Training teenage young men to be adult men
4. The best time to begin preparing a boy for adolescence is before it begins. In football, as well as in life, it’s much better to be on offense rather than constantly playing defense and having a goal-line stand.
One of the best things I did was to go on the “offensive” and organize a weekend getaway with my sons as they approached the teenage years. From this experience I developed a package of resources called Passport2Purity to help an adult (father, grandfather, or uncle) discuss the transformational changes that kids will experience in the teen years. Every young man needs to know in advance about the “manhood awakening” that is so powerful it can overwhelm him. Ideally, between the ages of eleven and thirteen, or no later than fourteen, a boy needs to hear an older man talk about puberty, attraction to the opposite sex, how sex works in marriage, erections, masturbation, wet dreams, lust, and pornography. (Passport2Purity covers all of these topics in a day-and-a-half experience with your son. For more information, see ShopFamilyLife.com.) Evaluate your children to determine when you should pass this information on to them. The key: make sure they hear about this from you first!
5. Young men need to be with men. Young men need to talk about manly things with older men. They need to rub shoulders with men who are modeling what it means to be a man. And they need to experience ceremonies and celebrations around what it means to be a young man. A few of years ago, I helped my friend Robert Lewis, founder of Men’s Fraternity, with a DVD series called Raising a Modern-Day Knight. This series is designed for fathers and sons to complete in a weekend or in six weekly sessions and contains a number of unforgettable ceremonies that commemorate a boy’s passage to the next step of manhood. (For more information about this series, see ShopFamilyLife.com.)
6. Teenage boys can’t be allowed to linger in adolescence. Like a young eaglet that gets pushed out of the nest at the appropriate time, a young man must learn to fly on his own if he’s ever going to start stepping up into manhood. If the nest is too cushy, if all of his creature comforts are there for his enjoyment, then he may set up his high-definition television and perch for a while.
With both of my sons, I remember a conversation that occurred sometime around their nineteenth birthdays: “Dad, I just don’t get as much money from you and Mom at college as my friends do. I can’t make it on what you give me.” To which I smiled and responded, “Son, I understand. You are becoming a man. A man with adult tastes and expectations. Your mom and I love you, but you need to know that we are not committed to helping you satisfy these desires. If you want to eat out, buy things, and go places, you’re going to have to earn money.”
I am concerned about a migration of immature eagles back to the home nest. Some are delaying the manly duties not only of assuming responsibility for rent, food, and monthly bills, but also of stepping up to find a wife and begin a family. Ask any single woman in her twenties and thirties, and she’ll tell you that there is an endangered species of real men who want to assume the responsibilities of a man. As pastor Mark Driscoll observed,
“We live in a culture of hook up, shack up, break up. Men are marrying later and staying married shorter than ever. The average dude is not a dude but just a boy who can shave.”
Don’t give up
It’s easy to become discouraged when you feel as though you keep teaching the same lessons over and over to teenage boys, and you think they’ll never grow up. You wonder if they’ll ever grow into men stepping up into manhood. And then God surprises you.
Benjamin and Samuel both attended the same university, and their time overlapped a couple years. I remember speaking with a female friend of theirs, who said, “Oh, did you hear what happened at the Campus Crusade for Christ meeting on campus the other night? First of all, Benjamin stood up. He shared how he was going to take a year off from school and volunteer to go to Estonia and be a missionary to reach college students. “After he finished, he sat down, and the next person to share was Samuel. He told everyone what a phenomenal brother he had—how much he loved him, how much he admired him, what a mentor he had been to him, what an example he had been of following Jesus Christ, and how much that meant to him as a freshman at the university. And then Samuel put his arms around his brother and just hugged him.”
It was one of those moments parents dream about. These were the same boys who once argued and fought with each other so often that we wondered if they would ever become friends. I wanted to hear this story one more time! I think God occasionally has compassion on parents gives us just a glimpse of the men our sons are becoming. I tell this story to give you hope and to encourage you to keep on being faithful to bring up your sons “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). At some point you will see the fruits of your efforts as these young men step up.
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