Volume 8, Issue 2: Childer
Tough All Over
Um . . . boys and girls are different. As parents bring up their children in
the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the ethics of child-rearing remain constant.
But the differences between the sexes require that parents govern their children
with wisdom. Not only are these children different from one another, these differences
reflect the wisdom of God, who intends for them to serve Him differently.
The purpose here is to outline some of the common pitfalls which face mothers
as they deal with their sons . Of course, the father has the responsibility
to see to it that the relationship between his wife and his sons is what it ought
to be. Nevertheless, trouble often arises between mother and son which he needs
to be aware of. Sometimes this trouble is visible to a mother, and sometimes
it is not.
Boys need to get knocked down. The first "blows" they receive should be right
at home during their first several years of existence and delivered by those
who know them best. This is the time when parents must establish the lines of
authority, and the father must see to it that the boy's mother is respected and
honored by him. Unless this is done when the boy is two to four years old, the
trouble for mom later on will be considerable.
As the son grows older, and if mother has a hard time maintaining a good relationship
with her son through parental discipline, she may attempt to compensate for it
though developing an emotional closeness with him. "I know he can be a real pill,
but we have had some really good talks. I think he is really opening up to me." What
may actually be happening is the son is learning how to manipulate his mother.
In other words, if he tells her how his day at school went and talks with her
just a little bit, a great deal of disobedience and disrespect will be overlooked.
When mothers face this temptation to mollycoddle their sons, they should know
that if they give way to it, they are destroying their sons. Any Christian family
should, of course, be characterized by kindness and by "good talks," but there
is a counterfeit kindness which kills. Emotional closeness or intimacy which
ignores sin is not a sign of better things to come; it is a disaster ticking.
By the same token, there is a type of toughness in discipline which builds.
And we must remember that discipline is not just limited to responses to disobedience
and sin on the part of children; discipline also includes patient instruction
when the child encounters some of life's difficulties.
A family with young sons was recently in our home, and in the course of our
meal together some hot food hurt one of the boys. Gently, and without any harshness
at all, the father stopped his son, who had started to cry, and taught him.
"What do you do when this happens? You smile and keep on playing." Such lessons,
delivered in this fashion, are worth mountains of gold.
This can ,of course, be easily misunderstood. No one is saying that a boy with
a severed limb should be yelled at -- "Don't bleed on the carpet!"
Nevertheless, instilling toughness in boys is extraordinarily important. A masculine
toughness is the only foundation upon which a masculine tenderness may be safely
placed. Without a concrete foundation, thoughtfulness, consideration, and sensitivity
in men is just simply gross. So mothers must take particular care against allowing
some of their feminine strengths to be the occasion of stumbling for their sons.
Three things are necessary as mothers consider this.
The first is that she should talk regularly with her husband about her sons
and her relationship with them. (Of course they should confer about daughters
as well, but mom is receiving something additional in her talks about the boys.
She does not initially know how boys think and respond, and her husband does.)
Any number of things may be happening which she does not see and concerning which
her husband's advice would be invaluable.
Secondly, she must have the respect and obedience of her sons. The older and
bigger they get, the more obedient they should be. A son who is a foot and a
half taller than his mother should hear her with respect. Of course she should
be careful not to issue needless requirements, but when she requires something,
it must be cheerfully done. If it is not, then she should immediately involve
her husband. The central issue is not the thing to be done, but rather teaching
the son to honor his mother, as the commandment says, and to respect women.
Third, she must never subsidize her sons' laziness. Masculine inertia is difficult
for anyone to deal with, and the aversion which many boys have to academic rigor
is renowned. But educational laziness is the mother of poverty and sloth. Whether
it involves homework from a Christian school, or the schoolwork supervised at
home by a homeschooling mother, the word which should characterize the academic
activity of the home is industry . Homeschooling mothers, in particular, have
to check the work being done against an objective standard. Boys can work much
harder than they say they can.
In all this, under the father's supervision, the mother can equip her sons to
rise up and call her blessed.