by Tim Brown
We are living in a time where many boys are searching desperately for an identity. They lack guidance and direction. They are searching for who they are, and usually looking in the wrong places; often, they aspire to be like popular athletes, entertainers, reality TV stars and other influences, and many of them are negative role models.
More than anyone, fathers and father figures need to be those positive role models that boys can identify with and emulate. We are in a position to instill a sense of belonging and purpose into those young men in our lives. Boys today need to be taught by their dads the true value of who they are—and affirmed for who they are.
For me, giving boys a positive identity begins with their name. They need to learn that a name—their name—stands for something valuable and is to be highly esteemed. You son needs to know he can build a positive sense of identity on his name. Here are three ways you can do that with your son:
Teach Him the Value of His Name
As men, we have worked hard throughout our lives to build a good name for ourselves. Some of us are carrying on a positive legacy that was handed down from our fathers. As dads, it’s up to us to help our sons identify with the men who helped to build that positive name, so they can be proud to be a part of such a rich heritage.
Dads, we have to teach our sons that a name is not something they should throw around carelessly. I would encourage you to tell your sons about this often. Use statements like:
“You cannot behave any way you want without hurting it.”
“Your name is your identity, good or bad.”
“Your name represents you.”
A good proverb to teach your children is,
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.”
We have the opportunity and the responsibly to help guide our sons to realize the power and influence of a good name. Your name is directly tied to your reputation. We need to remind our sons, “Every time people hear your name, they immediately have an opinion, positive or negative, about you.”
Help Him Protect His Identity
If our sons can grasp how their name is tied to their reputation, then they should also know that their identity is worth protecting. We have to teach our sons the personal responsibility of protecting their name. No one can protect it for them. They have to recognize its value and guard it, no matter the cost.
As dads, we can show our sons through our actions that everything we do either adds value to our identity or takes away from it. There is no such thing as an act or word that doesn’t matter. When it comes to protecting your identity, nothing you do is neutral.
Give Him a Vision for the Next Generation
Historically, some men’s names became the names of entire nations. Generations of people, for good or bad, have been identified with the character and reputation of a single man. Not all of us will have names that are written about in history books, but our names and reputations do have that kind of lasting power in our families.
Boys today need to know that there is a bigger picture than right now, today. There is a whole lot happening beyond their world that is bigger than just themselves. We dads should teach our sons that they have a legacy to accept from those who came before them, and that who they are right now will have an impact on future sons and daughters and grandchildren and so on. Their name is their legacy—a reminder that they are connected to greatness, now and in the future. Their name has lasting worth because they will pass it on to the next generation.
I believe it is our role as fathers to challenge our sons in this area: that they would take the good name we have given to them, protect it as they lead the next generation, and then, having added value to that name, pass it on to the young men who will carry it after them.
From a good name, our sons can build a great nation, following the legacy of strong men who will continue to lead their families and communities.
3 Action Points for Dads of Sons
- Take your son on a family fact-finding journey where you talk to older male relatives about the history of your family, so he learns more about his heritage and identity.
- Tell your son a positive example of a family member or friend who was faced with a challenging situation and did something positive or courageous to help protect his identity.
- Help your son look up a book or video about the legacy of a great family that displays qualities you admire and the lasting impact that they have. (For example, maybe the Kennedys, the Marsalises, the Mannings, etc.)
Just Give Your Son a Positive Identity. Just Be DAD.
Tim Brown is the author of the book Boys Won’t Be Boys, Empowering Boys to Live Uncommon in a Common World. Tim and wife Karmen have 3 adult children and live in Columbus, Ohio. He is the Central Ohio Fellowship of Christian Athletes Camp Director. You can order the book and find out more about Tim by visiting boyswontbeboys.com.