Raising Our Young Sons to be Men

How do we begin to encourage our young sons to be Godly men… to find strength in God, to desire purity before marriage and integrity within marriage, and to pursue God?

How do we teach them, early on in their lives, to eschew the values of the world and instead to pursue the ways of the Lord?
“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him, but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” –1 Chron. 18:9

Little boys are amazed by strength. For most boys, just a few times of wrestling will be enough to get them asking questions like, “why is daddy so strong?”, and “Why are men stronger than ladies?”, and making comments like, “I’m gonna be a strong man, momma.” Soon, they will start flexing muscles, making loud grunting noises and showing off “heavy” things they can lift and “strong” things they can do. They actively look for strength in others and value it where they find it.
I’ve found that teaching my sons about God’s power is not only teaching them truth about God, but it is an attracting quality of God that draws them to Him. Teaching them that God is the only One Who has power and can grant power is crucial.
* Living in Thailand for 2 months forced the issue of idol worship right out into our everyday family conversations with our oldest son. We discussed that God alone has power, on an almost daily basis.
* These discussions are just as easily prompted by reading books about Ancient Egypt or reading Bible stories like Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. We need to seize these kinds of opportunities to teach our children of God’s strength!
* Jesus’ miracles provide a different discussion of strength—that God has more than just physical strength—He has the power to heal and power over life and death.
“The eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely his.” 2 Chron. 16:9
They must learn, from an early age, that God alone has power and that there is nowhere else for them to look for strength. When encountering bullies on the playground, or when they hear new age philosophies that are now so prevalent in the world, encouraging them to “look for the strength within yourself”, they’ll have had a solid foundation and be more likely to recognize where true strength comes from.

My husband and I are intentional about talking to our sons openly and regularly about the joy of marriage.
Obviously, we don’t have to give our young sons all the details of intimacy, but we believe they should come to an understanding early in life that there is a special bond—physical, emotional, and spiritual—between mommy and daddy. We want to teach them early on in their lives that physical intimacy is delightful in marriage. Again, they don’t have to know all the specifics, but they do need to see mom and dad interacting in a way that is special and different from anyone else. Some ways that we bring this into everyday discussions:
* The Ten Commandments… whenever we watch the Prince of Egypt, or read books about the Ten Commandments, we don’t try to make “do not commit adultery” kid-friendly. We deal with it up front with the boys, telling them “mommy and daddy aren’t ever supposed to kiss or be alone with anybody else but each other.” We want them to recognize the joy in God’s design of one man and one woman for life.
* From the very beginning, when we begin teaching our sons about privacy (no one else should touch them, we should not be naked in front of people, etc.), we teach them that this is only for a time, and that there will come a time one day when they will be able to have complete freedom with their wife. Everyone will have a different place where they draw the line for this, but we are intentional about teaching this from the very beginning. We want to link the boundaries God has laid out to the freedoms God gives us within His boundaries, so that they will not feel that it will always be wrong and thus be tempted to indulge in their teen years. The groundwork will be laid for future discussions in this area, and they’ll see themselves (even from this young age) as future husbands.
* My husband is very deliberate about praising me to the boys, showing them that I help to make his life better. He praises the things I do around the house, and is physically affectionate toward me—all in front of the boys—so that they will see that though he is a strong man and a leader in our home, he also needs his wife.
This is true with all children, but I think it’s particularly helpful to think about this with boys. We are raising future husbands, fathers, and home-leaders. These are the men who will be leading family devotions, called upon to teach in the church, and possibly be called into full-time ministry. We should not be treating their minds as less capable than what they really are.
We need to evaluate how we tell Bible stories to our children. Do we just tell the kiddy parts of the story? Or do we teach them to find God’s purpose in it? To think through the difficult choices (sometimes sinful and sometimes right) made by the men and women in the stories? I’m not saying we have to be unnecessarily graphic or start out telling the most difficult stories of the Bible to our children. But I do think we need to be aware of our own approach to teaching our sons the Word of God. Here are some ways that we are currently teaching our boys in this area:
* We do family devotion time, for about 15 minutes before bedtime each night. It’s not cumbersome or difficult- it just takes a little bit of time and the effort of gathering the family to the living room. Our oldest son interacts and we do all kinds of things: word studies, focus on character qualities, memorize scripture, talk through questions and answers about the Bible. Our youngest son is learning to quietly listen and learn from his daddy. We sing a few fun songs (often with motions) and pray about life together. While they may not understand every sentence, we are building a foundation of a daily time of deep focus on God in their lives. They are learning that at least 15 minutes of every day can be spent learning about who God is, what our purpose is, and what the Bible is for.
* We memorize scripture together. My oldest son and I have just begun learning Ephesians, 1-2 verses at a time. Hopefully by the time 12-18 months have passed, we will have the whole book memorized. This could be done with any parts of the Bible: verses, chapters, or books. Many international schools overseas teach their students to memorize entire books, so that by the time a child is grown, they will have up to 10 or more books of the Bible tucked away in their hearts and minds. We put motions to ours and make it fun, reviewing it until we’ve got it and then move on to the next couple of verses. I can do this while the pasta is boiling for dinner and I’ve got free hands, or whenever we find time throughout the day.
We must teach our children the real Word of God. If throughout their childhood, they are only told the kid-friendly parts of a few select Bible stories and only in simple language, they will be ill-equipped to begin understanding the Bible when they begin studying it for themselves. They won’t desire it- it will be foreign to them. But if we can teach them about God in increasingly more Biblical and deep ways, they will learn to know Him deeply.
We must consider what we want our children to be, and seek out ways to instill those things now, when they are little, so that they can continue to grow into it. We can’t take the approach of allowing the Sunday School teacher to be their primary source of information about God, or avoiding talking about purity, intimacy, and marriage with our sons in this sex-infused culture. If they don’t hear about where true strength comes from, and why God gives us a wife, and that God is the best thing we can run after in life, they’ll find other things in the world to fill in the answers to these questions. Let’s teach our sons the things of God so that they will one day be men who seek after God with all their hearts.


Danica said...

I just had my first baby -- a boy! After reading this post, I wonder if you have any books you recommend that deal specifically with raising sons?

Danica said...

I just had my first baby -- a boy! After reading this post, I wonder if you have any books you recommend that deal specifically with raising sons?

Doug & Jess said...

Hi Danica, Thanks for asking.
Here's what I'd say: there are a few things you need to know about boys as to how they differ from girls when they're little. Here are some off the top of my head:

1- They often will be attached to you until about 18 months-24 months, when they start a very intentional shift toward attaching and identifying more with daddy. This is a good thing, and though it's hard- it's worth letting them do it... they'll start seeing themselves as a "daddy-in-training".
2- They'll probably go through a stage of hitting- don't fret! Definitely deal with it, but just don't be surprised... there's the tendency to think, "AAAHH! WHAT happened to my sweet little boy???" Boys just tend to be more aggressive physically.
3- They need a physical outlet at some point each day- let em run outside, or if it's raining, play the "simon says" game and get em jumping and crawling around the house until they've let out their wiggles.
4- They love to have a "task". This is the way we approach chores with boys... that they have an important job to do. Boys LOVE to have some important task.

Other than basic "boy" things like that, what I would say is read books that tell you about men. Some that come to mind are: For Women Only & Wild at Heart. Read about what he WILL BECOME. Then parent accordingly. I know that may sound counter-intuitive, but those are the kinds of books that have helped me formulate my approach and that have encouraged me to focus on training them toward purity in their sexuality, and integrity in their work ethic.

For instance, some people may think I'm crazy to tell my sons when they are so young that it will be OK to be naked in front of their wife one day, but if you read the literature about sexual "issues" that come up with young teenage guys, it's often the case that they thought their Christian parents didn't have any fun, that they never saw affection in the home, and that they had the perception that to look at Playboy was a manly thing to do but that you couldn't do that sort of thing with a wife. I'm just trying to teach them from the beginning that they'll have openness within the boundaries of marriage once they take a wife.

SO, that's my methodology: read about men, and then parent boys accordingly. Not that there aren't books about "raising boys", etc... but that's just been what I've found to be most helpful in formulating approach and philosophy with boys.

So congratulations on your little guy. Boys are SO much fun! Enjoy him- and raise him to be a mighty man of God!

ableknife said...

Enjoyed your blog. As I read your post, I thought of a book you and maybe other readers may enjoy. It's called Preparing Him for the Other Woman by Sheri Rose Shepherd, and speaks about much the same thing that you address in your post. Check it out. blessings~