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How To Be A Man According To 15 Dads

Jan. 17, 2023 Fatherly

This kind of exploration leads to healthier men who can better work their way through defeat, sadness, and the defied expectations we all experience in life. So how does this translate to parenting? What lessons do today’s fathers hope to teach their boys about “being a man” today?

That’s what we asked more than a dozen fathers spread out across the country. They all weighed in on the lessons they’re trying to teach their sons about manhood. From embracing equality, to the value of hard work, these men covered a vibrant spectrum of issues that their children will likely have to face as they grow older. They’re raising the next generation of men, and these are the most important lessons they hope to impart.

Men Go To The Doctor

“My dad passed away from lung cancer. But, also from stubbornness. For years and years and years, he refused to go to the doctor out of pride. And there’s a good chance that, had he kept up with his health instead of trying to tough everything out, he might still be here. I tell my son that it’s okay to admit when you’re weak, or hurt, because you can’t be the best version of yourself if you’re not in the best possible shape. Going to the doctor is such an easy, simple thing that a lot of guys just don’t do. And it can really end up hurting the people that love them. That’s not something a man would willingly do, in my opinion.” – Nick, 46, California

Strive To Be Good People

“For me, being a man is second in importance to being a good person. There are so many easy definitions of masculinity. Everything from not crying or showing emotion to looking a certain way can preoccupy and distract from what it means to be a good person. And that transcends being a man. If you’re a good person — kind, responsible, and accepting — then you’re a good man. I want my kids to realize that. Not just my son, but my daughter too. When she eventually grows up and meets the man she’s going to love, I want her to know what’s important to look for.” – James, 43, Ohio

Face And Embrace Your Feelings

“Men can cry. Men can blush. Men can be embarrassed or ashamed. A real man is one who is so strong — so brave and fearless — that he’s not afraid to show his true emotions, no matter what they may be. I think society conflates strength with pride quite frequently, especially when it comes to men and their emotions. Just because a man is too proud or stubborn to cry doesn’t mean he’s strong. It means he’s being untrue, to himself and the people that care about him. I think a real man knows that there are times and places when it’s okay to be vulnerable, and doesn’t hesitate to embrace them. That’s why I never tell my son to stop crying. Instead, I tell him that his sadness is valid, and that I’ll be there to talk about it when he’s ready.” – Al, 40, Montana

Fight For Equality

“I didn’t actually grasp this lesson until a few years ago, when the whole #MeToo thing was blowing up. I had some really productive conversations with friends and coworkers that made me realize how equality benefits everyone. A level playing field is the healthiest, most prolific environment for success, because it really emphasizes skill, talent, and intelligence over privilege. I want my son to have enough confidence to avoid letting any insecurity make him feel threatened. A man thrives on equality, because he knows that real progress – whether its personal, professional, educational, or whatever – can only happen if no one gets a head start.” – Patrick, 35, California

Recognize Love

“This world is full of hate. A real man can recognize and cherish love, no matter where it comes from. My father always had a hard time saying, ‘I love you’ while I was growing up. And I get it, that’s just how he was raised. And I think he’s a real man, for sure. But, I also recognize that he isn’t perfect, and that I want my sons to say, ‘I love you’ whenever they genuinely have a chance to do so. I say it to them all the time now, and they’re at that age where it’s a little embarrassing in front of their friends. But, they’ll grow out of that age. I hope they won’t ever grow out of the capacity to show love.” – Josh, 37, Michigan

Stand Up For Others

“Not long ago, my son —he’s in ninth grade — got suspended from school for fighting. He told me what happened, and it turned out he was defending a fellow student who was getting picked on by bullies. I told him he did the right thing. My wife disagreed, and eventually we landed somewhere commending him for standing up for someone, but challenging whether or not the physicality was really necessary. Bullies are everywhere. There’s a good chance he’ll end up working with — or working for — bullies once he’s grown up. And as he grows into a man, I think it’s important he knows not to be pushed around. In those cases it’s probably best not to throw down and fight, but it’s also important to stand up for the right things.” – Andrew, 43, New Hampshire

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