Part 2 of a 3-Part Series
The glory of sons is their fathers. – Robert Lewis
This is the second in a three-part series on fatherhood, masculinity, and the irreplaceable role that fathers have in the task of guiding their sons into a proper sense of who and what they are to become as men.
How Does a Boy Become a Man?In our culture there is no clear ceremony or rite of passage that is designed to definitively proclaim a boy’s transition into manhood. As a result, many young men enter adulthood wondering how to make sense of their masculinity—and they are only left with questions. What is their role? Where are their boundaries? What is their calling? For many men, these answers were never provided by their fathers. This can leave a tremendous void in the soul of a boy—and in the soul of the man he becomes.
So what is a father to do? What is the best way to fill this important role in the lives of our sons? In his book Raising a Modern Day Knight, Robert Lewis has provided a social and spiritual framework to help us think about how to guide a boy in his journey from boyhood, through adolescence, into manhood. In my previous article, I discussed Lewis’ first building block of masculinity, namely, that a real man needs a vision for manhood, and in the rest of this article I outline the second of these building blocks.
Building Block #2: A Real Man Needs a Code of Conduct
This building block answers the question, “How does a real man live?” Fathers who teach their sons this characteristic of manhood will reinforce the notion that our worth as men—to both God and to others—will be determined by who we are and what we do when nobody is looking. It can often feel as if our culture will undermine the values we are trying to instill in our children. However, this building block can give our sons a compass to navigate the mixed moral messages coming at them on a daily basis.
Robert Lewis asserts that every boy must learn early and often that the quality of satisfaction he will experience in life will be directly related to his level of obedience to God. In order to teach a desirable level of obedience, a father should model to his sons the behavioral and character traits such as loyalty (Hosea 6:6), kindness (Proverbs 19:22), purity (1 Timothy 4:12), honesty (Ephesians 4:12), self-discipline (1 Timothy 4:7-8), integrity (Proverbs 10:9), and perseverance (Galatians 6:9). Lewis argues that there are four ways this code of behavioral and spiritual conduct is passed from father to son.
- A Father Leads by Example
Regardless of the kind of example a father is setting, his sons are likely to follow it. I’m reminded of a recent session with an adolescent male. Outwardly, he despised his father. He couldn’t stand being in the same room with him for long. I asked my client to list the spiritual, emotional, and character traits that he admired in other men. What we learned together was that his own father exhibited almost every single one of those traits. My client didn’t experience his father as a person worth emulating. But when it came down to the kind of man he wanted to become, he described someone just like his dad. Almost against his will, my client desired to follow the example set by his father.
- A Father Teaches Spiritual Truth
Spiritual truth can be transmitted verbally and it can be transmitted as a lifestyle. A father who intentionally seeks to instill a proper code of conduct in his sons will actively pursue both of these means of teaching spiritual truth. He will do his best to make sure that his own conduct is aligned with his words, i.e. that he practices what he preaches. The lessons a man teaches his boy with his lifestyle will “stick.” They will be far more memorable than those he teaches with a lecture.
- A Father Shares Stories
Story defines who we are. Story tells us how we came to be and who and where we are. Sons are fascinated by the stories of their father’s life and by the stories of others. We can etch the standards of masculine behavior (the code of conduct) onto the minds and hearts of our sons by sharing our own wisely selected stories of both success and failure. Wise fathers create teachable moments with their stories. The stories we tell will vividly illustrate the building blocks of manhood for our sons. This gives them something far more tangible to pursue than a discourse or a list of rules and regulations.
- A Father Provides Affirmation, Attention, and Discipline
A father’s time and attention is a powerful teaching tool. Our sons need to hear our voices audibly articulating our approval of them. They are desperate to be seen as a success in our eyes. A wise father will reinforce the masculine code of conduct by affirming and attending to his son’s character and behavior when they are getting it right. When they are not getting it right, a wise father will lovingly administer correction and discipline in a way that shapes and builds their character, rather than tearing them down.
In the final article in this series, I will describe Lewis’ third building block of manhood: A real man needs a transcendent cause.
What’s Next on Your Son’s Journey to Manhood?
Are you up against some parenting difficulties in your home? Are you at a loss about how to navigate the stormy waters of adolescence? Do you feel like you need some outside perspective on your relationships with your children? Are you dealing with problematic behaviors or increased conflict?
It’s never too late to begin making changes and parenting in a healthier, more proactive way. A father has an irreplaceable role in the life of his family — and particularly in the lives of his sons. That is true no matter what his age or the age of his sons.
Christian Counseling is a Powerful Resource for Fathers and Sons
Bellevue Christian Counseling has a number of experienced, trained, and caring counselors who know how to help parents and families deal with difficult issues, especially if you are looking for a counselor who can incorporate a biblical worldview into their approach to treatment. We have several locations throughout the Puget Sound region and a wide range of hours available to meet your schedule.
With the help of a Christian counselor who understands family and parenting concerns, you can begin to begin to find the solutions you are seeking. Christian counseling can help you learn how to re-open lines of communication, rebuild trust, and provide new skills to deal with difficult problems.
Lewis, R. (2007). Raising a modern day knight. Colorado Springs, CO: Tyndale House.
Molitor, B. (2004). Boy’s passage, man’s journey. Lynwood, WA: Emerald Books.
Images provided by Microsoft Office courtesy of Fotolia: “Man and Boy Facing Water” and “Father giving son piggyback ride”