When a reader emailed me with a question about boys’ attitudes, I was actually excited to be able to address this topic because it gives me the opportunity to share with all of you wisdom that was passed on to me many years ago.
Here is the email…
“I have a constant struggle with my struggling 10 year old boy. His attitude stinks, he is rude to others and mostly has a lack of discipline when it comes to doing school. I struggle with consequences for not getting work done…What have you found useful for motivating/ or disciplining your boys? Thanks for some creative ideas!”
First of all, it helps tremendously for mothers and fathers to know why boys often come to a point in their lives where they exhibit rude behavior and defiance toward things they never took issue with before.
The world will tell you this is just the “normal teenager” but that’s a somewhat hopeless answer; a throw-my-hands-up-in-the-air sort of answer. Not acceptable.
What’s really going on is actually quite simple, but not something we moms readily realize…
Our boys are growing up.
That’s right. That attitude you see is your son growing up and trying to figure out who he is, where his place is in the family, and over whom he has authority.
If your son has younger siblings, you might see him trying to exercise authority over them by barking orders or lashing out when they don’t do what he wants, when he wants it done.
You might see your son grouching over school work and giving you guff or even pouting. He might seem moody and off kilter. One day, he’s super man, the next, he’s totally unsure of himself. (Sounds a bit like our daughters, huh?)
Boys go through hormonal changes, but they also go through dominion changes. Honestly, I think all boys have an innate sense that they are supposed to conquer something. Often, the first manifestation of this need to conquer starts with those closest to him…his own family. In boyish foolishness, he sets out to be in charge.
So, what’s a mom to do (or a dad, for that matter) with this child who is looking to become a man?
1. Lay ground rules about who is in charge. Your son needs to know he cannot treat his family/friends/strangers with disrespect. He needs to know what type of behavior you expect when it comes to family interactions and school work. You have to set a standard and then hold him to it. We’ll talk more in just a moment about one of the best ways to discipline when a standard is blatantly ignored.
2. Give responsibility. You’ve probably been watching your son’s behavior and thinking, this kid doesn’t deserve any responsibilities! But, that will backfire on you. Your son needs to know you expect him to become a man and he needs to be given man jobs, little by little. Mom, you are going to have to let him grow up and let him try new things…hard things. Praise him for the heavy lifting he does for you, praise him for diligence in completing a “man-sized” task, praise him for showing himself to be a workman approved. When he does well, give him more responsibility and also more privileges.
3. Revoke privileges as punishment. Because he is beginning to have man-sized responsibilities and man-sized privileges, you now have a way to discipline your son when he has an attitude or tries to take over your authority or blatantly disrespects you.
Let me give you an example: Suppose one privilege your son has acquired is the ability to shoot airsoft guns with friends in the field behind your house. Suppose he chooses during one of his airsoft battles to yell at his little brother. Because one of his man-sized responsibilities is to take charge of his younger brother and protect him and he did not do that job properly, he has now lost the ability to shoot airsoft guns with friends in the field. He hasn’t lost the responsibility of caring for his younger brother, but he has lost the privilege of playing with friends. In fact, for the next several weeks, he must take his little brother out to the field to shoot, lending him his own gun and giving him lessons on how to safely use an airsoft gun.
4. Point toward Christ as an example. Guiding our son toward Christ provides him with 2 things:
A standard of godly living
Much needed humility.
Our sons need to see their faults and they need to see their need for a Savior, but they also need to see hope and approval in Christ. Don’t let your son never be good enough. Spending his growing up years harping on him over every little thing will not make him stronger, it will make him resentful.
5. More time with Dad (if possible). Mama, it’s time to start cutting the apron strings. Your son needs to know what manhood looks like (yes, even imperfect manhood). He needs to spend less and less time being your buddy and more and more time being about the things of men…preferably with his dad.
6. Male role models are a must. If Dad isn’t in the picture, then you’ll need to start here, but if dad is in the picture, this is not the place to start. Wait on this one until your son has a well-established relationship with his father. As he ages, he will naturally begin to seek out men who fit into his picture of role models. Help him find these men and be involved, rather than defensive. My son is 14 and this transition has not happened yet, nor do I anticipate it happening until he is several years older. So, unless you are needing to help him find someone because of an absentee father, don’t push the issue of finding male role models outside the family. And never, ever assume a man who appears to be safe and godly truly is. This is one area where you should be protecting your son by being involved.
However, I would highly encourage you to start watching videos and reading the books of godly preachers with your son. These men are role models too even if you do not know them personally!
I hope this sheds some light into the reasons why boys reach a certain age and start firing away with larger than life attitudes, as well as offering you a way to guide them toward manhood. May you and your sons be blessed in the journey!