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by Walter G. Fremont, Ed.D.
For a boy to grow into a man with sterling character, a desire to serve the Lord, and the unshakable determination it takes to meet life's challenges, he needs some tremendous help from his father. The mother does a lot of training in the early years, but it is only as a father fulfills his training responsibilities as ordained by the Lord that we will see stalwart Christian men making an impact on their own individual communities.
There are many specific steps that a father can take to bring about the right kind of change in his boy.
A father must first love his boy as much as any mother does. Most mothers give their boys plenty of love. But a boy needs a father's love too. You show him that you love him by telling him, "I love you." "I'm proud of you." "I appreciate the way you've helped your sister by fixing her bike." Comments like these, especially as you look him right in the eye, make a child feel loved and secure in that love. You also show love by touching him. For a young boy, a hug and a kiss are in order and later the pat on the back, the nudge, the hand on the shoulder. All these are signs that show you approve of him and love him. Many men have the odd idea that showing the boy any love and affection will make him effeminate, weak, or insecure. However, just the opposite is true.
Just as important is focusing your attention on the things in which he is interested. He wants to show you the slingshot he made or talk about the fly ball he caught that won the game or maybe the little misunderstanding he had with one of the neighbor kids. You must listen with an uncondemning attitude and give as much approval as possible.
Thoughtfulness is remembering to pick up the flashlight batteries that he wanted you to get for him or running him and his buddy out to the game ten miles away when his ride does not show up. The important thing for a boy to know is that his father cares for him as a person.
Many fathers are so busy, even in the work of the Lord, that they do not take time to be with their boys for the teaching and fellowship that show love. As a consequence, the boy feels insecure and unloved. Working together on a project, going on a fishing trip, watching his ball game, or going to a hamburger place are good ways to spend time with your son.
Another important thing in making a man out of a boy is to teach him various skills to help him cope with the situations he will encounter in life. These include skills in plumbing, carpentry, and mechanical areas. Included too are various team sports such as baseball, basketball, or soccer; individual sports such as tennis; and outdoor skills involved in fishing, camping, or hunting. A father should teach as many of these skills as possible himself for good father-son rapport. However, some of these skills can also be learned at a good Christian camp or in a good youth organization.
Boys need to have their responsibilities increased. A boy from six to twelve years old needs responsibility for cleaning the garage, taking care of the yard, working in the garden, washing the car, and later on, running a paper route or taking care of an animal.
Boys need to develop increasing independence, which comes as they learn to make decisions for themselves and to live with those decisions. The father should train his child to make decisions and then give him opportunities to do so. When he makes decisions, he must be held accountable for them. That is, he suffers the consequences of a poor one and enjoys the satisfaction and blessing of a good one.
A father should get his son into daring activities, experiences in which he has to put to use the skills he has learned, such as mountain climbing, making trips in the wilds of Canada, sailing on the ocean, and hiking down to the bottom of a canyon. Helping him to meet the elements and succeed in coping with these experiences and situations will give him self-confidence.
The most important element for a boy in becoming a man is establishing good Christian character. Character is formed as the Holy Spirit works in the life of a believer through the Word of God. A child displays and strengthens such character as he learns good Bible principles and puts them into action in his life so that he operates consistently on biblical principles and not on his feelings. Because of television, rock music, and the humanistic public schools, this generation has become feeling-oriented and impulse-centered. People with no character operate on their feelings instead of on principles. They have little control over their own body and spirit, and they do what they feel like doing whenever they feel like doing it, whether it is right or not. A man with character knows how to bring his body and spirit under the discipline of Bible principles.
The father helps provide the biblical instruction needed to build character through family devotions or teaching the Bible lessons himself in the home school. He can also train the boy in self-discipline and in controlling his body and spirit in various real-life situations. For example, when my boy and I would go on a hike with a number of other boys that we used to take along on our weekly jaunts, they would all be pushing and shoving at the water fountain at the end of the hike. I would have my son stand back with me and wait until they all had their drinks. Ten minutes later we would step up and get our drink. I was teaching him to bring his desperate desire for water under control by bringing his body into subjection.
Boys need to learn to put off immediate pleasure for future gain. Learning to save money for some specific good thing makes a boy realize that the impulse purchase of the moment is often a waste of money. He learns to do without and postpone his wants so that he can later enjoy the fruits of a well-planned expenditure--especially if waiting six months has enabled him to get the desired item on a half-price sale.
Self-discipline in the area of eating, spending money, exercise, daily devotions, Bible memorization, and pursuit of pleasure is a key to a happy life and manly character.
How does a boy grow into a man? Not without training. The kind of Christian training that Dad gives his boy can make a great deal of difference. If Dad neglects to properly train his son, then negative forces will do the training.
A good father can make a giant difference in the life of his boy. You can also extend your ministry as a good father by taking on as part of your family a boy in the church or community who does not have a father, and you can help him with the same kind of training that you are giving your boy. The world desperately needs the leadership of fathers in training boys to become men and future Christian leaders.