Sunday, December 11, 2011

Boundaries Teach Boys Self-Discipline

This past season, several high-profile college head football and basketball coaches have been vilified and lost their jobs due to the perception that they harshly enforced disciplinary methods upon a player or players in their program. I’m not defending these coaches’ methods as I do not know the situation, but here’s what I do know. Many young men today, especially talented athletes, have been raised without a father or any other form of accountability or boundaries in their life. They have gotten whatever they want their entire lives. They do not understand the value of true leadership or the concept of respect. These young men rebel against any kind of discipline and despise authority figures. Even though they may in truth crave discipline, they have steered their own ship for too long. They have learned to do what they want, when they want, and so any kind of restrictions—whether it is healthy for them or not—are very uncomfortable. They instinctively resist accountability and become self-focused and self-absorbed. Without willingly acceding to the mentorship and authority of other men, young males with this attitude will struggle their entire lives, creating problems in the lives of those who love and depend upon them.

Teaching boys’ self-discipline is difficult and requires effort on your part. Like most things worthwhile in life, it is hard. Boys learn best by what is modeled for them, not spoken to them. Teaching them self-discipline requires that you be disciplined. Constantly indulging your son in his every desire isn’t good for him. It doesn’t mean you have to be harsh, but you do have to say no sometimes--even frequently. For some parents today, pushing their sons to teach them self-discipline almost feels like child abuse. But the truth is that the more you can teach them to have a strong sense of self-discipline, the happier and healthier they will be throughout their entire lives.

Boundaries are a must during the teenage years. Boundaries help instill self-discipline. Without boundaries boys do not know what the rules are and what is expected of them. They may rebel, but remember no matter what they say, the very fact that you thoughtfully and consistently enforce rules of behavior makes them feel loved and valued. They might complain to their friends that you are mean and tough, but they will say it with a sense of pride too. I’ve known many at-risk young men who have told me that they wished their parents had loved them enough to make them follow a set of guidelines designed to keep them safe.

Recognize though that boundaries need to be flexible to grow and change as your son does. Just like your son is constantly growing and changing so too his boundaries should be dynamic. To hold a seventeen-year-old young man to the same boundaries he had as a thirteen-year-old boy would certainly cause rebellion at best and psychological damage at worst. As he shows more maturity and responsibility, his boundaries should be loosened to help him continue to grow in his decision-making and critical thinking skills process. Our goal is to help him become a healthy, functioning adult by the time he is out from under our umbrella. By not allowing him to grow, we are doing him a disservice by ensuring his failure in the world.

That said, all children (even teens) need clear-cut rules, structure, and guidelines in order to develop self-discipline. They thrive under firm supervision and guidance—they need strong boundaries and discipline from adults. They don’t need you to be their friend. They have plenty of friends. They need you to teach them the things they will need to be successful in life. And sometimes that requires courage on our part. Teens (especially strong-willed ones) know how to push buttons—they are developing their critical thinking skills so they like to argue. They are masters at manipulation. They wear you down—it’s part of their battle strategy. That’s one reason it is important for a husband and wife to be on the same team. They must work together to ensure that a child is raised with consistency and with the same agenda. The bane of many divorced families is that Mom and Dad have a differing value system in their respective homes. Kids are confused from week to week as to what is expected of them.

Discipline comes in two forms—internal and external. Internal discipline or self-discipline is what we strive to teach our kids by applying external discipline. External discipline is applied in a variety of forms—allowing them to suffer the consequences of their actions, teaching them the pleasures of delayed gratification, understanding the relationship between hard work and success, and through personal accountability. Kids, who are not subjected to healthy discipline while growing up, tend to live unhappy lives and create chaos in the lives of those around them. When we discipline our kids, we are actually preparing them for much more fulfilling lives.

Think of it this way. Self-discipline is a gift you give your son that will benefit him his entire life. It will benefit your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren as well. Like all things that are important in life, though, learning self-discipline is difficult and requires hard work. One of the most effective ways to teach boys self-discipline is by holding them accountable for their actions and choices. The sooner they learn that every decision they make (or don’t make) has consequences associated with it, the sooner they start making disciplined and healthy choices. This will be extremely important when he becomes a man and his choices have magnified consequences to both him and his family. Want to see this in action? The next time your son wants an item from the store, tell him, “Sure, you can have it if you buy it with your own money.” You’ll quickly see what he places value on when he has to be responsible for purchasing it himself.

Excerpted from Rick's book, That's My Teenage Son" by Revell Publishing. To find out more visit

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Expectations Make the Man

Oftentimes the expectations we have for our children have a tendency to come to fruition. With that in mind it is important we have high expectations for our boys. We should strive to have them aspire to greatness. Why not exhort them to aspire to greatness? The rule of thumb in the business world is that employees are only capable at best of living up to about 75% of the expectations that an employer has for them. Why should we strive to produce mediocre men by having low expectations of our boys?

Unfortunately, our culture not only has low expectations for males, it seems to revel in trying to destroy masculinity. We expect boys to act more like girls. In Unleashing Courageous Faith, Paul Coughlin comments on what our culture does to boys, “Boys are being gunned down by manliness gone bad and by those who do not accept or appreciate it. Our culture tells young boys that traditional masculinity is bad, that men are stupid and deserve to be the object of disdain, contempt, and ridicule. Then we expect them to grow up and exemplify honor, integrity, and valor.” Just watch nearly any television sitcom or commercial if you doubt that statement.

True manhood accepts responsibility for others’ lives by protecting, providing, nurturing, and leading those under its sphere of influence. But how do we teach boys the lessons they need in order to accept that responsibility and develop the mindset necessary to fulfill those roles.

In many cultures throughout history manhood was something that was earned through overcoming difficult challenges or dangerous initiations. It involved initiations, rituals, and ceremonies generally supervised by older males. Frequently the instructions passed along during these rites of passage contained life lessons that taught boys what it meant to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of manhood.

Teaching young men to have empathy and compassion for others is very important in the development of a healthy man. It has been my experience from raising two teenagers and working with many others that they are often idealistic about the world and troubled by the injustices that abound within it. Young men should be indignant and disturbed by things like poverty, victimization, and exploitation of those who cannot defend themselves. That righteous outrage means he has heart. It is much better than the passive, apathetic, and self-focused attitude many young (and older) men posses today. Instead our culture tells them that self-gratification and self-indulgence are the only goals worthy to strive for.

So how do boys learn to have passion, courage, and empathy? By watching the examples of their fathers and other older males in their lives.

Question: What expectations do you have for your son that will teach him to be a man of integrity?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Passing the Mantle of Manhood

Young men growing up without mentors are just boys seeking their identity. Since our culture does not have intentional rites of passage to teach and help guide a young man from boyhood into manhood, they are often left to rely upon themselves to try and figure out how to become a man. Some boys consider getting drunk for the first time the sign of crossing the threshold into manhood. Others think losing their virginity is surely a sign of being a man. At its extreme gangs often require initiation ceremonies of new members that include assault and battery, theft, rape, or even murder.

In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge calls boys who have never been initiated and mentored into manhood “partial” men. They are boys walking around in men’s bodies, sometimes even fulfilling their roles with jobs and families. For these men the passing on of masculinity was never completed (if started at all). These boys were never taken through the process of masculine initiation. It’s why many men today are what Eldredge calls Unfinished Men.

In his classic book, Raising a Modern-Day Knight, Robert Lewis uses the model of initiating boys into manhood through the medieval custom of knighthood. In those times boys were trained and equipped with a masculine vision, a code of conduct, and an objective to live life. First as a page, then a squire, and finally a knight they passed through stages that trained them and helped instill a chivalric code of honor. At each of these stages they were given ceremonies that celebrated their achievement and marked their progress toward manhood. By the time they were ready to become knights they had a clear definition of a man’s duties and responsibilities and a code of conduct to live his life by. In other words they knew what a man was because they had been trained and tutored by honorable men for many years.

Ceremonies or rites of passage are important for all children but especially for boys. Our children develop their faith not only from us but from others as well. Remember, someone is going to influence your children—it had better be you or at least those who have the same value system as you do.

While my son was growing up I held several personal ceremonies with my son at various stages such as at age 12 when I took him to dinner, challenged him to purity, and talked about the challenges he was undertaking as he entered adolescence.

But when my son graduated from high school I was determined to have a ceremony he would remember to launch him into the world. Several months beforehand, I contacted six godly men and asked them to pray about what God would have them share with a young man just starting out life. Shortly after his graduation I rented a room in the back of a restaurant and hosted a dinner with my son and the six men. Each man took turns in front of the others telling my son the mistakes they had made, their regrets, and the things they wish they could do over. They shared from their heart the joys and sorrows of being a man, a father, and a husband. The men were powerfully vulnerable as they shared from the depths of their souls. I then got up and spoke to my son of the dreams I had for his life and shared advice about life. I gave him my blessing as a father to a son and launched him into the world.

I videotaped the dinner for my son so he can watch it over and over. At the time, the event may have impacted the other men more than my son, but as he gets older this advice will be invaluable. I intend to have a similar ceremony before he gets married—gather a group of men who have been successfully married a long time to pass along their special insights on what it takes to be a husband and love a woman.

Our boys are blessed for a lifetime when we design and prepare ceremonies to mark their journey into manhood. These ceremonies tell them they are progressing along a road with the destination of manhood. They are mileposts that boys can track their progress and understand what is expected of them on the next portion of their journey. It eliminates confusion and the need to “prove” he’s a man—to himself and to others.

This post is part of the Rite of Passage Blog Tour. You can read more entries by other authors at Additionally, for more ideas on how to hold a ceremony for your son, check out Jim McBride’s new book, Rite of Passage: a Father’s Blessing, by Moody Publishers, on Amazon:

Gleaned from Rick’s book, That’s My Teenage Son, by Revell Publishing, 2011. To find out more about Rick’s books or his speaking schedule please go to

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Can Marriage Today Still Last a Lifetime?

Marriage today seems less binding than a cell phone contract. The average first marriage in this country lasts seven years. The average second marriage lasts five. As if the challenges of a first marriage weren’t tough enough, anyone who has been in a blended family will tell you about the myriad of additional trials this scenario presents; two sets of kids, two separate histories, two completely different life philosophies, parenting styles, and sets of baggage. And when two sets of careers and monies are mixed in along with the obligatory pre-nuptial agreements, it’s almost like admitting that the marriage is doomed to fail anyway.
Because of the legacy they’ve observed from their parent’s generation, most young people today are fairly pessimistic about the chances of a marriage lasting a life time. When you talk to them about marriage you can see that they yearn for the kind of intimacy possible only through a long lasting relationship, but they have little hope of having one themselves. Couples may spend hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars on the actual wedding day, but no energy, resources, or forethought whatsoever toward the marriage that follows.

Many people quickly discover that being married and staying in love are just plain hard work—too hard. Combine that intense struggle with our society’s instant gratification mantra, the court’s “no fault” divorce laws, and a cultural legacy of relative truth, and you have a recipe for divorce. Our Western culture does not like to suffer and so we shy away from anything that is uncomfortable or difficult. When marriage is tough, many people just think its broken and go look for another mate who won’t be so much work. Unfortunately, the problem is generally with us and so follows us from relationship to relationship.

Ideally, a Christian marriage begins with both parties committed to loving God and each other. But later, after the “buzz” of love begins to fizzle, communication tails off, and spouses can start taking each other for granted; losing empathy, respect, and love for one another. Life is tough and instead of working as a team they begin fighting with each other in an attempt to get their individual needs met. We scream at and accuse our mates and then expect them to want to satisfy our needs. Each spouse soon loses the desire to meet the others’ needs and each loses sight of the fact that love is an action not an emotion. That is why the very action of meeting the other’s needs (acting loving) can lead to feeling the emotion of love. Without that action it is natural to slide into a state of need and self-indulgent gratification.

Marriage can still last a lifetime. My wife and I recently celebrated our 30th anniversary together. We could have gotten very good odds against our marriage succeeding—no one thought we would last. One of the things we’ve found has helped our marriage immensely is every evening we try to sit down and pray together before reading a portion of a book. Generally I read out loud to her while she knits or does some other repetitive task. Other times she reads aloud while I am fixing something that doesn’t require much concentration. This activity has allowed us to grow together and it helps us spend quality time together each day. It also creates great intimacy between us and prompts us to have quality discussions about important topics that we might never have talked about. However, this takes a significant amount of effort and commitment on the part of both spouses. It is very easy to take a day off and then never get back into it again. But I have noticed that when we as a couple are consistently praying and reading together, our relationship and marriage are at peak performance.

Your marriage relationship is a living, dynamic entity. It needs continuous nurturing, refining, changing, and fine tuning. Those that take it for granted and do not work at it are doomed to fail.

Gleaned from Rick’s book, Becoming Your Spouse’s Better Half, by Revell Publishing, 2010. To find out more about our resources please go to

Friday, August 12, 2011

How to Love a Woman

Fathers are instrumental in modeling to their sons how a man is supposed to love a woman. This is not something that comes naturally to most males. Merely watch the difference in how a young man who grew up with no healthy male role models treats his wife (or more often live-in lover) versus one who grew up with a father that loved his mother. To give oneself sacrificially for the sake of another is not a natural male trait. In fact, the opposite might even generally be true. I know women look hard to find and hang on to admirable traits in all their men, especially their sons, but to be loving, kind, gentle, and compassionate in non-feminized males is unusual.

Loving a woman is a modeled behavior for a male. Learning to lead his family in a healthy manner is another modeled behavior that boys seldom learn from any other source as well. The respect that a father gives a boy’s mother is the level of respect that he will think all women deserve. Appreciating the value that a woman brings to a relationship and the family is another gift that a father gives to his son. Learning to cherish and love a woman in the ways that she needs and not the ways that he feels more comfortable with is a lesson that boys cannot get from any other venue than from watching his father every day. Recognizing her more tender heart and the devastation that his words can have on a woman are taught to a boy by his father. And perhaps the greatest lesson he passes along is the ability to admit he is wrong, apologize, and ask for forgiveness.

Without the modeled behavior from a father boys are left to try and navigate through life and all of the difficult circumstances that he will be faced with. Boys without fathers are at a big disadvantage in every area of life, especially relationships. He’ll never learn how to love and treat a woman without your guidance. Remember, he’s watching you every moment of the day to see how a man thinks, acts, and faces life’s problems.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How Does a Writer Market Their Books?

How Does a Writer Market Their Book? That is the question everyone is asking. It seems as though in order to be successful today, a writer has to be part public relations specialist, part marketing guru, and part social network dweeb in order to keep up with changes in the industry. With all that, where does a writer find time to do what we all have a passion for—actually write?

In today’s market a writer is forced to promote themselves and their books in order to succeed and thus get another contract to write more books. Publishers want people (good writers or not) who have larger and more varied platforms from which to sell their books. That’s why even marginally talented pastors from big churches seem to get published with ease. Personally, I find self-promotion to be very uncomfortable. Unless you’re a narcissist it is often difficult to self-promote and still maintain your integrity (and not be annoying). I’d gladly do my craft and ministry for free if I could figure out how to pay the bills. But, our culture today values image over substance and notoriety over content. I know many agents and editors say that good writing is the key to getting published, and maybe so. But, good writing does not appear to successfully sell books. At least I have read many wonderfully written books that languished in obscurity while other books that weren’t worth the paper they were written on have sold millions of copies.

So here are some strategies that I have used (with varying degrees of success) to promote my ministry and writing. Like nearly all small businesses (which you are as a writer) I am underfunded and overworked. My challenge is to efficiently find ways to utilize the little amount of time I have effectively and economically. There are a plethora of great ideas I would like to and should do if I only had the time, money, and resources available (for instance I would love to do a daily or weekly radio program).

When I signed my first book contract, I was a completely unknown, naïve, and inexperienced writer. Literally, God put me in that circumstance. One thing I was smart enough to vow was that I would do absolutely everything in my power to develop positive relationships with everyone associated with the publishing of my book. I treated everyone I interacted with the respect and dignity that I would want to be treated—from editors, to graphic designers, to sales and marketing personnel. I truly believe that because the people at my publisher enjoy working with me that perhaps they give just a little extra for my cause than they might for other, less agreeable authors.

Perhaps the biggest (and most obvious) key to selling books is garnering exposure for the book and the author personally. Regardless of what one thinks of Rob Bell’s new book, it was a stroke of genius to get everyone’s panties in a bunch about its “controversial” content and thus garner millions of dollars of free publicity. Another way of getting exposure for a writer is to speak in front of audiences (the bigger the better—although any is better than none). This develops intimacy with your audience and gives you instant credibility (provided you are a half-way decent speaker). At conferences I sell a ton of books after speaking, and very few before I speak. Speaking and selling books seems to have a symbiotic relationship. The more I speak the more books I sell, and the more books I sell the more speaking engagements I get. Unfortunately, publishers do not seem to recognize this or (with very few exceptions) are at least reluctant to help their authors get speaking engagements (even though they know this relationship exists).

Everyone tells me that social media is the newest and best way to get exposure, and they are probably right. For someone of my age and gender though I am a bit challenged with social media. While I do have a significant Facebook presence, as a male I probably am not very good at developing the “chatty” kinds of relationships that seem to breed success through this venue. I do see many female writers however, who utilize this application very successfully (yes that probably sounds sexist—but true nonetheless). Of more importance from my perspective is developing actual relationships with my readers. Since I honestly care about my readers I go out of my way to make their experience a “personal” one any way I can. For instance, I always answer all my emails personally, and have even been known to speak with readers on the phone from time to time. That relationship then inspires them to want to help promote my books to their friends and family.

Also, I’m not sure I “get” Twitter. It seems like a monumental waste of time to me. I find it hard to believe that people as busy as Rick Warren or Mark Driscoll have the time to send out dozens of “twits” every day like I get from them. They must have assistants doing this for them. Either that or I am totally misusing my time. And I don’t often have the time to create a consistent, compelling blog to send out frequently (of which Rachelle Gardner’s and Michael Hyatt’s are two of the best). All that to say, I often pray for a young, techno-savvy administrative assistant to (inexpensively) come along and help drag me kicking and screaming into the blogasphere. I recently bit the bullet and hired a social networking consultant and she paid for herself almost instantly.

I’ve found that video blogs work pretty well to attract consumers’ attention, as do book trailers. They generate a more personal connection with the audience than just words on a computer screen. Again though, as a one-man company, it requires a lot of time, money, and energy to create, edit, and post even simple videos on sites like God Tube, You Tube, and Vimeo (and however many new ones have cropped up since I wrote this). And once posted how do you get people to actually watch them?

One area that seems to have worked well for me, even though it is somewhat difficult to track, is performing large numbers of radio and TV interviews. I worked very hard to develop a good radio presence and to have an interesting and compelling story when I appear on radio shows. This means I get asked back frequently. This exposure, combined with all the other areas mentioned above, provides multiple opportunities and venues for people to be exposed to my name, books, and message.

All that to say writing the book is the easy part. Marketing and selling your book is an entirely different and much more difficult endeavor. I think the key is to understand your strengths and spend your time and resources in those areas. For me personally, speaking to live audiences, doing radio and TV interviews, writing articles for magazines and blogs, and utilizing video clips as often as possible seems to work best. For others that may mean effectively using social networking, blogging, and e-book giveaways. Either way it’s imperative to develop a strong platform if you expect to get published (and re-published) in today’s competitive environment.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

10 Tips for Better Dads

Niels Bohr said, “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.” If that quotation is true, I must be getting pretty close to being an expert father by now. Hopefully though, I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made. The mark of a good leader and a good father is just that—the ability to learn from mistakes. The man who doesn’t is doomed to repeat them over and over again. The following areas are some tips about fathering that I’ve discovered over the years. I list these not because I’ve perfected these areas, but because I finally recognize them for how important they really are.

Tip #1 – Emphasize Strengths not Weaknesses
As a father I have a tendency to focus on the things my children do wrong instead of the things they do right. But as a coach I tell my players to focus on their strengths not their weaknesses. Help find your son's and daughter’s strengths--their gifts from God. Focus on those instead of being overly critical of their weaknesses.

Tip #2 – Give Plenty of Physical Affection
As men we are raised to be uncomfortable with too much affection from another male—especially the physical kind. It’s interesting that we compensate for that by knocking each other all around the football field, wrestling mat, or boxing ring. For some reason we think it’s okay to slap another man on the butt during the heat of athletic competition, but we’re uncomfortable hugging one another in greeting. As physical as the male animal is, you’d think we would be more comfortable expressing physical affection. But I think it must be a social taboo ingrained into our unconsciousness at an early age. Hug and kiss your kids—even your son. Give them plenty of physical love. Even as they get older, continue to show them physical affection.

Tip #3 – Give Them Your Time
It’s almost a cliché to quote the song by Harry Chapin, “Cats in the Cradle,” to illustrate the consequences of a father being too absorbed in his work when his son is young. The reality is that most of us men are given the vision that in order to be a success in life we must be successful in our work—that our career is more important than anything else in life. Oh, we give lip service to the importance of our families, but our actions often speak louder than our words. Time is the most valuable, and the most limited, resource we have to give to our children. Your kids need your time more than they need your money—just ask any fatherless child.

Tip # 4 – Heart over Performance
Too often, I have a tendency to judge my children's efforts by their performance. The reality is that an individual can do his personal best in an area in which he is not gifted, and still fall short of average performance. Likewise, a person can be gifted and do well in an area while applying very little effort. Which scenario should they be applauded most for?

Tip # 5 - Have Fun
It's so easy to get caught up in the complexities and stresses of everyday life. This is especially true for those who take responsibilities seriously. But part of a dad's charm is his ability to have fun. Let yourself go and remember the all the goofy things that make life worth living. Have fun with your children while they’re still little. Take some time to just goof-off. There will be plenty of time to be serious and somber. One of the things kids appreciate most about their fathers is his sense of humor. When Dad has life under control, he values the humorous side of life and shows it to his kids.

Tip # 6 – Don’t Fear Failure
I spent much of my life avoiding anything I wasn’t perfect at because I was afraid to fail. This has caused me to have a number of regrets. The regrets I have in life are mostly of things I didn't do--not what I did do. Oh, I regret some things I've done over the years (I've done many things I'm not proud of), but I don’t regret my sins of commission like I do my sins of omission. Missed opportunities, an apathetic attitude, and not seeking significance were all choices I made which I regret deeply. I was raised to believe that failure was the worst thing of all. But it's not. I've come to understand that true failure is never reaching out to attempt something great, to try and reach your full potential. You only fail when you don’t try. I regret all the times I was impatient with my children and never gave them the attention they deserved. I’ve told my son many times that I needed him to know that whatever mistakes I made as a dad--and I made many--those mistakes were my problem; they were never anything to do with him. He deserved more love and better fathering than I was capable of giving him.

Tip # 7 – Understand Your Power
Several years ago, during a rare bout of brutal self-honesty, I discovered that I treated my employees better than I did my wife and children. I heard myself saying things to my family I would never say to my employees. If another man had made those kinds of statements to my wife or kids, I would have physically confronted him. Why did I feel free to verbally wound those I treasure more than anything else in the world with words that I would never dream of saying to a stranger? God has given us men great power that can be used for good or evil. Just look around at some of the problems men have created in other peoples’ lives. Then look at some of the great things men have accomplished to benefit others. It’s an awesome power. But with that comes the need to understand it and use it responsibly. Former U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammerskjöld said, “Only he deserves power who every day justifies it.”

Tip # 8 – Develop Friendships
Most men in our country have acquaintances, but no real friends. The pressures and time constraints of work and supporting a family often take away the opportunity to build masculine relationships. But to be the best father possible, you need other men in your life to hold you accountable and to lift you up during difficult times. Another man’s experiences are invaluable when we try to navigate some of the uncharted waters of fathering.
Isolation is death to a man’s character. Perhaps that’s why our culture, seemingly bent on the destruction of positive masculinity, continues to promote the rugged individualist as the model for men to look up to. The Marlboro Man, Dirty Harry, John Wayne, and James Bond—our celluloid heroes—never needed any help from other men. They just sucked it up and overcame whatever problems popped up. Then they rode off into the sunset by themselves.
But real men need other men. We need the accountability, comradeship, support, and yes, gasp, help, that other men can provide.

Tip #9 – Be Consistent
Being consistent is one of the strongest traits a man can bring to fathering. Kids rely on you to be consistent in your responses no matter the circumstances. They rely on you being dependable, a rock in the face of adversity. When life throws a curve ball, they need Dad to be there to tell them it’s okay. Think about how scared you would be if the leader you were following--maybe someone you thought was strong or even invincible--were to suddenly become very frightened or to exhibit erratic, out-of-control behavior during a stressful situation. Would you want to follow that person again? I wouldn’t. Your emotional stability, especially in stressful situations, provides your kids with the security they need in order to grow into a healthy man or woman. You can’t keep stressful situations from happening, but you can control how you react to them. Teach your kids that a man keeps his head while others around him lose theirs.

Tip #10 – Overcome Complacency & Passivity
In the movie Schindler’s List, Liam Neeson stars as Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist during World War II. In an effort to capitalize on the war he acquired a factory in Poland which he ran with the cheapest labor around—Jewish labor.
At first he seemed like every other greedy German industrialist, driven by profit and unmoved by the means of his profiteering. But somewhere along the line, something changed. He succeeded in his quest for riches, but by the end of the war he had spent everything he made on keeping 1,100 Jewish men and women alive. He literally bought their lives by having them work in his factory.
In a powerful scene at the end of the movie, with Allied forces bearing down, Schindler said goodbye to the many Jewish factory workers he had saved. The workers had previously removed some of their gold-filled teeth to create a ring for Schindler. Inside the ring they engraved an old Hebrew proverb, “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”
As they gave him the ring in gratitude, Schindler fell to his knees and began sobbing in remorse. He deeply regretted that he had not done more to save additional lives. Even when the workers tried to console him that he had done so much more than anyone else, he cried out in agony over regret at his complacency. “I could have got more out. If I’d just…I didn’t do enough,” he sobbed. “I could have gotten one more person—and I didn’t…I didn’t!”
Shindler, while certainly not as complacent as many of us, realized too late that he could have done so much more. He regretted it dearly. And while others did not blame him, he knew in his heart that he could have done more.
When my time comes I do not want to be a man on my knees before God with my face in my hands sobbing with regret over the fact that I did not use the gifts that God gave me to make a difference in other people’s lives—especially my own children’s. I don’t want those regrets and I don’t want you to have those regrets either. Use the power God has given you to make a difference in the world—before it’s too late. Your kids will be proud of you for it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Teaching Boys Criticial Thinking Skills

Perhaps one of the most important things a person can develop is the ability to think through an issue and discern the important aspects of that issue while not be distracted by the parts that are of no consequence. Your son needs to learn to distinguish between fact and opinion. He needs to understand how to compare and contrast information. Too often important issues are clouded by emotions or hyperbole. In addition, with today’s technology it is easy to establish something on the internet that quickly becomes assumed as fact. As an example, books, magazines, or newspapers printing “facts” that are not backed up by well rounded research and cited are really just printing their opinion. Television news programs are notorious for this today.

If you want your son to be someone who is not easily swayed by political agendas, misinformation, or opinions, he needs to develop good critical thinking skills.
How do you help a boy develop critical thinking skills which are crucial for him to learn in order to develop into a good problem solver? First, as difficult as it may be, allow your son to argue or debate issues that do not relate to emergency circumstances. He is developing the process to understand how to look at an issue critically from different sides. You’ll notice that sometimes he may even switch his opinion in the middle of an argument if you agree with him and argue the other side. Also, while it may be annoying, allow him to ask a lot of questions. That shows he has an active mind and is searching for information and knowledge (or else he’s just being a pain).

Encourage him to think logically. Use concrete examples whenever possible that lead to logical conclusions. For instance someone may be able to effectively argue against the validity of gravity but they will still fall on their head if they jump off a building. Logic takes the emotion out of an argument. Also, allow him to think through an issue or problem—do not rush in and give him the answer right away. It takes the male brain longer to process information than it does the female brain.

Think out loud in front of him—that way he can see and hear how you puzzle through the process of solving a problem. Finally, challenge him to always look at both sides of an issue. Encourage him to research an issue from a variety of reputable sources—both pro and con. If you only get one opinion of a subject you cannot truly understand it. One of the great lessons I have learned in life is that you cannot understand another’s pain if you have not walked in their shoes. This will serve him well later in life when he has a wife and children and issues are seldom simply black and white but are complicated shades of gray.

Article gleaned from That's My Teeange Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Good Men, by Rick Johnson, Revell Publishing, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Psychology of Male Anger

One emotion that most males are familiar with is anger. Anger produces a physiological arousal in males. It creates a state of readiness and heightened awareness. It creates energy that can be directed outward in the form of protection or even as a weapon. Anger causes a fight or flight response designed to protect us. Anger is frequently a powerful tool for boys and men to use to cover our inadequacies. Oftentimes anger in males is a secondary emotion used to cover underlying emotions such as fear, hurt, or frustration. You’ll notice that nearly all males will react with anger when they become overly frustrated or are hurt emotionally.

The surge of adrenaline and associated arousal can be addicting to some males. Young males need to be taught how to deal with and control their anger. In order to do that, they must learn to own their anger and identify the source of that anger. Then they can learn to determine how to choose to respond to their anger.

Males are not very adept at understanding their emotions nor very comfortable dealing with them. Emotions are powerful and often uncontrollable. That’s why many males keep such a tight lid on their emotions--once released they are difficult to predict or control and often result in a situation ending in vulnerability. The one emotion however that they are relatively comfortable with is that of anger. Anger for many men is an old friend; one they call upon in a variety of circumstances. Like all powerful emotions it can be used destructively or for good. For instance anger can be terribly destructive in relationships. After all anger is only one letter away from being danger. All we need do is look at the devastation caused to women and children through a man’s uncontrolled wrath and anger. Anger can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical abuse.

On the other hand anger can be channeled into productive pathways. Anger can be used to motivate a man to achieve more than he might otherwise be able to accomplish. It can be used as a mechanism to encourage perseverance under duress or in grueling circumstances. Many a boy accomplished some difficult task all because he got angry when someone told him he couldn’t succeed. When teased, many boys use that anger to motivate themselves to “prove” their offenders wrong. One method in coaching is to get young men angry in order to motivate them to perform beyond their self-imposed limitations. In fact, many men propel themselves with anger and grit to succeed in life because a father-figure constantly told them they wouldn’t amount to anything. Warriors often used anger towards their enemies as motivation to succeed in battle or even a school yard fight.

Regardless of how it is used anger is the emotion most familiar to males. Anger is often a secondary emotion used by males to cover or mask other emotions. For instance, certain emotions such as fear, anxiety, vulnerability, or distress often produce a feeling of humiliation in males. Humiliation is considered a weakness by males. Remember, for most males to show weakness is to be vulnerable and open to criticism. To be vulnerable is an invitation to be attacked. But anger is a defense against attack and may even be a weapon to attack others. Very angry men and boys are seldom messed with, even by bullies.

Rather than feel humiliated by these “unmanly” emotions, many males instinctively and automatically use anger to cover those feelings. Even pain (physical or psychological) can be covered by anger. Notice how most males react when they hit their thumb with a hammer. They’d rather get mad than cry. Most men also get angry rather than depressed or hysterical when faced with an emotional crisis in a relationship. Again, this is a protective mechanism for their fragile egos; egos that are covering secretly ingrained feelings of inadequacy and incompetence.

Sometimes anger is even used consciously. I was raised in an alcoholic and abusive home. I can distinctly remember at about the age of 12 when I first discovered that if I just got angry I didn’t have to feel that humiliating emotion of being afraid. In typical naive boyhood fashion I told myself, “This is great. I’ll never be scared again for the rest of my life!” However, this was foolish as I spent a significant portion of my adult life being angry. Angry because I was really afraid because I had never had a positive male role model show me how a man lives his life and faces his problems in a healthy manner.

Young men who are not taught how a man acts, what his roles in life are and how to fulfill them adequately and competently are very often angry. They are angry at life and at the world. They are afraid. They take this anger out on others, hoping to hurt them before they themselves are hurt; even if that hurt is just humiliation from their ineptness.

Excerpted from, Rick Johnson, That’s My Teenage Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Good Men, by Revell, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Political Correctness versus Creativity

Does political correctness stifle creativity and courage? A generation of youth has now been raised under the oppressive boot of political correctness. With few exceptions, nearly all movies made today are either sequels of existing hit movies, remakes of previously made movies, or adaptations of comic books, video games, TV shows, or old skits from Saturday Night Live. Reliance on computer graphics often supersedes script writing, plot development and acting ability in films. Television now relies on reproducing older shows with minor changes or “reality” TV which does not require any forethought or creativeness. Even the music industry stoops to re-mixes of past hit songs for a significant portion of its volume and revenue. Where is the uniqueness and creativity? Perhaps political correctness and reliance on technology has made us intellectually lazy and dull as a nation—or just plain afraid.

Some claim political correctness makes us more sensitive of other beliefs while others state it produces a society of blamers and small-minded, self-righteous bigots. For whatever other traits it may have, the truth is political correctness keeps people from thinking outside the box and expressing themselves for fear of offending anyone or anything. Creativity by its very nature is destined to offend at least some people. Being creative involves risk, change, new ideas, and new ways of looking at things—all of which frequently frighten people or make them uncomfortable. Today’s version of creativity only targets seeing how far it can push the boundaries of decency and good taste. That kind of creativity does not appear to offend the sensibilities of the politically correct elite and so is not subject to their attack.

If we want creative solutions to the world’s problems, perhaps it’s time we began encouraging our young people to develop critical thinking skills instead of worrying about being as inoffensive as possible.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Teaching Boys Discipline

This past season, several high profile college head football and basketball coaches have been vilified and lost their jobs due to the perception that they harshly enforced disciplinary methods upon a player or players in their program. I’m not defending these coaches' methods as I do not know the situation, but here’s what I do know. Many young men today, especially talented athletes, have been raised without a father or any other accountability or boundaries in their life. They have gotten whatever they want their entire lives. They do not understand the value of true leadership or the concept of respect. These young men rebel against any kind of discipline and despise authority figures. Even though they may in truth crave discipline, they have steered their own ship for too long. They have learned to do what they want when they want, and so any kind of restrictions—whether it is healthy for them or not—are very uncomfortable. They instinctively resist accountability and become self-focused and self-absorbed. Without willingly acceding to the mentorship and authority of other men, young males with this attitude will struggle their entire lives, creating problems in the lives of those who love and depend upon them.

Teaching boys’ self-discipline is difficult and requires effort on your part. Like most things worthwhile in life it is hard. Boys learn best by what is modeled for them not spoken to them. Teaching them self-discipline requires that you be disciplined. For some moms with their nurturing nature, this can present difficulties. Constantly indulging your son in his every desire isn’t good for him. It doesn’t mean you have to be harsh or mean, but you do have to say "no" sometimes, even frequently. For moms who feel guilty about the circumstances in which they are raising their sons, this can be difficult. For some parents today pushing their sons to teach them self-discipline almost feels like child abuse. But the truth is that the more you can teach them to have a strong sense of self-discipline the happier and healthier they will be throughout their entire lives.

What is the best way you've found to teach your son self-discipline?

Excerpted from, That's My Teenage Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Good Men, Revell Publishing, 2011.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Angry Young Men

Ever notice we have a lot of angry young men running around today? One of the reasons is that our boys today have a certain amount of repressed anger. It results in more bullying in school, but also in a more escalated level of violence. This is caused by not allowing young males to solve their social issues as they have for thousands of years—on their own. In the past when two young males disagreed about something, they went on the playground and tussled around until one or the other acceded—generally they both just got too tired to continue and quit. They then shook hands and forgot about it. In fact many boys I fought with we went on to be good friends. Today however, with adult (feminine) interference, boys are not allowed to solve their own problems. They are taught that any kind of aggression or (gasp) violence is bad. So they are forced to repress those feelings which eventually cause them to fester into frustration, anger, resentment, and bitterness--far more powerful feelings than they were originally faced with. Eventually those powerful repressed emotions spill over and explode into greater levels of violence evidenced by the shootings and stabbings we see of young men across the country.

I’m not promoting that we should teach young males that violence is the way to solve problems. But in the “old days” when a gym teacher had two boys who had problems with each other he put boxing gloves on them both and told them to settle their differences. Afterwards they were made to shake hands and forget about it. Even in the most adversarial unsupervised playground scuffle seldom was anyone injured beyond a bloody nose. Males always respect their opponent after doing battle with one another and frequently become good friends because of the respect they earn for one another. We did not see the problems then that we face today with high levels of violence and killing of our young men.

Our more feminized world of total tolerance does not allow a young man to seek justice which causes him to be resentful and angry. Males are taught it is bad to fight or even be aggressive over any insult no matter how egregious the offense.
Again, I’m not promoting violence, bullying, or unchecked aggression, but this kind of feminization of young males not only results in a more intensified level of aggression, but also produces passive men who often internalize this anger and frustration which then manifests itself in destructive passive-aggressive behavior.

Why do you think young men are angry today?