Encouraging boys to be boys

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Boys will be boys, so “they” say to the chagrin of moms everywhere.

Let me be honest: my wife struggles sometimes. Her natural instinct is to protect and nurture. And while that’s needed…a lot…sometimes it’s not needed. (FYI, my wife is amazing, and she’s learned how to encourage our son in great ways to be “all boy.”) Sometimes boys need to be allowed to be boys. Sometimes boys need to take stupid risks. Break things. Jump off of couches and counters. Skin their knees.

It’s what makes boys boys. And it’s part of what helps boys transition to becoming men.

The transition to manhood doesn’t begin at puberty. That transition begins lots earlier. It begins on the playground. The monkey bars call young boys out of their fear. The slide that ends in a pile of rocks woos the boy right out and engages him in a way that they’ll be facing in the world as adults. “Take risks now” is what we should be telling boys. “Do things that makes others cower in fear…and don’t wait.”

If you don’t let boys take risks, they’ll always play it safe. Then when God calls them to something huge, something bigger than themselves, something with great risk of failure if God himself doesn’t show up, they’ll cower in fear. They’ll snap under the pressure…just like the boy in the swimming pool who wouldn’t jump off of the high dive.

How you respond to fear as an adult is often reflective of how you were taught to respond as a child.

If you have boys, let them do dangerous things. Let them go outside and get dirty, rip a hole in their jeans, and bust their lip. Let them climb trees, stub their toes, and splash in muddy puddles. It will feel counterintuitive to your protective, nurturing nature as a parent but in the long run, it’ll pay off.

My wife and I are trying to do this with our son. And he’s turned in to quite the frog catcher. He just hadn’t had one do this on him yet.


Rex & the frog from Ben Reed on Vimeo.

Raise boys to be men. Not boys.


Do you have children? How do you think raising boys is different than raising girls?


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

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

  • http://www.nosuperheroes.com Chris Lautsbaugh

    I’m a Dad and I needed to hear this. thanks

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      You bet, Chris!

  • http://www.christianhomeandfamily.com/ Carey Green

    You are right on many points Ben. I have a boy, a girl, a girl, a boy, and a girl. You’ve pegged the general tendencies of the boys pretty squarely. But I think as a caution I’d say that we don’t allow the “boys will be boys” mentality (which is generally true) to cause us to allow our boys to be devoid of self-control (a fruit of the Spirit). In fact, the reality that they ARE boys makes self-control an especially challenging fruit of the Spirit for them to manifest at times… and thus an especially important thing for us parents to be aware of and working on. Thanks for the good post!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Good point, Carey. I agree with you totally.

  • http://www.jasonvana.com Jason Vana

    I have had my fair share of frogs pee on me when I was growing up. I wasn’t all that nice to them, though. I liked to skip them across the water like a rock (they always swam back for more) and one time, my brother and I dropped one down a chimney log we had in our fire pit. The frog exploded. We got in trouble for that one.

    Boys need to be boys.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Down a chimney?!? Sounds like you and your brother had a great time growing up. :)

  • http://somewiseguy.com/ ThatGuyKC

    Awesomeness! I love being a dad and having a son to be gross & dangerous with. Since “Wheels” is my stepson it took his mom a little while to adjust to the exploding noises and rough housing I introduced to the family.

    Your kid is adorable. Keep making memories.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks KC. I’m proud of where we’re at right now…got lots of growing to go. Lots of lessons to learn. Lots of memories to make.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronald.price.77 Ronald Price

    Powerful word Ben. I enjoy reading your posts! :)

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks Ronald!