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How to Raise a Good Man:

A Local Perspective

Will Rogers once spoke on a father’s legacy saying, “His heritage to his children wasn’t words or possessions but an unspoken treasure – the treasure of his example as a man and a father.”

In their formative years, boys need positive role models in order to learn how to be respectful, hardworking, empathetic, and successful, good men. Mothers are wonderful examples and boys learn a lot from them, but men have a unique advantage – they share the same gender. Instead of telling them, they can actually show their sons what it means to be a good man.

KCFM wanted to explore the father factor and asked a few local fathers of sons, who seem to be doing something right because their sons are growing or maturing into good men. Here’s what they thought were the seven most important tips to raise happy, energetic boys into productive, successful men.

Number One: Spend time with him

Sometimes being a father is just being a sounding board or shoulder to cry on if they need it. Congressman Kevin McCarthy, father of two children, Connor, 17, and Meghan, 14, says the most important thing to do as a father is “spending time with them.” He says it doesn’t matter what you are doing together – hunting, whitewater rafting, eating. In fact, he says some of his most favorite conversations with his son have been on their drive to or from school. “Kids will tell you different things at different times, so it’s very important to always be listening,” he says.

When he’s not at home, he uses the help of technology – texting, FaceTime – to stay in constant communication with his children. “I don’t call the house phone and pass it around,” he says. “I call them directly on their phones. I just think it’s more personal, individually wanting that special time to talk one-on-one.”

Number Two: Teach him empathy

Empathy is a vital skill to teach young boys so they will always be conscientious of others and the world around them. Zane Smith, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County, has two of his own children, and he mentors thousands of children on a daily basis. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County currently has 4,000 members per day and 42 after-school programs. He says one of the best ways to raise a good man is to teach him empathy. “Learn to empathize before you act,” he says. “Try to walk in someone else’s shoes when making decisions and identify with their feelings.

In addition to empathy, Zane says boys need to admit when they have been wrong and learn to apologize with an “adult apology.” For example, “I’m sorry I lost my temper with you. I should have been more patient.”

Number Three: Provide stability

Fulfilling the most basic of needs and providing safety and security gives boys a sense of self. KCFM’s Rick Radon, father of two, has raised a successful 31-year-old son, named Nick. He says one of the most important things he gave his children was stability. “My children may not have had everything they wanted, but they had everything they needed and it was important for me to provide shelter, clothing, food, love, and companionship for them by being a reliable provider.”

Stability starts with hard work and loyalty. Rob Seaney, father of six, five of which are boys, who is featured on this issue’s cover, says, “The traits I want to instill the most in my boys are the ones I saw throughout my life from my Grandfather. He always worked very hard no matter whether it was providing for his families, being the leader of the family, or serving his church. I hope I can give my sons his compassion and love for their families, friends, and opportunities they have to serve others.

Number Four: Explain that “Life Isn’t Fair”

Some boys get caught up in the “that’s-not-fair” game and waste a lot time with such pettiness. Zane says that teaching boys at a young age that life isn’t fair will help them in the long run. They need to “learn that there is no such thing as equitable distribution in life. We have to focus on the results of our own efforts and not worry about what others have or may be receiving,” he says.

In his own household, Zane teaches his 16-year-old son, Chris, this principle. “Equitable distribution does not exist in our household,” he says. “His sister may get an expensive costume for a play, but this does not mean we will run out and buy him an electronic gadget that he has his heart set on.”

Number Five: Serve others

Helping those less fortunate and giving back to the community are important traits that sons need to learn to ensure a happy future. Zane says he encourages his boys to “make doing things for others a good habit – opening doors, offering help, and pitching in when no one has asked you.”

Congressman McCarthy also acknowledges the importance of teaching boys to serve others and it’s a virtue he has instilled in his son. He says, “My wife and I are very proud of the man he has become – he gets involved in the community.” For his most recent community service, Connor spent hours volunteering for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event in honor of his grandfather who passed away from cancer.

Number Six: Strengthen his sense of self

As a father figure, you need to forgo the false praises and find the positive attributes to build up in your son. Everyone is good at something – find that one thing that makes your son special and work with it. Zane says, “I learned to find the ‘positive’ in every boy. The one thing that they did well, that we could cultivate that would hopefully motivate them to do well in other areas. It could be a gift for athletics, art, or performing, or it could just be that they had the ability to make someone else’s day just by being nice.”

Number Seven: Let him fail

Fathers are supposed to protect their sons, but sometimes by letting them fail, they learn more from an experience than if they had succeeded. Congressman McCarthy says when his children were younger, he’d jump in sooner to keep them from getting hurt. “Now as they are older, I have to wait,” he says. “I taught them all the foundation, and sometimes failing helps them learn more from a situation. It’s hard to stay out, but I give them all the support I can. “

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