Editor's note: This article was originally published in the Gwinnett Daily Post. It has been republished here with permission.
As fathers, we want our sons to grow up to be loving husbands, involved fathers and contributing members of society. That doesn't happen by accident.
With so many young men these days seemingly adrift, the role of the father has never been more vital. Here are some tips for raising boys to become the kind of men our world needs.
Play with them
I always smile when I see a young father wrestling around on the floor with his son. Boys need that kind of interaction. They need to play sports and other active games, to test themselves physically and overcome their fears in a safe environment.
They also need to learn about teamwork and fair play. And perhaps most of all, they need their father's praise and approval. Playing with your sons gives you ample opportunity to meet all those needs.
Work with them
Concerned about today's slacker culture, where young men spend hours just "hanging out" or playing video games? Teach your sons to work by working with them.
Of course, you can and should give your sons chores to do on their own. But some of the best times you'll ever spend together will be working on some project around the house. Even when they're little, find things your sons can do to "help." Ultimately, they'll associate work with something positive - time with Dad - and won't shy away from it as adults.
Serve with them
Disaffected youth aren't just lazy - they're also self-centered and narcissistic. Teaching your sons to think about others will help them combat the tendency toward ego gratification that afflicts so many young men today.
Once again, the best way to teach your sons to serve is to find ways to serve together. Maybe you can mow an elderly neighbor's lawn. Or join a group like Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a less fortunate family. Or take part in another young man's Eagle Scout Project.
The possibilities are endless, but the important thing is that your sons see you serving others and have the opportunity to serve alongside you.
Respect their mother
Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your sons is to show them how to treat women. We know that abusers almost always grow up in abusive homes. The way you relate to their mother will likely be the way your sons relate to their wives.
Always take care to show your wife - or even your ex-wife - proper respect and deference. Don't speak harshly to her, or speak ill about her, in your sons' presence. And above all, never, ever lay a hand on her in anger. Remember, your boys are watching.
Despite today's many negative influences, a father's guidance and example still have great power. And while there are no guarantees, following these basic steps will increase your chances of raising young men you can be proud of.