I just finished the book That's My Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character by Rick Johnson.
I figured, what are the chances of me being able to re-read this in the future? Or even flip through the pages in the future? And, what are the chances that if I recommend this book, people out there will have the time to read it? So I decided to do an in-depth highlight of the book. I highlighted and underlined while I read in the hopes that I could squeeze 184 pages into one blog that I can look back at and remember what I wanted to remember.
This is a long post, but even if no one else finds this helpful, I know I will look back and reflect. If other people get something out of it too, great.
So here are the highlights:CHAPTER 3: PITFALLS – WHAT TO AVOID
Mothers and sons have a special relationship, to be sure. But boys need to break away from their mothers at various stages (typically around five years of age and again during adolescence) in order to develop a healthy masculinity (47).But he might get hurt!
John Eldredge, in Wild at Heart, says, “The recipe for fun is pretty simple for raising boys: Add to any activity an element of danger, stir in a little exploration, add a dash of destruction, and you’ve got yourself a winner.” Sounds reasonable to me (49). “I’ve noticed that so often our word to boys is don’t. Don’t climb on that, don’t break anything … But God’s design – which he placed in boys as the picture of himself – is a resounding yes. Be fierce, be wild, be passionate.” Even the way a man plays with a young child helps to develop specific portions of the child’s brain (49).
“Fathers have a special excitement about them that babies find intriguing … an infant counts on his mother's rootedness and anchoring. He can count on his father to be just different enough from a mother. Fathers embody a delicious mixture of familiarity and novelty. They are novel without being strange or frightening. “ – Louise J. Kaplan (50).
Mom, let the boys play, even if someone gets hurt occasionally (50). Realize that when boys get hurt, they just consider it plain old bad luck. A wise mother lets her son be a boy (53).Smothering with love
Boy-friendly things to say in public: (1) Say “Great catch last night” instead of “I love you.” (2) Say “Try not to end up in the hospital again” instead of “Be careful – don’t hurt yourself.” (3) Say “You must be as tough as nails!” instead of “Does that hurt?” (4) Say “I remember once when I …” instead of “How do you feel about that?” (5) Say “Can you help me fix this?” instead of “Why are you feeling bad?” (55).
Your tough little boy still needs his mother’s love and affection, just not so much in public (56).No quitting!
“Never, never, never, never give up!” – Winston Churchill
A man’s role in life often requires him to persist in the face of adversity. This valuable skill is lost when boys are allowed to quit. Mothers needs to understand that a boy who learns to quit during hard times will be more likely to give up on his own wife and children when the going gets tough. Eldredge says, “Life needs a man to be fierce – and fiercely devoted. The wounds he will take throughout his life will cause him to lose heart if all he has been trained to be is soft. This is especially true in the murky waters of relationships, where a man feels least prepared to advance” (62).CHAPTER 4: BOYS AND SEXHow males think about sex
At the risk of perpetuating a stereotype about men, there’s a distinct possibility that if a woman knew how and what men really think about, they would refuse to be in the same with room with them (66). Sexuality permeates all of a man’s relationships to one degree or another (67).
Men don’t tend to do many things that aren’t in their own self-interest (68).Sex education & pornography
Many parents leave the sexual education of their kids to the schools … but if you start early and can become comfortable discussing sexual issues before puberty sets in, you might just be the best person to introduce him to sexuality (69).
In his book What a Difference a Daddy Makes
, Dr. Kevin Leman suggests that fathers should be the primary sex educators for their daughters, and mothers for their sons. As he says: “Who better knows what a man needs than another man? In the same way, who better can explain a woman’s perspective on sexuality than a boy’s mom? Look, little Joey already understand what it feels like to have a penis! What he doesn’t know, but really wants to know, is how it feels to have two breasts, how girls react to boys, and how he can relate to the opposite sex without making a total fool of himself (70).
Girls really are mysterious to boys. The more information a boy has on how females think, feel, and act, the more comfortable and confident he will be in his relationships (70).
Don’t be afraid to relate some of your experiences as a young woman. Tell your son how you felt during various situations and what you wished you had done differently. If you really want to make a difference in your son’s life, you must spend time talking with about these subjects. Leman says, “If you want your son to pick up how to relate to women from you rather than sixteen-year-old Sally down the street, you have to ask yourself: Am I willing to spend as much time with him as Sally is?” (70).
Teach your son table manners. Talk to him about some of the character qualities young women admire in young men … keep the lines of communication open with your son in the area of sex (71).
The many times I’ve cautioned my son and other boys about the dangers of pornography, I’ve tried to put it in its proper perspective … Would he like men lusting and fantasizing about his sister or mother like fantasizes about the women in the porn? … If he can’t use self-control in one area of his life, he’ll lack it in other areas as well (73). Don’t think, My son would never look at that filth.
Sorry, Mom, but yes, he would, even at a young age. He won’t be able to help himself” (74).The dating game
There’s some pretty clear evidence from a variety of studies that show that the longer a teenager (boy or girl) holds off before beginning dating, the greater the chance he or she will remain sexually pure until marriage (78) … Discuss with your son the need to make decisions about his personal behavioral boundaries before he’s faced with a tough choice … if he has made life choice decisions beforehand, he’s not as likely to find himself in a position that requires him to make difficult choices (79).
Talk to your son about his impending sexuality. Begin at an early age and keep the door open as he gets older. Often, the best way to get boys to talk is not to lecture them but to use your life experiences as examples (81).CHAPTER 5: COMMUNICATING WITH BOYS
Boys only have about a thirty-second attention span. They literally cannot hear things that don’t interest them (83). Besides strong problem-solving skills, what are two of the main requirements to be a successful hunter? The ability to be silent and the ability to focus intently on one thing … males value power, competency, efficiency, and achievement … when teaching your son things like communication skills, resist the urge to do too much for him (84).
John Gray, in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
, states, “To offer a man unsolicited advice is to presume that he doesn’t know what to do or that he can’t do it on his own.” … Understanding this male characteristic makes it easier to comprehend why your son shows frustration when you offer him advice or continually tell him what to do and how to do things (85).Males can’t read minds
Have you ever seen a dog cock his head and whine in confusion when you talk to him? He’s trying to understand what you’re saying, but he just can’t quite grasp the meaning. That’s how we [men] feel. We want to make you happy; we just don’t understand (86).
Moms, speak plainly to your boys. You’ll save all of us a lot of headaches. Say what you mean, and mean what you say (88).Touch, eye, contact, and sound bites & reinforce with activity
A boy’s mind is easily distracted. He does, however, react well to visual stimulation, noise, and physical contact – the old hunting traits. So try the touch-sight-sound approach to get his attention: (a) First, remove distractions from his line of vision; (b) Second, touch your boy to get his attention; (c) Third, speak succinctly in small, sound-bite-size sentences. Keep your comments short and to the point … (89).
As boys get older, life experience stories seem to work better than lectures. Also, asking a boy what he thinks about a subject is a good way to get him talking about an issue (90).
Communicate that you are always there for your son. Then respect his communications as privileged (90).
When it comes to talking to your son: (1) Try speaking softly sometimes … whisper; it sparks their curiosity (90); (b) Have him repeat what you said and ask if he understands (90); (c) If you want to talk to your son (or any male in your life, for that matter), try talking to him while doing something he enjoys (91); (d) Take your son somewhere fun and talk to him during the activity (93). I suspect doing something the boy enjoys takes the pressure off having to have think and talk at the same time (93); (e) Males need to move, especially when they are upset or when they are problem solving. They also need to think about their feelings before they can express them (94); (f) Males instinctively try to solve problems. Say something like, “We have a problem, and I was wondering if I could get your help in solving it” (94); (g) Often, the mother, with her superior verbal skills, is capable of dominating the conversation. Frequently, the frustrated boy ends up resorting to anger to make himself understood. The Bible exhorts fathers not to exasperate or discourage their children. The same applies to mothers (92); (h) Don’t be afraid to allow silences in the conversation. Sometimes boys need time to think or process (95); (i) As much as possible, end conversations with an invitation for the boy to have the last word. Let him end the conversation (95).Admiration and respect
Men and boys typically require admiration and respect even more than they do love (96). When your son does something you want to encourage, try saying something like, “I really admire the fact that you did that,” or “I respect you for that. That’s how a man acts.” … Watch your son’s chest swell when you build him up with the qualities of admiration and respect” (97) … Also, I’m sure you’ve noticed the reaction you get from your son when he feels like he’s needed (98).CHAPTER 6: DISCIPLINING BOYS
Consequences and Accountability
A punishment technique commonly used with preschool-age children is time-out. In order to use time-out effectively, adults must realize that it creates an unpleasant situation for children because it provides time away from anything reinforcing, such as toys, other children, or adults. If adults are talking to a child while he is in time-out, the adults’ attention is actually rewarding the child! … So adults must not interact with the child during the time-out period (107) … Remember, rewards are more effective than punishments , and adult attention is very rewarding to children (107).
… men hold younger men accountable for their actions (109) … males must be accountable to someone other than themselves, be it to their wives, other men, their mothers, their farther, or God – their heavenly Father (110).Challenging authority
A child that is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone (110).
Remember: (a) You’ve got to have a firm hold on boys. They are rambunctious, high-spirited, and active. Know what they are doing at all times. Always question who, what, and where whenever they are going somewhere; (b) Don’t back down … [remember] I’m raising men, not boys
; (c) Don’t just threaten – follow through. So be very careful what you say; (d) Get to know each child’s personality (111).
Punish your children when it’s needed, hug them when they need assurance, and make them think you know what you’re doing even when you don’t have a clue (112).
Make your six-foot-two-inch teenage son take a knee or sit when you talk to him so that you are at least eye level instead of looking up at him from a subservient position (112).
Instead of yelling or pounding the table, just say in a calm voice, “You’ll wish you hadn’t.” Then let it go … for the time being. In the next few days or weeks, your son will come to you with requests for money, a ride, the car keys, etc. That’s the “day of reckoning,” when you gently and briefly remind him, “Remember the other day when I told you, ‘You’ll wish you hadn’t’? Well, that time has come.” It’ll be a tough moment for him – and you – but it’s a great opportunity for your son to learn how life really works (113).Anger control
Anger is a God-given emotion. Only love is mentioned more frequently in the Bible. … Boys learn early on that anger can help them deflect attention from these more painful emotions. … In short, boys learn quickly that it’s easier to feel anger than it is to feel pain (114). It’s important that you teach him that anger is a secondary emotion that covers another emotion (117).Teach them to work
Some tips: (a) Give boys chores at an early age; (b) Teach your son to budget money by giving him a small allowance starting at a young age; (c) Males – big or small – love to have their favorite food prepared for them as a reward; (d) When you go do something special for your son … let him know it’s because you appreciate all the work he’s done. Many times males don’t recognize the cause-benefit relationship if it is not brought to their attention (118); (e) Give your son a vision for “conquering” his own house, especially the “manly” things such as completing yard projects, helping the fix-it man, or maybe even painting something. You’ll find that he’ll be much happier and more satisfied and content with the man he’s becoming (119).Age-appropriate chores
(a) Ages 2-3: hang up clothes on hook, help pick up toys, help feed pets; (b) Ages 4-5: make own bed, set and clear able, dust, help put groceries away; (c) Ages 6-12: take care of pets, cook simple foods, help wash car, vacuum, sweep, mop, clean bathroom, do laundry, take out trash (119)CHAPTER 7: WHAT DO BOYS NEED TO LEARN TO BECOME GOOD MEN
There’s a school of thought that encourages us to “speak it into existence.” For instance, when you tell a man he’s brave, you help him become brave. With that in mind, tell your son all the things you want him to be: courageous, loyal, honest, strong, tender, and compassionate. Remind him of these qualities, and you help instill them within him. Point them out in others so he can see them in action (123).Perseverance
Greatness is born by perseverance in the face of adversity. … Perseverance is probably one of the toughest things for moms to teach their boys. It requires them to resist the urge to rescue their sons when they are struggling (125). In our era of instant gratification, the concept of paying one’s dues has been lost in the rush to acquire as many material possessions as possible as quickly as possible. … Perseverance is the art of not quitting. … Let your boy suffer if it means finishing a worthy task (126).Loyalty
You teach loyalty be being loyal (127). Does he know that you would die for him? Make sure he knows. That’s an important fact to know – that someone would be willing to die for us (127).Manners
“This is the final test of a gentleman: his respect for those who can be of no possible value to him.” – William Lyon Phelps (128)
Even when treated rudely, he [should] continue to be polite to others (129).Courage
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke (129).
Courage is simply doing what needs to be done even though you’re scared and tired. Teach your son to lead courageously, to stand by his convictions even when they may result in pain, sorrow or negative consequences (131).
That’s the kind of courage your son needs: the courage to continue to do what is right even when all those around him are calling for him to compromise (132).Compassion
Is there anything worse than a bully? Is there anything less manly than a thug who picks on those weaker than himself? Point out everyday examples of bullies, and explain to your son the ramifications for everyone involved in each scenario. … A man should defend those who cannot defend themselves. Teach your boy early the nobility of protecting the weak and helpless (134).
Also, he should be allowed to suffer the consequences of his actions [even if he did the right thing like defending someone from a bully which resulted in suspension from school]. No, it’s probably not fair under the circumstances, but life’s not fair, and the suspension reinforces that there are consequences to his actions (136).Self-discipline and self-control
Self-discipline is doing something we don’t want to do but should. Self-control is not doing something we want to do but shouldn’t (136).
How does a boy develop self-discipline and self-control? He develops them by being held accountable for his actions. … Stick to your guns, even if it’s been a while since the infraction and he’s been well behaved during the interim. If you give in, you’ve lost. Once he knows he’s not accountable for his actions, you’ve lost his respect and any control you had over him. He might throw a fit or make things uncomfortable for a while, but once he learns that you mean what you say, he’ll accept it (137).
Self-control and self-discipline may be the greatest gifts you can give your son as he grows into manhood (137).Dependability & honesty
Your son needs to understand that no man is an island. His choices and the decisions he makes affect other people’s lives whether he is willing to admit it or not (138).
One of the hardest things for men to do is admit when they are wrong. While that’s probably not earth-shattering news to most of you, be aware that boys struggle with the same natural inclination (138). … [teach] boys how to admit when they are wrong (139).
Talk to your son about his God-given strengths and weaknesses (139). Help your son find activities that are positive in nature, that allow him to develop a healthy self-esteem (example playing in the band instead of playing sports) (140). Let your son know early on that you expect honesty from him at all times (140). If someone, especially a man, is called humble or exhibits humility, the connotation is that he is a wimp. Humility is somehow associated with being humiliated, while pride is looked upon as a virtue. Young men are supposed to be confident, cocky, overachieving go-getters – to never admit they’re wrong. However, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines humble as (1) “not proud or haughty,” (2) “not pretentious; unassuming,” (3) “modest” (141). Humility is the opposite of pride (141).Trustworthiness and honor
One of the ways I determine a man’s character is whether I would trust him to cover my back in battle. … We need people around us we can trust to cover our backs, people who put our well-being ahead of their own (142). I want my son to have honor. To stand tall as the fierce winds of adversity blow around him. To cherish and protect women and children. To fight for justice and equality. To stand for something (143).CHAPTER 8: RESPECT
Respect for Women
“Every gentleman is a man, but not every man is a gentleman.” – Unknown (146)
Boys need to be taught to respect women of all ages – girls to grandmothers. They should open doors and carry heavy items for them, not because women are weaker or incapable, but because they deserve to be honored and cherished. This may be politically incorrect, but it’s true (146).
Teach your boy at a young age to open the door for you and his sisters. As courtesy and respect manifest themselves in other areas of his life, they will become a lifelong habit and will help create an attitude that some future young lady will greatly appreciate and praise you for (146). Boys need to be taught how to love a woman. … Teach your sons the value of a woman. … Talk to him about what things are important to women and what things cause them pain (147).
Stephanie Martson, a family therapist, says in her book The Magic of Encouragement
, “When children are treated with respect, they conclude that they deserve respect and hence develop self-respect. When children are treated with acceptance, they develop self-acceptance; when they are cherished, they conclude that they deserve to be loved, and they develop self-esteem" (151).
Change is difficult, and it takes a lot of hard work. Unfortunately, change doesn’t happen overnight; it often takes a long time to see significant differences in our lives. That’s why most people choose not to grow, even if they’re unhappy (151).
“Children can’t make their own rules and no child is happy without them. The great need of the young is for authority that protects them against the consequences of their own primitive passions and their lack of experience, that provides them with guides for everyday behavior and that builds some solid ground they can stand on for the future.” – Leontine Young, Life among the Giants
Kids … need boundaries more and more than ever before. Why? Because they tend to be on their own more often. … Set acceptable boundaries on your son’s behavior. The number one boundary is that being disrespectful to Mom is no acceptable! How you allow your son to treat you is how he will treat his wife. You’re also training your daughters (and other young girls within your sphere of influence) how to expect to be treated in their relationships (152).
“A stream without banks becomes a swamp. It is your job as parents to build the channel in which the stream will run.” – James Dobson, Bringing up Boys
(152).CHAPTER 9: THE IMPORTANCE OF MALE ROLE MODELS
Boys learn to become men from other men. Masculinity bestows masculinity … John Eldredge says, “A boy learns who he is what he’s got from a man, or the company of men. He cannot learn it from any other place. He cannot learn it from other boys, and he cannot learn it from the world of women” (156). Until a man knows he’s a man, he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at the same time shrink from anything that might reveal he is not (156).
Look for good boys to be your son’s friends. I think it’s important for parents to take an active interest in directing their children into friendships that will be healthy and nurturing (164).
The book contains a list of good movies and to show (and read with or encourage them to read) your boys which have men as powerful leaders. Boys are typically not readers. However, our culture does not do much to encourage them to be readers. Encourage your son to read; it is a wonderful gift he will appreciate for a lifetime (167).
... as hard as it may be, try not to criticize your son’s father – especially you single mom’s out there. Your son will learn soon enough on his own what faults his father has (168).Where do you go from here?
- Recognize your role: “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” – Proverbs 1:8. The mother’s instruction should be bound about a boy’s heart and neck, a constant companion and a trusted guide (172).
- Pray: The most important action you can take on your son’s behalf is to pray for him on a daily basis (173).
- Plan: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” –Unknown; think about which values and character traits you want your son to demonstrate. Then design a program to teach him those values. An informal poll indicated the greatest needs in a man’s life are: (a) significance in their life; (b) other men in their life; (c) a cause to fight for; (d) appreciation. Every man has four parts to his being that need to be nurtured and develop din order for him to be fulfilled – spiritual, educational, occupational, and relational (175).
- Keep learning: Keep reading books and looking for positive male examples for your son (176).
- Involve male role models: A boy who has never had healthy masculinity modeled for him faces an extremely difficult, if not impossible, task in becoming a good man. … God, who sent his Son, Jesus, to earth as a man, is the ultimate role model of masculinity. Part of your plan should include schooling your son in the teachings of Jesus Chris and the Bible so that he may develop his spiritual faith and acquire wisdom (177).
- Develop a vision for your son: Develop a vision for your son. Always hold him to a higher standard. Yes, the narrow path is harder to walk down, and most people take the easy path through life. But easy is not always best. Your son needs to have a vision of what a man should be (hopefully, modeled by his father). He needs high standards to strive toward and goals and dreams to motivate him. Make sure you share that vision with him (177).
- Have fun! Boys are fun to raise! If you understand the differences between males and females, you will enjoy raising your son beyond measure. Just remember – expect boys to be a little louder and more physically active than girls. Try not to be too overprotective of them, and keep your sense of humor. I promise, you will find no greater satisfaction in life than raising your son from a helpless baby and then seeing him exhibit strength of character beyond your wildest expectations as he enter manhood (179).