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How to Help Your Son Succeed in Life

  • Whitney Hopler Contributing Writer
  • Published Jan 22, 2015
How to Help Your Son Succeed in Life

The current lack of healthy role models in our culture can be discouraging when you consider the influences your son has growing up. But with God’s help, you can help your son successfully grow from a boy into the man God wants him to become. Intentionally working with God to develop great character and faith in your son’s life is the key to his success. Here are some key lessons you can teach your son to help him succeed in life:

Teach your son courage. Courage encompasses both moral bravery (the ability to the do what’s right even when faced with popular opposition, discouragement, or shame) and physical bravery (boldly taking risks in the face of pain, hardship, or threats). A public figure whose life exemplified courage was pastor and social activist Martin Luther King Jr. Teach your son courage by: teaching him to embrace challenges and take risks, letting him fail when he makes mistakes and helping him learn from failure, celebrating with him when he succeeds and helping him develop more confidence, and modeling courage in your own your life so you your son can see what courage looks like in action in various situations.

Teach your son honor and nobility. Honor involves being honest and fair, as well as having integrity. An honest person’s beliefs and actions work together, so he acts according to his beliefs. Nobility is a part of honor and refers to a morally excellent character. The life of U.S. Civil War general Robert E. Lee was a strong example of honor and nobility in action. Teach your son honor and nobility by: teaching your son your core values and why you believe them to be important, developing an honor code for your family, setting high expectations for him and encouraging him to attempt great things, helping him surround himself with friends who are trustworthy, volunteer with your son to fight a specific type of social injustice that you both sense God calling you to work on as a family, and teaching him good manners and chivalry.

Teach your son duty. A dutiful person commits himself to a cause even when doing so requires ignoring his own interests, so that he can keep a moral commitment to someone or something. A public figure who lived an extraordinary life of duty was former U.S. president George Washington. Teach your son duty by: telling him that some causes are more important than an individual’s own interests, helping him discover how God wants to use his life to contribute to the world’s greater good, requiring him to do some tasks (like household chores and school homework) whether or not he wants to do so, modeling the importance of investing in dutiful relationships with family members, and making him wait to fulfill some of his desires so he learns the value of delayed gratification (such as saving up the necessary cash for a special purchase rather than buying it on credit).

Teach your son integrity and loyalty. Integrity involves the adherence to moral and ethical principles (such as honesty), while loyalty involves being faithful to commitments made to someone or something. Former college basketball coach John Wooden was one public figure who lived a life of remarkable integrity and loyalty. Teach your son integrity and loyalty by modeling both traits in your own life, such as by making sure that your actions match your words and that you avoid speaking negatively about people behind their backs. It’s also important to teach your son critical thinking skills so he can learn how to determine what’s truth and what’s false in various situations, and the importance of following the guidance of biblical principles rather than his emotions when making decisions.

Teach your son self-discipline. A self-disciplined person trains and manages his feelings and behavior, so that he can develop traits such as willpower, restraint, hard work, self-control, and persistence. A famous example of someone who lived a life marked by self-discipline was former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt. Teach your son self-discipline by holding him accountable for his choices, enforcing family rules, helping him learn how to manage his time and control his emotions, and giving him opportunities to contribute to your family’s household by doing chores on a regular basis.

Teach your son perseverance. Perseverance encompasses qualities such as persistence and tenacity, which help a person overcome challenges and accomplish goals. Former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln’s life is an inspiring example of perseverance in action. Teach your son perseverance by showing him what it looks like to work hard, not allowing him to quit too easily once he has undertaken a pursuit, allowing him to suffer the natural consequences of his mistakes, and holding him accountable for the choices he makes.

Teach your son toughness and resiliency. A tough, resilient person is hardy enough to meet the mental, emotional, and physical challenges of life head-on while trusting God to help him every step of the way. A public figure whose life exemplified toughness and resiliency was U.S. explorer Jedediah Smith. Teach your son to be tough and resilient by letting him experience suffering without rescuing him from it except in emergencies, encouraging him to set high goals and attempt difficult endeavors, and giving him opportunities to compete with others as he develops and uses his skills.

Teach your son common sense and wisdom. Common sense and wisdom encompass the ability to accurately perceive and understand reality, and the choice to seek God’s guidance for making the best decisions. U.S. statesman, author, and inventor Benjamin Franklin lived a life of extraordinary common sense and wisdom. Teach your son common sense and wisdom by encouraging him to seek God’s guidance in prayer, mentoring him, giving him challenges to accomplish, letting him learn from his mistakes, and celebrating his success with rituals.

Teach your son vision. Vision involves wise foresight into the future. A public figure who put vision into action well was former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson. Teach your son vision by explaining how you make long-term decisions and helping him anticipate likely outcomes of his own long-term decisions.

Teach your son intellect. A person of strong intellect is able to think things through well, to come to correct conclusions about what’s true or real, to increase knowledge and understanding, and to solve problems. Famous Italian artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci exemplified intellect well. Teach your son intellect by: teaching him critical thinking skills, urging him to read a lot, giving him opportunities to discuss and debate issues, and encouraging him to be a lifelong learner.

Teach your son compassion and empathy. Compassion and empathy involve being sensitive to other people’s suffering and taking caring action to help them. English orphanage director and evangelist George Muller is a famous example of someone who lived with extraordinary compassion and empathy. Teach your son compassion and empathy by giving him opportunities to serve people in need, and to care for pets.

Teach your son to be a warrior-poet. A warrior-poet is a person who works to keep both his mind and body in optimal health. A famous example is David, the biblical king. Teach your son to become a warrior-poet by balancing his mental development (such as music lessons) with his physical development (like sports).

*Adapted from A Man in the Making: Strategies to Help Your Son Succeed in Life,copyright 2013 by Rick Johnson. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich.     

Rick Johnson is a best-selling author of That’s My Son; That’s My Teenage Son; That’s My Girl; Better Dads, Stronger Sons; and Becoming Your Spouse’s Better Half. He is the founder of Better Dads and is a sought-after speaker at many large parenting and marriage conferences across the United States and Canada. Rick, his wife Suzanne, and their grown children live in Oregon. Visit his website.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website

*This article published 9/15/2013