My wife and I have two sons. We made the decision early on to raise men, not boys. That can be difficult in a society that panders to children. I am continually amazed at the decisions and the adjustments parents make based on the whims of their child. There was a day, in our society fifty years ago, when a child wasn’t to speak until spoken to. That, in my opinion, swung too far to one end of the spectrum. Today, most children can interrupt any conversation, at any time. That, in my opinion, swings too far in the other direction.
Raising men means that we accept where our children are in their development but parent them towards who they will become. We treat them one developmental stage ahead of where they are. That can be hard, especially for a mother, to train a child to be independent, instead of enjoying their dependence upon her.
My wife insisted our sons clean their own room at a very young age. The boys started cutting the grass when they were six. Both did their own laundry by middle school. We taught them how to treat women, by opening doors and treating them with respect. They could feed themselves for as long as I can remember.
Besides giving them responsibility, we let our kids make some adult decisions for their own life (not for our family, see the first paragraph). This allowed us to use their real life successes and failures as coaching opportunities while they were still in our house. This limited the negative impact when they made a poor decision and allowed us to truly dissect the learning opportunity when their decision was a good one.
Now let me clearly say that my wife and I are not perfect parents. Rarely do I give parenting advice because I made a ton of mistakes along the way. But, those mistakes don’t discount the truths we did discover while raising our sons. Here are two truths we discovered about raising men:
- If you treat a boy like a boy, he may grow up to be a boy. I know some 30 year olds boys and no one thinks their boyish behavior is cute anymore, especially their wives. Boys desire to know (especially from their father) that they have what it takes to be a man. So, whenever you can, let them make manly decisions for their life and applaud their successes.
- Understand the difference between authority and influence in your children’s lives. When they are young, you have authority over them. You tell them when to go to bed and decide what they will eat. But, as they mature into teenagers, the “season” of authority begins to wane and the “season” of influence begins. Many parents miss this change and continue to operate from authority. If we miss this change, many times they move out of our house and reject any influence we have over their lives.
Today, my adult sons will call me and say, “Dad, I am making this decision, but I want to get your advice before I make it.” That means the world to me. They own their decisions but somehow, through all the mistakes I did make; I still have some influence in their lives.
Parenting is hard; the most difficult thing I have ever done. I do not envy todays parents and the hard decisions they have to make everyday. But as a father who has been down that road, I implore you to consciously raise men, not boys. You will not regret it. For more on this subject go to