We have three rambunctious and very different boys. At times, I struggle to change my message so that each one gets the right meaning. One needs more positive reinforcement. Another needs help dialing back. The third needs to be told more than once, twice, or thrice….
I want them all to be different, just as God made them. He gave them to the fetching Mrs. Kelly and me for a very specific reason – He wanted us to raise them to love Him and follow His guidance.
We thought it would be simple if not always easy. As C.S. Lewis put it (and Dr. Covey echoed), we’d put first things first. We’d pray at morning and night, we’d go to church, and be involved.
We did pretty well early on. And then... the teenage years hit.
Basketball got more ‘engaging.’ Sleepovers were more important and weirdly political. Practices were being called at odd times. The boys were eating SO MUCH. Our time got stretched and things – important things - started to fall by the wayside.
But, if God is to be first and we are to raise our sons in His word, we decided we had to do things differently. We had to be intentional. And, we needed to be consistent.
To that end, we decided to consciously build some habits in our lives. After researching and talking with others, here are the seven habits we came up with for our family.
Walk the walk.
I do a little exercise with our camp staff each summer and I think it explains this habit better than anything else. Take a look at the short video I’ve up on our Facebook page and play along. It will take only one minute.
Long story short, our children do what we do rather than do what we say. If you lose your temper easily, so will they. If you exclude others, so will they. If you abuse alcohol, tv, or other vices, odds are they will, too.
However, if you serve and pray and do your best to follow God, you’ve got a good shot of raising a young man who does the same. Remember, the point is not to do it to be seen. Rather, build a healthy relationship with God for yourself, and those around you will notice and, in time, follow.
Make it interesting and applicable.
David and Goliath. Moses and the Burning Bush. Samson and Delilah. Jesus walking on water. Jesus rising from the dead…. There are SO MANY good stories in the Bible. And, if it’s one thing I know about boys and young men, they love a good story.
Our sons check out quickly when things aren’t interesting or applicable – even if it’s important! You have to give your young man the context of these stories and show how they relate to his life now.
(And, yes, that might take a little work on your part but it’s worth the effort! If you want a Bible that will capture his imagination and yours, try the Action Bible.)
Each night our boys go to bed, one of us blesses them. We place our hand on their head as they are about to go to sleep and say:
‘May the Lord bless you and keep, make his face to shine upon you, be gracious unto you and give you peace. And may you never know a day without His love. Amen? Amen.”
Then, they get a kiss on the forehead and an ‘I love you.’
Regardless of the battles you’ve fought that day or the pain that has been brought up, you giving him a blessing at the end of each day brings things back to the center. Despite their (sometimes) gruff and rough exterior, our boys want to know they are loved.
We have found no better way to make them feel this way than by giving our blessing. And, yes, it may feel odd at first. The more you make it a habit, the more both of you will get from it.
Surround him with Christian men.
“You are the average of the five people with whom you spend most of your time.” While this is certainly not an exact maxim, there is a reason it’s lasted the test of time– it pretty spot on.
You get to choose who you spend most of your time with outside of work. You get to choose what you read, what you listen to and what you watch. The same goes for him.
Not everyone has the chance to surround their boys with a bunch of Christian men. In those cases, remember that there are good books to share, podcasts to listen to, and shows we can watch.
Families who involve their young men in service to the church or community create experiences that fill him up. Many of our friends describe the buzz generate at their home after volunteering to serve a meal, do some clean up, or spend time with those in need. This buzz for the boys and young men comes from leaving a meaningful impact.
Paul said ‘Faith without service is dead.’ Show him that your faith is alive and well and have him help in the process.
This one goes back to the idea of walking the walk but deserves it’s own habit. Praying with you children, especially your young men, will give them a glimpse into what’s important your family, what concerns you, and what you’ll be working towards in the future. And, just as importantly, it promotes a leading of a grateful life.
While it’s important for the parents to prayer, make sure son leads a prayer as well. Be careful not to critique. Rather, present some ideas should their prayers become routine.
PLEASE make it fun. Laugh a lot with your fellow church members. Play. Heck, if you want to combine the two, here are some clean bible jokes.
There is certainly sadness in the world – things that will tear your heart out. However, our God has overcome the world! If we’ve already been promised the Kingdom of Heaven, what do we have to fear or worry about?
Shouldn’t we be joyful? Shouldn’t we laugh? Our answer is, yes, let’s party in all the right ways. Because, the more fun we make things, the more attractive it becomes both to ourselves and those young men watching us.
So, that is our seven. What habits do you actively practice? I’d be happy to hear in the comments below. Have a great week!