You’ve heard the maxim: If you fail to plan, you may as well plan to fail. Or, as I heard in a sermon illustration many years ago: “A porpoise without a purpose in bounder flounder.” (I guess you had to be there . . .)
Your son needs a father who is thinking about his son’s future and taking action to prepare them for that future—whether we’re talking about tomorrow, next week, next year, or ten years from now.
So, what should we help them to plan for? They will need at least the following:
They will need to plan for a vocation. They may have many jobs before they settle in to a career. But they need a plan on how to start. You can help your son plan for his vocational future by:
- Helping him explore a wide variety of interests and hobbies. Is he gifted at music? Has he been to space camp? Is he a superstar athlete? Is he a writer? Is he a builder? He won’t know unless he tries.
- Helping your son brainstorm about career possibilities, and then exposing him to jobs that might interest him. You can do this well before high school. If he wants to be doctor, see if you can take a tour of a hospital and ask a doctor some questions about being a medical professional.
- Trying not to talk negatively about your own career. Those comments muttered under your breath make a big impression on him. Not only do they shape your son’s ideas about your job, they color his impression of work in general.
- Encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit. Our society needs more business owners and those willing to be creators of jobs for others. Those baby-sitting and lawn-mowing jobs teach your kids that both time and effort have their rewards.
They will need a plan for choosing a life’s mate. Dad, don’t leave your son to learn these things from his friends or some men’s magazine that he picks up. Give him accurate information. Help him really understand the importance of integrity, purity, and respect for women. You can help him plan for a healthy dating and marriage relationship by:
- Talking about what to look for in a mate, discussing what it takes to make a marriage work, and having regular discussions about how he relates to the opposite sex. He needs to know that that good Christian girl that he wants to marry someday just may not be all that interested in him if he has run wild and gotten himself in things that he wasn’t ready for at the time.
- Encouraging him to develop positive relationships with everyone—coaches, friends, siblings, bosses, and teachers. If he treats his friends poorly, he’ll likely treat a spouse poorly. If he treats his girlfriend poorly, he’ll likely treat a spouse poorly. If he treats his mother poorly . . . Well, you get the picture.
- Talking about what true love is. It is not what Hollywood dishes up on a regular basis. Yes, it often involves strong emotions, but it’s more about a steadfast commitment to your wife.
- Giving him a long-range perspective. Most likely, a teenage relationship will not turn into a marriage. So, why get serious with anyone? It’s much better to work at a strong friendship. If it does become serious, that friendship will be the best preparation anyway.
- Talking specifically about boundaries. What’s appropriate in terms of physical affection? If you start out with no restraint, there is not much more to save for a honeymoon. Teach him about risky behaviors involving drugs or alcohol. I know the stereotype is for the boy to convince the girl to do something she shouldn’t, but it does happen the other way around these days.
- Sharing some of your own experiences. Ensure that the discussion is based on your child’s maturity level. But share lessons you learned and the stories behind them. Being open will also help you build a stronger relationship with your son.
They need a plan to traverse some rites of passage. They need to be ready for the benchmarks along the way that help signal new levels of maturity and responsibility, and that affirm him as a beloved and trusted son.
It is a father’s unique privilege to bring his son through various rites of passage. Author and fellow blogger, Rene Rivera, has done a very interesting thing with each of his two sons. I encourage you to check out the article at this link.
Maybe some of the simpler rites of passage will be when you get him up early on Saturday to go out to breakfast with you and your adult male friends. Maybe it will be the first time you let him stay home without a babysitter while you and your wife go out for dinner. Or the first time you trust him with your deer rifle or your electric razor. These are big moments for all boys and, as fathers, we need to be there to share them.
These rite of passage moments should happen continually along our son’s journey to manhood. Significant events should be celebrated with new privileges and responsibilities. Create opportunities to talk with him about what it means to be a man. What are the marks of true manhood? Put him in the presence of other men of integrity and have them pour their self into your son. And do the same for those fathers and their sons. Help him recognize people in the world who are getting it right … or missing the mark.
As an example you could:
- Take a road trip together to have fun and talk about what it means to be a man.
- When your son reaches a milestone of maturity, give him a memento—a plaque, a book, or maybe something that your father gave you.
- Work together at your local church, a local soup kitchen or some other compassionate outreach ministry. Demonstrate that manhood includes serving others.
They need a plan for how they will steward the money that will pass through their hands in their lifetime. And there will be a substantial amount of it in all likelihood. Young people today do not seem to have any concept of money. It is not real to them. Most do not ever use real cash. Every transaction takes place through a debit card at best and a credit card at worst. Most young people do not even carry any cash in their wallets on any given day.
In addition, our kids are coming out of college with mounds of debt that is unprecedented in our history. And this is just the beginning of the mound of debt that our kids will try to build a stable life and home upon.
It is our job as fathers to teach our sons how to be a good steward of money. It is our job to teach them to save for what we want and not use a credit card as a shortcut. It is our job to teach them of the dangers and the pitfalls of the reckless and careless use of credit. Of course, if our own financial situation is not in order, how can we teach our sons?
Consider some of the following:
- Start a savings account for your son and encourage him to take a portion of all that he gets in birthday money and allowances and odd jobs and deposit that portion in a savings account.
- Provide some age appropriate resources to your son that help him understand the value and the power of money.
- Teach them early about the power of compounding interest and the positive impact it has on our savings and the negative impact it has on our debt.
- Help them develop a realistic budget for them at this stage in their life. And show them how a budget can free you up to spend without guilt as long as it is a budgeted amount.
Here are some specific things that you can do this week to lead your son in this important area of life:
- Take your son to tour a workplace of a career he might like to pursue someday.
- Help your son with a lemonade stand, garage sale, or mowing enterprise.
- Tell your son about when you met his mom and some highlights (and lowlights) from your dates together.
- Create a list of skills, attitudes, and values you see in him already and that you hope your son continues to develop.
- Tell your son about a skill your father taught you. Then ask, “What would you like to learn from me?”
- Buy your son a basic financial management or home budgeting book.