Boys To Men

Our culture doesn’t have a formal ceremony or other cultural influence to strongly suggest a normal rite of passage that tells a young man that he is an “adult”.  With respect to the ladies, I think one of our society’s large problems is when men don’t stop acting like little boys. This hurts marriages and families in profound ways.  Some think you are an adult once you accomplish one or more of the following unique rites of passage:

  • Join the military
  • Get drunk in public on your 21st birthday
  • Pay for your own car or smart phone
  • Vote in a Presidential election

It’s not an exhaustive list, but there are certainly some prevailing attitudes that back up these ideas.  However, not much there is a good definition of being a man.

My wife and I have been blessed with four children, the oldest of which is currently 14 years old.  Sometimes he is acts like he is 30. He’s co-captain on his basketball team. Sometimes he acts like he is 6. He whines about cleaning his room and turning off the Xbox. It gives us parental whiplash!

However, we went through an intentional ceremony with him on his 12th birthday that called him to grow into a man.  It still resonates with responsibility. We got the idea from Robert Lewis book, “Raising a Modern Day Knight.”  One of the results of that ceremony is a plack on his wall that is signed by his parents and grandfathers.  It reads:   “In a world full of boys,  this is a direct challenge and honor to the recipient in becoming a MAN. A man is someone who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously, and expects the greater reward…God’s Reward.”

Obviously a nice framed certificate on his bedroom wall doesn’t turn a boy into a man. But it helps keep the conversation flowing.  We point at it sometimes and get to say affirming things like, “We are proud of how you handled that tough situation like a man.  Good job.”  Sometimes we point at it and say, “You are not being a man right now.  Settle down and accept responsibility.”  It is not an easy path converting a boy into a man!  However, being intentional about engaging that process is making a difference in his life, as well as in ours as caregivers.

I know we aren’t alone in choosing intentional paths that lead to him taking steps towards becoming man, so I’m always eager to hear what successes others have had in this regard. We are already starting again too, as our second son turned 12 recently and we had a separate yet similar ceremony with him too.  We like hearing how we can become better at helping our boys make this transition, as this is just one that is helping us.

Is this a quick fix or an all encompassing answer to the question of how to move a child from boy to man?  Definitely not.  However, a key aspect is living Proverbs 22:6 by literally infusing it into our everyday conversations.  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

12 certificate


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