I grew up in a family of girls, never having much close exposure to boys. When Rick and I started our family, sure enough we had the first boy grandchild for both sets of our parents. I remember thinking- Wow, what do I do with a boy? As a matter of fact, we had 4 little boys in a row, all 18 months apart form each other! When our oldest son was just 3 months old, we began attending a Sunday school class in which the teacher talked about internalizing Scripture. This was something so new to me, being a new Christian myself.
I sat there like a sponge, eagerly soaking up the practical Bible teaching and then trying to find a way to communicate the Scriptural principles I was learning to my new little son.
I began to hang Bible verses all around his room and our living room and started learning what character was and looked for fun ways to teach it to my little boys. I shall be eternally grateful for that class because it channeled my focus to what I believe should be a priority in the training of little boys and little girls as well! As I look back, I see that God takes open hearts and blesses them even if they are ignorant, but seeking to do right.
First of all, Scripture and character training should be priorities in training little ones. Rick recorded the book of Proverbs for our kids and stopped and explained difficult words and told example stories to help the boys remember…. and remember they do even to this day! It was one of the best things we did to build a godly focus in our kids. Playing the recordings at bed time and naptime, they learned tons of Scripture without even trying! This was something we did for years. It didn’t take very long before you could start a verse anywhere in the Proverbs and they could finish it. Rick then began recording other portions of Scripture for them as well. (We offer several similar Scripture Recording sat Character Concepts).
During the day, we began focusing on character training. I would read to them from books such as A Child’s Book of Character Building to teach them what godly character meant. I asked God to show me creative ways to teach it to them. Many of the specific ways I achieved this are found in Fun Projects for Hands-on Character Building.
We began having the kids do these projects and used the finished products to teach them God’s Word on a daily basis. (Two more recent, but great resources for little boys are God’s Wisdom for Little Boys and A Little Boy After God’s Own Heart.)
I found that little boys are very busy and need lots of opportunity to run, jump, and romp. Dad seemed to bring this out in them. During the day often they would sit and listen to Mom read stories and do fun projects, but when Dad came home in the evening they were inspired to get rid of any energy left after their busy day. They loved to run and jump on him, wrestling around, screaming and making lots of general racket- a bit much for Mommy’s tastes, but I began to realize they needed that physical romping with Dad and each other.
Early on, we involved our little boys in learning to do chores….work in the garden, help Daddy fix stuff that broke, and generally be involved in serving each other and others. This all helped to build within them a strong work ethic. Each had daily chores from 3 years old on, within reason of course. (more info in Building a Work Ethic in your Children)
We chose not to involve our boys in lots of outside activities, play dates, etc. with kids their own age, but instead to train them to be responsible first of all in the atmosphere of their home. As they grew older, we would lead them in projects of service to others in the church and community, instead of focusing on artificial activities to please themselves. Our family grew fairly quickly and opportunities to serve in the context of the family were plentiful.
Boys need to be busy! Learning to be productive helpers builds within them a sense of being needed and the character of responsibility.
It is when your sons are little that you begin to build godly discipline into their lives. It is while little boys are small that we teach them to have a respect for girls and women and the elderly folks. Little boys need to learn that God has special requirements for them to learn to be useful and how to develop skill in making wise choices, and looking for needs that others may have they that they can learn to be of service to.
Boys need to be encouraged to try new things,experiments, building, etc. As our boys reached, say, 7 or 8 years of age we would supply them with wood and nails and let them try building things- bookcases, birdhouses, chicken houses, etc. Boys need the freedom to try and if something fails, that in itself is a valuable learning experience. Our sons would try experiments with plants, ways to train their animals, creative ways to do things. I remember 6 year old Tim mowing with Dad’s supervision. He was a natural from an early age. We gave him the freedom to try to fix things that would break. Even folks at church would bring him their broken blow dryers, mixers, etc. If he could fix it, he earned a few dollars. If not, he earned some valuable experience.
We even let them try things we knew wouldn’t work, like keeping plants in the dark or “planting” soup as four year old Rickey tried once.
Little boys are messy and noisy, yet they have a charm of their own. I remember my boys spending hours in our garden after all the crops had been gathered in, creating towns with churches, homes, post offices, stores and roads. They had hours of fun and would come in very dirty, but it was a healthy kind of play. We did not raise our boys with a TV or video games. They had lots of great books, puzzles, tools, trucks, and materials with which to learn, explore and create. Artificial entertainments were few and what we learned was that they learned to think creatively.
It’s too easy to plop down and WATCH something, but if it’s not an option, wow, the mind begins to think and explore and a whole world of learning is opened up to them.
I loved raising my boys and I still love my boys. What is wonderful now is to see how they still love their family and are each other’s best friends.
During this series on Raising Boys, we’ll address homeschooling boys, how to deal with sibling rivalry in boys, and what to consider in raising teen age boys.
If you are struggling with the special challenges of raising boys, just remember, you are investing your time in raising tomorrow’s leaders. As I look back on my time of raising boys and now have six adult aged sons, I see how God perfectly designed the character traits and personalities into each one to prepare them for the role he had planned for them to assume when they would become adults.
More next time!