Teaching Sons to “Take Hold” of a Task

instilling a heart for excellence and diligence in service

Do you ever get frustrated and angry when your son doesn’t follow instructions completely? Recently, this is something I have struggled with. My angry responses to my young sons’ mistakes dampened the joy in our home, and I knew that something needed to change.

There is something rare and wonderful about a young man who knows how to attack a job and bring it to completion. It is something that can be learned, but it is not common at all. I have heard it referred to as “taking hold” of a task or project. Taking hold of tasks usually does not come naturally to a young man. Boys tend to indulge in folly and to be slothful. They need instruction, supervision, accountability, encouragement, prayer, affirmation, love, and interest. They especially need positive, joyful examples.

Rather than being remembered by my sons as a demanding, harping, negative, angry dad who is never pleased with them, I came up with a plan. This plan allows us to learn, worship, and work together. As a father, I want my sons to remember me as a dad who helped them develop the skill of taking hold of tasks with diligence and excellence.

Helping a Son Learn to Take Hold

To help my sons develop this important skill, I am teaching them to follow these simple steps when given a task. I have referenced character qualities and a command from Christ’s teaching that can provide further inspiration and direction for following these steps.

1. Listen
Carefully listen to the instructions your authority gives, and write them down so you will not forget them.
Character Qualities: Attentiveness
Command of Christ: Hear God’s Voice. (See Matthew 11:15.)
2. Repeat
Repeat the instructions aloud so your authority knows you understand and has a chance to clarify the directions if necessary.
Character Qualities: Orderliness, Responsibility, and Diligence
Command of Christ: “Take my yoke” (Matthew 11:29).
3. Execute
Follow all the instructions joyfully, wholeheartedly, as unto the Lord. Learn to take initiative to do the things that obviously need to be done in order to fulfill the goals of the one who is in authority. For example, if you are told to empty the trash, go beyond that and replace the liner. You can also include spare liners beneath the primary liner for later use.
Character Qualities: Thoroughness, Diligence, Initiative, Joyfulness, and Obedience
Command of Christ: Be a servant. (See Matthew 20:26–27.)
4. Exceed
Always do a little something more than what is expected. The second mile is where the witness of genuine love and the ministry of service begin. Jesus once said to his followers, “What do ye more than others?” (Matthew 5:47).
Character Qualities: Alertness, Enthusiasm, Determination, and Availability
Command of Christ: Go the second mile. (See Matthew 5:39–41.)
5. Report
Go back to your authority, report what you did, and ask if there is anything more that you can do. You need to learn to submit to the accountability of others. We are told that every man must give an account of himself to God, and it is God who delegates authority to those who are over you, so you want to learn to be thorough in your accountability to them. We are to live and work in such a way as to earn the praise of “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” at the end of the task. (See Matthew 25:21.)
Character Qualities: Accountability, Humility, Obedience, and Punctuality
Command of Christ: Await My return. (See Matthew 24:42–44.)

Getting Started

Teaching boys isn’t easy. It requires love and patience, because they will make mistakes and it will take time. To get started, I suggest you begin by having a special meeting with your son to explain the new idea. Have him write down the steps and memorize them. As he gets started, take time to role-play and practice with him. Repeatedly coach him to repeat the steps. Have him practice by following these steps for someone else (his mom, a widow, a neighbor, or a friend). Alwaysfind ways to praise him for following any part of the instructions.

Review the steps, and bless him by saying, “You did a great job. You repeated the instructions back, you followed through with all the details, and you did something extra. Now when you report back and ask if there is anything more to do, you will be doing what only a small percentage of young men your age in the world would do. When you get that down, your services will be in demand. Bosses love guys who report back and ask if there is anything else they can do. You have a very bright future.”

The Importance of Our Role

Once a young man came to a business that I was managing. He wore a dirty, wrinkled black trench coat. His hair was dirty and disheveled. He had body piercings and tattoos. His opening line was, “You hirin’?”

I felt bad for the young man. I could foresee that his job prospects were dim, so to help him I said, “No, we are not looking for help right now, but would you be interested in some ideas that will help you get a job?”

Without looking directly at me he said, “No, man. I just did a job program, so I already know that stuff. I’m just tryin’ to find somebody who’s hirin’. It’s like there’s no work anywhere around here.”

He had a point. In our town, jobs were scarce. But I also knew many of the business leaders in town, and I knew they would say that clean-cut, hard-working, bright young men were even more rare. There were jobs to be had for young men like that.

My heart went out to the young man, and I remembered looking for a job one afternoon when I was his age. My Dad coached me on grooming, how to shake hands, and what to say. Before we left, he even led me through a little role-play so I would be comfortable with the wording. He taught me how to get a meeting with the one in charge of making hiring decisions. He then drove me from place to place and waited in the car while I went from business to business seeking a job. Years later, I learned that his heart went out to me when he saw the disappointment on my face as business after business turned me down. He wept and prayed that the Lord would bless me with work. Within a few days, I had two job offers.

I was pretty sure this young man had no one coaching him, waiting for him in the car, or weeping and praying for him.

There are a lot of things I cannot give my sons, but one thing I want to do is teach them how to take hold of a task. If I can teach my sons to be the kind of young men who attack a job and follow through on a task, I think they will be better equipped to make their way in the world. They will always be able to put bread on the table. They will have a platform from which to reach higher. Others will impart knowledge and skills to them. Older men with valuable skills will consider them worthy of their time and training, and they will have the heritage of my own example of setting aside frustration and taking the time to train them in the way they should go.

Ken Pierpont

Ken Pierpont

Ken Pierpont’s desire is to inspire others and build strong families by communicating the truth about Jesus Christ in his life and family. He leads his family in ministry at churches, retreats, conferences, and other events. Ken is a husband to Lois and the father of eight children. Learn more about Ken at kenpierpont.com.

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