Monday, March 14, 2011

Turning Boys into Men

The longer I am the mother of sons, the more convinced I am, that as a society, we are failing at turning our boys into men.  Our young men are entering the adult world more concerned with having the newest cell phone or gnarliest tattoo rather than bothering themselves with standing up for what they believe is right or providing for their family.  They are selfish, self-centered, unused to working and truly believe that the world revolves around them.  They are disrespectful, hate authority, and think the world owes them a living.  And as parents, we share in the burden of blame.

For years, I have pondered the state of our young men, and wondered at the remedy.  I have come to the conclusion that the answer doesn't lie in providing boys with more stuff, filling them with self-esteem or pandering to their over-inflated sense of self.  It lies in skipping adolescent angst and progressing systematically from boyhood to manhood.

When Master Hand Grenade was 12, I noticed a change in his countenance.  He gradually changed from a little boy, looking to his mother for guidance and affirmation to a young man, choosing to spend his time watching and learning the ways of men.  The way that he responded to me changed.  No longer did he appreciate me organizing and dictating every hour of his day.  He wanted autonomy.  He wanted to have input in the goings on of daily life.  As a mother, I rebelled.  Who was he to tell me how he wanted some things to be done?  He was the child - I was the mother!  And then I realized that my role as a mother was changing.  Yes, I was his mother, but I was also a woman, and in reality, men don't like to be ordered about by women, even their mother.

This new development put me in quite a quandary.  Now I needed to figure out how to balance being a mother, in charge of teaching school and mandating chores and being a woman, allowing my son to take his rightful place as a man, practicing to be the head of a household.

Truthfully, after years of thinking on these things, I still don't have the answers.  I do, however, have some theories.  I have come to the conclusion that young men, when they reach the age of 12, should be out from under their mothers roof.  Now before everyone starts yelling, let me explain.  By out of the house, I don't think that 12 year olds should move out and make their own way in the world - heaven forbid!  I do, however, think they need to be out of the house, working alongside of men, learning discipline, work ethic and responsibility from an older man.

In my perfect world, Master Hand Grenade would be home until noon each day.  He would finish his schooling, chores and whatever other home responsibilities he had and then he would spend the rest of the day, until dinner, working on becoming a man.  He would dig ditches, build houses, put up hay and chop wood.  He would learn to be on time, to work hard, to be tough.  He would learn to work when he wanted to be anywhere else and put in a full day when his muscles were aching and tired.  He would learn the value of physical labor and a dollar earned.  He would learn true self-respect, not the prolific lie of self-esteem.  He would skip being a "teenager" and go strait to manhood.  He would be a man worthy of marrying your daughter and being the father of your grandchildren.  He would be a man of God.

The reality of my perfect world is anything but perfect.  Our society doesn't value the same things that I value.  Our society worships youth, not the respectability of manhood.  We applaud the folly of a child rather than venerating the character of the truly humble, self-controlled man.  We are teaching our boys to be boys and wondering why they are not men.

The truth of the matter is that Master Hand Grenade is still under my roof, instead of learning beside his father or another Godly man.  Our government has deemed him too young to have a job.  The craftsman taking an apprentice is from a bygone era.  And so we pray.  We pray that we will have the wisdom to raise Master Hand Grenade and Master Calvin to have a great desire to be a men rather than boys.  I pray that I am able to balance being a mother and a woman encouraging her men to be leaders.

I believe we need to rethink the way we turn boys into men.  Our families, our country our very society depends on it.


  1. Beautiful!
    Sorry for posting links, but I have found perfect writings about this topic (and others) at one website. Don't be scared by the website design and maybe by the website's main topic, which is Kriya Yoga. From my point of view, they see God, as any Christian would see Him too, as Love.
    Anyway, here are two interesting blog posts:

  2. My wife and I recently went through this with a son from a previous marriage. Although somewhat complicated (mother identifies herself as religious yet changes congregations annually, deeply concerned about "self-esteem", fiscally irresponsible, constantly seeking handouts, and unwilling to take steps to improve her situation, versus not religious, but deep believers in the value of working for your keep, honesty, and education as means of advancing individual autonomy), we noted many of the same things as concerns. To be blunt, we lost. And now that young man has over 2000 "friends" on Facebook, but is working as a part-time stockboy while living with his mother and spending what little money he has on "hanging out" with his local friends at the bars. Of the three adults involved in this, only one considers this to be a good outcome.

  3. Well said Enola. As important now as it has ever been.
    Thanks for all you do


  4. Found your site through Faithful Mama's. I love it and I couldn't agree more with the wisdom you posted here. I pray my husband will someday have his dreams fulfilled of a homestead and our boy working along side him. Blessings and keep speaking the truth Sister!

  5. Excellent post. My young man is turning 14 next month and I, too, have pondered how to handle what seems to be disrepect. I know he needs to be "a man". His father has talked to him and our son is trying to find a balance, but I don't have an answer. I try to ask his opinion more often now and ask for his help doing guy type things. He put a new latch on the barn for me yesterday. His dad took him out and taught him how to use a cutting torch. He is raising his own beef cattle and creating some of his own income now. He has a four wheeler that he bought with his cattle money and it is in need of a lot of repair. This will be his new learning project.
    I totally agree with you about what's happening to our sons. I want my son to be a Godly man that knows how to care for his family. Thank you for this post.

  6. I totally agree. Part of my raising a son has backfired on me...he was out and working at 12, 13, and 14 ~ a friend of ours had a business and "hired" him to work. He has always been a hard, diligent worker ~ able to save money, pay his bills, responsible for himself. Now at 22, he is floundering and can't seem to find his way. We pray daily for our sons and know that some of them love the world too much. Giving them too much freedom too soon is not necessarily a good thing, but we didn't know any better at the time.

  7. You are soo right! But not only, is this country not turning out men, its not turning out women either. How many young women do not know how to cook a basic meal -- let alone can a harvest of vegetables or meat? How many do not know how to sew on a button -- let alone thread a machine. Oh don't get me started!

  8. Excellent! We have 1 son who is now almost 18. At 13 my husband has a special ceremony of manhood with several men from our church. As he went through the teenage years we became more frustrated with the lack of manly outlets and tried so hard to not feminize our son. At 16 he went to a local builder and asked for a job. The man saw something in our son and didn't hire him as a builder, but doing the hard farm work. He nailed miles of fence, mowed and weedeated, and worked so hard that he would come home at 5pm and go to bed. Now my son has worked into the building section and has earned the respect of those he works with. He now works full time and is finishing up his last few classes at night.

    We need to raise our sons to be men, not males who care more about fashion, hair and skinny jeans!

  9. Enola,
    You once mentioned that you would love to have your son have the companionship and mentoring of your own father, if it could not be possible to have Master Hand Grenade with your husband to finish his "MENtoring" into Godly manhood.
    Have you considered doing something just like that?
    Are there any trusted Men in your congregation that would foster him and teach him an apprenticeship of some skilled trade that he has an interest in? A traveling Farrier, or a Veterinarian, or even a local farmer that needs help and would consider teaching him in exchange for some assistance.

    Rest assured that prayer will lead you to new possibilities and the best answer for what is best for Master Hand Grenade.

    God Bless...I will begin praying for God's intervention in presenting an answer.


  10. Dear Enola Gay,

    You can now proudly take your place with Mary, the mother of Jesus! Didn't He also change at the age of twelve and get on with the work He was meant to do? Your young men couldn't be following in better footsteps!!! And kudos to you for stopping and taking a second look at everything going on and setting aside your immediate worries for something bigger.
    God Bless,
    Janet in MA

  11. For those who are not already familiar with this book, one of my favorite titles on encouraging a right attitude about work (and so many other things as well!) is Bob Schultz' Created For Work:

    and the follow-up is Boyhood and Beyond:


  12. Rites of Passage are vital, IMHO, and should be re-instituted in Western civilization. Idle hands and brains are the problem, and work is the solution.

    NoCal Gal

  13. He would dig ditches, build houses, put up hay and chop wood.  He would learn to be on time, to work hard, to be tough.  He would learn to work when he wanted to be anywhere else and put in a full day when his muscles were aching and tired.  He would learn the value of physical labor and a dollar earned.  He would learn true self-respect, not the prolific lie of self-esteem.  He would skip being a "teenager" and go strait to manhood.  He would be a man worthy of marrying your daughter and being the father of your grandchildren.  He would be a man of God.
    I agree, but there is one thing that just rubs me wrong. I firmly believe that our culture in general has done an extremely poor job of calling boys to manhood, and it is affecting all levels of society. It is especially affecting the church. What I don't understand, however, is this shallow definition of "Godly manhood" presented in this post and by others: "dig ditches, build houses, put up hay and chop wood.  He would learn to be on time, to work hard, to be tough.  He would learn to work when he wanted to be anywhere else and put in a full day when his muscles were aching and tired.  He would learn the value of physical labor and a dollar earned.  He would learn true self-respect, not the prolific lie of self-esteem.  He would skip being a "teenager" and go strait to manhood.  He would be a man worthy of marrying your daughter and being the father of your grandchildren.  He would be a man of God."
    The bigger problem I see is that men in general have not given themselves completely over to the Lord and the rest of their life has become a shadow of what men have been called to. A man is "man of God" not because he does physical labor, but because he spiritually labors for Christ. When a male gives his life to Christ, he is able to lay down his concern for self and work hard giving himself to Christ and to others.

  14. I agree. I am just now coming into this time of life, my son having just turned 13. It is a tricky time for both me and my husband. He is our only son so we do not have any prior experience to draw from. I try to keep him busy with the outdoor chores and helping with the animals. My husband wants to make a concerted effort to spend more time with him and teach him things he should know. Somewhere there is a balance - I do hope we find it.

  15. My husband was raised with a strong work ethic. In fact, he started working outside the home while in 8th grade and continued working for the same rancher until after we were married when he was 22. During that time, he planted and maintained over 100 rosebushes, landscaped and maintained the resulting yards, irrigated pastures, mark & brand cattle, fix fence, straightened previously used nails, and basically be on call for whatever this rancher needed. During his high school summers, he also worked in construction and for his R.O.P. work experience class, he worked at a car lot detailing cars and doing oil changes. The owner also had a ranch and grew rodeo stock, so my husband also worked around the PRCA rodeo in our hometown. In his spare time as a teenager, he hunted, fished and camped with his family and was a volunteer firefighter/emt. My husband didn't have any spiritual training at all, but since giving his life to the Lord, that part is no longer missing. Now our son is trying so hard to follow his dad's footsteps. When our son was 10 we lived on a church member's ranch and the owner allowed our son to help him. It was his first experience on a ranch and our son was up at daylight and home at dark during the summer. We have since moved from that town, but our son counts that as his best time. Now we live in a small farming community and he has just been hired for the summer. Our daughter mentioned the other day that she felt like a failure because she is a senior in high school and she doesn't have a job during school. I reassured her that she isn't a failure, we live in an area that is almost impossible to have a job. One cafe staffed exclusively by the owner, and the post office, (must be 18) and one gas station, (must be 18), does not leave any open jobs. Also, my kids attend school at the nearest school, more than 45 miles away, over a 5k mountain pass, lots of snow during the winter.
    But I am glad the kids feel the desire and need to work. Our son is going through the transition from little boy to young man and sometimes it is hard on mom. Dad is very helpful in reminding me that he is not a baby and everything will be fine.
    Now to find a man like dad for our daughter...

  16. Great post. I am new to this blog. Can't wait to read more. I have a son coming of this age. He lives with his mother who takes what she can, abuses any government system and sets no exsample.
    My new wife and I take him to chruch, set rules (no video games) and are always outside doing something. Fishing, hunting, snow shoeing, skiing, camping or teaching him life skills or hiking with our 2 dogs a Catalhou Hound and St Bernard.
    I am the "out dated" man from the past. "Kids" don't need those skills anymore, as I was told by the X.
    Great blog, and I hope to enjoy more great reads in the future.
    John in Maine

  17. Enola, what would you say about raising girls to be women? Could you post (perhaps again) about it - what do you expect of your girls at 5, 10, 15?

  18. I love your posts about boys and men. I have 2 boys of my own who are still under the age of 10. But BOY do they grow up fast! We live in the suburbs of a large state capital, so we find it hard to get out and DO hard work. I want more than anything to raise men who love and fear the Lord, have a strong work ethic and turn into REAL men. Keep up the posts about how you've accomplished (or are striving to accomplish) turning your boys into men. I would be especially interested in what tasks you give your youngest boy.
    Andrea S

  19. i think that parents can be the absolute best and still a boy can be a real challenge at a certain age. it is like they want to test the waters i guess. but like the bible says, raise them up a certain good way and they may get lost for a little while, but generally will return to their teachings...

  20. My husband and I have raised three and a half children, as the youngest is but 15 and not quite "done." We were blessed with three boys and a girl, and in three weeks I will become a "grandma."

    The problem being discussed is hardly limited to just boys - in fact what we see as somewhat pathologically symptomatic in them is behavior taught to them by society. The society at large has become "feminized", sadly including the "Church" as well, ergo women and girls are both seen and portrayed as having "higher value" than their male counterparts. During this process, the female sex has begun to both act and dress as the harlot, and her daily behavior is that reflective of Jezebel.

    Our schools systems have been infested with this Babylonian dogma, and our forms of so-called "entertainment" (mind-programming that extolls the enjoyment of sin)implant this concept all day and every day. When was the last time any of us saw a television program, a movie, or a commercial showing a male of any age in a positive light? And what do you think slogans like "Grrrl Power" do to the mind, both individually and collectively?

    Society has spent the last forty years telling men that they are of little or no worth. Hiring quotas, contracting "Set Asides", the education system (even worse in the universities), "mans law" (actually rebellious woman's law)rather than God's at every level, and the offshoring of manufacturing combined with the collapse of construction work has left our men and boys with nothing. A service economy that generates nothing but paper is one designed for females, so rightly, our men and boys see no future.

    And for fathers, those who make good sons? At least in my observation, society has neutered them in every possible way. There exists a little saying, "If mommy isn't happy then nobody is happy. The collective "we" have inverted the social hierarchy that God gave us, that being that the man is the head of the household. As God's people, we cannot belittle and devalue our men and expect them to "lead", particularly if the wife intends to usurp the role of the husband. Given the nature of "man's law", the husband is virtually forced to capitulate to the whims and will of his wife, including the surrender of his rightful place as head of the household to a rebellious woman.

    Eighteen years ago I quit being rebellious and submitted to God and my husband. Since then we built a new home, created an alternative energy system that makes our life almost the same as being on the "grid", built barns and sheds, our shop, created a huge garden, and grew children into adults who are humble before the Lord.

    Our once little boys have grown into fine men, skilled with hand and cultivated in mind - the eldest now a college graduate and the others close behind. Our daughter was raised to not grow into womanhood with the "double-mindedness" that afflicted me, as she was raised to be Proverbs 31 almost her entire life. She graduated from college last year and also married a "Man's man", imbued with Christian values and a fine work ethic.

    If we war with our men we are at war with God as well, and all we need to understand is that if as a people we do not cease, the curses of Deuteronomy 28-31 shall be upon us (if they are not already). If we wish for good sons then we must be supportive of our husbands, for at whose knee is the lad to be taught? It is at his fathers...

    In Christ...

  21. This is an amazing post from an incredible website. I got here from Joe Nobody's blog and am so glad I found this site! I am a 23 year-old single man pursuing a career in professional Christian counseling. I love your emphasis in this post on sons learning beside their fathers. For the most part, I did not have this kind of upbringing and I feel woefully inadequate in many practical skills (other than firearms instruction-my father is a police officer and so we grew up around guns-I don't even remember how young I was the first time I shot one). However, I read many of your posts on personal responsibility and am realizing that having a largely uninvolved father is no excuse for me to not learn these skills on my own or from mentors. Thanks for this post, it's excellent.

    I am just beginning to embrace the prepper mindset, what with current events being what they are. I know I will be revisiting this site in the future. Thanks for your hard work and example!

    God Bless!

  22. I have been married to my husband for 42 years. I raised wonderful children but my husband produced adults. Few realize that women can raise good children but they are still childish no matter their age without the influence of a good Godly man. Girls marry well if a good man is in their lives and have consistent love and care from both parents or influences. My own dad was not a good influence or example but my Grandfather, a man a God, so influenced my life and my choice of my husband. Our children are now grown and great adults who love God with all their hearts because of their dad. I did well in raising children but without my husband they would have not be the adults they are who are men of God.