As a teacher and counselor, I’ve caught rare glimpses of the male heart. Fragile hearts trying to be strong, strengthened by honor but destroyed by a word. Recently I observed a sixth-grade boy fiercely trying to hold everything together, though his heart was broken. In his silence, the tears pouring from his eyes spoke volumes.
In the hearts of all young men, lies greatness. The challenge of raising men of integrity comes in developing hearts to be strong yet sensitive, honorable yet real, compassionate and honest.
This is a challenge.
I’m convinced good men can change society. I recently asked my sons, ages nineteen, fifteen, and thirteen, “What has been helpful in teaching you to become a young man?” Their responses encouraged me that certain moments are important.
Here’s the Boy Code for good parenting principles:
- Teach them to respect others. One of my sons thanked me for teaching him to respect people of every “group.” When a man respects others, no matter their age, gender, status or religion, they impact those around them.
- Be consistent, fair, and firm in discipline. Another son was thankful we don’t let things “slide.” Discipline is painful in the moment, even for parents. It’s easy to let small things slide as boys become teenagers, but this isn’t the healthiest.
- Be open, honest, and realistic about living a life of integrity. Two of my sons expressed gratitude for being open with them about things that could easily be ignored, like sex, the consequences of sex, relationships, and the realities of living in a highly sexualized culture. Talking about your family’s morals and game plans for addressing these areas is important.
- Prepare them to be honorable leaders, even in small things. Respecting parental leadership, making them accountable for responsibilities and actions, and providing leadership within the family unit is training ground for family, community, and workplace leadership. Every sphere of influence needs authentic male leadership, even when women are leaders beside them. We need men who will step up just for the sake of stepping up when good leadership is needed.
- Affirm individual strengths, providing young men opportunities to excel at things in confidence. Every young man wants to have the slam dunk, be the superhero saving the world, or be the race car driver crossing the finish line. But not all boys are basketball players, superheroes, or race car drivers. Finding what teen boys excel at and getting them involved in those things is important for their confidence and development.
- Practice what you preach. When teen boys see integrity lived out, it gives them a baseline for their own behavior and morals. Teen manhood is defined by the rules among peers. When young men have another “boy code” that’s modeled by men they respect, those influences can trump the pressure of peers.
My sons wrestle with life just as other men have before them. For those of us raising young men, we can’t give up when the seasons get tough. What are principles you’ve found essential for raising boys to men? What did you find helpful in your upbringing?