This month’s theme, Life Lessons for our Boys, took me back a few years. When I wrote I’m Outnumbered: One Mom’s Lessons in the Lively Art of Raising Boys (Kregel), I proposed a last chapter called “A Word from the Boys.” For this chapter, I interviewed my four sons, then ranging from 17 to 26.

I’m going back into the archive to share some of my boys’ life lessons with you, in their own words.

Life Lesson 1: Sibling rivalry is inevitable, but it can lead to self-awareness and the ability to work together.

Boy #3: “The hardest thing about growing up with brothers is sibling rivalry. Every brother wants to be the top dog, and if you have more than one child, that’s mathematically impossible. But that never stopped any of us from trying to establish dominance.”

Boy #2: “Four different brothers, four different opinions—and we all had to weigh in, even if it started as a conflict between only two. But we learned to work it out.”

Boy #1: “I had no qualms about forcing my #1 status on my brother when I shouldn’t have. I’m sure this was hard on my brothers, and it was something that invariably led to conflict.”

Boy #4: “I was always getting muscled out, but no hard feelings…”

Life Lesson 2: As hard as family vacations can be, they’re also great learning and bonding opportunities.

Boy #1: “Sometimes it felt like the van just wasn’t big enough for the six of us (plus the dog!), but I credit much of our current closeness to the long days and nights we spent on the road.”

Boy #4: “Some of the most fun and favorite family times I can remember with my brothers have to be our yearly summer vacation trips.”

Life Lesson 3: Parents aren’t perfect. It’s okay to apologize to your kids.

Boy #4: “I distinctly remember my parents apologizing to me more than once for losing their tempers. My parents didn’t just talk about their faith, they lived it to us, and their example has a great deal to do with who we are today.”

Life Lesson 4: Limiting technology enhances imagination; taking turns teaches give and take.

Boy #1: “Although we wanted more screen time, Mom’s time limits did seem to work. Everyone got a chance, and it was a smart choice because it forced us to look for other ways to use our imaginations.”

Boy #3: “Taking turns to use technology taught us we were all equals. No brother was better than another, and none of us deserved more benefits than the other. In a family, there’s give and take.”

Life Lesson 5: Be your own boy.

Boy #2: “My parents encouraged and helped me out when I was in a jam, and they would express their opinions and give me advice, but they kept a healthy distance for me to grow myself. Parents should allow children to follow their dreams and shoot for the stars.”

Boy #3: “Making sure every boy has the chance to do what he wants to do is important. Boys need to know they’re valuable and that what they do matters.”

Life Lesson 6: Your brothers are always there for you.

Boy #3: “The best thing about growing up in a house of boys was having three best friends.”

Boy #1: “We’re brothers. We keep in touch. We call, we text, we get to see each other in summer and during holidays.”

Boy #2: “I had friends who disappointed me in middle school, but my brothers were always there for me.”

Boy #4: “My brothers’ love and friendship never flinched, no matter what. They were always there for me as my best friends because we were brothers and that’s what brothers do.”

You may look at the warring toddlers in your living room and wonder if you’ll ever reach this point. Take heart! I could fill ten books with stories of arguments, bickering, and other sibling rivalry gems that would rival all the boys’ glowing words above. But the bottom line is that in young adulthood, this is the boys’ takeaway.

They remember the tough times as well as the lessons—and perhaps it’s because of the tough times that the lessons mean even more. So be intentional, Mom. Strive to instill life lessons, and bathe them in prayer. Ultimately, our boys belong to God—and He loves them even more than we do. Be sure they know that.