5 Lessons Your Son Learns From Watching You

My son was working on putting his LEGO set together when suddenly, he let out a groan. “What’s the matter bud?” I asked, sitting down beside him. He responded, “I’m so stupid. I put this together all wrong.” I quickly corrected him saying, “You’re not stupid. Why would you say that? You just made a mistake.” He went back to putting the LEGO set together, but I was dumbfounded. Why would my son put himself down like that? Where did he learn that kind of negative self-talk? Then it hit me. He learned it from me.

For better or worse, our sons look to us to show them how to be in the world. You can tell him whatever you want to tell him, but the truth is, he’s going to end up learning more from what you do than from what you say. It’s critical that you model the behavior you want to teach your son. Here are 5 lessons your son learns from watching you.

1. How to Treat Women

The way you treat your wife is the way your son will treat women. Do you treat her like she’s your subordinate, or to you treat her like a partner? Are you quick to serve her or do you expect her to serve you? Do you honor and respect her, or do you talk behind her back and speak patronizingly to her? Your son is watching you, even when you aren’t aware of it, so model the behavior you want to teach. Treat women how you want to see him treat women.

Your son is watching you, even when you aren’t aware of it, so model the behavior you want to teach.

2. How to Handle Adversity

How do you handle adversity? What’s your reaction when life goes sideways? Do you give up? Do you turn to alcohol or video games or food to feel better? Are you quick to look for someone to blame or to complain about how you got a raw deal? Or do you roll with the punches? Do you look for opportunities in the midst of obstacles? Are you humble enough to ask for help? Of course none of us is perfect, and it’s OK for your son to see you struggle. But whatever you do, your son will see you. And you need to model the behavior you want to teach your son.

3. How to Deal With Anger

There are few places where men have a “do as I say not as I do” attitude as much as they do with anger. We tell our kids not to swear, but we curse a blue streak when we’re mad. We tell them they have to keep themselves under control; meanwhile we scream and shout. You probably don’t put up with your kids calling people names, but do you resort to name calling behind the backs of others when you’re mad? Learning to keep your anger under control is certainly not easy work, but it is critical. Remember, young eyes are watching you, so model the behavior you want to teach.

4. How to Love Others

How does your son see you interact with the poor? Or does he ever? What about your neighbor who gets on your nerves? How does your son observe you with him? Do you look for ways to help others, to step up when things are tough? Or are you the kind of person who basically keeps his head down and just does what he can to take care of himself and his family? One of the most powerful gifts you can give your son is for you to learn how to love your neighbor.

5. How to Treat Himself

Speaking of being kind to people, are you kind to yourself? The story I told about my son is a perfect example of what happens when we model destructive self-talk. In fact, our bad habits, for whatever reason, often seem much more likely to be observed and copied than our good ones. Unfortunately, many of us refuse to do our own work to deal with our insecurities, wounded egos, and poor choices and therefore end up passing them along to our sons. Maybe you don’t care about yourself. But at least care enough about your son to care about yourself.

Sound off: What are other lessons your son learns from watching you?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing you’ve learned recently?”