A Few Tips for Raising Boys

I’ve had a few conversations with fathers recently about the challenge of raising teenage boys. Similar to my own past experience, these Christian Dads have been struggling to get their boys to study, to do homework, to respect their mother, and do a few chores around the house. They are easily distracted, often moody, and totally obsessed with digital media. I usually try to share some of the hard-won lessons from my own parenting, most of them learned through many painful failures. These include:

1. The vast majority of teenage boys were not made to sit at desks for hours and hours at a time. It doesn’t matter if it’s homeschool, Christian school, or public school, it’s completely unnatural to confine the primal force of male teenage energy within a few feet of desk space for five, six, seven and more hours a day. Their testosterone-fueled bodies are yelling “Let me out of this cage!” We shouldn’t therefore be surprised at their frustrations. I sometimes think most classrooms and pedagogy were invented by boy-hating women with studious girls in mind!

2. It’s normal to have these parenting struggles. Very few teenage boys transition smoothly from childhood to adulthood. I know of one boy who never gave his parents a moment of trouble in his teens. But he sure made up for it in his twenties! Dads need to know that the same battle is being fought in just about every other Christian home. It would help if we were all a bit more transparent about this, and pastors could help a lot by admitting their own parenting struggles.

3. Dads need to try and get time with their teenage boys. My relationships with my teenage sons always went better when I spent time with them in the evenings, and especially on Saturdays. Ideally we would try to do something physical outside, whether it was working in the yard, going fishing, swimming, playing soccer, cycling, skiing or something like that. Time with them plus physical activity greatly improved our relationships. These were also opportunities to chat with them in a casual, informal, non-threatening way about spiritual and moral issues.

4. Be patient. This is perhaps the greatest challenge to us today. We expect instant results from our teaching and our discipline, but usually the fruit takes many years to even show a little green shoot. In the meantime, impatience, anger, and bad temper can destroy relationships and communication. We might modify their behavior for a time, but we lose their hearts. My “boys” are now young men whom I love and deeply respect. Looking back, I see that I worried way too much because of my impatience.

5. Try to find things to praise. Sometimes it can be really difficult, especially when there is so much to criticize and discipline for. However, our discipline is never going to work if we never identify areas where they are doing well and encourage them for that. The ideal is probably at least two or three praises for every criticism we dish out.

6. Paid work outside the home. This goes back to #1 and all the pent-up energy in the male teenage body. We found that getting our boys out to work a couple of hours a day or a few times a week did them (and us) a world of good. They got out of the house, they did work that tired them out, they felt responsible and “grown-up,” they earned money, they got correction from bosses and co-workers, and we got some quiet time! It doesn’t matter how menial the work is — just get them doing something physical.

7. Clear rules. The two areas that we focused our rules on were technology time and bed time because these were the areas that we found most influential in their lives. When these areas got out of control, so did our boys. The more time they spent on phones, videos, computers, etc., the more nutty they became. The more sleep they got, the happier they were. We had clear rules for how long they were allowed to use any digital media each day and clear rules on bedtimes, with different times for weekdays and weekends. We didn’t just set rules, we followed up with discipline if they were breached.

As anyone who knows us will tell you that we are by no means the perfect parents. I could write a much longer blog on my parenting fails. But, looking back, these were the things I wish someone had told me before getting on this rollercoaster.

Thankfully, next up for me are two young teenage daughters. Somebody tell me it’s going to be easier.

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No One Else Is Coming
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What Christians Should Do This Election Season — Give Space, Show Grace
“I have too many friends and family members and fellow church members on all sides of Election 2016 to let their choice in the voting booth affect my affection for them. So, I’m trying to do two things, and I hope you’ll join me.”

Every Click Counts: What You Should Know About the Internet | Desiring God
“You should assume that every time you click, someone knows exactly what you clicked on — and that information informs whether the builders of that site will deliver more of the content you accessed. Every click matters.”

My Mother Aborted My Siblings, And That Hurts Me Deeply
“It may be one thing to support the right to choose in theory, but when that abstract choice is actually your own brother or sister, and you were never part of making that choice, abortion can often be perverted from a right to be championed, to a destructive and tragic force in your own family.”

Kindle Books

Making a Difference: Stories of Vision and Courage from America’s Leaders by “Sully” $1.99.

Survive or Thrive: 6 Relationships Every Pastor Needs by Jimmy Dodd $2.99. Unfortunately I cannot fully endorse this book as the author accepts women ministers. However, leaving these bones aside, there’s a lot of good meat in this book.

Each for the Other: Marriage as It’s Meant to Be by Bryan and Kathy Chapell $1.99.


David Garner Interviews Dr. David Wells

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3 negative consequences of having too many options | Musings of a Christian Psychologist
“I prefer having choices to make over not having the option to choose how I spend my time. And yet, just like any medication you might take, the freedom to choose brings with it some potentially dangerous side effects. I’d like you to think about 3 and then consider a couple of modifications about how you make choices.”

Why Won’t God End My Suffering? | Desiring God
“I don’t remember the day I was diagnosed with a physical disability. I was only three years old. Disability is something that has always been a part of my life, and it probably always will.”

5 Effects of Living with Abuse | Brad Hambrick
“Abuse is an event(s) with lingering consequences. That is what the question, “I said I was sorry, why are you still upset?” misses. Abuse is an event more like a house fire than a cigarette burn. A burn produces initial pain, but heals with little more than scar. A house fire has more far reaching consequences.”

Turning 40 While Single and Childless | Bethany Jenkins
“Four weeks shy of turning 40, I’m still single and childless.”

Faults to Avoid in Public Prayer | The Christward Collective
Samuel Miller set out 18 common mistakes that ministers, elders and deacons should labor to avoid when leading the congregation in public prayer.

Sunday Soccer and Small Christianity | Desiring God
“Reading the New Testament, I see that Christianity is many things. But one thing it isn’t: a weekend option between soccer practices.”

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John Piper responds to the survey that found only 8% of pastors said yes, that a pastor using porn should resign. When the question was asked of adult Christians, 41% said yes, a pastor should be fired, or asked to resign.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race. Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us by Benjamin Watson $3.99.

The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight $1.99. 366 Amazon reviews!

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf $1.99. Not a Christian book but a writer who has a real insight into the impact of our culture on.


Life in Osborn: A Detroit Documentary
PRTS Video Producer, Darryl Bradford, was one of the cameramen who worked on this documentary that’s just been made freely available:

Life in Osborn is the story of hope for one of Detroit’s most-blighted neighborhoods. Chronicling the efforts of the Detroit-based non-profit Life Remodeled to make a sustainable difference in the northeast Detroit community that once was the most violent ZIP Code in the United States, Life in Osborn follows the project centered on a makeover of Osborn High School, the amazing transformation of deeply depressed, cynical and skeptical Osborn resident Pandora Ingram, who lost a son to gang violence, and the efforts of 10,000 volunteers from businesses, churches and Osborn residents on a memorable journey of sometimes dark urban life mixed with occasional humor and pervasive hope of a formerly proud working-class neighborhood’s attempt to reclaim its heritage.

What makes a great teacher?

Some years ago, Gallup asked, “What attribute do Americans find most compelling in the teacher they have identified as having the greatest impact on their lives?”

Over 40% of Americans describe the teacher who had the most positive influence in their lives with words such as caring, compassionate, motivating, and inspiring; while just 17% of Americans thought  intelligent, knowledgeable, persistent, hard-working, and demanding were words that describe the teacher who had the strongest influence on them. (2012 Gallup Poll on Public Education)

Caring and compassionate! Quite the caricature-smasher isn’t it.

Of course, there has to be content as well; we don’t want teachers just to cuddle the little darlings all day. But I must admit, although my own elementary and high school education was a nightmare in many ways, the two teachers who do stand out in my mind, one man and one woman, were exactly as described in this poll.

They were willing to stop teaching and start talking. They would sometimes stop in the corridor and chat. In the classroom, they were firm but warm and friendly. They often encouraged with words of praise and appreciation. They varied teaching and assessment methods so that everyone’s gifts could shine rather than just the best memorizers. They were more concerned with what we learned than with what they taught. Although, their lessons didn’t seem to be so full of facts and figures, I learned far more from them than in all the other classes put together.

Above all, they just seemed to have more time for students. And there’s nothing that communicates care and compassion better than time. To this day, whenever I think of them, I am inspired and motivated to be less focused on transferring data and much more on touching hearts.

All this perfectly fits what we know about the greatest teacher that ever lived:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

His appeal for students was based on gentleness and humility not qualifications or results. His teaching methods were certainly not exactly the most “efficient”; but were they supremely effective and compelling!

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“In short, the nature of pastoral authority in Presbyterianism is both informal (in dozens of areas, from preaching, to casting vision, to having a broad understanding of the issues in the church, to making lots of daily decisions), formal (as a member and moderator of the Session), and shared (as only one voice and one vote when it comes to making the most important decisions facing the courts of the church).”

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“For those who find their faith mangled in a head-on collision with the church, like a totaled car on the highway, what is the way forward? In between “I guess I’ll just wait things out” and “I’m leaving for good” are five realities that frame our wounds, bring them into a better light, and help us take the next steps. ”

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Columns from Tabletalk Magazine, October 2016
A sample of columns in October’s Tabletalk.

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Reach Out To Women Like Me With Postpartum Depression
“Let’s discuss what postpartum depression really looks like, by sharing our experiences with the new and expectant mothers in our lives. Let’s confront the doubt and denial head on, together, so that another mom doesn’t shrug off her symptoms as “not that bad” until it’s too late for her and her family.”

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Kindle Books

Tried by Fire: The Story of Christianity’s First Thousand Years $2.99.

Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice $0.99.

Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus Name by Bryan Chappel $0.99.

The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World by Owen Strachan $0.99


For the Church Conference
A series of videos from Midwestern Seminary on the pastor as theologian, as preacher, as shepherd, as family man, and as leader