A letter to New Dads, Old Dads, and New Dads That Feel Old

A-letter-to-new-dads(Note: This is really a letter to new fathers, but if you’ve been a dad for awhile, I hope this will have some meaning for you as well.)

Dear New Dad,

I know, I know. The baby is finally quiet and the last thing you want to do is read this letter. You want to sleep. Actually, you might be too tired to sleep, so collapsing on the couch in exhaustion may be more like it. Relax, it could be worse: You could be the new mom!

But, while you have a minute I wanted to write you this note. I remember so well the day my first son was born. I had no idea the impact him coming into the world would have on me. Looking back, I want to give you 4 things to tuck away and remember. Even with 4 boys (ages 10, 8, 6, 4) these are things I still need to hear too. I hope you find them helpful.

1. Pursue God more now than ever – Don’t lose sight of the fact your most important relationship still needs be with God and His son, Jesus. In fact, now that you have a child of your own, I bet John 3:16 (…his only begotten son…) looks a bit more real to you. You understand how much God must love you to put His son on the cross to die for you. Remember, He doesn’t want your money. He doesn’t want you just going to church. He wants a relationship with you. As a new father, you are going to need His strength now more than ever.

2. Love your wife – It’s so easy to get in the habit of raising kids that, if I am not careful, I can begin to interact and treat my wife as a business partner. No doubt sometimes it feels like Kaehr, Inc. instead of The Kaehr Family, but I want to be married to my best friend, not a business partner. Create space for just you and your wife. Create moments where you can be close to her, talk with her, and spend time with just her – remember, loving her means leading her. Now more than ever, she needs you to step up as the Godly leader in the home!

3. Check your blind spots – There are going to be areas of your life that were never an issue before and now that you have kids, those areas may become blind spots (things that are affecting you that you just don’t see). You need to be meeting with other men in discipleship/accountability to keep your life in check. You also need to have a mentor you can lean on for wisdom. If you don’t have these men in your life, now would be the time to get them. You are going to need other men to share with and help you down this path.

4. Enjoy it – Children are gift from the Lord. Enjoy the new blessing in your life. Remember, don’t just enjoy them now (when they are sleeping). Enjoy them in the middle of the night when they are screaming. Enjoy them when they throw up all over you. Enjoy them when they begin to walk or say “da da”. Enjoy them when they poop out of their diaper all over your jeans at the restaurant. Don’t ever stop looking at them like the miracle you keep saying they are right now. Believe me, that is SO much easier to write than say, but it’s true!

I could probably go on and on, but I won’t. Enjoy the quiet. Give your wife a back rub. Rest. You are going to need it.

But, let me tell you: If you will be an engaging husband and father, if you will pursue God, love your wife, share the experience with others, and enjoy the moments…there is no greater job or reward this side of Heaven. Absolutely nothing!

To quote a PBS legend, “Red Green”…Remember, I’m pulling for ya’. We’re all in this together.


From Obedience to Passion


It seems that, at least in my generation, there is a very strong emphasis on passion: on living sold-out, in love, passionate about a relationship with Jesus. It’s not about rules or religion: it’s about a relationship.

There is, no doubt, a great deal of truth to this. Many current books have been written, songs released, sermons preached on the importance of clinging, not to an ideology, but to a Person. Relationship, passion, love.

To be honest, though, I struggle with this concept of faith. I butt up against this image of a Creator who wants us to just be passionately “in love” with Him, and passionate about seeing others in love with Him. As a man not given often given to strong or enduring emotions, I find it difficult to come to that place of passionately pursuing God, of desiring only Him and His word.

Don’t misunderstand me: I love the Lord and want to know Him and His word. But it seems that, perhaps, in our Christian culture, sometimes we may put a new face on legalism, based not on a set of rules, but the strength of a person’s emotions regarding their faith. We venerate those who become visibly excited, who speak of being in love with Jesus, who want to go “all out” or live “sold out,” who want to make a bold and courageous demonstration for the sake of Christ.

What I want to postulate, though, is that perhaps our energies are misdirected when we seek to live passionately for God. Perhaps we are missing some of what it means to be a follower of Christ when we focus primarily on being in love with Jesus. What about those, like me, who struggle to even maintain a regular quiet time and active prayer life? I’m not suggesting that we do away with passion, or with seeking to fall “in love” with Jesus every day; I’m merely suggesting that it is not the place to start.

C.S. Lewis used to encourage new believers who wrote him letters regarding the emotions that they thought should surround their conversion experience. Many did not experience the joy or surge of love for the Lord that others had found so readily. His advice, I think, applies not only to the new believer, but also to those of us who sometimes feel like we’re just plodding along, seeking the Lord but not feeling “on fire”: he told them, only obey. Obey what Christ commanded, and if God wills for special joy and emotions to follow, then they will. If not, remember, we are called only to heed His voice and follow.

And that, I think, is perhaps where the mark is missed. I’ve read, and heard, often that obedience should not be cumbersome or difficult because of the love we should bear toward Jesus. But what if our love for God, for His ways, grows out of our obedience, not the other way around? What if, instead of seeking first to feel the way we should toward God, we seek first to act the way we should toward God?

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul reminds us, “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more… For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

God is not concerned that we first feel like loving Him, and feel like serving others or sharing His gospel: God is first concerned that we choose to obey Him, knowing that, as we follow step by step in obedience to Him, we grow to understand that, as for God, His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30), and He is not slow in keeping His promises (2 Peter 3:9). When we follow first in obedience, then we experience His joy,  because we see that the results are just as He promised. And our love grows, our passion grows, our obedience grows.

So pursue God wholeheartedly. Live with passion. Seek Him first in all things. But remember that zeal for His name, for His house, for His heart, for His word, come first through obedience.

A Steward of God’s Blessings

In the church I’ve grown up in, we have a tradition. Before a wedding, the men will gather for a “men’s advice night” and share lessons, stories, and marriage wisdom with the new husband-to-be. I just participated in one such advice night for my new brother-in-law and another friend who was also about to be married.

Godly men who’ve been married ranging from 1 month to 30 years shared stories of their mistakes and discoveries. They gave advice like “Read the Bible together daily,” “Start your own family traditions right away,” “Take adventures together,” and “Let her know you are thinking of her throughout the day.” We all wanted these young men to learn from our experiences and start marriage out on the right foot.


Photo credit

That night, also I heard several men say “I wish I’d had this kind of advice when I got married.” Not all of the men gathered had a Christian upbringing, godly parents, or even godly friends when they got married. And yet, God graciously worked in their lives, even through the rough times, and today God’s grace is clearly demonstrated in their lives and marriages.

This made me stop and think about all the blessings God has given me. I’ve experienced God’s grace, mercy, and blessings in more ways than I can count.

We need to be wise stewards of the blessings God gives us. We aren’t blessed just so we can be comfortable and happy; we’re blessed so we can praise and thank God for His grace. We’re blessed so we can share that grace with others around us.

How has God blessed you?

Were you blessed with faithful, godly parents?

Were you taught the Word of God and raised in the Christian faith?

Do you have a heritage of godly grandparents and ancestors you can look up to?

Are you a survivor of a rougher, less godly upbringing? God’s grace is still at work. No matter how you were raised, I’m going to assume, if you’re reading this, that God has brought you into a saving relationship with Him. You have a unique story to be thankful for and to share with others.

Are you blessed with a godly wife? Are you growing and learning in your marriage?

Are you part of the body of Christ, the Church? How has this been a blessing to you?

Do you have godly friends who care about you?

Have others invested in your life? Parents, teachers, friends, pastors, mentors… we’ve all learned from other people God has put in our life.

What about God’s provision? Have you seen God’s hand at work times of financial difficulty?

Has God given you success in your calling?

When has God answered your prayers, or given you wisdom and guidance?

You may not have experienced all of these blessings, but look around you. God is at work in your life. What blessings can you see?

What you do with these blessings matters.

Thank God for them. Tell the stories to your children. Mentor someone else who needs help. Share these blessings and be a conduit for God’s grace, reaching others around you who desperately need it.

If we gratefully steward God’s blessings in this way, we’ll be a strong influence for good in the lives of those around us, especially our sons.


Daniel Forster is married to Katelyn, father to three little ones, and the manager of Doorposts Publishing. He also writes for the blog Doorposts of Your House. You may enjoy his blog post How Grandpa Influenced Me.

Teaching Your Son What You Don’t Know

How do you teach your kids something you don’t know?

Or, more generally, how to you help your kids excel in areas where you don’t? Where, perhaps, you’re an abysmal failure?


It’s hard enough to pass on those values, skills, and ideals we possess in abundance. I can teach my sons how to be kind, patient, forgiving, faithful, and so on, because these happen to be some of my strengths; and even these will be transmitted to my boys only by concerted effort, diligence, endurance.

Harder by far is it for me to teach them decisiveness, strength in leadership, financial intelligence, even healthy aggression, because these are areas of weakness for me–areas where all my best efforts and concentrations are hardly enough to propel me toward any noticeable growth. But they are qualities I admire, aspire to, and desire for my sons. I want them to be well rounded, strong in the areas where I am weak, protected from my own shortcomings.

But how, exactly, am I supposed to pass that on to them? If I don’t possess certain abilities or character traits in abundance, how can I teach those things to my sons?

Being keenly aware of my various and colorful shortcomings (as you probably are of yours), I’ve thought a lot about this question. And, as a young dad, I’ve thought of several ways to help address the issue—ideas that are helping me as I implement them, and which I believe are applicable to fathers from any life stage. So, here goes: My list of How To Teach Your Sons What You Don’t Know…

1. Become a student

Come up against an issue that baffles you? Something outside your comfort zone, and beyond your strengths? Read up on it; study the issue in Scripture; begin trying to work it out in your own life. Experience, it’s said, is the best teacher. So, for example, if you struggle with making wise financial decisions, start by reading sound financial advice from a biblical perspective—then put it into practice. Always be willing to learn—for your benefit, and for your sons’.

2. Surround your sons with mentors

Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” From an early age, our sons need to understand that we, their dads, don’t have everything they need: we are not perfect, not able to completely prepare them for all that life brings. We are their primary teachers, yes: God has designed it that way, and we should never shrink from that responsibility. But, let’s help our sons one more step along the way: let’s help them learn to be mentored. By accepting mentoring in our own lives, and by surrounding ourselves—and our sons—with godly friends, they will see a more complete representation of God-honoring masculinity.

3. Seek wisdom from God

James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” The greatest tool we have for fathering, and especially for teaching our sons the things that are beyond our capabilities, is the wisdom of God. I believe it’s possible, through our inexperience and failure, that God can help us find the teachable moments our mess ups create. We can teach our sons through the dumb things we do, if we’re willing to admit our mistakes and seek the better path for next time. Even better, God can grant us the supernatural wisdom to understand that which is beyond us, and to make the wise choices. We can allow the Spirit of God to lead us, even in situations where we have no experience or aptitude, into victory.

These are general ideas, yes, but they are ones I’ve found extremely helpful as I consider my many shortcomings and how to raise my sons to avoid them. Become a student of the areas where you fall short, surround yourself (and your sons) with godly mentors who have different strengths than you do, and, most of all, seek God’s wisdom through HIs word.

Dads, what are some ways you’ve found to teach your sons what you don’t know? How do you pass on what you don’t have?

Come Write with Us

We’re beefing up the content here at BoyDads and we’d want YOUR help!
Write with Us
We have this vision that the space we create here at BoyDads isn’t exclusive, or country-club-esque — although a secret handshake would be pretty sweet.

We’re all walking this parenting journey together — we may be at different stages and we may have different perspectives, but the goal is the same: raise godly men.

So, we’re looking for some guest posts from readers, bloggers, authors, pastors, grandpas…you name it, we’re open to reading it!  We’re hoping to find some incredible pieces of encouragement, advice, perspective, and humor to share with our  community.  Maybe you consider yourself a writer…maybe not…it doesn’t really matter — if God has laid something on your heart that you think would resonate with our readers, we want to hear from you!  Who knows what God might do with it — many of the people we ask to join our regular writing crew start out with a killer guest post!

So, here is what we need from you:

  • Your top-of-the-line, ORIGINAL, pre-edited work between 500-700 words (Note: We don’t accept posts previously published on another site.)
  • A post image: sized somewhere around 500 x 300 and make sure you’ve got all the credit info to be kosher (Note: Using your own photos is the best way to go!)
  • A brief bio and photo of yourself with any appropriate links to your own site and social media spaces

Keep this schtuff in mind if you’re planning on submitting something:

  • This is a family-friendly website. Our Editor, Nate, reserves the right to accept, deny, or edit all submitted posts. No questions asked.
  • If you’ve got older kids and plan to illustrate a point by talking about a mistake they made, write about it with grace and make sure to check with them first!
  • Use care and grace in the way you talk about your wife.  None of us are perfect, so make sure to ask yourself this question before you submit, “How would I feel if she wrote about my shortcomings and hangups this way on a public blog for all the world to see?”
  • If we choose to run your post, please shout it from the rooftops on your website (where applicable) to send your traffic to us that day. But don’t copy and paste the article word-for-word at your blog. This is a major SEO killer (search engine optimization) and hurts us both. In fact, stretch your creative muscles and give it an entirely different title if you can and don’t include any of the text from your post on your own site. Thanks, man!

Ready to send something our way?  Simply send an email to nate@findingedenmedia with the subject line: BoyDads Guest Post Submission — after reviewing your work and our editorial calendar, you’ll receive a reply to let you know if we can run your submission or not.  Please don’t check up on the process, we’ll let you know as soon as we can!  If we decide to move forward with your submission, we’ll let you know the date and time it will go live so you can share!

And hey, do you know a BoyDad who you think would have a killer post for us?  Send them our way!

Vacate and Relate

This month, we took our first vacation with our newly adopted children. To be honest, I was not looking forward to it. First of all, it involved a 34-hour (one-way) road trip with three children under 6 years old, followed by helping our oldest son move out of his second-story apartment. I am more of an “amusement park or ocean cruise” kind of vacation guy, so this particular vacation was definitely not on my bucket list. (I will save my thoughts on bucket lists for another day.)

vacate and relate

After an all day, all night, and half of the next day of driving, we arrived at our little vacation cottage in northwest Montana. From my estimates, the cottage was older than all of our ages combined. That was okay, though. It had internet. (Who needs a microwave with a popcorn button while on vacation anyhow?) We were tired and ready for baths and showers. The cottage had a bath and beds, so we were set.

Most days, we would visit friends and family, but we also made sure that we were at the cottage by 7:00 pm, so we could get the kids in bed by their bedtime. To me it felt like so much time lost preparing the kids for bed, and just hanging out as a family, when there were so many family members and friends that we had to catch up with. I had people I wanted to see and things I wanted to do.

Then something happened. My youngest son and I started having fun together! In the six months that we’ve had together, my almost-three-year-old and I have not had too much time alone. With all the busyness of adding two new children into our home, my individual quality time with this little guy was pretty sparse. Now we had an entire week of being together, and what a difference it has made for both of us. There wasn’t one specific moment that stood out, but just the daily routine of hanging out together that bonded us.

Now my son actually misses me when I am gone or at work, and to be honest, I miss him too. God used this vacation to bond our family in very dramatic ways. It reminds me of my need for quality time with my Heavenly Father. He is there and waiting to visit with me. I just need to be more intentional about acknowledging His presence in my days, and inviting Him into my world. In an ironic twist, the more time I spend with my son, the more I desire to. The same with God.

When things get busy, and I think I don’t have time to spend time with God, I am reminded of Matthew 6:33. The last section of Matthew 6 talks about our vain attempts to “worry our way” into getting what we need.

Jesus said “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NASB).

God is telling us here to focus on our relationship with Him, and He will provide the rest. Relationship should trump all, as it is the most important. Our relationship with our God first, and then our families.

Do I want my children to value a relationship with their Heavenly Father? It starts with me valuing a relationship with them, and leading them towards a relationship with God. The great part about it is, I am loving this new-found relationship.

Disclaimer: While I cannot stress enough the need for focused quality time with our children, I am not condoning three days quarantined in a car with steady stream of fast food and gas station snacks to meet the goal.


Lessons Learned From a Family Missions Trip

Family Missions Trip
I’m not sure why it takes me leaving the country to make everything in my brain and heart line up correctly, but it does. I get out of whack here in the US– or, at least, my priorities do. I get into routine, comfort, and expectations for what I believe should be normal, and it all goes south. And impressively fast.

For the past three years, I have taken one or both of my boys on a trip to Honduras to serve with a ministry that we love and support. When I step my foot off of the plane in Honduras, I remember with my very heart what it means when Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I get to smell, touch and see those who are (by all the world’s standards) poor, but yet very, very rich in what matters. That is something I want my boys to experience as well.

I want my boys to see that they don’t know hunger. As we step out of a van into trash, human waste, and decay, they see a child about 11 months of age. No shoes, no diaper, and a tattered shirt, waiting patiently in line to receive a meal from our team. Possibly the only meal that has not been retrieved from someone’s trash in quite some time.

I want them to know, and I want to be reminded, that I become impatient if my meal takes more than 15-20 minutes in a restaurant. To think that I flippantly say, “I’m starving” if I’ve gone more than about 4 hours without a meal. Yet, this child waits patiently, not complaining, and with a smile on her face. Grateful. I want to be and I want my boys to be hungry like this for Jesus. Hungry to always know our need for Jesus.

I also want our boys to feel. I want them to feel the joy of seeing other believers who love Jesus with a fire and passion that I want them to have. I want them to feel the happiness of a boy who does not carry our last name on his birth certificate, but who has his name branded on our hearts. A boy who knows how to embrace life with arms wide open despite abandonment that left them empty not so long ago. I want them to feel the sorrow of so many that stare into hopelessness day after day.

Finally, I want them to be humbled. Humbled by a God that would come down to this earth so that this would not be the end. That created a way for us to live for something beyond ourselves. To give a purpose, a hope, and a future. To have them come undone so that they might come together with a one-track heart and mind.

I know that taking your family to serve in another country is a big commitment of your time and your money. I also know that there is plenty of work to be done in our country as well. But I do think that there is great value in a father showing his son that men must be champions of service. That is better modeled than discussed.

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.” –C.S. Lewis

What lessons have you learned from serving with your kids? How has it shaped their worldview?

The Warrior Weekend {Helping Dads Raise Boys to Be Godly Men}

Sadly, many boys are not being taught what it means to be a man in God’s eyes. I’m not talking about a guy who can fight off Grizzly bears with his bare hands, throw the football the farthest, lift the most weight, have the biggest house, or drive the fastest car. I am talking about boys growing up and understanding that God has created them to love Him and love the world like Jesus.

In an attempt to lead my own sons toward biblical manhood, I created a weekend resource for fathers and sons called The Warrior Weekend. This book was created as a guide for you and your son’s weekend retreat. The Warrior Weekend is designed to help you as a father teach your son what it means to be a Godly man.

The Warrior Weekend for Dads and Their Sons ~www.boydads.com

I wrote The Warrior Weekend because I want my sons to grow up clearly understanding that God has wired them different than girls – a lot different! This is not by accident, but by design. God has created boys to grow up and be Godly men for His purposes and plans for the world.

During The Warrior Weekend, there will be three lessons you will explore and complete together.

Each lesson consists of the following components:

Warrior Account: Each lesson will have a real life account of a warrior’s story in history. These are different men who have done extraordinary things. These accounts are meant to illustrate a biblical principle or truth outlined in that particular lesson.

Warrior Activity: Each lesson will have an activity that you and your son will complete together. These activities are meant to be adventurous and fun. They are also meant to illustrate the main theme of each lesson.

Warrior Application: After reading the warrior account and completing the warrior activity, you and your son will sit down together and discuss the application. This will be a chance to discuss what God’s Word says about how boys are created for God’s purposes.

My prayer is that this resource and weekend will be instrumental in helping your son(s) continue learning what it means to grow up and be Godly men! The Warrior Weekend is a great resource for you and your son(s), or it can be used in a group. Feel free to invite more dads and their sons!

To purchase your copy now:

Click to purchase The Warrior Weekend in paperback for only $7.99!

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Pat, www.thedigforkids.com

One Of The Greatest Gifts To Our Sons

On April 22 my wife and I celebrated our 18th Anniversary. It’s natural to reflect on the many adventures we’ve shared during those years. As with all marriages, we’ve had our share of challenges. We’ve fought through financial setbacks, weathered thirteen moves, and experienced three different career paths. But the most rewarding aspect of these 18 years has been our three boys. For most of those years, fifteen to be exact, a son has been listening to and observing us together. You could say they have been the source of much of our happiness and delight. They’ve been the source of some of those challenges as well. Nevertheless, they bring an added sense of purpose and meaning to our family. And for that reason I am thankful for the woman that God has given me as a wife and mother.


When I consider the purpose and responsibility of a family, it’s imperative that I acknowledge how my sons observe the way my wife and I treat each other. How we speak to one another, support one another, and handle conflict are all paramount in raising our boys. Obviously, we aren’t perfect. We have made countless mistakes. Many times our boys have observed our messiness. Unfortunately, they’ve expressed those mistakes and failures in their own life at times.

Therefore, I want to share with you one of the greatest gifts you can give your son(s). For some of you this may seem obvious. To others, it might be unassuming. Either way, do not take for granted how important this is in raising your boys.

Gifts To Our Sons
One of the greatest gifts you can give your boys is the example of loving, honoring, and esteeming your wife. I understand there is more to unpack here than I have time for in a blog post. But here are some questions (and some added comments) that might open the way for reflection. I find myself pondering these often. Ask God to help you be real, honest and humble. By the way, it’s not easy to be real, but the reward is always underestimated.

How does your son feel about girls/women in general? Does he view them as inferior or second-class?

(Your son is learning, whether or not you’re aware, so you be the one to teach him. Is he being taught a clear understanding of how God intends for men and women to relate to each other: work related, friendship, dating, marriage, etc?)

How does he hear you talk about your wife when she is not around?

(This tends to be most telling when you and your wife are experiencing conflict. What does he learn about humility, honor, esteeming another person, responsibility, blaming, courage, and selflessness?)

Is the physical more important than the other aspects of her being?

(Women love to hear that they’re beautiful, but include the inside as well as the outside. Boys need to see the beauty of Christ is multi-faceted as it’s expressed in all of us. This includes a woman’s intellect, emotions, creativity, gifts, talents, and aspirations)

Do you find ways to serve her in front of your son?

(I say in front of your son not to show off or to be a fake, but genuinely offering yourself in a way that honors and esteems her as a woman of God. The small things go a long way. If you don’t know how or what that is, then ask her. This is the beginning step to teaching your son about having a servant’s heart)

Do you participate in discussions, often with other guys, where it casts women in a demeaning or slanderous light?

(Our boys are growing up in a generation where TV, media, and entertainment cast women as objects and men as bozos. Teaching them to treat girls with respect, tenderness, and selflessness begins with being a leader in the marriage)

Do you ask for her opinion or insight when making decisions? Does she feel she is in partnership with you or just a bystander reaping the consequences of what you decide?

(Are you always right? Is it your way or the highway? Teaching our sons to be inclusive to others in problem solving is not only honoring to them, but also helps teach selflessness and tolerance)

Do you compliment and praise her? Her looks, her accomplishments, her attention to the home, the kids, the meals, YOU!

(The best way to ensure your son learns gratitude is to express your gratefulness to your wife. Show it, say it, and share it…make it a habit)

How does she know you are leading her? What are the ways she would say you are leading in the home?

(This takes humility, so be prepared for her honesty. Having a date night speaks volumes about relationship to your son. He will notice much of what has been discussed above: esteeming her, showing her value, being selfless, and making the people we love a priority)

By no means are these questions meant to be exhaustive, or to “guilt” you into a performance-based way of relationships. Rather, I hope they spark some self-evaluation as you consider the messages your son might be getting as he observes you and your wife together. What a responsibility AND opportunity we have as fathers. We have a direct influence on the next generation of leaders…our sons. We also have an empowering influence on the next generation of husbands and fathers. I would argue there is nothing more important to a man’s success in life.



Whose Problem Is This?

Every week my wife and I face situations where we must help our boys learn the responsibility of the choices they make. Believe me, there are plenty of opportunities with three boys around. The challenge is allowing them the freedom to make decisions and walking them through the consequences. Some of the choices they make are good and beneficial, while others are not and create messes. When this happens, our job as parents is to help our boys “own their messes.” This was especially difficult when they were younger because we didn’t like to see them fail, feel pain, or lose out. Sometimes it was just as easy to solve it myself and move on.

Either way, we came to realize that our approach was not working for two reasons. One, our boys’ messes eventually became our messes, even if we had nothing to do with it. Two, it became apparent that our boys weren’t learning for themselves how God designed them to grow into maturity. The day my wife and I figured this out and implemented a different plan with our boys, a surprising transformation took place in our home. We breathed a little easier, the arguing diminished, and the communication of what was expected of them became much clearer.

Here’s an example. Each of our boys has chores around the house. Each of them knows what is expected regarding when and how the chores are to be done. Recently, the chore of taking out the trash went “unattended.” It was overflowing and was smelling something awful. Now, how did I used to handle this? Yell, fuss, belabor the point of how it needs to be done without me always having to give reminders…interject some threats of punishment, and then send him away.

How do we solve this issue in our home now? I calmly called for my son, asked for his cell phone, told him the trash was not taken out by the time we both agreed upon, and informed him he would get the phone back at a later time. No yelling, threatening, or arguing. I know it seems too cut and dry, almost too easy. Rest assured, it doesn’t always go smoothly; but it does create the results we want for our boys.

Whose Problem 5.png

Below are a few things we did that laid the groundwork for this kind of environment in our home. I also added, in italics, how these points applied to the “taking out the trash” situation above. Know that it will take time, diligence, and even courage to establish this kind of environment, so be patient and graceful. Remember the goal…heart connection.

1)    Make the expectations clear for both of you. Mutually agree upon who is responsible in each situation, especially when something doesn’t go right. (My son understands that the trash cannot get to a point of overflowing AND/OR be constantly reminded to do something he already knows to do)

2)    Offer them “real” choices. Not just a choice between what you want them to do and don’t want them to do. That’s a set up for failure. Offer two options where either one will work for you. Help them understand the benefits and consequences of not choosing either of the options. (If I don’t allow my son to have some control in how he decides to do his chore, then he might feel like he has no ownership—choosing the day, time, or way empowers him with responsibility. Having a cell phone is a privilege that requires responsibility in other areas of his life.)

3)    If they choose “poorly” (kids who push the envelope will do this) be prepared with a plan of what YOU will do to still make it their problem. What I mean is this: consequences breed ownership, ownership breeds responsibility. (On occasion I get push back– you know, a little attitude. I respond to this by saying some of the greatest words a parent will ever learn: “I’m sorry you feel that way, but that’s not my problem.” This keeps the problem where it should be…on its creator. If I get more attitude I encourage them by saying, “I understand this is hard for you, but I think you’re fully capable of figuring this out. If you need help with that, let me know.”)

4)    Guard your heart! It’s easy and tempting to become frustrated, desperate, or even angry. Keeping our emotions in check prevents the situation from escalating any further. Just as God is long-suffering with us when we are figuring out life, we need to be the same with our kids.

Teaching our kids (especially boys) to create solutions for their problems without us deciding for them is one of the best gifts we can give to them while they’re in our home. Doing this with sanity and patience can only come from the Holy Spirit’s power working through us. If this is a challenge to you or you have questions about this topic, I invite you to share them with me.