What Boys Need to Learn to Become Good Men

By Rick Johnson
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Close-up of a boy with a slight smile and a woman standing behind him, resting her hands on his shoulders
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What does a boy really need to become a man?

A man’s primary role is to provide for, protect, and be in relationship with his family. That role requires a man to develop character. But you may have been involved with men who did not live up to their primary roles, and consequently your son may not have had an ideal role model. So here’s my list (compiled with help from single moms) detailing many of the qualities that make a good man. Instill these qualities in your boy to help him become a good man.


Greatness is born by perseverance in the face of adversity. Few things worth doing are ever easy.

Boys must learn to persevere in the face of adversity now if they are to succeed later during even tougher seasons of life. Perseverance is probably one of the toughest things for moms to teach their boys. It requires them to resist the urge to rescue their sons when they are struggling.


To trust someone is to know that he will stand beside you — that he won’t cut and run when the going gets tough. One of the ways I determine a man’s character is whether I would trust him to cover my back in battle.

Talk to your son about what being able to trust someone means to you. If you have trouble trusting due to past experiences, discuss it with him so he can understand how important trustworthiness is and how damaging it can be when violated.


Teach your son to lead courageously, to stand by his convictions even when they may result in pain, sorrow or negative consequences. Someday he will lead his own family. Fathers are faced with tough decisions every day. The question is, do you want him to lead with courage or cowardice?

Your son needs the courage to continue to do what is right even when those around him are calling for him to compromise; the courage to stand by his convictions in the face of overwhelming criticism.


Is there anything worse than a bully? Is there anything less manly than a thug who picks on those weaker than himself? Point out everyday examples of bullies, and explain to your son the ramifications for everyone involved in each scenario. Use examples such as the mugger who steals old people’s Social Security checks, the husband who physically or emotionally abuses his wife and children, or the boss who harasses an employee.

A man should defend those who cannot defend themselves. Teach your boy early in life the nobility of protecting the weak and helpless.

Self-discipline and self-control

Self-discipline and self-control are different yet inexplicably interwoven. Self-discipline is doing something we don’t want to do but should. Self-control is not doing something we want to but shouldn’t. The lack of one or both of these character traits sinks more men and destroys more lives than any other character deficit. The absence of either of these traits leads men into addictions to drugs, gambling, pornography, drinking and adultery — all of which are family destroyers and soul killers.

Self-discipline and self-control keep a man from doing things in private that he would never do in public. They are inner strengths a man develops over time with exercise, like a muscle. Typically, if a man lacks self-discipline in one area of his life, he lacks self-control in other areas as well.

How does a boy develop self-discipline and self-control? He develops them by being held accountable for his actions.


One of the hardest things for men is to admit when they have done something wrong. While that’s probably not earth-shattering news to you, be aware that boys struggle with the same natural inclination.

Let your son know that you expect honesty from him at all times, even when he has made bad choices — then model that behavior yourself. A man who is honest with himself is honest with others. Little white lies to protect someone’s feelings are not necessarily innocent. The art of diplomacy and good manners will serve your son better than a small lie.

Adapted from That’s My Son by Rick Johnson. Copyright © 2008, Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group .


Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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