If you would have told my younger self that raising two sons would be in my future, I would have laughed it off. You see, I knew I was predestined to raise a daughter. After all, my mom and I had a very close relationship growing up, and while I was a tomboy at heart, I grew to love all the girly things, too. I needed someone with whom to share that. Someone’s hair to braid, makeup to put on, go shopping with. So, you can imagine how stunned I was to find out that our second child was to be another son. While I was most certainly convinced the child was to be a girl, I was reminded that day that His plans are perfect, and so His plan for me was to be a boy mom. And it did not take long to embrace the prospect of raising not one but now two boys.
I was up for the challenge. Why?
Because God chose my husband and me to raise two boys into young men in a world that so desperate needs Godly men. And I consider it an honor that He chose us for this task. An honor that I sometimes take for granted but often times reminded of its importance. It does not take a parent to know that raising children in today’s world is arguably one of THE most difficult times. And raising ‘boys’ into being ‘young men’ is arguably one of the most difficult things to do in any time. In his book, “Five Marks of a Man,” Brian Tome (who also happens to be our Pastor) points out that what differentiates a man from a boy is his character and the way he lives his life. He shares this comparison between a ‘boy’ and a ‘man’:
- lives day to day
- wants to be MVP
- wants the reassurance of a crowd
- is a predator
- has a vision for his life
- is a team player
- has the courage to take a minority position
- is a protector
He calls these the “five marks of a man,” and points out, “A boy does not automatically become a man at age eighteen.”
So how do we as parents ensure we are raising men and not boys?
First, as I write this, I want to point out that we are far from perfect parents raising far from perfect young men. On our quest to raise young ‘men,’ our road has had more than its fair share of bumps so far. That brings me to my first point:
We can plant the seeds, but there is a relationship between them and God that they each must own. As Tome points out in his book, “Boys passively watch others’ spirituality. Men proactively lead others to true spirituality.” The onus is on them to think and act upon the things they know to be right, just, and true, and then share that with others. (Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8)
Positive reinforcement and encouragement are incredibly important. As many boy moms can attest, in one day we can find our sons making a great decision and experiencing an incredible lapse in judgment. It often makes no sense. These contradictions occur because their brains do not fully mature until they are in their mid- to late-20s, when the frontal lobe—the one that controls decision-making and risk-taking—develops. So, when good decisions are made, catching them in the act is key. They are fueled by encouragement. (I think of each encouragement nugget as making deposits into that frontal lobe gap!) Not to mention, we are modeling something God has made very clear that we should do. (Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Love on them. They need to know how to love and be loved. Love means disciplining when they need to be corrected. It means giving them grace when they fall. It means looking to the very model we have of love who is love and that is Jesus. The Bible very clearly spells out how we are to love God and love others. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:12, Therefore, everything you would like others to do for you, you do for them, for this is the law and the prophets. And in “Five Marks of a Man,” Tome spells out that “Boys tear each other down. Men build each other up.”
Model servant leadership. Chivalry is NOT dead. Putting others ahead of ourselves was modeled by Jesus himself! He would do this with men and women alike:
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17)
Modeling servant leadership in the home is so important in giving our children a frame of reference for how they are to treat others and be treated. And it should be their default – something they do not have to think about as they get older. In his book, Tome points out, “Boys act to serve themselves. Men work to serve others.”
Most importantly, keep Jesus at the center. Do this and all other things will follow. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus’ command is EVERYTHING. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. This is my husband’s life verse. His go-to when he needs a reminder of Jesus’ presence in his life. It’s a verse we should instill often into our sons.
For years, I have said God gave us only sons for a reason. Likely for lots of reasons. I am confident the #1 reason is to steward them into young, Godly men. I am confident it’s the most important job we will have here on this earth, thanks be to God.
Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing us with two sons. They are two of our most precious gifts from You. Please help us to raise them to be Godly men who chase after You and whose future families chase after You. Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus to be our example in our time here on this earth. I pray this according to the character and love of Jesus Christ. Amen.