Recently I wrote a popular post about Raising Girls.
In the midst of writing it, I left my computer to raise boys.
Not because they needed laundry washed, but because I needed to address important, uncomfortable things.
When I gave birth to my third son, a huge sense of responsibility to raise a men of integrity rested on my shoulders. Growing up in a family of all girls, I felt ill-equipped in understanding the foreign species of BOY.
When my sons were fairly young, I began teaching high school students.
Still pretty new in the boy-raising-department, teaching Life Skills classes to Senior boys resulted in one of the best educations I received in raising men of integrity.
The male students’ transparency, honesty, trust and respect provided valuable insight about understanding boys beyond John Deere tractors and basketball.
Those conversations were influential and powerful moments.
As a teacher and counselor, I’ve caught rare glimpses of the male heart.
Fragile hearts trying to be strong, strengthened by honor but destroyed by a word.
Recently I observed a young man fiercely trying to hold everything together, though his heart was broken.
In his silence, tears pouring from his eyes spoke volumes.
In the hearts of all men, lies greatness. The challenge of raising men of integrity comes in developing hearts to be strong yet sensitive, honorable yet real, compassionate and honest.
This is a challenge.
I’m convinced good men can change society.
Parenting teen boys of ages 19,15, and 13, I asked them “What has been helpful in teaching you to become a young man?”
Their responses encouraged me that certain moments are important.
So here’s a non-exhaustive-mom-in-the-trenches plan for raising men of integrity:
- Teach boys to respect others. A personal mission of mine is to teach young men under my influence to have respect for women. One of our sons was thankful we’ve taught him to respect people of every “group.” When a man respects others, no matter their age, gender, status or religion, people notice and are influenced.
- Be consistent, fair, and firm in discipline. The first comment from another son was being thankful that we exercise discipline. “You don’t let things slide,” he said. Discipline is always painful in the moment, even for parents. It’s easy to let small things slide as boys turn to teens because “boys will be boys,” but this isn’t the healthiest.
- Be open, honest, and realistic about challenges in living a life of integrity. Two of my sons expressed gratitude for being open with them about things that could easily be ignored, meaning we talk about things that are uncomfortable. Things like sex, sexual images, sexual music, sexual temptation, consequences of sex, relationships, and the realities of living in a highly sexualized culture. Talking about your family’s morals, sexuality, purity and game plans for addressing these areas is important.
- Prepare them to be honorable leaders, even in small things. Respecting their parental leadership, making them accountable for responsibilities and actions, and providing leadership within the family unit is training ground for family, community, and workplace leadership for any young man. Every sphere of influence needs authentic male leadership, even where women are leaders beside them. Within our home, I’ve seen brothers be leaders to their siblings without prompting, which has blessed me immensely. Nations needs men who will step up just for the sake of stepping up when good leadership is needed.
- Affirm individual strengths, providing young men opportunities to excel at things in humble confidence. Every boy wants to have the winning slam dunk, be the superhero saving the world, or the race car driver speeding across the finish line first. But not all boys are basketball players, superheros, or race car drivers. Finding what each young man can excel at is important. One of my sons has interests different from the others. I never saw more relief in a 7-year-old when I told him he didn’t have to play basketball. A weight lifted off his small shoulders and which allowed him freedom to find the things he is good at. It was a defining moment for mom, dad, siblings, and for him.
I’m still learning about parenting teen boys to raise them to become men of integrity.
I’d love to hear more thoughts from other people parenting teen boys – would you share your insight, wisdom, and lessons, too?
My sons will wrestle with life just as other men have before them.
My hope for each of us parenting young men is that we will not give up when the seasons get tough.
May each of us strength and wisdom in the present, because so many futures depend on it.
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