15 Things I’d Want a Son to Know

boys - Lori Smith2

As a mom of four girls, I often write about raising daughters. And on many occasions, I’ve had moms with sons ask for insights related to boys.

Obviously, I don’t have first-hand experience, but I do know many parents who do a great job cultivating boys into men. Besides taking mental notes from them, I’ve developed a hypothetical list, things I’d want to instill in a son based on personal experiences, the qualities I like to see in a man, and what I’m learning about teen culture through my work with adolescent girls and books for them.

Following are 15 things I’d want a son to know. This list is by no means complete, just a few things I consider important and which I hope my daughters look for in the boys who enter their lives.

#1: Your talents are a gift from God that you could lose tomorrow. Be grateful for every day you have them and remember that the point of using your gifts is to point people to God, not to show off.

#2: “Boys will be boys” is a lazy and overly used excuse. Please don’t buy into it. Set a high bar for yourself and be the kind of leader this world needs, a young man of integrity, character, and self-control.

#3: You are responsible for a girl’s reputation the entire time you’re with her. Part of becoming a man means growing a protective and dignified mindset toward girls and acting as their protector, not a predator. This is counter-cultural thinking. Many boys won’t understand it, and you’ll definitely have friends who give you grief for not being a player with the opposite sex, but it’s the right approach and one that will enable you to have healthy relationships that go the distance.

Just as importantly, proving you’re a trustworthy and respectable guy makes you the one who girls will ultimately trust and respect. And when a slumber party of 10 girls starts a conversation about how immature and rude the boys at school can be, you’ll be singled out as always being nice to girls.

Trust me, these conversations start in elementary school, and there is always a handful of boys who the girls unanimously agree are nicer than the rest (“He’s the only boy who lets the girls go first in getting their books from their locker” or “He’s polite and got Allie a chair when we were all at a restaurant, and there weren’t enough seats”). Be that guy who stands out in a good way.

#4: You aren’t invincible. You will die one day. Doing reckless things – like diving off cliffs or blindly following a pack of boy wolves in the name of adventure – drastically increases your risk of dying young.

In other words, use your brain. Remember this formula that a mom of 4 boys once shared with me – 1 boy = 1 brain, 2 boys = 1/2 brain, 3 boys = no brain – and think twice before you jump.

#5: A strong work ethic begins with knowing that no job is beneath you. You aren’t entitled to anything, and if you want to move up the corporate ladder, do even menial jobs well and with a good attitude, because eventually someone will notice and give you a bigger opportunity. Whether you’re mowing grass or running a business, stay humble and appreciate the grunt work that has someone has to do.

#6: Develop a healthy ambition. Let your motivation for success be driven by the likelihood that one day, you’ll have a wife and children to provide for. Your willingness and commitment to protect and take care of others is a cornerstone of your manhood.

So instead of seeing your future job as a fund for a lavish lifestyle that includes mountain homes and sports cars, view it as a means to support your future family and community. Think selflessly instead of selfishly, because that creates a meaningful life.

#7: Stay on guard against pride. It is the downfall of many men and boys.

#8: Strength, confidence, and courage are rooted in kindness, compassion, and love. Keep a thick skin and a tender heart. Embracing virtues doesn’t diminish your masculinity; rather, it enhances it.

#9: Practice respect and respect boundaries. When a girl says, No, it means No. When a parent says, Stop,  it means Stop. When a teacher says Enough, it means Enough. You’re responsible for your actions and reactions, and for treating every human being with dignity, from the custodian of your school to the coach you deeply admire.

#10: Learn how to fight, but only use that skill when necessary – like when someone is being mistreated, threatened, or attacked.

#11: The woman you marry will be the mother of your children. Choose wisely, because what can make a girl really fun to date – like being wild & crazy or the life of the party –  often doesn’t translate well into marriage and motherhood.

#12: Be a gentlemen, take initiative, and always carry cash. When you see a mom carrying groceries into her home, help her out. When you’re with a girl – a friend or a date – open doors and let her go first. Always pay for your date and don’t mooch money from friends. Be a giver, not a taker.

#13: It only takes one convincing leader to make a bad idea sound good. Even among friends, it’s imperative that you learn to step back, evaluate a situation, and think for yourself. Prepare for those moments where you either have to stand alone or stand up for what’s right. And if you aren’t sure about something, don’t do it.

#14: Shake hands, give hugs, smile, and look people in the eye. Be honest about who you are and passionate about the dreams in your heart so you can develop real relationships and reach your God-given potential.

#15: God created you to serve your generation like no one in the universe has ever served before. He’s grooming you to be an amazing leader and influencer. Listen to His voice in your life and pray for clarity, wisdom, and direction. Be the guy who steps up to the plate to do hard things and uses his power to empower those around him. Our world needs more men who create a sense of security and help others become brave. Our world needs more boys like YOU.

Above all, I’d want my son to know how deeply and unconditionally loved he is by his family and his Creator. I’d then remind him to take the love he’s been given and pass it on to others. This would include, of course, loving on his mom, and making sure he remembered to call and check in once his life of independence begins. 😉

What about you? What lessons and values are you instilling your son – or would you instill if you had a son? I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights in a comment below.


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My new book for girl moms AND boy moms is coming soon! More Than a Mom: How Prioritizing Your Wellness Helps You (and Your Family) Thrive, will release April 5 and is the perfect Mother’s Day gift. Pre-order now to get the lowest price between now and April 5 and amazing pre-order incentives. If you love audiobooks, you can pre-order on Audible, where I am the narrator!

My other bestselling books, Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know and Liked, have been used widely across the U.S. for group studies.

Posted by Kari on May 2, 2017

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13 thoughts on "15 Things I’d Want a Son to Know"

  1. Melissa says:

    kari this is really great! I love all the bits of wisdom i would add help others around you by volunteering and helping those in need we feel gratitude empowerment and use our gifts and talents to build our family school community. Citizenship is part of the little league mission statement and it is part of our mission in life to give our boys purpose as well as our girls

  2. Love these Kari. I’m going to read to my boys over dinner. Thank you.

  3. Marion says:

    Hi Kari,
    Love this article and think you hit it out of the park. We have three sons and one girl. Our
    first two are at Samford and we have two teenage boys still at home. Whew, it’s a big job and
    one that can only be done with God’s help. So worth it!
    I’ve told mine to always protect Girls and to never pressure! I really like protector not predator.
    I read the book, The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn to my boys and i think it’s great. Much better for the dad to read
    many parts of it.
    Boys need to be encouraged to see the good around them and to be positive.
    My boys need to learn to “put themselves out there.” Have them call and make their own appointments, run to the grocery for you,etc.
    by age 16. Loving them well means teaching them to be independent.
    Forgiveness is vital; receive it and give it!
    Teach them to be conversational.
    I loved the quote about one boy, two boys….. so true! 😂
    And my favorite is HUG YOUR MOM, but nothing warms my heart more than To see our sons snggke up
    With their dad (all 6’4 of them ) and ask for a back rub. And how many times have I been trampled
    by them rough housing in our king bed.

  4. Britt says:

    I love this!! Thank you for sharing. Britt

  5. Courtney Copeland says:

    Kari, this is the most “on point” thing I have ever read. Having a son who is a rising junior and on the cusp of becoming a young adult, I find profound truth in your insights. The boy of today indeed becomes the man of tomorrow in all too short a window. It is such a high calling to raise a son to be a strong, loving, morally sound man of faith and character, who will one day become a husband and head of family. Thank you for sharing this!

  6. Walter Moore says:

    Excellent! I would add to be kind, tender, strong (particularly in moral strength), discrete, forgiving, merciful, loving, joyful, peaceable, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled.

  7. Theresa says:

    Hello, Kari..Excellent advice. I have a son going off to college in the Fall of 2017. There are so many things I want to tell him that he can take with him. I want to actually print pages out and send these words off with him to college. First off I would say put God first, have values, and be a leader in a good way. Have compassion and be the one who motivates others to achieve. In helping others we help ourselves. Be strong and focused and pray a lot when you need answers and guidance. Thanks for sharing this it is great…

  8. Richard Frost says:

    Dear Kari, I am a man & normally don’t read article’s such as this.My son’s were (are) raised almost identical to 15 things a son should know and believe me it works! My son’s are both in college. and excelling.God is the only reason why!Rick Frost

  9. Rene' says:

    Thank you for sharing.

  10. Harriet Baker says:

    Having raised two sons and two daughters and now grandmother to seven boys and one married granddaughter, there is one thing I didn’t hear until I was well into middle age and want young people to know. Alcohol is such a part of the young adult culture and it suppressed higher brain function. When drunk, one is left with the reptilian part of the brain. Basic bodily functions are intact but higher brain functions like fear and judgment, are suppressed. If you are drunk, you have given up control and you will do inappropriate things that you wouldn’t do when sober. You relinquish control but the law and laws of nature don’t care, you will pay the price. I won’t even get into other drugs out there but an opportunity to expand the conversation. I recommend, “I Am Charlotte Simmons”, for a modern story of an innocent girl in the college world.

  11. Amy says:

    Now that I have the boys will be boys thing out of the way, here is what I’d add.
    1.It’s okay to break a girl’s heart if she isn’t the one for you. I don’t care if you’ve been dating 10 days or 10 years, if you arn’t in love then it’s okay to say so and it doesn’t make you a jerk to do so. You however must do it in person and in the most loving way you can. You may not talk trash about her afterwards or reveal any secrets that she entrusted you with. Remember she is a person who has feelings too. If the relationship ends badly then I expect you to do all of these things x10.

    2. You’re heart will get broken. Don’t give a girl what you want to save for your wife just because you think she is the one. Your wife will thank you for saving yourself just for her.

    3. If you treat your girlfriend like a princess then I expect her to treat you like a prince. This is a two way street and you may not let someone treat you less than you deserve.

    4. Being a gentleman in today’s world goes a long way. Open doors, carry books, give her your coat, treat her like a lady.

    5. To my personal boys. I married someone who shows you daily what being a man is. He is the toughest person I know and my soft place to fall all in one. When God said to love your wife as Christ loved the Church it’s the kind of love your daddy has for me that he was talking about. He is my helpmate. He is my biggest cheerleader and has supported any endeavor of mine. He respects me and my opinions. He isn’t critical. He never complains if the house is a mess. He tells me I’m beautiful everyday and even though I may not think I’m beautiful, I truly believe he does! After almost 18 years of marriage we are still very much in love. You have been given the greatest example and I expect you to follow in his footsteps.

  12. English Miller says:

    Thank you Kari, for your wonderful words you share here on your page. I am truly grateful and will continue to share with our moms ministry at our church parish. Thank you for serving the Lord in this amazing way!

  13. Tracey Erickson says:

    Thank you for writing this! I’m printing of and reading to my son today. He was just 5 (seems like) yesterday and now he’s 15. We are so thankful for your gift of writing and insight.

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