Dads, I’m becoming more and more aware of the great challenges we face raising our children in a culture that is arguably tougher and more competitive than it was yesterday. Christian men especially need to step up and take a stand for masculine Godliness. Here are some ways churchmen can help:
- Include boys in ALL Men’s Ministry activities. Dads with sons should be alert to father-challenged boys, inviting them into their tribe of men.
- Include girls in ALL Women’s Ministry activities. This seems like an unlikely place to find a male role model but in reality, when single moms and their daughters meet other moms and daughters having a father in the family, a connection can be made in a positive way. Dads with daughters should be alert to father-challenged girls, inviting them into their court of princesses.
- Men, take the lead! Teach Sunday School for children or teens. Participate as a leader in your church’s Children or Youth Ministries (like AWANA or UPWARD Sports, both of which reach out to children and their families). Go to ballgames or plays or concerts where father-challenged children are competing or performing. Let them know you care and have an interest in the things they do. Men, I strongly recommend that you include your wife and children in your outreach to these kids and their moms. It makes for a great family ministry or mission.
I’ve raised a boy and a girl. That doesn’t make me an expert by any means. In fact, my adult children still need me, their father, and I’m still trying to figure it all out, especially now that my wife and I have been gifted with grandchildren. I recognize that there are many things my daughter and wife have in common – many things they talk about and do together that are naturally girls-only in nature.
My son and I also have a great relationship, and a masculine relationship at that. The things we do and things we talk about are not suited for girls. Obviously, these are things about which I have more “manly” knowledge. He’s a married young man now with a child of his own and the masculine gifts we share are even greater, both in action (think adventure, work ethic, and all things manly) and conversation (think spiritual growth, character, integrity, sexuality, and other masculine topics of discussion).
That said, dads, let me offer you five points to remember when communicating with your sons:
- End the crazy and wrong notion that sexual topics are embarrassing, humiliating, and taboo. God created us to be sexual, among other things, and we need to honor our Father’s great design in this by leading our boys to be both spiritually and sexually well-grounded.
- Talk to your son about everything: his physical growth, sexual development, work ethic, family responsibilities, character, integrity, adventures, and a million other things. Let your son know that no topic – nothing – is off limits. Talk to him often when he’s young boy and talk to him often when he’s a young man.
- Be real and approachable when you talk. Use masculine words but absolutely nothing vulgar. Your son is already talking with others, or he’s exploring on his own, or he is confused and just wants some answers or just wants to talk. He is already experimenting with words, actions, and even attitude. Don’t mask the subject. Don’t pretend like it’s not there. Don’t pretend like HE is not there.
- Invite your son into the conversation. If he’s shy, share with him your own experiences in learning about manhood (the good stuff like your first job, your first car, how you met his mother, your awareness of your own sexual or physical development, and other life lessons). Make him feel like a companion, not a subject. As for “embarrassing” topics, don’t wait for him to bring it up. You start the discussion. He might squirm at first (and maybe you will, too) but male bonding almost always causes barriers to break down, especially between father and son.
- Get your son involved in some good masculine reading, even if you have to read a book (or parts thereof) to your son. Yes, you can do this even when he’s older. See Books for a few suggestions.
Here are some resources that will equip you for raising a son:
WEBSITES: Be careful about finding things online! Not everything is suited for review, even by adult eyes. There are, however, a few safe-for-all-ages websites that will help you know about all-things-boys:
Boys Under Attack
The purpose of this site is to provide a Christian source of factual (not-so-clinical) information for teenage and preteen boys about their sexual development and other important life issues. Boys will appreciate the candid discussion from their point of view but moms will find it edgy, albeit realistic. Moms take note: If you are reluctant to talk to your son about sexual development and related issues, ask your family health care provider or a trusted man to talk to your son. All pictures are G-rated.
Believe it or not, many boys have no idea about circumcision. In fact, some boys think they were born that way and are easily misinformed about it by unreliable sources. It’s especially confusing when he reads Scripture that mentions circumcision and uncircumcision. This website presents a very mom-friendly (and even boy-friendly) discussion about the subject. You might want to ask your family health care provider or a trusted man to discuss this with your son, especially from a Biblical perspective, whether he is circumcised or uncircumcised. Whoever explains it to him should use the right terminology. There are no illustrations at this link.
For devotional reading on circumcision, see The Circumcision of Thomas.
Health & Hygiene
Boys get dirty from head to toe! They need to understand the importance of male hygiene, not just head and toe but all points in between. Moms, teach your son a cleanliness routine (washing, with soap, behind his ears, under his arms, all of his butt, and between his legs). If your son is uncircumcised, he should learn foreskin care (there are no illustrations at this link). If he is circumcised, he needs to learn to wash where any loose skin gathers behind his glans. Again, you might want to ask your family health care provider or a trusted man to discuss this with your son.
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer for males between 15 and 35. It’s okay for moms to encourage their sons to tell you if he hurts or feels something different in his testicles (if he does, seek medical attention as soon as you can). Your family health care provider can help him know how to regularly, perhaps monthly, examine himself (illustration is a safe, detailed line drawing). Your family health care provider can help both of you to know how to do this. The Mayo Clinic suggests this self-examination method (illustration is a medical art drawing).
BOOKS: Be careful about what you read! There are numerous books about boys growing, developing, and maturity. Most secular sources are not aligned with a Biblical worldview. And while there are many good Bible-centric resources, a few deserve special mention:
Bringing Up Boys, by James Dobson
Dr. Dobson explains why boys are the way they are, how to understand their emotional and physical development, and the best way to motivate them to become Godly men. A Focus on the Family resource which rises to the top as the standard manual for raising sons.
Disciplines of a Godly Young Man, by Kent Hughes and Carey Hughes
This book is a punchy, no-holds-barred book for young men that lays out the call and command to be disciplined, Godly, and sold-out for Jesus. Addressing topics such as purity in one’s thought-life, peer pressure, and perseverance as a Christian, this specially adapted work stands to influence a struggling generation. The father-son authors teach how to live a life of Christian discipline, instilling the desire to do so into a young heart longing to live a life of integrity, meaning, and fulfillment. It’s a very engaging book for younger audiences.
Raising Men Not Boys, by Mike Fabarez
In an age of extended adolescence and blurred gender roles, how do you raise a Godly man and not a full-grown boy? You keep the end in sight. Pastor Mike Fabarez provides Biblical principles and practical advice for raising sons who love the Lord, increase in wisdom, and bless the world. Counseling parents to approach each day with the son in light of his future, the author will help you set your son’s spiritual trajectory, make the home a place of discipleship, teach your sons to respect women, discipline with love and intentionality, navigate dating, technology, work, the teenage years, and more.
The Ultimate Guys’ Body Book, by Dr. Walt Larimore
Growing up is confusing for many boys, especially when they have questions that they’re afraid, or too embarrassed, to ask. This book is a helpful guide for boys who are beginning to grow and change and have questions that they want to know but would rather not ask. Includes subjects like facial hair, sleep, acne, and more.
What He Must Be …if he wants to marry my daughter, by Voddie Baugham, Jr.
A theological explanation, as well as a collection of practical advice, the book is organized around the five “musts” of what any Christian man should be before getting married. It’s a great manual for training sons to become men worthy of marrying. The author spends time addressing the importance of marriage for Christians; the need for fathers to become patriarchs willing to be sensitive to – and protective of – their daughters; the dangers of feminism; the importance of valuing children as a blessing; and a number of other elements crucial to a successful courtship and marriage.
Wild Things – the art of nurturing boys, by Stephen James and David Thomas
After reading the book, you’ll have a rich understanding of the role development plays in the life of a boy from birth through college. All stages and phases of development are covered: emotional, physical, biological, and spiritual. The book contains helpful sidebars addressing specific topics to discuss with your son, such as sex, drugs, homosexuality, pornography, and masturbation (these and other subjects might be a little awkward for moms so ask a trusted man or your family doctor for help). Each chapter ends with a section called “Putting It into Practice” that gives practical directions on how to successfully interact with boys at each respective level of development. One of the best book I know of for raising or mentoring boys.