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Topics: Manhood, Parenting

Cultivating Masculinity in a Houseful of Cowboys

October 16, 2015
By Christel Humfrey

I am a mother to three precious cowboys. I could also describe them as walking tornados who love adventure, sports, and rodeo. Now aged 4, 6 and 8, these boys stretch me in ways I didn’t know I could be stretched. And while I delight in their boyish antics most of the time, I also see a great need to shape their masculinity in ways that would honor God.

Whether your son is a wild child or a sensitive soul, all boys have one thing in common: they need biblical truth and encouragement to practice godliness.

If you have boys, here are 6 ways you can help them grow into godly men.

Teach Them That Kindness Takes Action

Kindness is not a new idea. But it’s a virtue that seems to have gone out of style. So much so that “speaking your mind” trumps it every time. It may be because “kind” is confused with “nice.” And nice people are generally thought of as boring, repressed or flatterers. Right? But kindness is different than niceness.

Kindness, according to one dictionary, is “behaving in a way that shows you care about other people”. Kindness empathizes with other people and takes the initiative to promote their good.

Jesus exemplified this for us. His love for the church was not a vague, sentimental feeling that he felt at his convenience. It was the kind of love that shed blood, sweat and tears for the sake of his loved ones. But His death was not the end, even now He sympathizes with our weakness and makes intercession for us (Heb. 4:15, 7:25).

I want my boys to emulate Jesus’ brand of masculinity. Clearly we are not striving for a masculinity that is stoic, disengaged or indifferent to the struggles of others. Instead, our boys are learning about kindness–about caring for other people and taking action on their behalf.

Teach Them About Responsibility

Boys don’t naturally gravitate toward responsibility, yet they thrive on the satisfaction of a job well done. It’s good for them to know that Mom and Dad trust them with responsibility. If they feel they have been tested, tried and proven, they are more confident to take on responsibility in the future.

Responsibility requires wisdom to make decisions and courage to accept the consequences. Unlike Adam who blamed his wife for his sin (Gen. 3:12), I want my boys to take ownership of their actions and graciously accept the consequences.

If they marry one day they will have a responsibility to lead, nourish, and cherish their wife (Ephes. 5:22-29). If they hold jobs, serve in the church, or father children, they will need to know how to take responsibility for others. We must begin preparing them in boyhood if we want them to grow into mature manhood.

Show Them That You Value Their Dad

If you are married, you can demonstrate the value of godly masculinity by obeying God’s command to respect your husband (Ephes. 5:33). How you treat your husband will leave a powerful image in your son’s mind. Instead of deriding or manipulating your husband, let your boys see that you value their dad. Speak highly of him, and encourage your boys to take note of their dad’s example. When you do this, you not only honor God’s design for marriage, but also give your boys incentive to grow into these masculine roles.

Teach Them to Control and Express Their Emotions

A while back, I turned to find my 3 year old’s cheeks and eyelashes soaked with silent tears. When I asked him why he was crying, he replied,

“I’m not, Mom, my eyelashes are sweating.”

I told him I had never seen eyelashes sweat before, and I was pretty sure he was sad about something. Maybe he had seen too many Westerns, but in that moment, I needed to assure him that cowboys do, in fact, cry sometimes.

Another son of mine had to learn to reign in his emotions. After an accident involving a horse and some broken bones, he developed a fear of horses. So we talked about life’s uncertainty, God’s sovereignty, and His great love for him in the gospel. And we repeated the conversation many times.

Seeing the exhilaration on his face when he conquered his fear and kicked the horse into a lope was worth every minute spent preparing him. Because in that moment he learned why controlling his emotions was a virtue worth fighting for.

When my boys become men, they will face situations where their emotions are at odds with doing the right thing. Whether they are tempted to shut down emotionally to escape a difficult situation or overindulge emotionally to the point of crippling their ability to function–childhood is an essential training ground for the complexities of adulthood.

Let Them Wrestle and Learn Restraint

My boys seem to have an innate desire to wrestle, compete, and do relatively dangerous things. As a mother, it’s terrifying. I want to coddle them and keep them from harm. But I know they need opportunities to explore their physical strength to learn to wield it for good.

With each year we give more freedom for to boys to explore. We want them to know what they are physically capable of, but we also expect more self-control and self-awareness. Do they know their own strength? Do they have anger issues? Are they in control of their impulses? I would prefer they had a grasp on this aspect of manhood before leaving the watchful care and guidance of Mom and Dad.

Godly men don’t use their strength to bully or abuse others, but rather to help and protect. Boys need to understand that with strength comes the responsibility to use it in God-honoring ways

Teach Them to Trust in God’s Sufficiency

Our boys will never lead others well if they don’t learn to humbly rely on God first. Sometimes in our efforts to grow boys that are confident, strong leaders, we forget that self-sufficiency is not a character trait we should cultivate in our children.

Our culture pressures boys to become handsome, muscled and fearless, but we need to remind them that God’s grace is sufficient for them, and His strength is made perfect in their weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

They need to understand that salvation is not found in themselves or in any earthly thing, but in Christ alone (Ephes. 2:8).

Moms can teach their boys to distinguish between godly masculinity and the mold of manhood promoted in mainstream media and men’s magazines. And most importantly, we can point our sons to a better model of masculinity, Jesus Christ, who has the power to transform them, even into His own image.

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