Working as a principal, I’ve often sat with mothers who are desperately searching for ways to improve relations with their son. They come to me feeling that their sons won’t listen and certainly don’t respect them, but are at a loss for how to fix it. The good news is that there’s hope, and if you’re in this situation, you can still get your boy back on track. Here’s what I would tell each of them…
The Natural Progression Towards Independence
Mothers begin as the most important part of their son’s life. She nurtures him, cares for him, feeds him, along with so many other things. There comes a time though when boys will begin to pull away from their mother to become more independent. If the progression is a healthy one, then this leads to him eventually becoming a man that loves, honors, and respects his mother, but can stand on his own two feet, make his own way, and lead his own family well.
Unhealthy progressions will eventually lead to boys disrespecting their mother, abusing her, or manipulating her by being loving, honoring, and respectful only when he can get what he wants.
The Toddler Years
This is where we first start seeing the battle for individualism. Boys show signs of no longer being “mommy’s boy” and begin wanting to hang out more with dad. He wants to mimic dad, be tough like dad, win dad’s approval, etc.
Most mom’s still feel confident at this stage because they still play a major roll in their son’s life.
The Pre-Teen Years
This is where things begin to get uncomfortable. The boy will become a “fence straddler”. He wants to be a man, be respected as a man, and to be treated as a man, but still isn’t carrying the responsibility of one. His decision-making skills aren’t the best still, and mom knows this. When she comes in to save the day, he resists her.
Boys That Shave
If you have a teenage boy, then you’ll know what I mean by the heading “boys that shave”. These males are looking like men, smelling like men, demanding the freedom of grown men, but still act like boys.
Our culture hasn’t helped anything. Within the last few decades, we have come up with this imaginary concept which is referred to as “adolescence”. It’s that stage where we excuse disruptive, disrespectful, and even destructive behavior and blame it on a person’s age. Thanks to this huge cop-out, we now have boys that have extended adolescence into their 20s and, God forbid, even their 30s. It’s not healthy.
Practical Tips and Scriptural Directives For Raising Sons
Boys really are simple creatures. In my experience of educating hundreds of them and raising four of my own, they each are motivated by something. The question is whether today he will be motivated by the carrot or the stick.
Here are some of my top tips and scriptural directives for raising boys:
1. You’re always teaching. Your boys aren’t just listening to dad. They watch mom as well. Is she going to stick to her guns? How does she respond to a guilt trip? Can I wear her down? Can I engage her in an argument to the point that she loses her cool?
I hate to break it to you, but there are no real breaks in parenting. We’re always on stage. While you will certainly make mistakes along the way, don’t be too prideful to admit them. Hold fast to what you say and your son will respect you for it.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:7-9 ESV)
2. Boys need responsibilities. Unless you want your son to be in his 20s, wearing Star Wars pajamas, living in your basement, and still searching for direction in his life, then you need to make him work… A LOT.
I’ve had a part-time job since I was 12. I paid all of my own insurance and gas money. I mowed the yard, stocked the wood stove, fed the animals, built and painted fence, laid brick, and anything else that my mom and dad felt I should do. If a water line started leaking, I didn’t get left in the house to play video games, I threw on some coveralls and crawled under the house, through the mud, and worked until the job was done.
I used to think that the only reason mom and dad had me was to be extra help. It’s funny to look back on now! But I thank my parents all of the time for teaching me how to handle the responsibilities that come with being a man…and so does my wife.
“Boys are like old trucks…they drive straighter with a load on them.”
3. Discipline equals love. By disciplining your son, you’re setting the boundaries he needs to be successful. Boundaries look like discipline and give direction. Young men who lack discipline also lack direction.
If your son doesn’t seem to have motivation to do anything in life, it may be time to invoke some serious discipline to help point him in the right direction.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24 ESV)
Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. (Proverbs 19:18 ESV)
4. Discipline must be given in love. Even in the midst of discipline, your son still needs to understand that you love him. And because you love him, you can’t allow him to continue with this behavior. When that is evident, your son may still not be happy, but he will understand and respect your for it.
Please understand that this is key. Those with a dictator-like style will chant the mantra of “tough love”, with an emphasis on “tough”. The real emphasis should always be on love. You’re making the hard decision because you genuinely love this person.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21 ESV)
5. Discipline is painful but brings peace. I’ve found this to be so strange as I’ve raised my children. After they’ve been grounded, or spanked, or disciplined in some other way, they always come back around afterwards for hugs and reassurance.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11 ESV)
6. Focus on the bigger picture. You may have to engage in an uncomfortable discussion today. You might have to evoke discipline today. You might even have to chance being misunderstood. But in the end, it’s all so you can set your son on a path that he will follow the rest of your life. Don’t be so consumed with the problems of today, that you forget about the promises of tomorrow.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)
7. Start yesterday. No parent is Jesus Christ. None of us have walked on water. We’ve all made mistakes. But we can admit those to our children and start fresh today. Start using these principles now and you’ll be able to truly enjoy your grandchildren because you won’t have to raise them. They will be with a strong, capable, hard-working father who takes care of them as he should. You you will get to enjoy the splendor of just being a grandparent.
QUESTION: How will you begin course correcting yourself in this area starting today?
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