Our sons need our prayer.
Boys are truly devalued and misunderstood in our culture.
All that energy can be seen as unruly, their competitiveness as aggressive, their tenacity as egotism, their resilience as lack of caring, and their curiosity as disrespect for authority.
But God has created boys according to His wonderful design. As the parent of two sons, my sacred duty is to help them grow up to manhood in ways that honor that divine design.
Dr. Gregory L. Jantz gives us 9 ways to raise our son(s) according to God’s design:
Recognize that male and female differences complement each other. Boys aren’t meant to act like girls. God has designed the genders to complement and mutually benefit each other. Give your son the freedom he needs to be himself – the way God made him to be.
Examine your gender biases and ask God to help you change them. Check the stereotypes you may have about boys and how you may be biased against them. Do you assume that boys will be disruptive, messy, inattentive, insensitive, disrespectful, unable to follow directions, tough, or unfeeling? If certain boys don’t act in those ways, do you think that they’re weak since they don’t fit your image of macho behavior? Ask God to show you which attitudes you currently have about boys that are inaccurate, and then pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind and give you the right perspective on boys.
Lead your son to an active faith. Pray often for your son(s) to enjoy a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that, for faith to be relevant to males, it should be part of a wholehearted heroic adventure for Jesus in which they ally their own wills to God’s will. Join a doctrinally-sound church in which your family can actively participate as he grows, and aim to be the best role model you can be for him through your own relationship with Jesus.
Encourage your son to develop the character of a hero. Boys and men love heroes, since God has placed the desire for greatness within every male. You can teach key character traits that heroes develop: honor (adhering to truth, values, and principles beyond self), enterprise (working at important things, whether they seem or large), responsibility (carrying important people and things throughout life), and originality (being a thinker and discoverer of the world). Another trait of a hero is self-discipline, which will help your son build personal strength as he disciplines himself to work toward his goals.
Help your son process his emotions in ways that fit his male design. Observe your son’s emotional strengths and weaknesses for at least a week, noting the feelings he expresses about interactions he has and the circumstances he goes through. Consider how you can help him process his emotions in ways that can work best for males, such as:
- releasing stress through physical movement like exercise or using a story to help express the emotions he feels
- processing in a quiet place so he can think more clearly about his emotions
- searching for a solution to the problem that has challenged his emotions
Be sure to give your son the freedom he needs to cry, as well; crying is a sign of strength, not weakness, because it signals healthy emotional processing.
Teach your son how to develop a healthy sexuality. Talk with your son early (appropriately) and openly about sex, answering all of his questions honestly and always presenting information from the perspective that his sexuality is a good part of the way God has made him (rather than something dirty that should make him feel ashamed). Explain the many benefits of saving sex until marriage so your son will understand why it’s important to wait. EXplore the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of ignoring God’s design for sex. Encourage your son to use physical exercise as a way of releasing pent-up sexual energy, but try your best to keep him away from pornography, since porn can be very dangerous for him.
Help your son do his best in school. If you homeschool your son, make sure that his active mind is engaged and challenged. If he attends school elsewhere, serve as your son’s advocate with his teachers and school administrators to help him be engaged and challenged, and give him the support and encouragement he needs to do his homework well.
Encourage your son to use technology for good purposes. While you should encourage your son to use technology in ways that help him pursue his interests, learn new skills, and put his God-given talents into action, you should limit your son’s daily screen time (in front of screens such as computers, television, and video games) since too much screen time will stunt his development.
Help your son measure his progress toward manhood. Talk with your son about what it means to become a man and what steps he can aim to take along the way to manhood. Celebrate rites of passage. At the right time, incorporate him into the men’s events through your church or a special outing with him. Recognize when he is manly in the biblical way.
Whether we do all these things perfectly or imperfectly, calling on the Lord for wisdom and insight is the most powerful way to help them grow to be the man God designed them to be.
And so with each passing year, my prayer to the Lord is still the same: ‘Create in my son a clean heart, O, Lord, and may he follow you all the days of his life.‘
Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D, is a nationally certified psychologist with a doctorate in counseling psychology. The author of more than 20 books, he regularly counsels parents and children of all ages to develop communication strategies, strengthen family bonds, and raise healthy kids.