When I heard that we were taking a break from discussing hard-to-handle boys this month and instead focusing on the tender-hearted boy, I laughed.
I’m not sure that I have a full blown hard-to-handle boy, but if I had to pick the hardest-to-handle out of a line up of my three boys it would be the one with the tender heart.
His sensitive nature is what I love about him, but also what I find most concerning. My tenderhearted warrior has big feelings. It’s not that I find him hard-to-handle so much as he finds his own emotions hard-to-handle. And frankly, it does prick my heart and leave me worrying about how that will manifest in his future.
He is troubled by transition. Adjusting to change is hard for him, something to which we have to give special attention since we move often.
He is quick to anger. One wrong word from a brother causes an eruption of rage.
He is attached. Being away from his siblings or his dad and makes him sad and scared.
He is moved by music. A melancholy piano concerto brings him to tears.
So how do I help mold my sensitive boy into a responsible man?
I think the biggest thing I can do is validate his feelings. It’s important that he understands that what he feels is okay. It’s okay to miss us when we’re gone. It’s okay to be sad when we leave friends behind. It’s okay to be angry when someone hurts us. These things are normal and should not be looked down upon.
The second biggest thing I do is draw the distinction between feelings and actions. It’s not okay to hit when we’re angry. It’s not okay to yell or say mean things when someone has hurt us.
I lean towards talking more than punishing. There are consequences for actions in our house (as there is in life), but I believe it’s more important for us to help him process all the big, scary things happening in his heart and mind. I want him to understand who he is, how he is, why he is. I hope that the better he understands how he’s wired, the better he will be at controlling his actions.
So often the sensitive soul needs communication, not condemnation.
My biggest prayer and desire for my sensitive son’s future is that he learns to feel his great big emotions without acting destructively. I know he’ll never be perfect. I know he will fail sometimes. I know that it may hurt my mother’s heart to watch him walk this path as an adult, but I pray that God gives me the unfailing love to respond in grace and compassion towards the boy who is wired to feel–even when those feelings get the best of him.
Jessica (Bohemian) Bowman is a jack of all internets and a mother of four. Grace is her middle name (not really) and she’s been married for fourteen years to a guy she really super likes (since she was seventeen!). In 2015 her family is moving to a sensitive country in South Asia to do good work. Because Jesus.
“I can’t get the entire basement cleaned by myself.”
“I can’t carry the laundry up the stairs.”
“I can’t do the worksheet by myself.”
I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.
Just the sound of those two little words irritates this mama to no end.
What Kind of “I Can’t” Is It?
I don’t make a habit of asking my kiddos to do things they’re incapable of doing. I try to make sure what I’m asking of them, even if it’s challenging, is doable. When I hear, “I can’t,” I know that it’s either because of laziness or lack of confidence.
It’s usually pretty easy to determine which one it is. “I can’t clean up all the toys myself,” is obviously laziness. But many other “I can’ts” I hear from my son are a lack of confidence.
The self-esteem movement of the 1990’s taught parents to instill in our sons a sense of “self-confidence,” but the Bible has a different take on the matter. Our sons’ problem is not a low sense of self-worth or a low self-image—as if their opinion of themselves is what matters most.
Whose evaluation matters most? God’s, not our our own.
By whose standard are we measured? God’s, not our own.
What our sons needs is not self-confidence, but God-confidence.
When your son says, “I can’t!” point him to the One who can.
Using the Proverbs to Nurture
The Proverbs hold a wealth of instruction, especially for growing boys. It is easily one of the most practical books in the Bible in terms of teaching your children about actions and consequences.
If your son is saying a lot of “I can’t’s”—born either out laziness or a lack of confidence—it might be worth spending some time in the Proverbs with your son. The process involves two steps:
Lay the Foundation – During a quiet time of conversation (such as family devotions), discuss a pertinent proverb with your son. Talk about what it means and how it applies to him.
Use the Moment – When you hear an “I can’t,” gently stop you son and say, “Remember what the Proverbs say,” and then quote the beginning part of the proverb you previously discussed. See if your son can repeat the second half (if not, say it for him). Repeat this process each time, and in time, your son will know the proverb by heart, and he’ll learn to discern truth from error.
Proverbs on Laziness
“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” – Proverbs 10:4 (NIV)
“Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” – Proverbs 12:11 (NIV)
“A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” – Proverbs 13:4 (NIV)
Proverbs on God-Confidence
“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:6 (ESV)
“…for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” – Proverbs 3:26 (ESV)
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” – Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)
Continue to pray for your sons and direct them to look to Jesus!
(Note: The product below is advertised as homeschool curriculum, but if you’re not a homeschooling family, this product is still for you. I know lots of families who public or private school educate, and supplement their children’s education with Christian resources at home. Really, it’s the perfect choice for “any” schooler!
This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, Raising Boys Ministries will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for helping support our ministry!)
My youngest son struggles with fine motor skills.
He’s fantastic at sports…one of those kids whose body just gets what he’s supposed to do in pretty much every sport…but he stinks at writing.
(“Sultan of Swat, King of Crush, Colossus of Clout, the Great Bambino!” Extra points today if you tell me the name of the movie this line is from in the comments!)
I mean, he REALLY stinks at writing. Throughout his kindergarten and first grade years the mere mention of the word, “writing” reduced us to fits of snotty tears. I say “us” because his antics to avoid writing often brought tears to my eyes, too. I fought this battle bravely until a friend I trust, who happens to have raised six boys pretty well, told me to back off.
So I did. Completely.
Instead of having him write his alphabet, we spent a lot of time identifying letters and just learning to read. When he wrote, I tried not to criticize. As long as I could read it, it passed.
Now, at almost eight years old, his fine motor skills have improved tremendously, so we’re dipping our toes in once again. He’s a great reader (not that he likes it, that’s another post), and with the help of some great products from some great friends, he’s making significant progress.
We’ve gone back to the beginning, and it’s working!
When I heard about this new resource from our friends at Intoxicated On Life, I knew it was the right fit for my little guy.
Write Through the Bible, Junior is a new interdisciplinary study you can use to teach your young child to write while focusing on God’s word. This curriculum, geared towards 4-6 year olds, is a full-year curriculum, but—like us—you can use it for older children, starting in the middle of the year, too!
(In the photos above, in order from left to right, you can see the front of the new WTTB Jr, my son’s “A” page—this is SUCH a huge win for us. I wish I had a picture of how bad it once was—a snapshot of week 1’s assignments, WTTB’s width in comparison to some of my other favorite curricula, and the back cover copy. Guys, this is a meaty program, and well worth the price! Read more below).
A Curriculum for Busy Moms
With Write Through the Bible, Junior, you can complete several subjects at once. This curriculum will allow you to teach your child to write, discuss new vocabulary words, dig deep into the Word of God, and memorize a long passage of scripture together.
Not only that, but there is virtually no preparation! There aren’t any involved crafts that take weird supplies—the non-crafty mom’s dream! Everything you need for this curriculum you probably already have at home.
This program was designed to incorporate several subjects in one. Below are a few things your child will learn as they work through this book:
Improve fine motor coordination
Learn letter sounds
Learn how to form letter
Memorize Philippians 2:1-18
Learn new vocabulary words
Study Philippians 2:1-18 and learn what it means to have a heart of humility.
In addition, this full-year program is very affordable costing just $17 for the digital download or $27 for the softcover book. It comes with lots of options, offering you various Bible translations and fonts to choose from. My family chose the soft cover copy, ESV version, using ball-and-stick, because we like having a physical product, and my boys have been using ball-and-stick from the beginning. I’m an ESV lover, so it was an easy choice!
Purchase Now: Receive $49 in Bonuses!
During the launch of Write Through the Bible, Junior you can take advantage of these exciting offers! These are good for 10 days only, so don’t delay. This special ends on March 27, 11:59 PM.
You’ll receive all of these bonuses after purchasing the digital download for just $17 or the softcover book for only $27. Grab your copy today and get started, or tuck it away as part of next year’s curriculum!
*Thanks to Intoxicated On Life for providing a free softcover copy of Write Through the Bible, Junior to me. Of course, all opinions are 100% my own, and 100% true according to my family’s experience!
He tore outside, face blotched, nose running, gasping for breath between sobs as he threw himself into my arms. It would seem that I should be concerned as he was near hysterical, but this is my dramatic boy, and his tears weren’t the kind caused by physical pain.
It was hurt feelings that brought about this reaction.
Kneeling down, as I had so many times before, I asked him to calm down and tell me what happened. I knew he needed to verbally process his hurt, so I waited, and I listened.
I haven’t always responded to my sensitive boy well. Given his flair for the dramatic, my first response on more than one occasion has been a roll of the eyes and an impatient sigh. I lack grace in the dramatic.
There are many beautiful traits that this tenderhearted boy of mine possesses. He is loyal, and friendship to him is sacred. I understand this because I am wired much the same way. Over the years I have nursed my own wounded heart many times when friends did not give me the same loyalty that I gave them.
Through hiccups and gasps, he shared his hurt feelings, and his heartache quickly turned to anger. He demanded justice, that I send the offending friend home…forever.
“I don’t want to ever be his friend again. Ever. He’s a jerk!”
This moment happened two years ago, but it stands out vividly in my mind. It was the first time I felt a true and deep empathy for this tenderhearted warrior. His wounded heart begged for justice because that felt like the only tangible way to numb the deeper hurt he felt.
Tenderhearted boys long for loyalty in a world that often looks away.
For the tenderhearted warrior, a friend made is a friend for life. But what to do when the world sees friendship as disposable, and allegiance to one another moves with the ebb and flow of life?
There are three keys to protecting your loyal boy’s heart, while also celebrating his noble and sensitive trait.
1.)Praise Him for Being Such a Good Friend
As he grows, he will experience the constant change of friendship more often. It is a rare friend that stands the test of time. He’ll learn this lesson through hurt feelings and heartache, and yet he will still want to stand by his friends. Show him the value in his loyalty and give him the space to grieve when others don’t take it as seriously as he does.
2.) Protect His Heart.
There will be some friendships that need to end. As our children grow from little boys playing war in the back yard to young men shooting hoops at the local park, the effects of life will bring about some unwanted changes in some. Recognize when a friendship is unhealthy for your son and point him toward the friends that will give him the support and godly influence he needs to continue to grow in wisdom and stature.
This is not to say he has to turn his back completely on a wayward friend, though there may be instances when that is the case. But there will be times when your loyal boy will struggle to step away, and you’ll need to help guide him through that.
3.) Be Patient With the Drama
Avoid the eye rolls when they come in with hurt feelings…again. Give lots of hugs and understanding as they cry over offenses that, to you, seem minor. Help them face disappointments, realizing that 99% of the time little boy friendships are easily mended over a popsicle and a game of soccer.
A loyal, tenderhearted boy may shed more tears than his seemingly tougher peers, but his sensitive heart will also be the first to offer a hand of grace to an enemy, a defense for the weak, and support to a friend by standing by their side when life throws a curve ball.
Rejoice in your tenderhearted warrior, Mama, even if the drama threatens to do you in.
Lord, I praise you for these young men with a deep sense of loyalty. Help us to constantly point them toward you, Father, as they grow. May their allegiance to you be unwavering and sure. Thank you for these tenderhearted warriors, Lord. Use their lives to bring about your Glory. Amen.
Kelli Stuart is a writer and a mom of four who spends most of her days shuttling children from one event to another in her smokin’ hot minivan. For years, Kelli perfected the art of the starving artist by ghost writing, editing, and writing newsletters back when newsletters were actually printed on paper. In 2004 Kelli co-authored the book Dare 2B Wise with Joe White, and from there began to focus heavily on her own novel, which she hopes to see published in 2015. In 2008, Kelli discovered blogging when her youngest was a newborn. She launched her first site, Minivans Are Hot, as a way to write about the often baffling and hilarious business of being a mother knowing that if she didn’t laugh at life, she just might cry. She’s recently transitioned to a new space online where she loves connecting with creative-heart moms to encourage them to continue developing and using their creative gifts for God’s glory! You can find her over at KelliStuart.com — Kelli currently lives in Tampa, Florida where she tries hard to concentrate on balancing her love of writing with her desire to sit on the beach and read a good book.
The boys went down that night with gentle back rubs and a book or two or eight. By the time I left their room I had nothing left to give. With my husband traveling for work and me homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, and simply pouring out all day long, I was bone weary.
As I walked down the hall into my room I couldn’t wait to strip off my dirty clothes. I was exhausted. So off them came, layer after layer. As the shower ran hot and filled the room with it’s healing vapors, I closed my eyes and brushed my teeth. The steam on my skin and the invigorating mint of my toothpaste felt like heaven. It was my first moment alone. All. Day. Long.
Suddenly, something brushed against my naked thigh and I jumped with a scream, toothbrush flying. Grabbing my towel I looked down at the four year old who was now crying. My sensitive middle boy had crept in and come to my side. He was sobbing so I wrapped the towel tight (I know, a little too late for modesty) and turned the shower off. I ushered him into my bed and tucked him deep into the covers on my husband’s side. “What were you doing?” I asked as he calmed.
The words came easily, like a late night breeze, floating in through an open window,
“I just wanted to smell you one more time.” And with that he was asleep.
He is my tenderhearted child. The one who, I joke, would crawl back into my womb if it were at all an option, because life can overwhelm a sensitive heart. Since God blessed us with this sensitive heart for a son, I’ve learned a few tools to help his tenderheart not just survive, but thrive.
1) Schedule Plenty of At-Home Time and Alone Time
All of the going we do in our hyperactive, highly driven society is unnerving and counter-productive for introspective, quiet children. These angels are often bordering on brilliant, and need plenty of white noise for their unique spirits to settle down again on the inside. Long school days, soccer practice, homework, dinner and then bedtime, doesn’t allow the time they need to set up their intricate displays of action figures and Lego, illustrate their original comic book, or read their latest favorite book.
Two hours seems to be the amount of time my tenderhearted boy has always needed. Even when he was two, he’d pull away down the long hallway, away from his brothers as they tumbled over one another. Alone on the hardwood floor, he’d put together and take apart and put together again puzzle after endless puzzle. In the end he’d come back to our family togetherness so beautifully calm and collected.
2) Protect Him by Partnering With Him.
We decided to hold this particular child back for an extra year of preschool. Once it was time to go to kindergarten, we chose a three day a week program. Even then he begged to stay with me at home, and the more overwhelmed he got the more his impulse control lessened and the more his tears flowed. The next year we began the grand adventure of homeschooling, partially because this child got emotionally stressed at school. However, after two years at home with me, I saw that he was missing some coping skills. These skills, I believe, needed to be developed beyond our front porch, so we enrolled him in a private school just down the road.
Miracles do happen! He is growing leaps and bounds in both his academic and social confidence and the lesson I’m learning is that I can best protect him by partnering with him, not keeping him away from the challenges.
This is not to say you shouldn’t homeschool, or that you should, I am simply saying that we must pattern with our unique children as they face their challenges.
3) Watch Your Children’s Diet
Sensitive children respond dramatically to artificial dyes and flavors in their foods, and often can’t handle high fructose corn syrup either. I’m not a nutritionist, just a mother. Just a mother. That means watching out for my children like a lioness watches for the possible threat of attack – and all that artificial crud in our food is attacking many of our sensitive children from the inside.
For years I wondered why my son struggled with night-time terrors, impulse control, and sudden bouts of heart-wrenching tears, but when I removed the dyes and corn syrup from his diet, he began drifting to sleep peacefully most nights and coping happily during his waking hours.
This isn’t a formula.
Dear Moms, each child is different and it’s our high calling to know each one of them well. The better we patiently understand their individual makeup, the better we can lead them uniquely into the life God planned for them from the very beginning. Here is a prayer that I pray for my tenderhearted child:
You’re not surprised by the challenges my boy faces each day. You lovingly guide me as I guide him. I trust you, God. I trust that you knew exactly what you were doing when you wove him together in my womb, and I find great comfort knowing that you will bring to completion all that you’ve begun in Him. Thank you for Your tenderness toward the tenderhearted. Amen
I mentioned how we’ve bounced around trying to find the right school option for our boy. Here’s a post I wrote about the bouncing… and the landing. For those of you who have young children who dissolve into a puddle of tears at bedtime, this sweet story always settled my boy’s anxious heart. I Love You, Stinky Face. And, might I suggest, you spray a little Lavender on his pillow at tuck in too? It takes the anxiety right out of them.
I’d love to be praying for you and your tenderhearted one so please, leave a comment telling me how I can.
Whether she’s with loved ones in her actual Living Room, alone in God’s Living Word, or speaking to a room full of women, Wendy Speake is inspired to share life and faith with others in creative ways. As Jeremiah had fire in his bones, she too feels compelled to share the Gospel of Jesus – she just does it with stories that probe the glorious and hurting places of life, pictures of faith lived out in her home, and recipes purposed to inspire hospitality. You can connect with her in her virtual living room — WendySpeake.com
At first, we couldn’t figure it out. Our son, the one who was a confident leader, was suddenly dissolving into deeply emotional outbursts and tears over seemingly “small stuff.” His sensitivity chip was in overdrive and it threw us for a loop. He couldn’t seem to articulate why he was having a hard time.
Sometimes, our boys swing in the other direction-they clam up and we can’t figure out what is making them moody or retreat. The invisible wall they put up seems insurmountable.
As a mom of 3 sons, I affectionately call my house a “testoster-home.” It took me a while to navigate the differences in communication between males and females. When our sensitive sons erupt into tantrums or sulk quietly, it’s a signal to us that they need our help to put their feelings into words. It’s not a time to condemn, punish punitively, or criticize them.
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1
There are four gentle ways that my husband and I have found effective to draw out the hearts of our boys:
One-On-One “Dates” With Your Son
The other day, I took my oldest boy out to an early dinner straight from school. We ordered his favorite mac n’cheese from California Pizza Kitchen and shared a sundae.
Slowly, as we savored the hot fudge, he leaned into me and thoughtfully confessed that he was having a hard time at school with a certain friend who seemed to be playing with someone else more than him. The moment of comfort and security was enough for him to put his emotions into words and it gave us some quality uninterrupted time for me to speak life into his heart.
Kick a Rock, Walk & Talk
It’s crucial for dads to take a specific interest and role in talking about emotions with their sons so that they can identify with a role model. This is especially true if the son is being obstinate or difficult, but you don’t know why.
Imagine with me for a moment, Dad approaches the son lovingly and explains that they are going to take a walk around the block until they figure out what‘s going on together. It may take several laps, walking side by side so they don’t have to look each other in the eye, but eventually, our sons will open up. They long to do so, but often feel inhibited. It doesn’t come as naturally for boys to express themselves verbally. Having a father who gives them an opportunity to kick a rock and walk and talk is relief for them. We want parenting formulas to help our sons, but our patient faithfulness is what will bless them the most.
Shift From Exasperation To Empowerment
Sensitive sons may feel like they have a lack of control or choices in their world, especially during times of big change such as a move, a new school, or the loss of a friendship, etc.
A practical way to help them feel more control is to involve them in something that makes them feel empowered. If your son tends to cry a lot or explode in anger, they may very well feel powerless and frustrated.
It’s helpful to sign them up for lessons or sports, or involve them in an activity that allows a bit of responsibility. Permit your boys to finally have that puppy to take care of or let them choose a summer job that will give them independence. The key is that it is something they will have a measure of success with so that they don’t continue to feel helpless and at odds with the world around them.
Pray Scripture Over Them
There is no greater act you can do for your sons than to pray over them with a fervent heart. God predestined the life of every one of us before the foundation of the world and He cares for our boys even more than we do. God has all the answers to all our questions. When you don’t know what to do, keep your eyes on the Lord and pray Scripture over your boys. The MOB Society co-founder, Brooke McGlothlin’s book, Praying for Boys is a beautiful and Biblical tool for you to use as you pray for the hearts of your kids!
Moms, keep in mind that it takes a CHILDHOOD to move from immaturity to maturity. An entire childhood! And it takes a childhood for our boys to learn how to navigate the world and their role in it. Stay the course, lovingly and gently drawing out their hearts and protecting their God-given emotions.
2. Parenting With Love & Logic by Foster Cline, MD & Jim Fay (This book is a favorite of mine. It teaches parents to give choices to kids so they feel responsible and learn from their mistakes instead of fighting or arguing about it with mom and dad.)
A former high school English teacher and budding novelist, Amber is a work-at-home mom of 3 little boys under the age of 6. She and her husband Guy answered the calling to start Storehouse Media Group, a faith-friendly and family-friendly TV and Film production company in Los Angeles, CA. When she’s not building sand castles with her boys on the beach in Santa Monica, CA or baking her famous Triple Layer Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake, you can find Amber writing to encourage families on her blog at www.MotherOfKnights.com