I love my son! I love those big, squishy cheeks so much. I love his infectious laugh. I love his devious smile. I love how he talks. And, I love his questions - there are so many and how he phrases them, it is just so cute. However, he does have some less endearing qualities, as do we all. He has no concept of an inside voice, he likes to get really close to your face when he speaks to you, and he completely lacks in the patience department. He is a typical man, right? Well no, not yet. And actually, I am hoping he will never be. I want him to be more than typical. I want him to be better than the typical man. I want him to be a great man.
From the moment our children are born, we feel that we can see so much about them - who they are, their future, and all of the great things they can and will do - just from merely looking into their newly-opened, novice and innocent eyes. Then when they are toddlers, with one long glance, if they let you get one, you can get a glimpse into their gentle, yet strong soul.
The special role that us parents get to play in the lives of our sons, and daughters for that matter, is to guide those innocent eyes and strong souls towards grace and grandeur - and yes, they can achieve and have both.
On my blog, I shared what I believed to be ten life skills that are of the utmost importance if you want to raise your daughter to be independent. Well, our boys are no different. I would contend that the life skills we should teach to our daughters are the same life skills that we should teach to our sons. These life skills include:
Teach him how to make honest money.
Teach him how to change a tire and understand the mechanics of a car.
Teach him that people's inner beauty is way more important than their outer beauty.
Teach him how to defend himself.
Teach him how to engage in banter.
Teach him about discrimination.
Teach him how to say "No."
Teach him what real love should be like.
Teach him how to think for himself.
Teach him that you will always be there for him.
However, boys need to learn more than just skills of independency to be great men. And on the contrary, I would affirm that one of the defining characteristics of great men is their natural and practically perfected ability to think outside of themselves. All the great men that I know and have read about are men that have consistently looked towards contributing to this world in a positive way that affects others.
What are some of the attributes that "great men" possess? I'll share with you what I believe to be 10 attributes of great men - historical and present day.
1. Encourage him to be CARING
This includes having both compassion and empathy for others. The best way for you to teach this to your son is by modeling it. It is important that your child sees you being kind-hearted and considerate across all types of situations and towards all types of people. Additionally, I would suggest that you emphasize for your son the importance of caring about things, places, the environment, the education system - anything and everything that plays an imperative role in the world in which he is growing up.
2. Help keep him FOCUSED
Depending upon your son's age, this can be challenging, but it remains to be so very important. There is a saying that "If you chase two rabbits, both will escape." This may be a useful analogy when trying to explain the benefit and power of focus to your son. Help them to keep their mind clear, strive with purpose, and be productive - where their focus goes, their energy will follow and so will results.
3. Teach him how to be COOPERATIVE
Cooperation is key, for the most part, to getting anything done. One thing that I would advocate for is that all children possess a steady moral compass and certain values. I would agree with those who contend that cooperation is a higher moral principle than competition. While I see and understand how a competitive nature can be a motivating force for some, I believe cooperation is more important and advantageous. It is my belief that when people are unified, no matter how small the matter, wonderful things can be achieved - things that couldn't be achieved otherwise.
4. Advise him to be DYNAMIC
Dynamic people are special and this world needs more charismatic and influential people. Although as parents we have a tendency to stifle our children's energetic and lively nature, I would advise against it. There is a quote that "strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes" (Kenneth Hildebrand). I would state that dynamic purposes are sought and pursued by intense go-getters. Encourage your son to be one of those.
5. Explain to him the importance of remaining HUMBLE
Being humble is one of the hardest things for a human being to do. "Being humble means recognizing we are not on Earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others." (Gordon B. Hinckley) Make sure that your son understands and believes that he is no better than anyone else.
6. Allow him to be INNOVATIVE
As adults, we have a tendency to try to stick to our same old ways for solving problems - new problems or old problems. Our children, thankfully, do not. Instead, most young children today are creative in their thinking. Be a proponent of this. Never let your son lose his innovative spirit. Don't be the person telling them that they are "wrong," or "nuts," or "crazy," be the one pushing them to "think big."
7. Instruct him to be WELL-MANNERED
If we want well-manned children, we need to be well-mannered ourselves. Putting this into action is not as easy as it sounds, but it is of dire importance. It is one thing to be educated, but without good mannerisms and respect for others, your level of intelligence holds no weight. We also need to guide our sons to put up with bad manners, as that will surely be a test of their own mannerisms.
8. Nurture him to not be PRETENTIOUS
If you want your son to be "great" and you want for him to be happy, help him to find beauty and pleasure in all people, as well as in the simple and quiet things in this world.
9. Foster his PEACEFULNESS
Early on in their lives, most children come to believe that peace is achieved via satisfying their desires, but it isn't. We have to teach our sons, and all children, to direct themselves to find internal harmony regardless of what is happening outside of them - this will take time, but it is possible.
10. Advocate for him to be INVOLVED in anything and everything (as long as it is healthy) that he desires.
"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Nicole Merritt's website. It has been republished here with permission.