How to Raise a Boy to be a Man
While trading emails this week with a friend who has two teenage boys, she commented out of sheer frustration, “Would you take my 16-year-old and knock some sense into him?”
Teenage boys are often arrogant, angry, and argumentative. Rarely are they cooperative and others-focused. I have several theories as to why this is true, one of which is that most teenage boys in this generation are surrounded by women all day every day — teachers, principals, moms — and they are frustrated trying to figure out how to be a man. So I forwarded my friend in California an email exchange I had with another friend, Donna, who lives in Alaska. Here is what Donna had to say about raising a boy to be a man in response to my blog post about football:
“This is exactly what I preach to the women in the seminars I give. I think [this is a Donna Soapbox] that we are wrong to tell men a lot of what we tell them. I think that we should allow our boys to fight, to get dirty, to get in fixes, to get hurt as the result of their decisions.
I am angry that women have feminized the boys of the last three or four generations. I scold them for that. My boy is a shining example of manhood and I BELIEVE that is because I did not feminize him. When he was laid on my stomach at birth I looked in his eyes and told him that ‘I would never ever tell him to not do this or that because it was dangerous, that I would never step in his way of manhood, that I would never squelch his destiny as a man in any way.’
I absolutely let him be a boy even though every fiber of femininity yelled when he was wrestling, fighting, shooting, making loud noises, breaking things on purpose, etc. He was taped to the clothesline, rolled, teased, thrashed and much more by the boys of the lodge. [Donna and her husband run a lodge in Alaska. Her son’s name is Jay.]
Another woman whom I grew up with came to live at the lodge and work with her son who is the same age as Jay. She would endlessly yell and scream at the staff guys for what they were doing to her Ben and my Jay. In the end, they ignored him, EVEN WHEN HE USED EVERY device possible to get their attention and join in their ‘play.’ His mother ended his manhood training. He has spent three years in juvenile detention. I saw him recently and he is everything you would not want your boy to be. My heart bleeds for him… I lay it at her feet, she continues to “mother” him in the same way. He is a baby.”
In response to this email from Donna, I wrote her to tell about the summer my son, Ben, became a man. We helped him get a job with a friend of ours who was in construction. I reasoned it would be good for our son to learn basic carpentry so he’d be a handy husband some day when he needed to fix things. What I didn’t know was that the carpenter had gotten several roofing jobs for that summer. So our son spent much of that summer walking on hot tar paper in 100-degree heat on the tops of houses that were perched on some of Arkansas bluffs high above the river. It was dangerous work for a 16-year-old, but it was so good for him to be with men all summer. Being with men in turn helped him become one.
Take Donna’s challenge to heart and let your sons take risks and develop their God-given ability to lead and be manly. Don’t feminize them or cater to their innate selfishness. Then trust God that He knows what He is doing and that He is sovereign, caring more for your son’s safety and well-being than you do.
More articles and resources about Raising Boys
Yes! Our son has been working alongside men for years, and it has been so good for him. On occasion someone will not hire him, assuming he is “just a teenager” and that can be frustrating. He can out-work man men, and has more skills than many men, but even that rejection is good for growth and his character.