To My Teenage Son,
As you enter your teen years, your father and I worry about your grades and where you’ll go to college and whether you’ll ever learn to put your clothes away.
But nothing matters more to us than the kind of man you will become.
What kind of man do you want to become?
In these few years we have left with you, there are some important lessons your father and I want you to learn.
We want you to know that we will expect more from you as you get older. Through these challenging teen years, you will be making decisions that will develop your identity, build your reputation, and increase your influence over others.
You will be challenged to do the right thing, the noble thing, and the wise thing. Those can be the hardest things to do, but you will build your moral character from those choices. From the classroom to the playing field, from the workplace to your home, from the house parties to the school dances, you will have many opportunities to follow the path we’re trying to put you on or to stray into the unknown.
Six important lessons for my teenage son
As you mature, we will be relentless in our pursuit of helping you become a man who is honest, trustworthy, respectful, compassionate, humble, and brave. These disciplines will require much of you, but we believe you are up for the challenge.
You must speak the truth, take responsibility for your mistakes and own your actions. You will have many opportunities to be deceptive in your life and you will be surrounded by people who don’t value honesty. It takes maturity to be a man of truth and not give in to the pressure to lie. Sure, there will be times a little white lie might be a good thing, like when you tell me I look nice in your dad’s old sweatshirt. But when it comes to the big things that matter, please be honest- both with yourself and others.
Also, try your best to be a man of your word and follow through on what you say you will do. When you do this, you become trustworthy and that is an honorable reputation to hold. You’re going to mess up, fail miserably at things, and make a ton of mistakes- we all do. But how you handle these missteps is key to your character. Naturally, you may want to avoid or ignore the issue, but you must have the courage to do what’s right and acknowledge what you did wrong. Owning up to your failures and acknowledging your mistakes takes courage and humility. Taking responsibility for your actions is a clear sign of being trustworthy.
Respect means honoring other people and their opinions. Look into people’s eyes when you speak and always be polite. Listen and respond to others in such a way that shows you value their words. Try to always consider other people’s feelings and how your words and actions may affect them. Treat women with the dignity they deserve. And keep your eyes out for those who are alone or hurting and approach them with kindness and inclusion. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Respect is earned. It’s up to you to do just that with the people in your life.
Respecting others takes compassion and empathy, both of which we want you to have. Be aware of those around you and vigilant to help those in need. You will witness some pretty terrible behavior as you get older, and we can only hope that you will intervene on any unacceptable activity you see that is harmful to others. You may risk friendships and jobs and opportunities in order to do what’s right, but it will always be worth it. Stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Take action with your compassion, when you see injustice, discrimination, or violation of someone’s rights.
We know you are surrounded by messages in the media and in our culture that expect you to be invincible, impenetrable, and tough. But this demand is distorted, unreliable, and disingenuous. True manhood is found in allowing yourself to be sensitive and vulnerable, expressive and humble. It takes courage to expose those fragile feelings and it takes strength to go against the pressure of society to have a tender heart of humility. But when you do, you will find authentic living beyond the hypocrisy of superficial masks and stoic faces. This is where you will find your true self, among the crowds of false pretense and popular opinion.
Have the courage to expose your inner voice and lead others to do the same. Be brave enough to discover your weaknesses, your soft sides, your raw inner workings that create who you are. Life is not to be lived on shallow paths, but rather it is to be journeyed through deep valleys and high peaks, offering you ample opportunities to find the richness of life’s experiences. You can’t do that while living on the edge. You must have the strength to jump off and dive down to discover the layers that grow beneath the groundwork you lay. It might be hard, but it’s worth it to be the real you and live your truth. Promise.
At thirteen, you’re only at the beginning of this long road toward becoming a man. But every day brings new opportunities to practice these principles and develop these attributes. Each day you will be challenged to grow in all these areas and we will be with you every step of the way, guiding you, encouraging you, and believing in the man you will become.
This post was contributed by Christine Carter who writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. Her work is published on several various online publications as well. She is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.”