Back in the day, raising sons was simple. As soon as they became teenagers, they were initiated, and sent to herd cows or fishing. Soon, they married, and they became fathers at a fairly young age, inculcating a sense of responsibility in them.
The initiation ceremony was particularly useful because through it, virtues of courage, discipline, loyalty and communal responsibilities were imparted in young men, usually in a crude way. Very few communities still teach their young men these things nowadays.
Useful as it was, many people have abandoned the initiation rites, as more and more families move to urban centres where the very things that defined our societies come undone.
We take our children to boarding schools or academies that sacrifice manual work for schoolwork. We raise young boys who are very individualistic and averse to physical labour and this is such a great disservice. Yet, once we messed in the Garden of Eden, God cursed man to work, till land and produce until eternity.
And work has always been a good distraction. There is a lot of satisfaction that comes when you do something physical, sweat and thereafter deservedly enjoy a sumptuous meal followed with proper rest. It is such a simple idea that has been lost as we struggle with modernity and its misgivings.
But if we are to raise well-adjusted boys; if we are to impart a sense of responsibility and virtues such as loyalty, self-discipline, self-restraint and patience, then we must discover the beauty in work.
I know in towns and urban centres, raising children in apartments with no place to work or play is a bit difficult. But we must, from a very young age, let the children learn simple skills like cooking, washing utensils, and cleaning up the house. Whereas there is a house help to assist around, we ought to encourage our children to do household chores. The task is not only to make them do the work, but to love it too.
For boys, specifically, we must encourage them to go out and play. No exception. Soccer, basketball, volleyball and every other physical sport available.
I know that in urban centres such as Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa and Kisumu, there is hardly a place for play, but we can utilise schools and churches or develop facilities.
Physical chores inculcate in young men a sense of responsibility, teamwork, patience and learning how to handle a loss or a win. It also teaches young men to be loyal and to be disciplined. It has been observed that rugby players are some of the most disciplined people in life. Sports also teach young men to endure, because there are phases in life where one needs to get by through sheer grit.
As parents, we must impart in our sons a sense of responsibility. If you run a business, ensure they understand its intricacies and make them understand that in due time, they will take charge. For the employed chaps, let your son(s) accompany you to work occasionally so they can see you working.
On the interpersonal front, teach them to relate with people. Ensure they understand the need of a healthy relationship with women. You must teach by example, that is, by treating their mother and any woman in your life honourably and respectfully.
This means also managing transitions in the right way. From childhood, to teenage-hood, to young adulthood, parents must manage each transition to avoid arrested development. Let young children play, let teenagers mess around and young adults to screw up, as long as each phase is properly timed.
The most important phase for a young man is marriage. So we must make a man understand why marriage is important and why one should get into it. Most young people nowadays marry for the wrong reasons and this explains why so many marriages are dysfunctional. We must inspire young people to know marriage is an institution for emotional, spiritual and socio-economic growth. If handled well, one will reap the highest rewards.
There are no guarantees in life. You may do everything right and your son will turn up wrong. But doing your part is a good mitigating measure.