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When Dad’s Away, Boys Need More Than Play

December 14, 2012
When Dad's Away, Boys Need More Than Play

There’s nothing quite like boys…ferociously competitive, endlessly energetic, possessed with the insatiable desire to grab the world by the horns…I’m working up a sweat just thinking about it. This is boys at their best, the way God designed them to be. Our culture pressures us to feminize our boys. It accuses by asking, don’t I want my boys to be caring men? Yes. Thoughtful and considerate? You bet. Sulky, lazy, unmotivated wimps? Yuck.

I have six boys, and my husband works away from home. Fellow moms see this and often ask me questions like, How do you keep your boys busy? What kind of work or activities can I give my boys? How do I raise my son to be a man when his dad works away from home all day?

A little about Dad…

Boys need their father. They need his guidance, his leadership, his example. Unfortunately, in modern times Dad is often away from home earning a living for his family. It has been a dream of ours to work together as a family, and we have done that in the past, but currently a family business is just not feasible for us, and that’s okay. As wives, we have to work with what our husbands provide.

My first and biggest blessing as a mother of boys is that my man fathers his children wherever he is. He calls home two or three times a day to see what they’re working on, give them directions, or just ask questions. “What are the boys doing right now? Have they finished the project they started this morning?” John, my husband, has taught our boys to be capable and confident. He’s worked beside them, showing them how to do things until he knew he could trust their solo efforts. We’ve both taught them that they can do anything—and if they don’t know how, they can learn.

My husband gives the boys jobs and projects, but day by day it’s up to me to keep them busy and engaged.

A little about why…

Why all the fuss about children being busy? Don’t children need time to play and be entertained and “be kids”?

Children need structure and organization. We want them to be hardworking, responsible adults, right? They’ll never learn how unless they’re working and responsible now. It’s never too early or too late.

Boys, in particular, are our future men, the fathers, providers, and leaders of tomorrow.

Boys, in particular, are our future men, the fathers, providers, and leaders of tomorrow. I want my boys to “quit you like men” and get the job done. My husband told someone that the way he changes the oil in our vehicle is by first sitting down, usually with a cup of coffee, and then saying to one of our boys, “Change the oil.” The man marveled, “And you really trust his work?” Well, yes, because after doing it with our son the first few times, he let him do it himself and checked his work. Doing it himself and seeing his work meet with Dad’s approval builds confidence in our son.

A while back, my car was shrilly squeaking whenever I turned a corner. My 12-year-old son said, “Mom, I can fix that,” and he named the part he believed was at fault, a something-or-other belt; I thought belts were for holding up pants. But my son was confident he could fix it—and he did. He fixed it even though he had until that day never repaired that part; he’d just watched Dad work on it before.

Boys need that self-assured belief that they can do anything to grow into men of action and achievement—but they’ll never build that confidence if Mom and Dad never give them real responsibility. We have to give important jobs to our kids, and then we have to trust them and not worry about them messing up. It would certainly be easier for us to just do the hard stuff ourselves and let our boys play, but our goal isn’t to do what’s easy. It’s to raise men.

strong in spirit

A little about entertainment…

Boys need that self-assured belief that they can do anything to grow into men of action and achievement—but they’ll never build that confidence if Mom and Dad never give them real responsibility.

My boys love to read. It is their favorite pastime, hands down. Most people would say that’s fantastic, and indeed it is a good thing. But as with anything we enjoy, it can get excessive. Whether entertainment takes the form of a book, a card game, a movie (even educational documentaries) or just playing, it’s all the same. It’s all entertainment. We all like to relax and be entertained from time to time, but everything has to have its place. I don’t want my boys to be idle, so I only allow reading or any other form of entertainment after dinner cleanup. (Obviously school time and Bible study are exceptions.) I want them to be using their minds and hands creatively during the daylight hours.

My husband and I treat our boys as young men. We want them to be hardworking and confident. I believe the more productive we are, the better we feel, and so I structure my children’s day to be active and busy—and they love it.

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7 comments on “When Dad’s Away, Boys Need More Than Play”

  1. this reminds me of the time my oldest son, probably about 13, jump started my van, changed the battery out twice before we could get to Wednesday night church. I think he did make one or two calls to dad during the whole thing. makes a mom proud

  2. EVERY mess whether of curiosity or intentional I make sure my boys pick them up from 1 year old and up…..

    That is a start.

    I make him pay attention to the details of how he uses his words “in the beginning was the word”

    Study a book on etiquette to get started. help him to understand how psychology is rooted in the usage of words and changes society for good or bad. If a task of heavy lifting isn’t available, ask boy to fix (not take apart and study) broken things around house including a clogged toilet.

    If daddy insists on TV in house, teach and encourage boy how to produce good shows, computer graphics (10 commandments as filter) with a video camera.

    When going in public, ask boy to buy the stuff and talk with community members.

    If he flops and bullies sister, ask him to explain with clear words why he did that. if he can write, have him write it down so he can practice being a revered non-profit lawyer.

    give him opportunity to make error…….is the key.

    A boy that can wash the dishes isn’t necessarily a bad thing……it may well be a restaurant owner of the future who manages his restaurant and gets busy and works at the same level as the employees.

  3. Is there an article, as mentioned, on “all things boy” in today’s Cane Creek Corner? I am trying to find it, and may have missed it since I am a first-timer at the ‘…Corner’.
    Thanks for your time.

  4. Does Chasity have any follow-up questions and answers to this? She said, in the magazine article, that she and her husband would answer questions about ‘all things boy’ every Friday in January. It was to be in Cane Creek Corner….and so far I can’t find it.

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      Thanks for your interest in the series about boys. There were some audio problems with the recordings we made — one of the wireless mics was damaged and caused the volume level to fluctuate. We need to re-record them with better equipment. Mike and Debi’s schedule is currently full with speaking engagements and writing for the magazine, so we’re not sure when we will re-record. They are going to be posted in the Cane Creek Corner when we get new recordings, so keep an eye out!

      NGJ Staff

  5. Love this article and want to apply the principles but need ideas and guidance. I agree that child is better not left idle but I struggle with how to fill his time. Can you please provide some project ideas or household chores that you recommend.


  6. I was wondering if the specific details were ever recorded for ideas to keep little hands productive. It was mentioned it was going to be every week in Cane Creek corner in Jan. 2013. I need help! Homeschool my immensly smart 8 year old boy who loves to read but not necessarily work. I need projects to teach him to use his hands and mind to be productive.