Encouraging sons to be men

I have spoken highly of the Botkin family in the past. One of the many ways that they have impacted my thinking is the daughters’ dedication to encouraging their younger brothers to think and behave as young men.

The oldest boy in my family was 8 years younger than I was, and he already had 4 older sisters when he was born. The poor guy was surrounded by women of all sizes, with more to come. By the time I was married, there were 10 girls and just 2 boys.

We fawned over our brother as much as he would allow while he was very small, but he was determined to be a man-child, not a doll.

So we laughed at him instead. He was 2yo and thought he could tell us what to do. Comic relief!

When he was 4 or 5yo, he started telling us about his dreams: dreams of daring rescues and grand adventures. In his dreams, he saved us girls from dragons and bad guys and fires and a multitude of other dangers. Like Joseph’s brothers, we laughed at his illusions of grandeur. As if we would need aid from a 5yo, even in his dream world!

He carried on nonetheless, determined to be a man in the face of our cackling and ridicule. He grew into a fine young man, and now has a wife and 3 children. He often helps me and the children when Hubby is unavailable. I don’t laugh now at his offers of help. Instead, he laughs at me for struggling with a flat tire when I could have just called him.

But I have gained a little wisdom over the years, and I regret all the times I mocked him for trying to be a man when he was little. I realized this acutely while listening to and talking with Anna Sophia and Elizabeth, and my husband and I are making a self-conscious effort to do things differently.att00164.jpg

Our boy is being encouraged right from the start to act as a young man. At 17mos, he opens doors for his sisters (even though they can do it more quickly and easily for themselves), he squishes scary bugs for them with his manly little boots, he carries “heavy” items for me (like his diaper bag), and helps with other chores. He is learning that he is never, ever to hit a girl, even if she is twice his size and 4 times his age, and makes him mad or hits him first.

As a future patriarch (cough, cough) he is learning more than how to boss his wife around. He is learning to be strong and courageous, to take care of the women in his family, to love them and give himself in service for them. He doesn’t have a wife yet, but he can certainly practice much of this on his sisters and mother, developing habits of protection, provision and nurturing that will later aid him as a husband, father and head of household.

His sisters are also learning from my own mistakes with my brother. They have heard me repent of how I treated him, and they think differently than I did at their age. They delight to see their little brother act like a man, and they do everything they can to encourage him in his role.

We’re new parents all over again when it comes to raising a son, but by God’s grace we can glean wisdom from Scripture, friends and family, and our own past mistakes.


  1. Just in the last few months or so it has occurred to us to tell our boy’s six older sisters that while he might need to be told to comb his hair, wash his face, or put on a clean shirt, they should probably start working at suggesting things to him privately, quietly, and with some care for his dignity.

    Okay, he undoubtedly needs to be told these things. But not by six girls at once.=)

  2. What a grand and glorious testimony of generational sanctification. Praise our heavenly Father for His grace and mercy. May he raise up “the seed of Abraham” (Gal. 3:29) to more and more self conscious faithfulness and fill the earth as the stars fill the sky and as the sand covers the ground.

    with much love and respect for you dear daughter (in-law)!

  3. Great advice! Having 3 boys and no girls (yet!), I`ve found it challenging trying to teach the boys how to treat a girl. Of course they treat me well, I`m their Mom (that good ole hand that feeds, lol), but as they grow and meet and befriend children of the opposite sex, they will need to know these things. Thanks for reminding me of the importance! And I LOVE that picture! So sweet!

    (And I`m like you – homebirths, no meds, but pass out getting the blood tests – I swear it`s just a blood pressure thing, lol).

  4. This has nothing to do with the above post, but I wanted to let you know I’m having trouble subscribing to your blog.

    I had subscribed awhile back, then realized I hadn’t read any of your posts in a long time.

    I came to the site’s URL and tried to subscribe via the buttons on the right sidebar, and I keep getting error messages.

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but I thought I’d let ya know!

  5. I don’t have children yet, but I am doing my best to instill the idea of biblical manliness in the 6th-8th graders I teach. Our culture has taught them that boys and girls should have no distinction in roles, and it is insulting for boys to treat girls with what was once considered gentlemanly respect. I observed these young men pushing past girls while running in the hall, ignoring (or not even noticing!) a girl who had dropped something, shoving to be closest to the door, and flat-out refusing to help a girl who asked for help carrying a large load!

    Thus, I have starting purposefully making some changes. When I need help with something physical, whether it requires much strength or not, I always ask for a boy to help me. I dismiss the girls from their seats to line up first. I speak continually about how the world has perverted God’s design for the roles of men and women, and remind the boys “when you’re a man” and the girls “when you’re a woman” instead of just a generic “when you’re adults.” I teach boys’ PE, and we’re talking about the 5 Aspects of Man by William Mouser. Though this is a Christian school, many of these boys have no fathers or fathers who have abdicated their role of teaching these boys to become godly men. Surrounded by women teachers, mothers, sisters, and bossy female classmates, they are confused about what their role should be. I’m praying that my influence will give them some direction.

    My 6th graders have already enthusiastically embraced these changes. The boys remind each other to stay sitting until the girls have lined up, and chide one another for overlooking ways to honor girls, such as opening doors.

    My younger sister prided herself in lording her athletic ability over boys. From ages 8-16, she could beat 95% of 8 to 14-year-old boys she arm wrestled. She could run faster over short distances, too. She was a presence to be reckoned with on the basketball court and could climb a tree faster than anyone. Not only did she beat boys, but she mocked them for it. On top of this, she was a “girly-girl” who loved to wear dresses and makeup and flirt. As you can imagine, this was devastating to a great number of boys. It always bothered me as a child, but I could never pinpoint why (except that it was rude!) until late in my teen years. I realized that boys’ sense of masculinity and purpose in life is often inexorably linked to their physical prowess. When a girl consistently both outperforms him and then mocks him for it, a boy’s sense of worth takes a major blow. I have come to believe that sports should be single sex for this reason (and others). How can a boy win when he competes against a girl physically? If he wins, he is told “Well, you just beat a girl. Big deal!” If he loses, is mocked “Ha! A girl beat you!” It’s a no-win situation for boys.

  6. The Happy Feminist says:

    This made me think of a less-than-flattering moment from my childhood. I was 7 years old and spending the weekend with Jennifer (age 7) and her little brother Greg (age 5). Their dad had to leave on a trip so he sat us down and said that Greg was going to be the man of the house while he was away, and that it would be little Greg’s job to take care of us and his mother.

    Well, of course, Jennifer and I thought this was the most ridiculous thing in the world. So as soon as her dad left, we picked Greg up and tossed him in the mud, and then rolled him over and over again in the mud kind of like a carpet. Our goal was to make sure mud caked ever single part of his body. As I recall, he did hit us in self-defense, although the hitting wasn’t very effectual.

    What can I say? Jennifer and I shouldn’t have done that, but feminists are mean. The good news is that Greg (now married with a lovely family) does not appear to be scarred for life and has never attempted any kind of pay back (yet).

  7. My one son is the oldest with three little sisters to look after. He is so determined to be one of the men. When he is around the men, he will watch them and then jump in to do what they are doing. We are also teaching him to respect girls in every way. Thank you for the confirmation in what we are doing as being straight from the Bible. The world would have you think that raising boys to be men is wrong in this day and age. It is comforting to read this and know that we are not alone in our training.

  8. A very timely reminder for me… I have been taught this earlier, yet somethings get lost in the day-to-day of it…

    The lady who first brought these issues to attention had one son and she said she taught him also to be aware that women have cycles and tend to have natural “ups and downs” according to these cycles and heightend his awareness to these special women’s needs.

    I see my younger son pulling his older sister’s school trolly (she takes one on the days she goes swimming) while she still has a rucksack to carry on her back. The little guy has his own rucksack and the two have over 2 kilometers to treck to get to school… He is such a small guy, and part of me wants to say: hey, pull your own trolly! But there is a pride he takes in being able to provide for his sister. Who am I to discourage that?

    Also big on my list: standing up to offer someone else your seat. Boys first are taught this in my household. Girls may be required to do so as well if needed, but there is a priority here.

    Thank you for sharing this with us!

  9. Very encouraging post. I’m 14 years older than my only brother and I love him as if he were my own (honestly! I have three daughters now, I’m not just being dramatic.) I hope that if/when God blesses my family with a boy we will keep this attitude in mind. I regret “baby-ing” my little brother so much, although he is growing into quite a fine young man anyway, it seems as if it is inspite of my sisters and me instead of because of a conscious effort on our parts.

  10. Sweet! Way to go!

  11. Lovely post. My oldest is a girl, and she has two younger brothers (so far) and I honestly hadn’t put much thought into this issue. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, and I like your references to scripture, it’s very helpful!

  12. Great post. Yes, with all us independent women who can do anything for ourselves (we are capable of doing just about anything, hey I grew up in the 70’s when we were told we could be ANYTHING), it is very important to have young boys grow up understanding their role as the leader of their family.
    Good job!!

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