Last week, I wrote about Raising Girls. In the midst of writing it, I left my computer to raise boys. Not because they needed laundry washed, but because I needed to address important, uncomfortable things.
When God gave me a third son, a huge sense of responsibility rested on my shoulders. “Seriously, Lord? You trust me to raise boys?” was the conversation I had with God. Growing up in a family of all girls, I felt ill-equipped in understanding the foreign species of BOY.
When my sons were fairly young, I began teaching high school students. Still pretty green in the boy-raising-department, teaching Life Skills classes to Senior boys resulted in one of the best educations I received in parenting. The male students’ transparency, honesty, trust and respect provided valuable insight about understanding boys beyond John Deere tractors and basketball. Those conversations were influential and powerful moments.
As a teacher and counselor, I’ve caught rare glimpses of the male heart God has created. Fragile hearts trying to be strong, strengthened by honor but destroyed by a word. Recently I observed a young man fiercely trying to hold everything together, though his heart was broken. In his silence, tears pouring from his eyes spoke volumes.
In the hearts of all men, lies greatness. The challenge comes in developing hearts to be strong yet sensitive, honorable yet real, filled with love for God before any other.
This is a challenge.
Romney has a 5 Point Plan for changing our nation. I’ve compiled a 5 Point Plan for Raising Boys because I’m convinced good men can change society. I asked my sons, ages 18,15, and 12, “What has been helpful in teaching you to become a young man?” Their responses encouraged me that certain moments are important. So here’s a non-exhaustive-mom-in-the-trenches 5 Point Plan for Raising Boys.
- Teach boys to respect others. A personal mission of mine is to teach young men under my influence respect for women. One of our sons was thankful we’ve taught him to respect people of every “group.” When a man respects others, no matter their age, gender, status or religion, people notice and are influenced.
- Be consistent, fair, and firm in discipline. The first comment from another son was being thankful we discipline. “You don’t let things slide,” he said. Discipline is always painful in the moment, even for parents. It’s easy to let small things slide as boys turn to teens because “boys will be boys.” But nowhere in scripture does it say, “Let boys be boys and they will eventually become godly.” Hebrews 12 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” That’s my prayer for my children – a life of righteous and peace, not comfort.
- Be open, honest, and realistic about challenges in living a godly life. Two of my sons expressed gratitude for being open with them about things that could easily be ignored, meaning we talk about things that are uncomfortable. Things like sex, sexual images, sexual music, sexual temptation, consequences of sex, relationships, what is appropriate in God’s eyes and the realities of living in a highly sexualized culture. Talking about God’s word, sexuality, purity, game plans for addressing these areas, and accountability to God for choices. Acknowledging the fact that at seventeen, men are at their sexual peak and yet God says, “Wait.”
- Prepare them to be honorable leaders, even in small things. Respecting their father’s leadership, making them accountable for responsibilities and actions, and providing leadership within the family unit is training ground for family, community, and workplace leadership for any young man. Every sphere of influence needs godly male leadership, even where women are leaders beside them. Within our home, I’ve seen brothers be leaders to their siblings without prompting, which has blessed me immensely. Nations needs men who will step up just for the sake of stepping up when good leadership is needed.
- Affirm individual strengths, providing young men opportunities to excel at things in humble confidence. Every boy wants to have the winning slam dunk, be the superhero saving the world, or the race car driver speeding across the finish line first. But not all boys are basketball players, superheros, or race car drivers. Finding what each young man can excel at is important. One of my sons has interests different from the others. I never saw more relief in a 7-year-old when I told him he didn’t have to play basketball. A weight lifted off his small shoulders and which allowed him freedom to find the things he is good at. It was a defining moment for mom, dad, siblings, and for him.
I’m still learning about raising boys. I’d love to hear more thoughts from other parents of sons – would you share your insight, wisdom, and lessons, too? My sons will wrestle with life and faith just as other men have before them. My prayer for each of us parenting young men is that we will not give up when the seasons get tough. May God grant each of us strength and wisdom in the present, because so many futures depend on it.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9