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father and son fishing trip

Boys are facing an epidemic of low confidence, poor self esteme, and generally a sense of confusion in terms of what it means to be a man. This is reflective of a culture in transition as well as orchestrated efforts by some feminist groups to put men down instead of focusing on lifting women up. Regardless of the reason for low confidence levels and challenges faced by our young men today,, I think it is essential that we work to build them up in positive ways. I'm not going to suggest that we return to an era when boys behaving badly was excused or even accepted ... much less considered normal male behavior. Instead, I think there are ways that fathers can work with their sons to build the up. This is how my dad raised me and I encourage you guys to do the same.

There’s a great deal of online talk about what masculinity is, what it isn’t, how it should behave, and who should define it. The truth is that masculinity can be whatever it needs to be, from strong and suave to calm and sensitive. A balance between both often tells the complete truth. After all, some of the most war-hardened soldiers of the past wrote poetry in their quieter moments. Some of the poetry written from World War One and Two can level you if you read enough of it, and it just goes to show a man’s spirit is nothing you can pin down.

As we raise teenage sons, it’s important to steer them far away from the online discourse which tries to define what they should or shouldn’t be, how they must or must not behave, and instead help them develop healthy self-confidence, empowered understanding, and practical skills to help them become a rounded individual.

In this post, we’ll discuss a few methods any parent can use to get there, to raise wonderful, productive, and self-assured young lads, and eventually, men.

Encouraging Personal Achievement

Don't get so caught up in milestones and keeping up with what other kids are doing. Every young man will excel at his own pace in the areas that interest him and that he feels a sense of commitment to. The key is celebrating those personal wins and achievements, no matter how small or unconventional they may seem, but most of all, to encourage that sense of commitment, to see through whatever they put their mind to.

You can, of course, begin this process. Showing him how to fix a leaky tap or change a tyre could be a first step. Let him know you noticed and are proud of that new skill, or celebrate him perfecting it. It might just be he achieved decent grade on that tough math test he was stressing over. Positive reinforcement for his hard work goes a long way in building confidence and a solid work ethic. Small accomplishments eventually snowball into bigger ones worth acknowledgment too.

Providing Constructive Feedback

Of course, dishing out nothing but blind praise can easily dilute its impact. Finding tactful ways to offer constructive criticism allows room for growth, and he’ll know you mean it. If he's struggling in a class, get to the root issue - are the lessons not clicking or is there a lack of effort and focus? Provide suggestions for improvement without harsh judgment, but be realistic.

Alternatively, if you notice some concerning attitudes or behavior patterns emerging, address those compassionately too. Maybe his social media use is taking an unhealthy turn or he's drifting toward unhelpful friend groups. This is the story of teenage years, so don’t condemn him for being overly flawed. Have those tough conversations from an understanding place, not attack mode.

Setting & Achieving Goals Together

Working toward tangible goals as a duo strengthens your bond while also imparting crucial life skills. Maybe your own parent never taught you to shave. You might have a list of how to improve on your own experience, though don’t worry, you don’t have to be a super parent. First have him identify ambitions - earning a new gaming console, saving for a first car, or going on vacation with his friend. Map out the steps needed then support his commitment to the process.

When you chart out the goals with steps (like revising for a test), you can help show them anything is possible if you break down the requirements. That’s a healthy lesson to learn as a teen.

Encouraging Physical Activity & Exercise

Modern teenage life is increasingly sedentary (thanks game consoles and social media!) which can tank self-esteem and overall wellbeing. Nudge him toward physical outlets he genuinely enjoys rather than rigidly pushing strict options like team sports. Individual pursuits like cycling, rock climbing, weight training or martial arts can be fantastic, especially the latter. You might find the best boxing gloves for beginners and help him enrol in the local gym. That’s a great way to learn self-defense, but also discipline and focus.

More importantly, emphasize the mental and emotional benefits - improved mood, confidence, focus, and stress release. Exercising self-discipline through fitness creates carry-over to other facets of life. And don't let yourself get physically complacent either - better to walk the walk as an example. You might just walk the dog with him. Anything to get outside, which is a balm to a young lad’s spirit.

Teaching Problem-Solving Skills

The ability to coolly assess a situation, weigh possible solutions, and chart the best course of action is something he can learn now and use until his last days. While inevitable obstacles come for us all, this is a good opportunity to teach him problem-solving issues. Perhaps a lad is bullying him at school. He told you, that’s great. What else could he do? Stand up for himself? How? Here you can impart your wisdom without doing everything for him.

That’s just one example of course. It might be that they need to retake a test, or redo a driving exam, or interview for a college. Showing them the process for solving problems that might be troubling can teach emotional regulation in the best way.

Positive Self-Talk Is Essential To Encourage

How we internally process and express ourselves makes a huge difference in mentality and confidence levels. Put simply, if a friend spoke to you how you do, would you be friends with them? Teaching that to your son can be important. If you notice a pattern of harsh, disparaging self-talk - call that out and counter it. Remind him to be more kind and compassionate to himself.

To show a real example, you could narrate your own experiences out loud when facing setbacks or insecurities. Model persevering despite less-than-perfect results and offer reassuring affirmations like "I've got this" or "I'm still learning." It really does have an impact.

Charting A Path That Works For Them

Finally, it’s important to remember that there's no all-encompassing definition of masculinity or universal coming-of-age experience. Some young guys will adhere to traditional interests while others will be less inclined to conventional “manly” tasks, and both are perfectly fine! A gentle lad burying his head in books is still as much of a man as anyone else. Moreover, he doesn’t need to go to college if he prefers the trades.

From there, you can allow his unique identity and version of manhood to authentically blossom. He’ll also learn not to be ashamed of himself for that. This is quite simply one of the best lessons he could ever learn.

With this advice, we hope you can improve a young man’s confidence in the best way, be that you son, younger employee, nephew, or whatever other connection you have with them.

Written by:
#MenWhoBlog MemberBlogging GuruThought Leader

James' passion for exploration and sense of duty to his community extends beyond himself. This means he is dedicated to providing a positive role model for other men and especially younger guys that need support so that they can thrive and be future positive contributors to society. This includes sharing wisdom, ideas, tips, and advice on subjects that all men should be familiar with, including: family travel, men's health, relationships, DIY advice for home and yard, car care, food, drinks, and technology. Additionally, he's a travel advisor and a leading men's travel influencer who has been featured in media ranging from New York Times to the Chicago Tribune, and LA Times. He's also been cited by LA Weekly "Top Travel Bloggers To Watch 2023" and featured by Muck Rack: "Top 10 Outdoor Journalists for 2022".

He and his wife Heather live in St Joseph, Michigan - across the lake from Chicago.