a blessing for boys

Nathan James Keisling

Few women are more qualified than my daughter to raise three sons, since she helped raise three brothers.

And now my firstborn has her third born, all of them boys. Nathan Keisling joined the clan two weeks ago today as grandchild number seven. According to his grandmother he is a beautiful baby.

And so he must be. Katie has been always quite sparing in her appreciation of appearance. She doesn’t think all babies are beautiful, not even her own. Some of them look like prunes or birds, and she has always been willing to tell me so.

So, if she says this is a beautiful boy I believe her. (She is in Tallahassee visiting the new born, which I haven’t held yet.) But there is something beautiful about the idea of a baby and the reality of a baby, however. And we delight in the marvel of it all.

He is also quite alert and active, she says. And well he should be. Boys are competitive and already he is having to stand his ground against two brothers. We could argue about nature vs. nurture, but for whatever reason boys are more aggressive. And Meg has her hands full.

So here is my short list of tips for raising boys, with no claim at all that I actually managed to do it myself.

Don’t keep score. Bigger, better, faster, newer—these things matter to boys. Winning is important. Status is important. One of the things I said to my sons over and over again is that you don’t always have to keep score. Our job is to teach the particulars about what is wisely left unmeasured or uncounted. We don’t have to teach them to be competitive. We do have to teach them to be gracious.

Do touch them. All kids compete for attention, regardless of gender. But boys tend to need a different kind of attention, more focused and in fact more physical. And this touching is not all roughhousing, which has its place but often reinforces the weakness we must overcome.

It was our oldest son who once took his mother’s face in his hands and turned her toward him. “Look at me, mommy,” he said. We have to work at physically touching our sons, something we do more naturally with girls. And we have to remember the boys are counting. (See status above.)

Do be firm. This is not just because boys tend to be more competitive. It’s because they are bright but fallen creatures who want to be in control. Those who seek authority must understand authority, however, and this best happens by being under authority.

Few things in the world are as sad as an undisciplined young man. Raising sons (or daughters, for that matter) is the business of making and enforcing boundaries. Over and over again. Reinforcing these boundaries is a thankless, exhausting and endless task. But the reward is respectful children who find safety in our consistency and maturity in our example. We give them direction before we give them choices. We give them examples before we give them instructions.

We do all this by pointing to an authority higher than ourselves. It’s not nearly as important that our children obey us as it is that they obey God. We are mere stewards and our work is to teach them God’s ways and engage them with God’s heart. To do this we must ourselves know God’s heart and rest in his mercy.

We must also rest in a peaceful home, even if it’s filled with boys.

I’m praying for John and Margaret, as I do for all my children, that they will seek to know the heart of God, not merely his commands. And I’m praying that they will have wisdom and joy in raising this new and precious child Nathan and his two smart and handsome brothers Timothy and Andrew.

And I’m praying for Nathan too, that he will know the limitations of keeping score, the assurance of love and the security of gracious authority. And most of all, I’m praying that he will find his place in the Kingdom of God, as a free and obedient son, an heir of the grace that is found in Christ Jesus.

Thanks be to God for the potential of this child.

1 thought on “a blessing for boys”

  1. Excellent counsel from a godly grandfather. Be blessed you all.

    David & Linnet Stevens

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