Monday, May 19, 2008

Christian parent forum: raising boys

Breaking news: boys and girls are different! Bible-believing Christians knew it all along, but the world has just recently muzzily woken up to the fact.. though they haven't done much with it.

This is "open-mike" for Biblically-oriented Christian parents of more than one boy.
  1. If you have boys and girls, how is raising boys different?
  2. How do your boys relate to one another? Partners, competitors, combatants?
  3. What are the special challenges of raising boys?
  4. How have you met those challenges?
  5. Is squabbling rare, occasional, or constant? How do you deal with it?
  6. What do you most regret?
  7. What do you wish you'd figured out earlier?
Have at it.

38 comments:

Trinian said...

*waiting anxiously with a notepad*

DJP said...

Me 2.

Parenting truism: if you think you've got it all nailed down, you're (A) an idiot and (B) headed for disaster.

ThirstyDavid said...

What? Boys and girls are different? Man, no wonder we're having so much trouble ...

1. The complete answer, if I knew it, would be too long. One major difference:

a. We raise our girls with an eye towards their protection.

b. We raise our boys with an eye towards protecting the world from them, i.e., teaching them to keep that part of their nature that naturally seeks to conquer in its rightful place, and to be protectors of the weak.

2. All three of those are correct. We encourage the first, and even the second to some degree, and discourage the third.

3. Bringing their God-given aggressive, competitive natures into submission to God, without crushing it and turning them into sissies.

4. Give me a few years, and I'll let you know.

5. Occasional+. "Never mind what he/she did or didn't say or do. What did you do? How should you have responded?"

6. I don't know that I have one greatest regret. One would be not spending more time with them. Another would be, at one point, not restricting their associations better. Bad company corrupts.

7. My own sinful tendencies, which I sometimes see my children imitating or reacting against.

Kim said...

Well, these are excellent questions, and I certainly couldn't answer them all in one comment... guess that's because I'm female....:)

I'll tackle this one:

What are the special challenges of raising boys?

One challenge we have encountered which is that the whole "man-child" situation can be difficult. At a certain age, around 11 for our boys, there was a definite recognition in our boys that they would become "men" and that entailed certain responsibilities with regard to male-female roles. In other words, it was easy for my boys to become a little condescending toward the women in their lives, especially me. I am still their authority, but they recognize that they will be the leaders of their home.

Sometimes, they think they need to "practice" their leadership skills here in this home, despite the fact that they're not really adults yet. At the same time, though, we don't want to discourage that tendency.

It is a sensitive issue to encourage leadership without giving them a license to be obnoxious.

rebecca said...

I agree with Kim. With both my sons, there was something that happened in their relationship with me during their adolescent stage. They hated that they were still dependent on me. They remained outwardly respectful toward me (mostly), but deep down they resented taking instruction from me.

The driving force behind this is a good thing. They will indeed be leaders of their own homes. But the way it works out is not always good. I think in the best of circumstances, it's a tricky thing. For the first son, who still had his dad during that age, it was easier, because Dad could step in when that adolescent male attitude needed adjustment. With this last one, it was more difficult because he really, really doesn't want to hurt me—that's probably the protective thing, ratcheted up a bit because there is no dad to fill that role—but he also really, really doesn't want me to tell him what to do. With him, it's still up and down.

What do I most regret? I wish I'd learned to step back a bit in my mothering sooner. To let them make more of their own decisions and more of their own mistakes sooner. I wish I'd nagged less.

rebecca said...

All in all, though, I'd say raising boys is easier than raising girls. Everything's right out there with boys. With girls, not so much.

DJP said...

I'm really grateful to you all for getting this discussion off to such a sparkling start. Looking forward to others in the same vein (and/or more from you as it develops).

Carlo said...

Well, I'm not a parent, but I remember having a discussion with some parents who have 2 boys and a girl and they told me from day one how they taught their boys to NOT rough play with their little sister. They trained and disciplined their boys to handle their little sister with care.

I thought to myself, wow, elementary and basic that sounds but I can't tell you how many times I've seen boys and girls rough play in playgrounds and churches. Hope you parents are doing the right thing in that area.

Kim said...

rebecca said this:

Everything's right out there with boys. With girls, not so much.

This has been our experience, too.

As for how my boys relate to one another...

In a word: testosterone.

Neither of my sons are what I would lable as a bully in the physical sense of the word, but their agression and competitiveness comes through via the tongue.

It seemed like one day they were huddled together playing Lego, and the next they were hurling verbal assaults at one another.

Neither is what I would call overly competitive, but against one another, it's there.

Staci at Writing and Living said...

1. How are they different? Girls are quieter and less aggressive.

2. My boys are five years apart (their sister is in the middle), so they are partners. If they were closer in age, I would imagine they would fight more, but the oldest takes the youngest under his wing a lot.

3. It's like the old Bill Cosby line: "Parents are not interested in justice, they just want quiet." In my desire for peace and quiet I think I sometimes squelch their play too much.

4. Lots of outside time. Once my husband disciplined my oldest by taking away his outside time for a day. I asked him in the future to take away any other priviledge, because not letting him go outside punished me. (c:

5. Squabbling is pretty rare. I don't why, but I am extremely thankful.

6. Most of my regrets are homeschool related. The fine motor skill of my boys' has been slower than my daughters. I panicked too much when reading and writing came slower for my son. Then one day he caught up.

Rabbit said...

I am taking notes as well. And Dan, your parenting truism is spot-on. Many a conversation in this house is prefaced with "back when we knew everything, before we had kids...".

We have one boy and one girl, so I can compare them, but it's tough to know what is God-given temperament and what is gender-specific. I can't speak to your questions from the perspective of having more than one boy, but I will say that Dear Son is much louder, much more physical, and eats a lot more than Dear Daughter. :)

3. Dear Son is almost 7. His innate desire to compete and to reign is shining through. Much more than Dear Daughter, I am having to teach my son about his response to authority. For the time being, he is to submit to his parents, and he chafes under that. But it is training him to submit to the Lord. I appreciate Kim's and Rebecca's perspectives on this.

4. The challenges of parenting are best and most fully met on my knees. My kids are young (9 and 6)and homeschooled. For me to be Christ-like in all circumstances requires me to seek His righteousness, not mine, all the time. In my own strength, I'd be pulling my hair out by 11am.

6/7. I regret and wish I'd figured out earlier to not be so critical. That fine line between pointing out a mistake, and crushing the little one's spirit in the process.

CraigS said...

As Dan probably knows, I've got 3 boys, 15, 13 and 10.

# How do your boys relate to one another? Partners, competitors, combatants?

Yes, all three - sometimes within about a single hour.

# Is squabbling rare, occasional, or constant? How do you deal with it?

It happens. Either separate them, or put them in a room together and shut the door.

# What do you wish you'd figured out earlier?

They are all different. They have different interests and personalities, and you have to relate to them differently. What might work in terms of discipline with one will not necessarily work with another.

Also, boys like rough play with each other, and also from their dad. They also need physical affection from Dad. I think the rough play gives them "permission" to also be gentle and affectionate.

The ladies who've commented that adolescent boys need some space from their Mum's are right. Boys feel a real need to cut the umbilical cord in the teenage years, which is hard for mums. The good news is that if you give them that space and respect, I think you can have an excellent relationship with them as adults.

Kim said...

Craig:

I like your comment about the boys getting physical affection from Dad. I think that's really important.

Also, I think sometimes, the boys who want to cut the cord with their mothers also have a bit of apprehension at times because it's kind of scary to do that. My 16 year old is frequently a lesson in contradictions to me, because one minute he's pushing me away, and the next moment, he's following me all over the house, wanting "chat" time.

One homeschool regret I have is that I didn't have enough field trips with the boys. I think they needed more "active" schooling at times.

Kim K. said...

Looooong time reader - finally commenting. 4 daughters, 3 sons.

1. Boys grow up to be men and girls grow up to be women.

2. All of the above.

3. Whew, they can really be jerks when they turn about 15 - hormones, maybe?

4. Challenges have been met with rare grace and embarrassing stupidity depending on what day it is. (I'm still learning!)

5. Squabbling is about the same for boys as girls.

6. Definitely regret not praying for them more.

7. I feel like when our last kid is out of the house we'll maybe have some stuff figured out. In the meantime the grace of God keeps us from really messing.

P. S. When my son was 17 he was sure that mother was another word for smother. When he left for college (out of state)he announced that he wouldn't be calling for about 2 weeks and only weekly thereafter. However, when he got there he called almost every day.

JackW said...

There's always the Mark Twain method:

"When a child turns 13, put him in a barrel, nail down the lid, and feed him through a knothole. When he turns 16, plug the knothole."

Libbie said...

Oh these comments are fabulous.

*beavers away with notebook and pencil*

This is definitely one of my biggest concerns now I have a little boy to content with after three girls.

(oh, and *frustration* about no comments on the Narnia post, Dan. I have exciting news.)

Daryl said...

Great topic!!

I've got 4 boys and 1 girl (one more of the two is on the way)

All that to say, I've got no more clue than anyone else.

1. Same issues, different angles. Girls pout and cry, boys scream and yell. Girls hit boys and run for cover, boys hit boys and claim it was in self defense.

2. Partner's, competitors and combatants all at the same time...it varies with the age difference. My two oldest (9 & 7) are equally all 3. Both of them are far less combative with their younder brother (3), the 1 year older is just ...a 1 year old.

3. Letting them be who they are (agressive, cautious, blind and dumb, smart, too smart) and directing it all without shutting them down.

4. Tried to encourage risk taking, let non-life-threatening injuries happen...try to remind them that x-behaviour is OK, just not now, not here, not with so and so. I try to drill into them that their sister is to be cared for, not run over. I try to instill in them the fear of Dad finding out that they've been disrespecting Mom.

5. Squabbling is pretty constant. I try to let them work it out, unless one is continually getting the short end of the stick. When I think of it, I remind them that they are brothers, and that whatever happens here, they'd better have each others back anywhere else.

6. I most regret...that those guys have to have me for a dad. The need better, I fear. I pray too little, I snap too quickly, especially at my oldest. I step in too soon, I don't catechize enough...That's a mean question Dan, or would be if I didn't suspect that all Dad's feel the same...

7. I wish I'd figured out where that line of Dad/friend should be. It's so easy to let that line move around. I wish I'd figured out that boys, epsecially the ones trying hardest to to show how tough they are, can be just as sensitive as girls, but show it differently.

I'll tell you what, if having boys doesn't drive you to the cross and triple your appreciation for grace...I don't know what will ('cept maybe girls...:) )

Kim said...

On the lighter side....

the cost of food....

All I can say is "Yikes."

They're like locusts in my kitchen.

With girls? Toilet paper bill is astronomical, as is the amount of hair in the bath tub.

bugblaster said...

Yes, but that provides and opportunity for quality bonding time with #1 son as we clean the bathroom drain and lament women and their wiles.

Mark Patton said...

Dan,

Great questions. I am a long time reader, and I think this is my first comment. My wife and I have a 6 yr.old boy and a 4 yr.old girl and we found out today another on the way. As a dad, I am constantly upset at my lack of patience with my two. Aren't they suppose to do everything the way I want them to do it at just the right time in a manner that causes me the least amount of difficulty? I am thankful my Father is longsuffering.

Anyway, thanks for being an encouragement here and at Pyro.

Trinian said...

I wish I'd figured out where that line of Dad/friend should be. It's so easy to let that line move around.

I'm interested in specific advice, opinions, and experience on this particular subject. What thoughts do people have on this topic?
I have no particular issue that I'm trying to address - just trying to gain wise counsel ahead of time.

CraigS said...

Some good advice from Daryl -

Tried to encourage risk taking, let non-life-threatening injuries happen...

Yeah, boys play rough, so you expect some injuries. You can even celebrate it a bit. My boys love showing me grazes and bruises they've picked up. I'll say, "Gosh, that must have hurt." and they'll say, "Nah, it was fine."

Same with play-fighting. Because they are fairly close in age, a fair bit of their play involves wrestling and punching each other. The main rule I enforce is no striking to the head.

I remind them that they are brothers, and that whatever happens here, they'd better have each others back anywhere else.

Yeah, ditto. I always say to my boys, "brothers look after brothers".

Michelle said...

One of my biggest concerns is the challenge of preparing my son to live pure in an impure world.

In light of this concern, I've lately been reading Proverbs, this time attempting to view it from the perspective of a young man.

It has given me insight and direction as I teach my young son. On this topic, Solomon clearly teaches that it is wisdom that will protect a young man from immoral men and women.

This truth is a great comfort to me. I can control the environment of my children for only so long. Wisdom will go where I cannot.

Wisdom is the principal thing.

Mark Patton said...

I always say to my boys, "brothers look after brothers".

craigs, I thought the line was "brothers gotta hug."

Daryl said...

One thing I should add to my (long) answer...being the Dad of 4 boys is a blast.
I was talking about being a Dad, in general, with a friend of mine who just welcomed their 5th and 6the into the world. Both of us can't believe that we are the ones who were given so many great kids.

God is good, I love my kids, the 4 boys, our little princess and the one we haven't met yet...(October)

CA RN to Honduras Missionary said...

Being the mother to 1. a girl, and 2. an only child may seem like I don't have much input here. But, one thing I must say is that my girl is WATCHING! I see the "type" of young man that she would prefer to hang out with and those that she shuns! So...those with boys out there be aware that their potential future wives are already putting them into categories. Raise them well...raise them as Godly men...and raise them to respect women. Whew! Easier said than done. I try and do my part to the above things as well - because weather you like it or not, the boys will start to do the same thing :-) Buena suerte!

TulipGirl said...

Interesting thread. . . (Kim pointed me this direction.) We have four boys, and it is lots of fun. Yet, as they are getting older (too quickly! Though they oldest is just (almost) 12) I'm finding that so much of this is. . . new. New territory, new struggles, new experiences. Reading with interest.

fredsgirl said...

Wow! my husband sent me this link and I am just soaking it up. With 4 children 5 and under (3 of them boys; our little ladybug just arrived end of March), I appreciate any wisdom I a can find the time to read and pray that I can remember and beg that I can implement.

Our little Lady is loved by our boys immensely - perhaps a little too hard at times. I constantly remind them how they are to protect and be gentle with her, but the littlest one seems to think hugging her by laying on top of her is following these instructions. My 5 year old has grasped it and become her biggest advocate.

Have any of you taught your boys (even small ones) to open the door for Mommy and other ladies and step aside for men when they approach the door? This gets no small reaction in the world.

Along those same lines, I allow my boys to struggle in helping. Whether it be dragging a heavy box or lifting something that requires effort. This also creates no small reaction from those "helpful" moms who look at me as if I'm letting them carry a knife around. I get the same reaction when I don't run to their aid after a collision or injury. Their good about letting me know if it hurts "too much" and a hug and attention is needed.

The comments about the change in relationship with Mommy as they grow have been enlightening! I guess I just didn't think about how I would fit or not fit in. I just thought of the "Bar Mitzvahs" and basically when he comes to age (12ish) is good to consider him a man and train/guide him accordingly; not to give too much credence to the world's ideas of "teenagers." Any ideas about this?

My greatest challenge with my boys, and I think it'll be with my little lady, is addressing the heart and not falling in the pit of being satisfied with "right" behavior. Yep, that desire for praise of men gets me every time! We beg the Lord to help us to bring them to the cross - they are sinners in need of a savior! and so am I!!!!!

Brenda

ThirstyDavid said...

Brenda sais it:

My greatest challenge with my boys, and I think it'll be with my little lady, is addressing the heart and not falling in the pit of being satisfied with "right" behavior.

I can't think of a more important point to make. That would be my new answer to both #6 and #7.

DJP said...

Yes; though (ahem) no one asked me (and wisely so), I'd say reading Shepherding A Child's Heart and hearing Tripp speak brought me maybe my single biggest change and regret. As a parent, you are of necessity and constantly cast in the role of cop, judge, jury, executioner, jailer, parole officer, counselor... the whole legal system. But if you focus exclusively or overwhelmingly on that, you create a fine little legalist. At best.

Mrs.M. said...

When my kids were small, I thought the most amusing thing about how boys and girls are different is that with boys, everything makes some kind of sound effect and can be turned into a weapon. With girls everything talks to each other (combs, screws, rocks, etc) and can be classified as a daddy, mommy, or baby.

We have only one son so I can’t address many of your questions. He’s grown now and thankfully his teen years weren’t too difficult. I think something that helped those transition years between mom and son was acknowledging when he was my better in various areas, especially since I was also his homeschool teacher. For example, he took a big interest in technology and for quite a while has been the family expert in all things technical. He also is skilled in fixing minor things around the house. So having areas where he is looked up to by the family I think helped for when he still needed to take direction. We both have the same weird sense of humor so on that level we are kind of peers, and enjoy sharing that.

We always tried to acknowledge as well when we see our children take steps in maturity, whether in actions or in thoughts. That always seemed to really encourage them to stay on the good path.

There are lots of good comments here. Ultimately as parents we pray, do our best, and trust God that our children are in His hands.

Kim said...

The issue of working for heart change as opposed to outward compliance is a very important issue for boys and girls, but when you have any child who has a natural disposition to be a "people pleaser" it gets even more tricky.

I would say that with all three of our children, I wish we had worried more about heart issues than outward behaviour. When they were younger, we had the misfortune to listen to a parenting "guru" that contributed to our lack of understanding in this area.

Carlo said...

Kim,

John MacArthur is doing a series on the family on GTY and right now he's on children. He mentioned, I think, that his family did more spanking with his kids, on the attitude (the heart) than they did for actual actions.

Sorry about your experience.

If anyone is interested

Carlo said...

...complete my sentence here, the message is currently available on the GTY website or podcast for free.

No Fluff Required said...

I am showing up late for this, but I am thankful for these insights.

Sam and Rylie, two young men with plans to overthrow me, always tear up when I finally get mad.

Sam is very mean-sounding, loves football, playing drums and alternately loves and hates everything else equally within a 40second conversation. He is afraid of nothing, until it comes time to try it, then he has all kinds of plans for watching Rylie pull it off. He is 12.

Rylie tackles his brother for uncompassionately and purposelessly shooting animals with his airsoft gun and ending the lives of ants who have done nothing to harm anyone. He claims such sensitivity and has no problem judging others for their lack of it. He hates football, loves planting things but can pull off the most amazing life-threatening stunts that his brother can imagine. He is 10.

My biggest challenges:

1)Maximizing their different interests for the glory of God, while at the same time keeping them from destroying one another
and remaining in their utter hypocracy.

2)Using their sister's tattling and nagging, to my benefit without letting her know it.

3) and oh yeah, stitches.

susiebelle said...

Well, it's 1:30 am and I am still up and upset over raising a teenage son, almost 16. He has an older sister that wasn't any trouble at all. He is disrespectful and argumentative and acts like he hates my guts. His father and I are divorced (his infidelity that caused it) and have been apart for the last 8 years. I have racked my brain to find a way that I am the cause, of course he blames me but can't come up with any reason. I don't know what to do! I feel very hopeless!

Kiwimama said...

I never really had any major issues when my boys were young. I expected & accepted their boisterousness, their dirt, their smells everything it just want's a big deal to me. We disciplined firmly, we talked , loved abundantly and then our eldest hit 14 and it was like an alien took over his body. He lost the ability to speak in sentences. He got antsy with everyone about everything, He started listening to awful music, he had an attitude of almost permanent resentment towards us yet he wanted us to do everything for him and to do almost nothing for himself. I just don't get him at all these days and I haven't a clue how to parent him. He's nearly full grown at 16 going on 17 but seems more immature now than he did when he was 12. It's hard not to be disappointed in who he is right now and I'm terrified that this is who he will be for the remainder of his life. I would love to know how to parent him more effectively.

Kiwimama said...

I never really had any major issues when my boys were young. I expected & accepted their boisterousness, their dirt, their smells everything it just want's a big deal to me. We disciplined firmly, we talked , loved abundantly and then our eldest hit 14 and it was like an alien took over his body. He lost the ability to speak in sentences. He got antsy with everyone about everything, He started listening to awful music, he had an attitude of almost permanent resentment towards us yet he wanted us to do everything for him and to do almost nothing for himself. I just don't get him at all these days and I haven't a clue how to parent him. He's nearly full grown at 16 going on 17 but seems more immature now than he did when he was 12. It's hard not to be disappointed in who he is right now and I'm terrified that this is who he will be for the remainder of his life. I would love to know how to parent him more effectively.