Since we used to be boys, we expect to have a natural companionship with our grandsons; we may be somewhat alike, and we are likely to enjoy some of the same activities. Still, we need to be intentional about building a close connection with our grandsons and raising up young men of character. We can help give them a healthy model of what it means to be a boy, a man, a father, and even a grandfather.

Here are four things boys need from their grandfathers:

A PLAN

Grandsons need a grandfather who is thinking about their future and taking action to prepare them for that future—whether we’re talking about tomorrow, next week, next year, or ten years from now.  Financial planning is a good comparison, because our regular, consistent investments will pay rich dividends for our grandsons’ future.

We could talk about helping a grandson plan his vocational future, which is much more than grooming him to become a doctor, mechanic, computer technician or musician. You want him to have a fulfilling career that pays the bills and contributes to society.

There’s his relational future—talking about what to look for in a mate, discussing what it takes to make a marriage work, and having regular discussions about how he relates to the opposite sex.

Third, give some thought to supporting the other adults around him in carrying out rites of passage—benchmarks along the way that help signal new levels of maturity and responsibility, and that affirm him as a beloved grandson.

Also, I’d suggest listing some skills, attitudes, and values to instill in your grandson. You might include financial stewardship, the ability to delay gratification, prayer, basic auto maintenance, thankfulness, perseverance, honesty, a work ethic, modesty, or family togetherness. Make a list, and check it from time to time as a reminder. You’ve heard the saying: if you fail to plan, you have planned to fail.

AN EXAMPLE

Our grandsons need reference points, and usually, actions speak louder than words. Living a responsible lifestyle can impact our grandchildren and their children for generations. That’s the kind of power our example can have. A grandfather’s example really encompasses all aspects of life. But let me mention a few areas where we need to be intentional about modeling:

First is our emotions. We can help our grandsons regulate their emotions and express them in responsible ways as they watch us. A lot of men hide their emotions, like they are a weakness. But our grandsons need to see our feeling side; it’s a vital part of who we are. We need to learn to regulate our anger—and other emotions—and be a positive model.

Our grandsons also need to see an example of good husbands, especially boys who have experienced a family break-up. When we do the work to build a strong marriage—the communication, the thoughtful gestures and so on—that creates powerful pictures for a son.

MORAL AND SPIRITUAL BENCHMARKS

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These are events, experiences, or habits that help to activate your grandson’s faith and teach him what it means to live a life that looks out beyond himself. We can focus on three areas that are important to a son’s moral development:

Respect for authority. Recently I told a group of young women that, as they think about what

they want in a husband, it’s important to ask, Does he respond to authority in a proper way? Does he respect those who are over him? Submitting to authority will help teach a grandson humility.  

Spiritual vitality. Grandfathers, by your example, your son will gain an appreciation for prayer and other acts of devotion. Many fathers are absent from equipping their sons in this area, and if boys grow up without a masculine model of spiritual vitality, they may view faith as a feminine pursuit. But a real man shows both compassion and strength, humility and decisiveness. So while we strive to model submission, humility and love, we also need to show our grandsons that walking by faith also requires toughness, resourcefulness, and courage.

Real-life experiences of service: memorable, life-changing events and acts of service. Help give your grandson many experiences serving others, from the family whose car has broken down on the side of the road, to the inner-city project or homeless shelter in your community, to the missions trip to Brazil. Maybe these could even be combined with rites of passage activities with your grandson.

LOVE

We need to cultivate love—or responsible action toward others—in our grandsons.

Good communication is vital. We grandfathers need to make communication a high priority, so we’re teaching our grandsons by example and through practice. In a nutshell, we listen first before making our opinions known, and we do away with lectures in favor of two-way discussions. We’re also open to receiving feedback, even if it’s negative. These are all demonstrations of love.

The other key factor is closely related, but worth mentioning separately: showing affection. Boys with affectionate male role models develop positive self-esteem, they tend to thrive in schoolwork, and have fewer gender identity issues. So, along with those pats on the back and tousles of the hair, give your grandson a big, old-fashioned bear hug—and do it often.

Verbal affection is important as well. Positive words give grandsons confidence and belonging, and again provide a model of a man who can express love in healthy ways. We need to tell our grandsons how much they means to us, point out their positive character traits, and just say, “I love you, and I’m proud to be your grandfather.”