How do you teach your kids something you don’t know?
Or, more generally, how to you help your kids excel in areas where you don’t? Where, perhaps, you’re an abysmal failure?
It’s hard enough to pass on those values, skills, and ideals we possess in abundance. I can teach my sons how to be kind, patient, forgiving, faithful, and so on, because these happen to be some of my strengths; and even these will be transmitted to my boys only by concerted effort, diligence, endurance.
Harder by far is it for me to teach them decisiveness, strength in leadership, financial intelligence, even healthy aggression, because these are areas of weakness for me–areas where all my best efforts and concentrations are hardly enough to propel me toward any noticeable growth. But they are qualities I admire, aspire to, and desire for my sons. I want them to be well rounded, strong in the areas where I am weak, protected from my own shortcomings.
But how, exactly, am I supposed to pass that on to them? If I don’t possess certain abilities or character traits in abundance, how can I teach those things to my sons?
Being keenly aware of my various and colorful shortcomings (as you probably are of yours), I’ve thought a lot about this question. And, as a young dad, I’ve thought of several ways to help address the issue—ideas that are helping me as I implement them, and which I believe are applicable to fathers from any life stage. So, here goes: My list of How To Teach Your Sons What You Don’t Know…
1. Become a student
Come up against an issue that baffles you? Something outside your comfort zone, and beyond your strengths? Read up on it; study the issue in Scripture; begin trying to work it out in your own life. Experience, it’s said, is the best teacher. So, for example, if you struggle with making wise financial decisions, start by reading sound financial advice from a biblical perspective—then put it into practice. Always be willing to learn—for your benefit, and for your sons’.
2. Surround your sons with mentors
Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” From an early age, our sons need to understand that we, their dads, don’t have everything they need: we are not perfect, not able to completely prepare them for all that life brings. We are their primary teachers, yes: God has designed it that way, and we should never shrink from that responsibility. But, let’s help our sons one more step along the way: let’s help them learn to be mentored. By accepting mentoring in our own lives, and by surrounding ourselves—and our sons—with godly friends, they will see a more complete representation of God-honoring masculinity.
3. Seek wisdom from God
James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” The greatest tool we have for fathering, and especially for teaching our sons the things that are beyond our capabilities, is the wisdom of God. I believe it’s possible, through our inexperience and failure, that God can help us find the teachable moments our mess ups create. We can teach our sons through the dumb things we do, if we’re willing to admit our mistakes and seek the better path for next time. Even better, God can grant us the supernatural wisdom to understand that which is beyond us, and to make the wise choices. We can allow the Spirit of God to lead us, even in situations where we have no experience or aptitude, into victory.
These are general ideas, yes, but they are ones I’ve found extremely helpful as I consider my many shortcomings and how to raise my sons to avoid them. Become a student of the areas where you fall short, surround yourself (and your sons) with godly mentors who have different strengths than you do, and, most of all, seek God’s wisdom through HIs word.
Dads, what are some ways you’ve found to teach your sons what you don’t know? How do you pass on what you don’t have?