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I remember watching my son hit his brother for the first time. I remember thinking to myself, “Where did he learn that?”

My sister-in-law spent a great deal of effort trying to keep guns and play weapons out of the hands of her sons, but, one evening, when they were visiting their cousins, her two sons burst into the room holding Barbie dolls by the head, upside down, and using them as swords.

Some things just come naturally to boys. They seem to be built in. Some other things are not quite as natural. For these things, they have a mom and a dad to teach them.

When I sat down to write this list, I originally intended for it to be a list of 10, but as I started to write, one after another began to fill the page.

The world is full of men who are harsh, mean and cruel. The world needs more men who are strong but gentle, assertive but understanding.

The world needs men and fathers who are devoted and committed. They lead, rather than force and control.

The following list of 33 things I want my sons to know flows out of years of experience observing patterns of happiness and joyful living as well as the opposite.


This article by Andy Smithson originally appeared on his site, truparenting.net. It has been published here with permission.

Andy Smithson, LCSW, helps parents not only change negative behaviors but build powerful cycles of growth and happiness in your family through the principles of teaching, relationship and upgrading yourself. Andy is a husband, father of four, therapist, parent coach and speaker as well as author and creator of truparenting.net. Subscribe to the TRU Parenting Newsletter at www.truparenting.net/quickcalmtoolkit/ and connect at www.facebook.com/truparenting or www.twitter.com/truparenting.

How to cook and clean
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You are not too good for cooking, cleaning and caring for yourself. Learn to cook and clean.

Too many boys leave home without being able to cook a decent meal or clean up after themselves. This includes laundry, cleaning toilets and washing dishes.

Self-reliance is an attitude and skill that every child is grateful for when they find themselves without their parents for the first time.

How to build a fort
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You know that I have a hard time with tools and building things. Last summer, we built a fort together out of scraps of wood. We made lots of mistakes. It took much longer than it should have, but we finished. You loved it and were so proud of your work.

Even the things we are passionate about take hard work. Work hard for things you want, and when the going gets tough, persevere.

How to sit quietly
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I think that men even more than women need to learn to allow themselves time to think and make decisions wisely rather than letting other people or the circumstance choose for them.

Let virtues and values, not money, hormones or self-interest dictate your choices.

I love your Mom
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I love your mom, and you’ll never have to wonder about that. Dads who treat Mom well have sons who treat Mom well, and they become husbands who treat wives well.

Remember this cycle, and treat Mom with the same kindness you see in our home.

Real men change diapers
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Enjoy and appreciate the happiness that comes from helping others, especially family.

Caring for a baby is a great opportunity because babies do not have the capacity to give back the way people usually expect reciprocation.

There is an unmistakable joy that comes from giving without expectation of reward.

How to play hard
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Wear yourself out with hard work, and then play until you collapse from exhaustion.

Mistakes happen
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Just apologize, forgive, learn and move on. Don’t dwell on the past.

Learn from it, but don’t stay there and wallow in it. Nothing good ever comes from shame.

Chivalry is not dead
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Some people might say it is an archaic tradition, but don’t buy that.

I don’t hold doors, get the car door, pull out chairs or buy flowers for your mom because I think she is incapable of doing all of that for herself.

I do it because I love her, and it’s just another way to show kindness and respect.

Porn and drugs taint your soul
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Porn and drugs are not a “normal” part of a man's life.

I’ve seen both pornography and drugs tear families and individual's lives apart.

They alter your brain and taint your soul.

If you find yourself struggling with either one, refer to No. 7 and realize I’m always here to help.

Being a dad is the best
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Being a husband and a dad is better than anything else life has to offer.

I've experienced joys that I never had any idea existed since becoming a husband and father.

Traveling, fast cars, ski trips and business success are all awesome, but nothing compares to your mom and you.

It’s OK to cry
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Crying is healthy. We need the emotional release at times. Sometimes we need to empathize with someone who is hurting.

If anyone has a problem with that, punch them in the nose (just kidding).

Rub some dirt on it
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Sometime life hurts, and the situation requires that we don’t let the pain overcome us.

There are times for tears and there are times for action. Both are important.

Being strong in the face of adversity doesn’t mean you won’t cry or have fear; it simply means that we move forward with courage regardless.

Activity beats idleness
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Activity beats idleness every time.

It’s been said that idle hands are a devil's tool. Be active, not lazy.

This goes for work, relationships, education and even recreation. The more you actively participate, the more you and others get out of it.

Money doesn't equal success
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Success is not measured in dollars.

Never trade your integrity, family or friends for fame or fortune.

Success can and should be experienced at every stage of life.

The law of the harvest
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You reap what you sow. This is a natural law of life. It will always apply to everything in your life.

Sometimes it takes longer to see the fruits than others, but, ultimately, it is always true.

Don’t be a jerk
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I think you understand this one. You don’t like it when people treat you unkindly. Don’t do it to others.

Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.

Kindness will always serve you and the world better than cruelty or sarcasm.

Girls like dancers
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Girls like dancers and musicians. If I didn’t know how to dance, I probably would not have gotten a second date with your mom.

Music and dance are not girly or silly. They are a powerful form of expression and life-long skills that bring happiness and joy.

Avoid addictions

Anything addicting is usually not healthy. It doesn’t matter whether it is drugs, alcohol, food, porn or even exercise. When we become addicted, it becomes destructive. It controls us instead of us controlling it.

If you ever find yourself in this space, don’t be ashamed. Just let someone help you.

Think before you act
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Most guys are pretty impulsive. Don’t be most guys.

I’m always saddened by the stereotype that men jump to conclusions, lash out or do dumb things without thinking.

Fighting, yelling or simply saying things you later regret doesn’t have to be the norm. Think before you speak and act.

Always keep learning

Learn every day. It doesn’t matter where you get your education or what it costs, just keep learning.

Read books. Write ideas down. Talk to people with more knowledge than you. This will serve you well in your life.

Don’t buy a new car
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Learn to manage money and invest wisely. Give up some things you want right now for what is most valuable.

Make a budget and stick to it. Invest in yourself and your family. Invest in things that are of real value.

Follow your dreams
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Find a dream, then follow it. We all have a dream — or more than one.

Never be ashamed or afraid of sharing your dream with others. Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.

Lead and follow
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Learn how to lead and follow, and learn when it is best to do both.

Sometimes you will lead. Sometimes you will follow. Both are valuable.

Don’t let your pride keep you from learning from others. Never let fear keep you from leading when someone needs you and your help.

Smile and laugh every day
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Smile and laugh every day whether you feel like it or not.

Smiling and laughter make you feel better, and the best time to do that is when you don’t feel like smiling or laughing. It’s not faking it; it’s an investment in your personal happiness.

Enjoy life
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Find ways to enjoy even the boring, mundane and irritating parts of life.

Sometimes work does not fall within our passions, and sometimes people do things we don’t like. Ride the wave of emotion without reacting.

Keep intimacy sacred
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Intimacy as recreation will mess with your head, her head and will complicate your life.

Intimacy with your wife will build unity in marriage and enhance your life. This kind of goes hand in hand with No. 15, the law of the harvest. Plant seeds of love, not self-satisfaction and ego.

Look for the good
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Find something positive in everyone. This can be hard to do sometimes, especially when they have offended or hurt you.

You will be happier if you can dig deep and find the best in them.

Help other people
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Help other people. It makes you happier than helping yourself. Look for opportunities to help. Small or large, lend a hand.

Consider other perspectives
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Consider other perspectives, but use judgment.

Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Always be willing to see others' perspective and truly understand them, but realize this does not mean that you have to ultimately agree or accept their point of view for yourself.

Be vulnerable
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Vulnerability is hard but is the key to connection. To let someone see your weakest points, to ask for help or to risk hurt opens you up to bonds with people you could not have otherwise.

Honesty is the best policy
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Simply put, tell the truth!

Good music makes life better
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Music has a powerful effect on our mood and even our brain development. Choose music wisely that builds and edifies you rather than tears you down.

I love you
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I love you — always!