As a mom of almost three boys (I’m pregnant with my third), I am thinking of the attack on manhood lately. It seems like I know a lot of great women and not too many great men. I guess it depends on what your deﬁnition of a great man is, but I think most of us can agree on what it is not. Unfortunately, due to cultural inﬂuences and the time period we live in, I believe there is a rise in the number of passive, lazy, and entitled “boys who can shave.” Men who still live in their parents’ basements playing video games for as long as possible, thus putting oﬀ such beautiful privileges such as marriage, children, and jobs where they will grow and succeed. They think they are men, yet never seem to grow out of their adolescent stage—all in an eﬀort to avoid responsibility and the real world.
How do we avoid this? How do we raise little boys who will some day embrace their manhood and become humble yet conﬁdent leaders in their communities?
Here are 10 intentional things we implemented within our four walls that we hope and pray will produce young men who will lead, serve, and love others well:
1. Let them be boys.
It sounds simple but so often we try and restrain and change things that little boys simply cannot change. They run. They are loud. They turn everything into weapons. They get dirty. A mom of three boys gave me great advice when Trooper was born: “Every day, make sure you give him an opportunity to get his energy out.” I’m not saying we don’t teach them when to be quiet or what furniture they can or cannot turn into American Ninja Warrior courses, I’m just saying that there is a noticeable diﬀerence in their behavior when they are allowed to run and be free.
2. Train them to be warriors.
One day I tried to teach my (young) son to cook. Five minutes in, he had his apron on backwards as a cape and was using his spatula as a sword against some unknown enemy in the refrigerator. Like I said, everything becomes a weapon. Ever seen two boys get together who haven’t seen each other in a while? Someone is usually in a chokehold on the ﬂoor within seconds. It’s like wrestling is their love language. There seems to be an instinct within them to want to ﬁght. According to Merriam-Webster, a warrior is deﬁned as “a person who ﬁghts in battles and is known for having courage and skill.” Why not take this instinct and train them to use it for good? Teach them to protect their families, their neighbors, and those who cannot protect themselves. Not by actual ﬁghting (necessarily!) but by learning to defend what is right and good and to have the courage to stand up against what is wrong.
How do we raise little boys who will some day embrace their manhood?
3. Teach them to be gentlemen.
I’m not sure who said “chivalry is dead” but I can tell you they were onto something. Very rarely do you see a man rush to open a door for his wife or carry something heavy for someone less strong than he. Show them what it looks like to serve and to serve often. Correct their speech if it is in any way disrespectful or unkind, especially when it comes to women and their elders. The phrase, “how can I help?” is an excellent question you can encourage them to ask on a regular basis. Nothing feels better than serving others, so give them opportunities to not only serve within your home, but to always be on the lookout for ways to serve when outside the home as well. Change that stranger’s tire, carry that neighbor’s groceries in, or pass out food at the local food bank!
4. Don’t give them everything they want.
It creates entitlement and laziness. Let them feel the value in hard work. That ﬁdget spinner that everyone else has? Great! They can mow the lawn, wash the car, or go to work with dad for a few hours to make some extra money. Then they can proudly present their hard earned money for that prized possession and will see that there is not only a tangible reward for their eﬀort but mental satisfaction as well.
5. Let them fail.
There was recent story of a 21-year-old “man” who held up his phone in a professor’s class to tell him that his mom wanted to talk to him because he didn’t deserve the “D” on the paper he worked on. (On that note, don’t miss Dear Parents of Millennials: It’s Time to Stop It). If they get in trouble for something, don’t bail them out! Maxwell Maltz said, “You make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make you.” Making mistakes and experiencing the consequences are part of what shapes our character. Rather than ﬁxing everything for them, let them learn from their actions, become better people for it, and most of all, take responsibility.
6. Set them up to succeed.
Give them the gift of good nutrition and life skills. No one functions very well if they only eat junk. Nutrients are imperative for healthy minds and bodies so limit sugar and regularly provide clean, balanced meals. Once they get old enough (old enough to not turn aprons into capes that is), teach them how to make nutritious meals. Then let them do the dishes. And teach them to do their own laundry! One day you won’t be there so you need to teach them how to balance their budget, maintain their vehicles, and make things that don’t have to be cooked in a microwave.
7. Limit Screens.
Have you noticed how hard it is to have a conversation with people these days? Everyone’s head is down looking at their phones. Hours are spent binge-watching Netﬂix. And the constant playing of video games is creating such negative eﬀects as “increased aggression, severe addiction, suﬀering relationships due to poor social skills and a decrease in school performance.”1 Get them outside! Do science experiments! Cultivate the love of reading and learning! Let them be bored! It won’t kill them and creativity has a chance to grow when the brain isn’t constantly stimulated.
It’s like wrestling is their love language.
8. Let go of expectations.
So often we have ideas of what our kids will like or be and are surprised when they don’t excel at baseball or the skill or hobby we hoped they would love or share with us. They were fearfully and wonderfully created, so watch closely to see what interests them and rejoice in their uniqueness! More into animals than sports? Cool! Take them to the zoo. Let them volunteer at the animal shelter. Encouraging them to operate out of their strengths will give them conﬁdence and help them to ﬁnd their passions in life earlier instead of later. This will allow them to be more peaceful, successful, and satisﬁed adults.
9. Cultivate honesty.
These days telling the truth seems to be “relative.” In our house, you will get in much less trouble if you come clean from the get-go. It might be harder to tell the truth, but there is always freedom in it. Teach them to not be afraid of the truth but to be afraid of the consequences of dishonesty.
10. Show them other “good men.”
If you don’t have a good man to be an example for them, ﬁnd one! Hopefully their dad can be that person but if not, encourage a grandpa, uncle, mentor, pastor or coach to be a part of their life. Someone you absolutely trust who exhibits behaviors you would want them to emulate. Also, read biographies or watch documentaries on men who exhibit qualities that you would like them to possess one day.
I know parenting isn’t easy, and I deﬁnitely don’t have all the answers. But it’s a great privilege, and it’s all about our perspective. Take it one day at a time, give yourself grace the days you don’t get it right, get up and try again, be intentional, pray a lot, and do the hard work now! You might not see the fruit for a while, but it will come. And maybe one day you will look into the eyes of a strong, kind man who is capable of changing the world for the better, and he just so happens to be your son.
You’ll also like How Boys Show Love, Dear Parents of Millennials: It’s Time to Stop It, 7 Lies About Boys that Moms Should Know Now, What Your Kids Get When You Let Them Fail, For the Boy Mom, When He’s Grown, 4 Don’ts of Great Parenting For Moms, and 7 Things to Look for in a Man