Have We Forgotten How to Raise Boys Into Men?

Too many boys and men waste time in pointless and soulless activities, unmindful of their responsibilities, uncaring in their pursuits. Have we forgotten how to raise men, how to lead our boys into manhood?

In “The Book of Man,” I try to chart a clearer course, offering a positive, encouraging, uplifting, realizable idea of manhood, redolent of history and human nature, and practical for contemporary life.

For boys to become men they need to be guided, through advice, habit, instruction, example, and correction. It is true in all ages.

Have We Forgotten How to Raise Boys Into Men?

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

...raise them in such a way that they are always as safe and comfortable as possible.

Jay's picture

Todd Wood wrote:
It is a good topic for America.

It is a good topic for America, especially in light of articles http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/all-the-single-ladie... like this one , where the traditional roles of husband/wife are being dismissed as unnecessary or even counterproductive. There's been quite a few discussions along the lines of 'why are men necessary' in the news lately, and I'm not sure that the church is able to clearly explain what a godly man is and defend it with Scripture.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
Perhaps most worrisome are the cultural indicators. Men are more distant from a family or their children then they have ever been. The out of wedlock birthrate is over forty percent in America. In 1960, only 11% of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. In 2010, that share had risen to 27%. Men are also less religious than ever before. According to Gallup polling, 39% of men reported attending church regularly in 2010, compared to 47% of women.

Even in 2 parent homes, many boys are raised primarily by their mothers.

Ann B.'s picture

Over the past few years I have observed that more and more boys exhibit the following characteristics:

--inability to take initiative and leadership in projects. Content to let girls run things.

--“softness” in difficult situations (i.e. basketball player “injured” when a big game comes up that will involve real competition, “not feeling well” the next day and being allowed to stay home)

--don’t know how to really work. You'd be amazed at how many high school boys have never washed a car.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Part of what I see:
- women taking leadership roles (officially or unofficially) on the grounds there are not enough active, mature, responsible men.
- men not taking leadership roles on the grounds (officially unofficially) that there are so many aggressive, dominant women

I'm really not sure how we get out of this cycle.

Jay's picture

The way to get out of the cycle is preaching and teaching on what Manhood means, and more importantly, modelling it.

Of course, that's easier to say than do.

-edit-

Started a new thread on this subject: http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-what-does-it-mean-to-be-man

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I think personal involvement in discipleship/mentoring is most important. Men used to spend time with their boys working all day long. I was fortunate to be able to start going to work with my dad, who a floor covering installer, when I was about 4-5. Even then it was rare, and my brother, 13 years my junior, did not get the opportunity because of the change in the working environment in that short time. The current culture means we must begin investing in the men in our churches on an individual, personal level.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Sometimes I think the amount of time dads allegedly spent with sons in past generations is a bit idealized and exaggerated. Either way, unless a man is called to a trade he can engage in full time at home, internships and systematic mentoring are really not possible in a post-industrial society. Any dad who is employed is going to be pretty limited.

My own experience growing up was that my dad and I did not "hang out." Perhaps more of that would have been good but I do not feel deprived. He was not an absent father either, by any stretch. It's just that his presence was not a particularly verbal and interactive one. But powerful, nonetheless.
I got his genes, but also absorbed his values--even though I think I only got maybe two "lectures" from him my entire life (totaling maybe ten minutes). (We did have a few protracted "debates" though!).

I think it's more about who we are as dads and being there so that who we are can have the impact it needs to have. But a lot of the modern expectation is feminized. Dads do not need to be chatty and have long, soul-bearing conversations to raise good sons.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

No, I'm talking more about the process than the specific participants. I agree, modern culture has eliminated most opportunity for fathers to spend time like that with their sons. My point is that somewhere, we need to start picking up this slack in the church. I think this must be the new arena for apprenticeship in manhood.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's an interesting question.
I think there is no adequate substitute for the dad's influence (my beef w/many writers of books on the topic these days is that they seem to forget you can "say" something in ways besides words). And I think nobody disputes that.

But is there more the church can do in this area? I'm sure there is. I think it has two prongs:
1- Qualities of character that are inherent in maturity (and really have nothing to do with gender).
2- Applications of those qualities to the unique roles God has assigned to men.
Though maturity is maturity, regardless of gender, the battlegrounds of maturity are a bit different for men because their responsibilities are not the same and their weaknesses tend to lie in different areas of their being, compared to women.

Alot of this is applicational because we don't have Holy Writ at this level of detail. For example, men are generally recognized to be "less emotional" than women, but the reality is that though this is true in several ways, men tend to be less able to understand and deal with their emotions. So the old-school approach of teaching men to shove their emotions in a drawer and ignore them when important choices need to me made has probably been abandoned prematurely. Unless a man is well equipped to sort out the intuitive stuff going on internally, he is better off ignoring it and approaching the matter rationally... asking "What is true here? What is good here? What is right here? What is my responsibility here?" and leaving the "How do I feel about it?" out of it.
This is just an example of the sort of thing I'm talking about under "applications."

What is revealed relevant to this is that a man's strength is measured in large part by how well he rules his spirit. (Prov.16:32, 25:28)
I tell my son often--but probably not often enough--"Rule your spirit!"

Anne Sokol's picture

I have noticed in my own life is simply turing off the compuer/internet (tv, whatever) and just being with my family members and doing ordinary tasks at home. One of my friends talks about how she doens't want our kids just remembering the backs of our heads . . . I'm re-reading the Little House on the Praire books, and it's amazing how much they did and passed on as families when there was no other distraction or entertainment and when hard work together was a necessity.

L Strickler's picture

This post is reminiscent of an article by missionary/pastor Steve Hafler which was published in Frontline Magazine (FBF) in the January-February 2010 issue. In "Are We Done Playing Games Yet: A Call for Boys to Grow Up and Go Forward" Hafler writes about the God-given risk taking spirit that is inherent in boys. He hopes that his own boys will dare to take the gospel to "areas where peoples have never heard the name of Jesus." He challenges young men to stop wasting their lives on cheap substitutes for adventure (videos games, fantasy football, action films, etc) and become true soldiers of Jesus Christ, the King of kings.

L Strickler

SNRote's picture

Great article. The molding of strong Christian men requires work outside of the Sunday school room. Parents should lean on every opportunity provided by their church, Christian authors and peers for guidance in raising their children. It's a very difficult world and adolescents and young adults are put in positions at a young age that many of us never faced. They need to be strong in their values and have confidence to make the right decisions.

PaulF's picture

Scouting isn't the end-all-be-all youth program, and it is currently under fire from many directions, but that's not the whole picture, either.

Read through the 1911 Boy Scouts of America handbook (free, online).  There's much to be admired by the simplicity and frankness of the program in how it teaches self-responsibility and service to others.  Consider these quotes from the handbook;

"The aim of the Boy Scouts is ... to promote the ability in boys to do things for themselves and others."

"There are other things which a scout ought to know and which should be characteristic of him, if he is going to be the kind of scout for which the Boy Scouts of America stand. One of these is obedience. To be a good scout a boy must learn to obey the orders of his patrol leader, scout master, and scout commissioner. He must learn to obey, before he is able to command. He should so learn to discipline and control himself that he will have no thought but to obey the orders of his officers. He should keep such a strong grip on his own life that he will not allow himself to do anything which is ignoble, or which will harm his life or weaken his powers of endurance."

"And then the final and chief test of the scout is the doing of a good turn to somebody every day, quietly and without boasting. This is the proof of the scout. It is practical religion, and a boy honors God best when he helps others most. A boy may wear all the scout uniforms made, all the scout badges ever manufactured, know all the woodcraft, campcraft, scoutcraft and other activities of boy scouts, and yet never be a real boy scout. To be a real boy scout means the doing of a good turn every day with the proper motive and if this be done, the boy has a right to be classed with the great scouts that have been of such service to their country."

1. A scout is trustworthy.  A scout's honor is to be trusted. If he were to violate his honor by telling a lie, or by cheating, or by not doing exactly a given task, when trusted on his honor, he may be directed to hand over his scout badge.

2. A scout is loyal.  He is loyal to all to whom loyalty is due: his scout leader, his home, and parents and country.

3. A scout is helpful.  He must be prepared at any time to save life, help injured persons, and share the home duties. He must do at least one good turn to somebody every day.

4. A scout is friendly.  He is a friend to all and a brother to every other scout.

5. A scout is courteous.  He is polite to all, especially to women, children, old people, and the weak and helpless. He must not take pay for being helpful or courteous.

6. A scout is kind.  He is a friend to animals. He will not kill nor hurt any living creature needlessly, but will strive to save and protect all harmless life.

7. A scout is obedient.  He obeys his parents, scout master, patrol leader, and all other duly constituted authorities.

8. A scout is cheerful.  He smiles whenever he can. His obedience to orders is prompt and cheery. He never shirks nor grumbles at hardships.

9. A scout is thrifty.  He does not wantonly destroy property. He works faithfully, wastes nothing, and makes the best use of his opportunities. He saves his money so that he may pay his own way, be generous to those in need, and helpful to worthy objects.

He may work for pay but must not receive tips for courtesies or good turns.

10. A scout is brave.  He has the courage to face danger in spite of fear and has to stand up for the right against the coaxings of friends or the jeers or threats of enemies, and defeat does not down him.

11. A scout is clean.  He keeps clean in body and thought, stands for clean speech, clean sport, clean habits, and travels with a clean crowd.

12. A scout is reverent.  He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion.

What mom wouldn't want her son to embody these practical principles as he graduates into adulthood?  What prospective bride would not want her groom to "be prepared" to take responsibility for doing those tasks, chores that he must complete?  What dad wouldn't also benefit from the mutual accountability of teaching these things to his son and knowing that his son is watching him to see if he actually does these things on a daily basis at home?

If not scouting, how about Christian Service Brigade, or Royal Rangers, or Calvinist Cadet Corps? 

I've heard a lot of mis-information among Christians about these programs which is unfortunate since they can be very helpful in getting dads and sons together, outside, and away from the TV.

Please say a prayer for God's intervention in the current membership policy crisis.  Thank you!

josh p's picture

I was a scout as a boy but would be hesitant to put my son in it now. Thanks for the other group ideas though. I will have to check them out. I would be interested if there is something with a doctrinal statement.

PaulF's picture

Josh, thanks for the feedback.  When my son wanted to learn to play baseball, we signed him up and I attended about 95% of his practices and games -- mainly due to the fact that little league is secular in our town and there's no "Christian little league" circuit that I'm aware of (unless we count the ultimate frisbee league chartered to our Homeschool Assn.  (;->) ).

Stephen learned a lot from two years on the team -- he learned to scratch, spit, "cuss" and hear lots of vulgarity and profanity from coaches, parents, other players and their siblings.  After the second season, he'd had his fill (and so had I) and like Pinocchio after his visit to "Pleasure Island" we felt like a pair of donkeys for having spent so much time being pals with the world.

Thankfully we could enjoy God's grace in unlimited measure and we've (hopefully) grown in wisdom from the experience.

We had participated in AWANAs and Royal Rangers, but neither were enough of a leadership challenge for my sons at ages 11 and 14.  Boy scouting in a church-based troop where the church was "actively" involved (not just rented space in the basement) worked well for us.  

60% of the youth members were from Christian homeschool environments which didn't make them perfect, but we were, as families, like-minded and the fathers were highly engaged.  We made great use of the curriculum, the camp facilities and even summer camp programs.  My sons witnessed on the parade grounds during free time and made some acquaintances from other units.

In November 2010, we started our own troop closer to home (we had been commuting 40 minutes each way to participate in this faith-based program), and to bring scouting to a new group of Christian homeschoolers who couldn't commute that far on a regular basis.

As you'll recall from your own youth, when done right, scouting has much to offer in terms of practical leadership (the boys organize and run the meetings), learning proper self-reliance (getting boys to do things for themselves and break free of mom's apron strings is important, right?) and the effective emphasis on community service projects keeps the boys busy, too.

Scouting may not be the right choice for everyone (of course), but until this break on membership policies, we thought it could work well for us.  

We're in the process of investigating what it would take to convert to Christian Service Brigade (Battalion), but for the remainder of the year, we're still plugging away at Eagle service projects and merit badges (unit studies) and camping.

Josh, if I can be of assistance, please contact me.  I think that any outdoor program done with Dad, is a great investment in building manhood.

http://troop113.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/to-keep-myself-mentally-awake/

http://troop113.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/eagle-project-stephen-f/

josh p's picture

Thanks for the reply. I was looking into the battalion as well. We do quite a bit of camping and hiking (which were my favorite parts of scouting) but I think the holistic approach would be good for him. Leadership involves the ability to do something well (or at least make good decisions) and I think the more a young man can learn the better.  Plus I talked to him and he is excited about the idea which doesn't hurt.