Why do sons need to be especially close to their fathers?
My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways. -Proverbs 23:26
Heart. That’s what we’re after as fathers. As they mature, we want our boys to give us their hearts so we can help mold them for God. More than obedience, submission or even respect, we want their hearts. Don’t get me wrong: a respectful attitude is essential in the father-son connection, but this functions primarily as only a part of the whole—the bigger picture is about the heart. Our job is to shape their will without breaking their spirit. So we must always seek to get to their hearts. But how? How can fathers reach their sons’ hearts and why are we uniquely positioned to do so?
First things first, as we’ve already seen in an earlier lesson, when our boys see us as having a genuine, daily, personal relationship with a loving Father in heaven, it helps them to be inspired by His love and to be motivated to come to know Him. It all starts here, between us and God, our heavenly father. Then, the more deeply we love our boys, the more it will help them come to see the greatness of the love of God, who has made us loving fathers.
As they grow, we need to share with our sons about our own journey to manhood—both the highs and the lows. Because we share masculinity with them, they can learn from us unique lessons about being a boy and becoming a man. They can learn from us as we share honestly with them about the things we went through as young men, much of which may be similar to what they are having to deal with now. This allows us to define true masculinity for them, rather than the view of manhood presented by the world which is often skewed and false. They can see in us an example of how to become a godly, righteous, masculine man.
We must meet the boy where his interests lie. Each of my four children were different and I had to find ways to connect with them on their level. Many boys are drawn toward sports and athletics. Certainly all boys are not necessarily gifted in this way—and we must celebrate whatever gifts God has given them—but for those that are we would be wise to use this as a great opportunity for connection. In sports, we can help them in the following ways:
- We can play sports with them—let them see you having fun and enjoying something with them. That’s a treasure to many a boy’s heart.
- We can also train and teach them sports they are particularly interested or gifted in. I worked with my sons on how to throw and catch a football, how to swim, and how to train as runners. This training can teach discipline and perseverance that will serve them well as they mature.
- We can teach them a team first mentality—when playing on a team it is more important to build encouraging friendships with their teammates rather than to be simply focused on winning the games or being the star. We can also teach them to celebrate, but not become arrogant when they win, and to not become overly angry and bitter when they lose.
Teaching boys how to relate to the opposite sex is another key area where our example will be so needed. As they see in us how deeply we love their mother, they will be inspired and comforted, and will learn what they will need to be like in order to become a husband. It will also encourage them to see that being married is a positive blessing of love and joy. We must also help them learn to be close to their mother and to honor her.
As they mature, we can help them to come to understand the nature of sexual attraction to females—how it is a gift from God to us as males, yet needs to be controlled so as not to make us surrender to lust. And let us also teach them to avoid any sexually inappropriate TV shows or movies, and any unsuitable online sexual videos or photos.
We can also help them learn how to develop relationships with their siblings and other children they know, teaching them how, as young men, to be become good friends and to resolve conflicts—a skill that they will need for the rest of their lives. So many men learn to deal with conflict by angry outbursts or silent stuffing. We can show them a better way.
Above all, we teach them how deeply God and Jesus love both them and us. And, along with that, we can show and teach them how we consistently and warmly walk with our loving God by listening to Him through His Word and speaking to Him in prayer. Fathers, may we follow the teaching below, and claim its promises:
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. -Proverbs 3:1-2
*Study these passages as well: Proverbs 4:1-2; 4:20-22; 5:1-2; 7:1-2
After studying the above verses, may the teaching from the Apostle Paul in the passage below help us see that we are not to merely quote God’s Word to our sons (and daughters) when we seek to correct or rebuke them, but that we are to actually frequently share it with them as we teach them in a positive, encouraging way:
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. -Ephesians 6:4
I thank God that although my dad wasn’t perfect, he fought to be present. I remember him teaching me how to hold a football in order to throw a tight spiral. I remember him coaching my soccer team (even though he never played soccer!) and teaching me to give my very best for my team. I remember him teaching me how to run the lawn mower or the vacuum cleaner and get a job done right. I remember him teaching me how to apologize when I was in the wrong and I hurt my siblings or a friend. I remember him helping me deal with sexual attraction without shame. And I remember how he adored my mom and would never allow me to be rude toward her. I could probably list a thousand things he taught me, either in word or deed. But those thousand things come down to this one thing: there was no one else better positioned to teach me godly manhood than him. And this is the gift that I, as a father, want to give my two sons. I want to teach and show them how godly manhood. This is my role and I intend to fulfill it!