It goes by many names now: helicopter parents, those who desire to be involved in and in control of every aspect of a child’s life; drone parents, those who want to maintain control from a distance via cell phones and technology; lawnmower parents, those who seek to clear out any obstacle that might get in a child’s path. Whatever the terminology, the point is clear that many parents of the late 20th and early 21st centuries have become hands-on to the point that children experience little opportunity in making their own decisions, solving their own problems, or determining the best possible course to take. The growth and subsequent fear some have of such attitudes was seen when the State of Utah recently passed the “Free-Range Parenting Act” to protect parents from lawsuit or legal action when they choose to allow their children to “roam” while playing.
In addition to the above, statistics also bear out that over 75% of teachers in kindergarten through high school are female. Of those parents who choose to homeschool, the mother of the family typically takes the leading role in her child’s education. In extra-curricular activities, especially for younger children, activities are typically coed. Though not as prevalent, some junior and high schools have opted for coed sports due to budget crunches or inability to field full teams of one gender or the other. What impact these attitudes and statistics will bear on the upcoming generation of young men are only now beginning to be seen.
Boyhood is an important topic of study. While determining the societal impact of the above factors on boys is necessary, determining its impact on Christianity is essential. God has placed great responsibility on men in terms of leadership; in both the home and the church, He has designated men to take roles of authority. To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3 NKJV). To both Timothy and Titus, Paul commanded that they teach what is necessary for men to assume the role of elders and deacons in local churches. The type of leadership skills necessary to effectively lead a family, as well as a church family, requires years of development. Men will certainly be aided in this development by parents who seek to foster an atmosphere where these skills are developed early. However, the societal trends noted earlier can often impede this learning, despite the good intentions parents may have; thus, it is imperative for Christian parents to take the actions necessary to guide their boys into Christian manhood.
Much of this training falls squarely on the shoulders of fathers. As Paul addressed the Ephesians, he specifically called fathers to the task under consideration: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (6:4 ESV). For at least nine months of the year, boys will spend much of their time under the guidance of female instructors. While there is certainly nothing wrong with this, it does mean that fathers must see the tremendous need to set the kind of example their sons can emulate in developing into men. It is easy for fathers to defer; excuses often center on the fact that they work all day and have little energy left for activities with children. While this may certainly be taxing, fathers must be aware that neither they nor their sons will ever walk this way again. The few precious years a child is in his father’s house go quickly.
Mothers must also realize the special relationship they share with their sons. Young mothers, especially those with a son who do not have brothers, often find raising boys exacerbating; their energy levels and interests may seem overwhelming. Though difficult, mothers should realize the great influence they have in their sons’ socialization skills; they can have an important impact on how their sons learn to interact with those around them. Even more importantly, they may find greater time and opportunity teaching their sons the Bible. In this, mothers can choose teachings and examples that highlight the positive aspects of manhood.
Working in tandem, parents can offer their sons valuable insight; however, they must avoid the societal tendency to overprotect. Failing to allow sons the opportunity to work through their own problem is debilitating. Refusing to allow them to solve challenges on their own with classmates will deprive them of the skills needed to deal with others. Coming to their immediate aid when difficulties arise with authority figures will enable them to remain immature in thinking. While parental involvement will, at times, be essential, parents should allow sons the opportunity to first solve their own challenges. Problems solved by using the skills taught early will prove much more beneficial than an umbrella of overprotection.
Raising boys is not for the faint of heart and will certainly provide much opportunity for prayer! Parents, however, should realize that the efforts they undertake with their sons can potentially yield much fruit in the future as their energetic little guy grows into a faithful husband, father, and leader. Few godly works are easy, but all godly works produce good. Time spent with sons early on may very well produce generations of harvests.