Friday, December 30, 2011

Disciplining Future Men

     When I began this blog, I really wanted to avoid "deep thoughts" and simply use it as a way to share information.  So many others do deep thinking so much better than me, and I planned to leave all that to those who do it best.  However, lately, I've been mullin' over (couldn't resist) something that my dear husband read to me and that I later reread for myself.  First, some background. 

     Recently, at church, a dear friend of mine was introducing me to a friend of hers.  At that moment, this visitor's son ran up in tears, and I quickly discovered that my son was the cause.  Yep, my son decked the visitor's kid.  Why?  My son saw this strange boy chasing and "threatening" his friend, who was screaming, and without a lot of thought, ran up, and "rescued" his friend.  In reality, these two boys know each other and were goofing around.  I'd say that my son grossly misread the situation.  So what do you do?

     I was mortified.  I won't lie.  However, my approach to disciplining my son and thinking about this situation was very different due to something, as I said before, that my husband read to me from the book Future Men only a few days before this incident.  Pardon me for the length of this quote, but it's too good to paraphrase. (Highlighting is mine)

     Countless examples may be multiplied from any given day in the life of a small boy.  Say a boy breaks a chair because he was jumping on it from the bunk bed.  Unbelief sees the cost of replacing the chair.  Faith sees aggressiveness and courage, both of which obviously need to be directed and disciplined.  Suppose a boy gets into a fight protecting his sister.  Unbelief sees the lack of wisdom that created a situation that could have been easily avoided; faith sees an immature masculinity that is starting to assume the burden of manhood.
     Unbelief squashes; faith teaches.  Faith takes a boy aside, and tells him that this part of what he did was good, while that other part of what he did got in the way. "And this is how to do it better next time."
     This issue of fighting provides a good example of how necessary such distinctions are.  Of course parents do not want to encourage fighting in their sons.  But this is not the only item on the menu.  Neither do they want to encourage abdication and cowardice.  There are times when men have to fight.  It follows that there will be times when boys have to learn how to fight, how to walk away, how to turn the other cheek, when to turn the other cheek, and when to put up their dukes.  If boys don't learn, men won't know.  And boys will not learn unless their fathers teach.
     When Theodore Roosevelt was at Harvard, he taught Sunday school for a time at Christ Church, until he was dismissed. A boy showed up one Sunday with a black eye.  He admitted he had been fighting, and on a Sunday too.  He told the future president that a bigger boy had been pinching his sister, and so he fought him.  TR told him that he had done perfectly right and gave him a dollar.  The vestrymen thought this was a bit much, and so they let their exuberant Sunday school teacher go.
     Unbelief cannot look past the surface.  If there was any sin involved, unbelief sees only the sin.  Faith sees what was turned aside to the service of sin and seeks to turn it back again.  Sin is parasitic and cannot function without some good attributes that it seeks to corrupt.  Consequently, faith must distinguish that which must be preserved and developed and that which must be abandoned as sin.
     In addition, faith also sees the godliness in what many pietists, on their own authority, have come to call sin.  At the beginning of his life, a boy does not know what century he was born in, and consequently exhibits to many of his politically correct and aghast elders some of the same traits exhibited by the boyhood chums of Sennacherib and Charlemagne.  He doesn't know any better -- yet.  But in our day, many of these designed masculine traits are drilled or drugged out of him by the time he is ten.  Faith resists this ungodly process and defines sin by the Scriptures and not by pietistic traditions.
     So faith is central in bringing up boys, but it is important to remember that the object of faith is not the boy.  It is faith in God, faith in His promises, faith in His wisdom.  Faith concerns the boy, and the boy can see that it concerns him.  Parents are to believe God for their sons, which is a very different thing than believing their sons.   
                               ---- from  the Introduction of Future Men by Douglas Wilson

     So when a boy two years younger says he's smarter and stronger, what's a boy to do?  I think in this instance, you teach your son to walk away, to let it go.

     When your son sees other children teasing or worse, hurting, someone different or weaker, what do you teach your son to do, especially since most schools have a zero tolerance policy for fighting, regardless of the circumstances?

     And when your son thinks his friend is in danger by a strange boy he's never seen and goes after the offender, you praise the loyalty and courage there, but you teach your son that, in church, it is best to find out more facts and find an adult to help.

     Somewhere along the line, we've decided, as a culture, that all fighting is wrong, but is it?  Is it wrong to fight for the orphan, the abused, the rights of those who cannot speak for themselves?  Is it wrong to get involved when your son sees injustice?  When our boys fight, hit, jump off things way too high, climb trees, and act "wild," what do we see?  Do we have faith that God is working in our boys' lives, creating strong, godly future men or do we just see little hellions that need to be tamed?

     There are way too many glum statistics about the status of our young men in this country, so I think Douglas Wilson may be onto something.  "Unbelief squashes; faith teaches."  Let's have faith in our boys.

     Finally, Wilson states "And boys will not learn unless their fathers teach."  As a side note, this is really a book that fathers should read first because boys learn best how to be men from their dads. However, this one passage alone has given me much to think about in how I parent my boys so at some point, I'll read the book myself.

     So the next time one of my little hellions, um, boys attempts to climb to the tippy-top of the tree, I'll swallow my fear and the urge to yell, "Get out of that tree right now before you fall and break your arm and we have to go to the ER!" and instead, praise the bravery it takes to climb to the tippy-top and yell instead, "Please be careful you brave, courageous future man!"  OK, well, maybe not, but you get the idea!

     Thus ends my deep thinking....


  1. Thanks, this is great. Love my 4 boys who have done lots of exciting things and taught their momma much!

  2. This was really good! Thank you for sharing it! I'm going to keep it in mind with our 3 boys.

  3. Great post. I love the idea of faith (in God) for my boys. Thanks for sharing.