We used to be boys, so we have a natural companionship with our sons; our natural interests tend to merge more easily with them than our daughters. Unfortunately, although it’s easier for us to be with our sons, it’s still too often a distant relationship. We need to be intentional about building a close connection with our sons and giving them a healthy model of what it means to be a boy, a man, and a father.

Even more importantly, we need to be intentional about raising young men of faith. Based on research I’ve done with about 2,000 fathers, I have identified 5 key things that sons need from their dads:

A Plan

Sons need dads who are thinking about their futures and taking action to prepare them — whether we’re talking about tomorrow, next week, next year, or ten years from now. Financial planning makes a good comparison because our regular, consistent investments will pay rich dividends for our sons’ futures.

What specific things should we plan for? Well, first, we need a plan for our son’s vocational future — which includes much more than targeting him as a doctor, computer technician or musician. You want him to have a fulfilling career that pays the bills and contributes to society, but even more importantly, pay attention to how he can develop and express his talents in a way that pleases God. Then encourage him to pursue those avenues.

Next, there’s his relational future. Address what to look for in a mate, discuss what it takes to make a marriage work, and pray for that little girl or young lady who will someday be his wife.

Third, give some thought to rites of passage — benchmarks along the way that help signal new levels of maturity and responsibility and that affirm him and bless him as a beloved son. Plan ahead to give special recognition to these rites of passage.

Also, I’d suggest listing some skills, attitudes, and values to instill in your son by the time he leaves home. You might include financial stewardship, the ability to delay gratification, prayer, basic auto maintenance, thankfulness, perseverance, honesty, a work ethic, modesty, or family togetherness. Make a list, and check it from time to time as a reminder. You’ve heard the saying: if you fail to plan, you have planned to fail.

An Example

I like to think of Jeremiah 35, where the prophet mentions Jonadab – an exemplary leader who wasn’t an Israelite. As a result of his example, his sons followed his responsible lifestyle for generations. That’s the kind of power our example can have.

As Jonadab’s story shows, a dad’s example really encompasses all aspects of life. But let me mention a few areas where we need to be intentional about modeling:

First, we need to model godly emotions. We can help our sons regulate their emotions and express them in responsible ways by watching our own regulation of our emotions. Take note: regulating emotions is not the same as hiding them. A lot of dads hide their emotions, like they are weaknesses. But our sons need to see a healthy display of our "feelings side."

Another key aspect of regulating our emotions is getting a hold of our anger. James 1 urges us to be "slow to become angry. For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." If we want our sons to enjoy the righteous life that God desires, we especially need to learn to regulate our anger.