Be fully present—Like all men, I always had plenty I could be doing. I tried to let the boys’ time be the boys’ time. Children know when you’re not really being attentive. There were times my boys told me I needed to put my phone down. I listened. I wanted them to feel I was listening to what mattered to them. If my boys wanted to kick a soccer ball or throw a baseball, I did it, no matter how tired I was from a long day. And it’s amazing how much more a boy will engage in conversation when a ball is involved.
Offer wisdom more than solutions—This is huge. I explained this more in THIS POST, but I tried to help my boys form a paradigm for finding an answer rather than always giving them the answer. Honestly, this is harder. It’s easier just to do something sometimes. Give the answer and move on. Solve the problem. But they don’t grow that way. And they learn to use you as a crutch rather than develop into independent young men. Boys want to find their own way. They like solving the mystery, creating a new path and discovering the answers on their own. I wanted them to always have access to me for the wisdom of experience, but to develop the ability to make wise decisions apart from me.
Love their friends—My boys knew their friends were always welcome in our house. They knew I’d fix them lots of pancakes on Saturday morning. They knew we stocked our fridge with every drink their friends might like, just in case our house was the hangout house for the night. They knew the doors were always wide open for anyone they brought through them. Honestly, we didn’t always approve of their choices in friends, but we talked them through it and tried to steer them toward better friends. But we never turned away their friends. This did two things. It protected their hearts toward us. And it helped them learn principles of grace. Over time, we discovered that if we were building wisdom into their lives in other areas they would discern for themselves the wisest choice in friends.
Give solid boundaries—We were a house of grace, but boys need structure. Let me repeat that—before someone gets hurt—boys NEED structure. They need someone to tell them when they’ve gone too far in how they talk to their mom. They need someone who will counsel them when they are falling behind in school—and hold them accountable to do better. They need to know there is someone who will pull them aside and discipline them when they do wrong—and be consistent in that discipline.
Let them explore—Boys are risk-takers. Most likely we have steered it out of them if it’s not there. It’s innate. They use potty language and wrestle and bounce balls that break lamps and pee places you never thought someone would pee. They’ll jump off something and you’ll likely end up in the emergency room a time or two. But that’s part of being a boy. And discovering. And growing courage and faith and the ability to be a man. Of course, there’s a line. And I wasn’t great at finding that line. You can’t let them be too stupid. (Although one of my favorite Proverbs says, “Surely I’m too stupid to be a man.”) But you should let them be boys. That includes exploring. And that’s a word to moms and dads.
There are probably other suggestions I could share, but if you are raising boys, you probably need to go break up a fight or stop them from jumping off something. We can talk more later!
What suggestions do you have for raising boys?