7 Suggestions for Raising Boys Who Welcome Your Input as Adults

boy and father

People ask me all the time for advice on raising girls, and honestly, I’ve got some, but they all involve a shotgun and long ankle-length dresses, so you probably don’t want that. Just kidding. I always wanted a daughter, but God gave me boys.

And, I think He knew what He was doing. Imagine that!

I’ve learned a few things about ministering to men — and understanding myself more — by raising boys. One thing I’ve learned is that boys are desperate for wisdom. They crave it. They want someone to speak into their life — save them from making the wrong decision.

But, equally true, they are often either too timid to ask for it or they just never know to do so.

(Someone told me guys seldom ask for directions either, but I’m having a hard time believing that one. :) )

I’m close to my two adult boys. We’ve walked through a lot of life together — mine and theirs. They are on their own, have good careers, and live healthy, productive lives. They love other people with grace. Best of all, they both love and pursue Jesus actively. I couldn’t be more proud as a dad.

Gratefully, and the subject of this post, they still call me for the major decisions they make in life.

I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad when I was their age. I wanted the type relationship with my sons where they would always feel welcome and ready to learn from my experience. I’m blessed to say both my boys call me often, sometimes daily in certain seasons of their life. They want my help making life decisions. I can only credit God’s grace with that blessing.

Even still, I’ve observed there is something in them that wants to appear not to need the help at times. Something in a guy resists the need for help — even when we desperately need the help.

How do you get your sons to want to come to you for wisdom, long after they leave home?

I get asked that a lot. I have a few thoughts.

Here are 7 suggestions for raising boys:

Do activities they want to do – I spent lots of time with my boys, but I did that by assuming their interests. If it was baseball or wrestling, I loved and lived what they loved. I know dads who try to get their boys to love fishing or golf because they love fishing or golf. I simply chose my interests around theirs.

Stay close – Boys grow to become men. That sounds simple, but it’s huge to remember. They want to be independent. Some days they don’t want you around as much as others. (That may sound appealing for a moment when they are colicky as infants, but believe me you will miss them.) I tried to stay close enough that I was there when they were ready for me. Ephesians 6 says not to exasperate the children. I simply tried not to get in the way of their growth pattern, but to always be available when needed. I found I was “needed” more often that way. And, the funny thing, it almost seemed like they tested whether I was going to be there when they called.

Be fully present – Like all men I always had plenty I could be doing. I tried to let the boy’s time be the boy’s time. Children know when you’re not really being attentive. There were times my boys told me I needed to put my phone down. I listened. I wanted them to feel I was listening to what mattered to them. If my boys wanted to kick a soccer ball or throw a baseball, I did it, no matter how tired I was from a long day. And, it’s amazing how much more a boy will engage in conversation when a ball is involved.

Offer wisdom more than solutions – This is huge. I explained this more in THIS POST, but I tried to help my boys form a paradigm for finding an answer, rather than always giving them the answer. Honestly, this is harder. It’s easier just to do something sometimes. Give the answer and move on. Solve the problem. But they don’t grow that way. And, they learn to use you as a crutch, rather than develop into independent young men. Boys want to find their own way. They like solving the mystery, creating a new path, and discovering the answers on their own. I wanted them to always have access to me for the wisdom of experience, but to develop the ability to make wise decisions apart from me.

Love their friends – My boys knew their friends were always welcome in our house. They knew I’d fix them lots of pancakes on Saturday morning. They knew we stocked our fridge with every drink their friends might like, just in case our house was the hangout house for the night. They knew the doors was always wide open for anyone they brought through them. Honestly, we didn’t always approve of their choices in friends, but we talked them through it and tried to steer them towards better friends. But, we never turned away their friends. This did two things. It protected their hearts towards us. And, it helped them learn principles of grace. Over time we discovered that if we were building wisdom into their lives in other areas they would discern for themselves the wisest choice in friends.

Give solid boundaries – We were a house of grace, but boys need structure. Let me repeat that — before someone gets hurt — boys NEED structure. They need someone to tell them when they’ve gone too far in how they talk to their mom. They need someone who will counsel them when they are falling behind in school — and hold them accountable to do better. They need to know there is someone who will pull them aside and discipline them when they do wrong — and be consistent in that discipline.

Let them explore – Boys are risk-takers. Most likely we have steered it out of them if it’s not there. It’s innate. They use potty language and wrestle and bounce balls that break lamps and pee places you never thought someone would pee. They’ll jump off something and you’ll likely end up in the emergency room a time or two. But, that’s part of being a boy. And, discovering. And, growing courage and faith and the ability to be a man. Of course, there’s a line. And, I wasn’t great at finding that line. You can’t let them be too stupid (Although one of my favorite Proverbs says, “Surely I’m too stupid to be a man.”) But, you should let them be boys. That includes exploring. And, that’s a word to moms and dads.

There are probably other suggestions I could share, but if you are raising boys, you probably need to go break up a fight or stop them from jumping off something. We can talk more later. :)

What suggestions do you have for raising boys?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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30 thoughts on “7 Suggestions for Raising Boys Who Welcome Your Input as Adults

  1. Thanks for this encouragement Ron. I have 6 boys so I take any advice/suggestions I can get. Being fully present is something that God has been really working with me on lately.

    "Children know when you’re not really being attentive." It seems as if they have special radar! There's a definite payoff when our kids know that they have our complete attention.

  2. Good words! I love the concept of sharing wisdom and not just solutions. As a mom of two grown sons, that really resonates with me. As to any advice I'd add? Here's 3 things: 1) We told the boys that they're doing chores not just to help the family, but that some day they're be in charge of their own place and they'd need to know how to take care of a home and possibly be responsible for a family. Sometimes, it would be tough sledding to get them on board, but eventually it paid off. Our daughters in law have told us that they're VERY thankful for our *Husband 101 Training*, as we called it. :) 2) If the boys wanted to do something or go somewhere as teens, our principle was "Make it easy for me to say yes". That way, they'd do the work of planning and tell us who they'd be with, how much it would cost, if they'd need a ride and when, etc. They knew our values and learned to plan activities that would align accordingly. And, it's so much fun to say YES to your kids…they could see that we enjoyed saying yes…and it became a really big part of our lives. 3) Learn to relate to your older kids, especially boys as brothers in Christ. Let them pray FOR you or lead worship songs if that's their thing… or give a devotional. Could be informally while camping or regularly at the dinner table. Modeling humility and a culture of learning is huge for boys and it creates a healthy vulnerability. One last thing… I remember my hubby teaching the boys to "avert their eyes" with sexy TV commercials came on during football games. They made it a game of their own to see who could dive for the remote first and change the channel. Rich times together then…reaping the joy of grandparenting now. It truly is …grand! :)

  3. Thanks for the words of wisdom. As the father of 3 amazing boys, I am always looking for insight how to be the best dad I can be. You only get one shot & I don’t want to blow it. Very thankful my wife forwarded this to me!

  4. Last week I heard someone say pray for your children to have wisdom to learn this school year. I liked it and have been doing it ever since. I pray with my boys and already feel it's made a difference. It's going to be a great school year. I like your points but especially the one on wisdom—not to give your boys answers but help them find their own. Thanks Ron.

  5. I have one son-he's a peanut still just a baby,but I am thinking a lot about how to be a mom to a son. I get my daughter, but my son- uh not a clue. So I asked my husband ( he's the kind of man I want Ezra to become) what do I do to be a good mom to a boy. His answer surprised me. He said, "it's not in you to neglect him or ignore him, so pursue your own happiness." Sometimes we try so hard, work so much at correcting and guiding, that we can forget that families were also meant to be fun! When I am run down, I am not the kind of mother I want to be and can be. Now there are those who ignore their children, who don't remember to sacrifice and put personal needs second sometimes, but they are not likely to be reading an article like this one. Remember the last time you flew somewhere? -put you oxygen mask on first, then put one on your child. It's the same principle.
    I thought this was a great article.

  6. I forwarded this post to my husband and several of my friends who have boys. Good stuff! Helps keep me grounded in the tough stuff to know I am on the right track.
    Twitter: KariScare

  7. Hello

    Wonderful blog post on boys.
    We have 8 children 4 girls and
    4 boys.

    I find to being open and honest
    with them is very good. They all
    know they can come to us for any

    Which I'm so glad because our
    daughter is due in August it will
    be our first grand baby if things
    go ok.

  8. Great post!! As a single mom who has raised 3 boys into young men of 22, 19, & 16, you are right on for moms or dads. Unfortunately, my ex abandoned them when they were very young & never had contact. One thing I've always told my guys is that 'I'm here, no matter what, through the good & the bad & everything between'–all kids need to know that but I think boys do even more because they often feel they need to 'prove themselves' or stand alone being tough.

    It also helps to learn how to drywall…then you don't have to worry about them 'playing ball in the house'…or in my case, hockey!! 😉

  9. With a new grandson only 12 hours old, I will share this blog with his parents.

    Great suggestions, and as mother to both a daughter and son, they can apply to both:)

    Thanks Ron, great reading to start my first official Grandma day!

    • Yea! And, congratulations. They tell me the love of being a grandparent is beyond explanation. Look forward to it some day!

  10. As the parent of two boys, 3.5 years old and a 1.5 year old, I really appreciate the advice. Part of me wanted to raise a girl, but I'm so excited to have boys now. Nothing against women, but I think what the world needs is more godly men. And little boys are the only things that God turns into men.

    • Thanks Loren. You're right. Nothing wrong with girls. I do wish I'd had one, but wouldn't trade my boys in for one. Just would have to have had more kids I guess :)