An Initiation Into Leadership

As adults, I hope my sons will be men who others look to as leaders in their homes, careers, and communities. During a snowstorm, several of our neighbors had burst pipes and water damage. As we were cleaning out carpet and sheetrock, I had a group of boys with me. In each room we cleared, I made one of the boys the leader of that room. As they worked, they took pride in the rooms they led. In order to initiate our sons into leadership, we have to give them leadership opportunities.

5. An Initiation Into Service

During the pandemic, our elderly neighbor needed some supplies and groceries. I pulled my oldest son into the conversation and asked what he thought we should do. As he began to think of what to do, he started to make a shopping list. I told him that he is running point on this and I am just here to help him pull off this act of service. When we dropped off the supplies on the neighbor’s front porch, my son asked me who else he could help. At this point, I was able to tell him, “Son, we are Cooleys, and when someone needs help, we help them.”

Sound off: What core values do you want to instill into your son as part of his initiation into manhood?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “If you could go on a big adventure, what would it be?”