7 Tips to Raise a Discerning Son

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to cut through all of the “noise” that calls for my attention. With so many competing sources of social media, cable and network news, blogs and podcasts…how can I teach and model for my son to be discerning?

It’s my observation that too many Americans just “drink the Kool-Aid” when absorbing their media content. And worse yet, far too many intentionally watch only sources that feed and align with their world view. This never challenges them to think critically. And certainly doesn’t make us smarter. It just allows us to stay in our comfort zone and say, “See, I told you so.”

As more and more Americans do this it renders us with little tolerance for disagreement, and little ability to actually discern the truth from fiction. So, here are seven ideas you can model and teach your son to help him be discerning and think critically for himself.

  1. Take My Word for It…Not. When you hear or read something that gives you pause, explore numerous sources to find out if what you’ve heard is reliable or not. Talk to friends or teachers. Or explore the New York Times, AP news, USA today, BBC, the Washington Post, and politifact.com, Snopes.com to double check the validity of what you’ve seen.
  2. Trust your intuition. God gave us that inner voice as a source of common sense, but realize that your own “inner critic” is also alive and well, and seeks to “keep you small and dumb.” The less you trust and act on your intuition the less often it will show up with good advice.
  3. Expand your social horizons. Have an honest conversation with someone of a different race, gender, faith background, political perspective (God help us!), or age about an important topic. You’d be amazed how it might just allow you to be more empathetic and understanding of “the other.”
  4. Ask what’s possible not what’s wrong. Giving yourself permission to explore possibilities and potential allows your mind to go to creative and risk-taking places. Scary, perhaps, but so much more fun and interesting than staying in your comfort zone all day.
  5. Read a book that’s stretches you. A good friend of mine told me to stop reading business literature and start reading classics. I resisted…for a while. But now I’m loving reading classic literature. And it’s teaching me new and interesting things I can apply to life and business.
  6. Listen to your grandparents. Their perspective and values are much more likely to have been formed in times when family, faith and hard work were highly valued. Do it soon, because they won’t live forever. (The photo above is Jeff talking to his grandpa Harold Becker, my dad, shortly before he died at age 92.)
  7. Reflection. The world entices us to 24-7 noise with little or no quiet time to really hear what’s important. The smartest friends I have and best leaders I know listen, read, study, hang out with great people. And, and…they take time to ask themselves, “What does this all mean?” The best leaders take time to regularly, intentionally be silent and reflect on their experiences.

What do you do that helps you best be discerning? Let me know. I’m curious to learn from you.

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Many of these blog entries are edited excerpts from Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son

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