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30 Life Lessons I Want My Sons To Know

Raising boys to be gentlemen

Raising children of any gender is a challenge in our modern era. Parents of girls face countless obstacles from body image to glass ceilings, and I think many of them are doing a wonderful job raising strong, intelligent young women. Therefore, as the parent of two beautiful boys, I am on a quest to raise gentlemen—kind, thoughtful, well-rounded modern men worthy of awesome, empowered modern women.

Raising boys to become men is a great responsibility, one that at times feels overwhelming, but I consider it a wonderful privilege, one that I am determined to do to the very best of my abilities. My goal is to raise the kind of men that will make the world a better place, a lofty aspiration indeed, but I figure it's worth a shot. Here are 30 things I want my boys to know. (I should add that if I am ever blessed with a little girl, I would want her to learn these things as well.)

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1. How to dream big. Imagine boundless possibilities.

2. Achieving your goals requires hard work. Don't let challenges stop you from having the life you want.

3. You are special. You are a unique and beautiful part of the world.

4. But the world does not revolve around you. Don't let your ego rule your life.

5. How to cook a meal. Frozen pizza doesn't count.

6. How to swing a hammer. Fixing and making things with your own hands is an invaluable life skill.

7. How to throw a ball. You don't have to be a star athlete but it's important to be active, learn how to be a team player and try your best.

8. How to change a diaper. Parenting is dirty work and caring for your children is never called babysitting.

9. How to be tidy. Do your dishes, fold your clothes and scrub the toilet.

10. Beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes. Don't let outside forces like the media and peer pressure tell you what's attractive.

11. How to say "I love you" in at least three languages. Romance should not be a lost art.

12. How to dance. A party is always more fun if you can move to the music.

13. How to use a phone the old-fashioned way.

14. No means no. Clear consent is mandatory, every time, no exceptions.

15. Be a good samaritan. Always take the time to help people in need.

16. Care for the earth and it's creatures.

17. Holding doors and giving up seats never goes out of style.

18. How to give a firm hand shake.

19. How to be friendly. It's important to look people in the eye and don't forget to smile.

20. How to say "please" and "thank you." Use these niceties not just with strangers, but with those close to you.

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21. How to listen. It's not about waiting for your turn to speak, it's about hearing what someone has to say.

22. The joys of being a lifelong learner. There is always more to know, ask questions, be curious.

23. How to say "sorry." Never be too proud to admit when you've made a mistake.

24. How to express yourself. Don't be afraid to show more emotions than just anger. It's okay to cry.

25. Never underestimate the value of a sense of humor.

26. Actions really do speak louder than words. Be a man of action.

27. How to stand tall. Stand up for yourself, and stand up for others.

28. How to stay strong. Do the right thing even when it's difficult.

29. How to be strong. Care for your body and love it for all it does for you.

30. How to be brave. Don't let your fears hold you back. Everyone has fears, true bravery is overcoming them.

Image via Meg Messina Photography

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