let boys be…

Last year I attended a few 1st grade boy birthday parties. During those parties I developed a strong opinion about boy interactions. So strong, in fact, I may have screamed corrections at other moms’ 7 year-old boys (not the correct approach, I know, but passion can make you do foolish things).

energetic but not mean

What I witnessed were boys purposefully hurting other boys. The response I observed by the adults around me was, “Let boys be boys.”  (Hmmm…so many thoughts about that statement.)

I agree that boys have a lot of energy (remember I have 4 of them running around my house).  My boys have oodles and oodles of energy. And as extroverts that energy only increases exponentially when we are out in public (like little excited puppies, my boys love to be amongst the people).

In my opinion, having energy and being mean are two different things. Running around, playing football, and jumping off rocks are displays of energy. But pushing another boy to the ground and then not helping him up, calling a boy a “nerd,” or pinning someone to the ground and jumping on them, those are not “boy” things, those are evil things.

Now “evil” may seem too harsh a word, but  I call ‘em like I see ‘em.

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trained to honor others

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy training my boys to treat each other special. Over and over I repeat, “Do not return evil with evil” (when all else fails cling to what God said, right?).

Does that mean they aren’t still boys? Heck, no. They can wrestle and run and jump, but hurting someone else on purpose comes with a consequence in our home...time on the stairs to think, a moment in a bedroom to calm down, an apology, or devising a way to return the honor that was stolen through an act of meanness.

There are definitely instances when impulse wins over and my boys are the aggressors…

We spent time this summer with family visiting from England. I understand there are cultural differences between the states and the UK. For an American family, my husband and I have made intentional choices to be as counter-cultural as we can (limiting exposure to certain shows/movies; spending lots of time outside; not over-scheduling life)…but alas we are still American and have all-American boys.

So…ANYWAY, while we were with our extended family (not that they made me feel this way… but) in my mind I heard all those negative self-talks, like: “I’m doing a bad job as a mom because my boys don’t use cutlery” or “we have horrible children who purposefully hurt others”.

At first, I was embarrassed my four-year-old kept knocking over his sweet British cousin. Then I switched to defensive Mama bear mode claiming: “He is a four-year-old boy” and “Like all boys he has impulse control issues” and “Even with discipline he is going to make bad choices” and “I can’t control every move my boys make”.

On the one hand, I want to raise the bar that boys don’t have to be mean to be boys. They can be wild and free and high energy, but kind and thoughtful and respectful. On the other hand, I want my guys to be given a little grace that they may make mistakes and they are still in the training process.

Could there be a standard of honorable boy behavior and yet freedom for those boys in the learning process?

free to learn from mistakes

Perhaps the fault lies in my response to other people’s sons. Am I coming down too hard on other boys (like mine) who are in training or am I using the opportunity to teach them how to “love their neighbor”?

Instead of yelling, I could gather those three boys who were fighting and point out if they have claimed Jesus as their Savior then these friends are brothers in Christ. They should honor one another in how they play, never causing a “brother” to feel shame or hurt.

This holiday season I’m sure you will be around family and friends who, in responding to your boys’ energy, unintentionally make you feel defensive and insecure about your parenting.

Be encouraged you aren’t just letting your “boys be boys”, you are training them to honor one another. In this time of training, they are still “in process”, so stand tall mommy continue guide them. Give them values, morality, and spirituality. Let them be the boys God made them to be in this journey to the men who will honor Him.

Do you struggle with this tension between training your son to act honorably and also allowing him to be the energetic boy God made him to be?

 “Without much help, boys grow physically–they get bigger, taller, and older.  Through their interactions with the surrounding world, they grow mentally and socially…Yet all this can occur without the boy ever making it through the wilderness to become an authentic man.  If his heart is not addressed, he is left to wander the wasteland of his own self-absorption and immaturity, incapable of entering the promised land of true masculinity.  Boys need to be vaccinated with values, mentored in morality, and steered in their spirituality.” {David Thomas from Wild Things: the art of nurturing boys}

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Remember to go enter this week’s Praying for Boys Giveaway Days and join the new 5-day challenge, Covering them From Head to Toe! Want to be a part of Brooke McGlothlin’s launch team for Praying for Boys? Apply here!

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  • Rosanne

    I have two boys and they had SO MUCH ENERGY. I never had any problem with energy or even boyish things like jumping off of things (I mean, I trained them that we don’t use the couch as a trampoline but I wasn’t horrified by it at all). But I wouldn’t tolerate meanness and there is definitely a difference! I got my boys out to move and use up that energy. In fact, when they were little and it was mid-winter and my boys were getting edgy and irritable with each other, it was not unheard of for us to “pretend” we were in the military and do all kinds of bootcamp type stuff like push ups and jumping jacks to drain that energy because I believe a lot of pent up energy can turn into aggression and bad behavior. However, I also tried to instill in my boys that kindness and gentleness is not a weakness – it’s what strong people do. Excusing meanness and bad behavior with boys will be boys is like excusing meanness between girls by saying, Well, girls are just catty that way. No matter your gender, sin is sin. Thanks for posting this! It’s a great reminder that we can encourage our sons’ maleness but also train good and Godly character as well. The two are not mutually exclusive! :)

  • Kimberly

    Really working on this with my two year old son and three and four year old nephews. It’s fun to wrestle but you can not be mean. It’s especially hard when there are three.one always seems to be left out.

  • http://www.herheartproclaims.com/ Vanessa

    Absolutely love this!

    I’m training my son to love to run and play- we go outside often, I let him bring home rocks and leaves and play in the dirt (sorry, dirt does not come home with us LOL!).

    And you are so right- he can be energetic and playful but not intentionally hurtful. Of course there is grace but what is grace without repentance and discipline? I think it’s a delicate balance between both and I pray I can show as much grace to other young boys as I do with my son <3

  • Mama Rachael

    I’ve needed to hear this. I’m working hard with my 2 1/2 yr old son to learn how to be gentle and kind. Its hard to explain that just because you like to be butted around, knocked down, hugged hard and body slammed, doesn’t mean everybody does. And he’s strong and it hurts, sometimes, when he loves on me, “Mommy, I’m gonna throw this car at you!” he says, and when it wacks me in the side, it hurts. I think he does this kind of thing because he does like me, and wants me to know he likes playing with me. I really want him to learn how to be gentle before too long for fear of how strong he is likely to be and how he might actually hurt someone just trying to love them. This might be a very unfounded fear of mine, though, I know that.

    Thank you for this post. I needed to be reminded what is just being a boy and what isn’t.

    now, how do you teach a Little Boy to be gentle? Other than remind him constantly that ‘hitting isn’t gentle’, etc?

  • Maria Trujillo

    I am a mother of 4 boys and know the pressure from family all to well. It can be discouraging an degrading but mommas stand firm on you Christian foundation and continue to look to Christ for stewardship and not others. Our job as mothers is not to force our boys into rolls we desire but lead them to become the men the Lord wants them to be and love them for who they are, Christ’s treasured creation. Let us together with God’s guidance raise a generation of men pleasing to the Lord!!!!!!

    • http://www.GodCenteredMom.com Heather MacFadyen

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts Maria…looking to Christ and not others is the only firm foundation when raising up children to honor the Lord. Love what you said, “Not to force boys into the roles we desire but lead them to become the men the Lord wants them to be”…Amen!!

  • Rhonda Evenden Garred

    Has anyone read..”Wild at Heart” or “Bringing up Boy’s”? What you worry about is inate. I agree to bringing balance, but in the process let them learn by natural consequence.If you push/hit then be prepared to have it happen to you.

    • http://www.GodCenteredMom.com Heather MacFadyen

      Both great books! Actually the last quote in this post is from “Wild at Heart”. Thanks for sharing Rhonda!

  • Amy Lopez

    We have a 15 year old son and a 8 year old son and I am just learning to let them be who He made them to be, rough around the edges at times, not always “safe”, energetic etc… I wrote about my boys here:http://mymissiontolove.blogspot.com/2012/07/tame-man.html?m=1

  • meg pitts

    LOVE this post. We’re in the battles of all this right now with a 3 year old and 1.5 year old. Some days it seems that their hearts are softened, and then all of a sudden they do something that makes us cringe. We constantly try to teach them love and kindness and self control, using the fruits of the Spirit, and adding in TONS of grace. Because they need to know we’re all needing God’s grace!

    • http://www.GodCenteredMom.com Heather MacFadyen

      Oh sister, grace abounds. You are right in the midst of a challenging period of time. Just to encourage you…their impulse control will improve in the next couple years and their desire to honor you will increase. Also, I’m a believer that until they’ve professed faith in Christ for salvation they don’t have the true fruit of the Spirit, so they may need extra extra grace until that decision is made. (noticed a big difference in my oldest boys now they have professed faith). blessings friend!!! you are doing a great work!

      • meg pitts

        Thank you for the encouragement! You’re so right about their salvation. It’s really hard to explain to them why we do/say the things we do, when they truly don’t get it. It will be so amazing the day they do accept Jesus into their hearts!