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Words have much more power than we often realize, especially the words we say around little ears. To us, our words may just flow spontaneously, but I assure you, it’s far better to choose your words carefully, because the words you choose are silently shaping your children.

Boys listen to their father and take their lead. If a young man has a father who is constantly tearing others down, never taking responsibility for his actions, then it’s far more likely that the young man will also end up sharing those traits. While none of us are perfect, we can all use a little improvement, especially when it comes to our kids. Here are 8 things a boy needs to hear his father say.

1. Apologies when he is wrong.

When you are wrong, own it. It might seem counterintuitive, if your goal is to show superiority to your child, which is why if that is your mindset, it needs to shift. Your job as a father should be to instill values into your son, and the first step is by modeling those values.

2. Kind remarks to their partner.

Be careful to only speak words of kindness, love and compassion to your wife around your children. One day, they will take your example and use it to shape their future relationships. If you are emotionally abusive or just plain callous, they may also be this way, or they may accept those same behaviors from their future partner.

3. Admissions of fear.

When you are afraid or fearful about something, own it. It’s important your son knows that it is okay to be afraid sometimes.

4. Admissions of frustration.

When you get frustrated, instead of lashing out or showing it in a display of emotion, explain how you are feeling. For example, if you are trying to fix a clogged sink, it might be tempting to throw your tools when the drain refuses to unclog. Instead, say, “I am very frustrated because this is not working out the way I planned, and now I may have to call a plumber.” When you explain your thought process and speak openly about how you feel to your son, he will learn to do the same.

5. Shows of empathy.

In our society, we often eschew emotions as something that is ‘girly’ while associating men with strength and callous disregard. However, as we evolve and progress as a society, we are learning more and more that it is necessary for everyone, including men to process their emotions and attune with them. Help your son to do this by showing empathy at home.

6. His thought process when he is trying to teach.

When you are trying to show your son how to do something, or tell him that he should do something, don’t just say “Do as I say,” or “Because I said so.” When you do, you are missing a vital opportunity to help them understand why, which will help the lesson stick in their mind.

7. Words of compassion.

Show compassion. Not just towards your other family members, but towards pets, towards strangers and even towards people on the news, social media or even on movies.

8. Words of vulnerability.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable around your kids. They need to know that it’s okay to say how they are feeling and that it’s okay to show your true self, faults and all.

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