Yep, I have 5 sons. It’s not as perfect as you probably imagine. In fact, sometimes I wonder how I still have any intact electronic equipment. Between the super hero battles, experiments, and curiosity disassemblings, I’m happy to be able to even watch a movie.
My boys are between the ages of eight and 24 which is a big range that’s allowed me to learn by experiment. That means my younger boys, in theory, are more likely turn out OK.
Raising boys is a challenge in ways you don’t expect. You kind of imagine them making messes with mud and taking apart your DVD player. But you don’t think about how they will struggle with hard work or being hurt by their peers. You plan to teach your baby boy about God and Noah’s ark and how to read, but don’t always plan on how to raise him to be a strong leader.
It takes grit… to raise a leader. You have to let him be hurt, face struggles, make mistakes and fall flat on his face. Then you must be there with support and wisdom. You have to find ways to train his heart to care, really care, about the people around him. Those of us who’ve been there can agree — it’s rough.
Our oldest son is now making his way in the world and figuring out his life. He graduated from law school and is building a business. He is a leader in his church and community group. But he wasn’t always this picture of strength. At age six he cried for an hour because we told him to pick up sticks in our yard. When he was eight he wouldn’t even try to do his math, but instead stared out the window wishing he could be anywhere else. He went through a phase of lying that we thought would never stop and his big dream was to build a Lego pirate ship someday. How on earth was this kid ever going to become a strong leader?!
The solution to the problem of how to raise leaders out of boys who don’t necessarily cooperate lies in perseverance, patience, and consequences for decisions. We gave him love, grace, and strict boundaries. And in my humble opinion, he turned out pretty great. He picks up sticks anytime we ask him now and passed college math with no problem. And the lying stopped in his early teens… we just hung in there and kept believing in his potential.
Our other four boys are all in various stages of youth and each has his own challenges. We are equally confident that they will become men of strength and leadership.
Here are nine things we do to help them get on a path to becoming godly leaders…
- Protect their thoughts. Stay away from too much entertainment. TV, video games, movies are fun for a small amount of time, but should be extremely limited. The Bible is clear to think on what is honorable and noble and true. Mindless entertainment takes our focus away from those things.
- Feed the Scripture. Memorize verses together, know them yourself so you are always ready with God’s Word when a problem arises. Recently one of my sons faced a difficult situation with some other boys who were being rude to him. When he talked to me about it I gave him my sympathy, but asked, “What does the bible have to say about this?” and we found the answers together.
- Make him work. Teach your son the value of working hard. Give him jobs that are a bit harder than you think he can handle. The Bible says that work is good for us. Just one example of that is Proverbs 12:24, “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.”
- Don’t push him to talk. Some of my boys like to chat and some don’t. I find that my mom-need is to ask all about them and expect them to open up to me. But that is not always what they need. Sometimes just sitting quietly together is what they need. Let them be little men, Mom. Pay attention to their need and don’t try to push your desire onto them.
- Give him responsibility. When our oldest was about 10 we noticed he wasn’t taking his small responsibilities seriously, so we got him some bigger ones. We bought some farm animals and gave him the job of taking care of them. He needed an important job… one where a life was at stake. He didn’t always do the best he could, but it was great way for him to learn to be in charge of something important.
- Let him lead. Anytime I get the chance I let my boys lead me. If we are at the store, I have them push the cart and lead the way around. In the car I ask them to direct me home. If we are working on a project, I will ask their opinions. Do I need them to lead me? Not usually. But I have seen them grow in leaps and bounds when Mom needs their leadership. You have an opportunity with your boys to show them how to lead someone they respect.
- Encourage him to serve others. A great leader is really a great servant. He sees himself as someone who serves others through wisdom and direction and working harder than everyone else. I always encourage my boys to help the neighbors, carry groceries for elderly, pick up things that someone drops, jump to help in any situation. A man needs to think of others before himself. Even the younger boys can serve their siblings and their parents by clearing the table or helping with a chore. The less he wants to do it, the more you need to point out opportunities.
- Read, read, then read some more. Books are the gateway to having intelligent conversations, understanding other people, knowing how to lead, and being strong. Of course, The Book is the best source! But there are many other books that your boys can grow from. Our most recent read is Young and Beardless: the Search for God, Purpose and a Meaningful Life by John Luke Robertson. It sparked great conversation and my little men enjoyed the fun aspect of it.
- Trust him. A young man needs to feel trusted. Even though he messes up and doesn’t always do the right thing, he needs to know that at the core you trust him. Maybe you don’t trust him to drive your car if he has shown that he isn’t trustworthy in that area, but you can still give him some small measure of trust. He may not deserve it, but if he feels like gaining your trust is hopeless he will stop trying. If trust has been a problem for you, then talk with him and ask him where he thinks you can trust him then give him room to prove it.
This is not an easy job my friend and we’ve got to support each other! I’ll keep sending you what I have learned from my experiences if you will let me borrow your DVD player occasionally. Deal?!
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