Raising Boys Into Christian Gentlemen - Some Notes

I finally had a chance to go listen to a speech I've been trying to get to for years.  It is by a priest that has worked most of his life (I think 40 years now?) at a local all boys Catholic high school.  It was EXCELLENT.  So many good thoughts, with funny stories too for many of the points.  He was gentle and loved his job, and loved helping parents understand their sons. The subject was "Transitioning Adolescent Boys Into Extraordinary Men".

Here are my notes, a little scattered, but things I want to remember:

Teens these days have:
Too Much Stuff
Too Many Choices
Too Much Information
Too Fast

Brain development: Teenage boys have "hardware but no software".  In brain-prefrontal cortex is underdeveloped until early 20's. This is what helps to make good judgments.  This is why we will often hear, "I don't know why I did it.  It was stupid, I shouldn't have, but I just did without thinking about it."

When they are alone, their tolerance for risk is the same as adults, but when they are with friends their tolerance for risk is twice as much-this is from brain studies!

So what do we do?

We provide structure.
We give freedom WITH limits.
We help "be" the pre-frontal cortex.
We are the brakes.
We teach teach teach---lessons of integrity all the time.
Guide the transition out of selfishness-how do actions effect others around us.
Guide journey to manhood.
Be parents not friends.
Set clear standards.
Articulate consequences (not outrageous ones but ones that fit the "crime") and follow through.
Be consistent.
Love him but not all that he does.
Allow freedom and separation.
Don't take it personally.
Don't ever say, "My kid would never do that."  Yes, he would.  ALL kids makes mistakes, all of them.  Smart good kids do stupid things.  ALL of them.
Forgive but it does not mean no consequences.

He will disappoint you but not deliberately.

Keep a plumb line for him-teens swing into polarities-we need to teach the middle.

Parents are heroes-they need to give lifelong love.

How God dealt with Old Testament's message is geared towards infancy/children in a way-reward/punishment/this is what I say/do it.

Jesus in New Testament not reward and punishment but teaching what's right through words and examples, guidance and leadership, Jesus was always asking questions, this style fits teens.

Teen boys needs ritual and initiation and ceremony provided by parents and church, if not it will be provided by peers (gangs). ie.-Confirmation, becoming upper classmen, annual trips with fathers etc.

Overprotecting could be safer now but not in long run-they need to develop an immune system to build character and resilience-be exposed to bugs and viruses in a way, to face consequences of life. Success is working through problems and difficulties.

Don't be overprotective, give gradual freedom. Just punishment can't stop behavior, must learn from us, natural consequences and why. Take an interest in friends, and pray, pray, pray.

Every child needs a mother and a father. Divorce is hardest on children-when there is shared custody there is no consistency in the home-two people who can't get along are now raising children two different ways with two different sets of rules, teens need consistency more than ever.

A mother and a father are essential in a child's life.  Both model different things, both give children different things that they must have.  This is the ideal and should be upheld for the sake of the child.

A father must be active and present in a child's life daily.

Statistics for boy's without their fathers: (I wrote these down quickly, don't know if I have them totally right).
71%  of dropouts
90% of men in prison
90% of runaways
63% of suicides
75% of drug and alcohol addicts
72% of murders
60% of rapists

A mother nurtures, comforts.  Dad's supply the adventure, the model, the identity and walks with him through the journey to manhood.  Dad's-tell your sons you love them, every son wants to hear it. They must know your love is unconditional.

Love him and enjoy his adolescence with him.  Remember your own experiences, and have faith in God, and faith in the foundation that you have given your son.

Remember Romans 8:28
"All things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose."


  1. This is wonderful! I can see in hindsight for my two married sone this is all true! My 15 and 7 year olds will benefit from this. Is the talk as a whole available? Your notes leave me wanting more:) thank you for sharing.

  2. As a mom to five boys I had to laugh - pray, pray, pray. Yes that's me and my oldest is only 8.

  3. I wish I could hear a talk like this. My son is almost 12 and most days we are just winging it, even though we pray, pray, pray :)
    I could use a talk like this for girls, too. My daughter is 10. My husband and I always say, she's the one who will get her brother into trouble. God help us!

  4. Love all these points A local priest runs a Man of God program for 1-6 grades and 7-12 graders. While learning the virtues of Christ they do manly things like learning to make fire without matches, finding dry firewood in the rain, etc. It's all located in a woods, year around, with their dads and the Priest. My son is only 7 but he is really enjoying it so far and so is my husband.

  5. I like the statement at the end that says to enjoy his adolescence with him. I read a blog post recently (I think on The Scenic Life) about how we need to reject the common view that we should dread the teenage years. My oldest is 13, and it will be 17 more years until my youngest is no longer a teenager, so if I don't enjoy it I'm pretty much just torturing myself! You've talked about this idea in the context of "terrible twos" as well.

  6. Very good! I was going to share on facebook...but I have so many divorced family and friends. I agree about how bad divorce is because I am a product of one. It was just awful. The stats are there and are true. Just don't know how to say divorce is harmful without hurting my family and friends.

  7. While I don't have boys ... just 5 girls;) I agree fully. I watched my sister (mom to 4 boys) and her husband go through a terrible divorce and the boys did not have a great foundation ... especially in their teens. Children need a mom and a dad ... period.

    1. Things would not necessarily have been better if they had not divorced....it is not the divorce that is bad it is the toxic relationship between two people....it would have been worse if the kids have had to live with that day in and day out...in most cases divorce is not the end of a happy relationship....it is the end of a miserable relationship

  8. This is wonderful Sarah, thank you so much for sharing! My son is only 3 1/2 but it's clear even now that he needs unconditional love - especially in combination with discipline! Have you ever read anything by James Stenson? He's been involved in Catholic education for years (2 independent secondary schools for boys in particular), and has some wonderful books, Upbringing, Lifeline... others. They are available on Amazon. :) This is his website. http://www.parentleadership.com/

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  10. Thank you! Curious if the audio is available online?

    1. No, it was very informal-just a talk he gives every year that is open to everyone, but something offered directly through the high school.

  11. Wisdom is something that we can't buy, rent, or have in our back pockets unless we listen to pieces like this. Well said...and breed! Thanks for posting!

  12. Thank you! My oldest son is 15...my youngest boy is 2, sprinkled with boys and girls in-between. This is very helpful. 💕

    1. My little emoticons were supposed to be hearts. ;)

  13. Oh thank you! As the mother of a 14 year old boy, 10 year old boy, and an 8 year old girl...I am getting firmly into that territory where I feel overwhelmed by the fact that I have so few years to turn these little people into productive members of society. It's terrifying at times, especially when the "hardware but no software" aspect comes into play. It's comforting to know that we're already using so many of these tactics and helpful to have a few more to add to the arsenal.

  14. To All Moms and Dads, divorced or married. Get involved, listen, watch, check phones, communicate with the parents at whose home your teen is spending time, etc. etc. Integrity is key but unfortunately teens lie. Many parents today don't want "to know". But too many teens start out with "weed" and end up with heroin or in re-hab. Love, love, love, and be sure your kids know you care and expect them to do their best. Unfortunately, drugs are rampant on high school campuses and are not as easily detected by parents because the problem crosses all lines....the scholar, the athlete, the kid said to "have it all", etc. Parents wake up and pay attention. They need us now more than ever.

  15. "every child needs a mother and a father. Divorce is hardest on children" .....What can a catholic priest tell us about marriage ...they have never had a relationship with a woman or even tried to raise a family while holding down a job. Sorry to rant Sarah....my kids need a mother and a father yes ...they need time with both parents...they do not need to live in a house with two people who make each other miserably unhappy

  16. yay jeanette
    and yay to this wonderful blog.
    my mom died, my dad remarried, unfortunately, my dad abandoned emotionally my two brothers when he remarried and had a new child….there were four of us originally (kids) kids always get the backseat to the new family.my husband has cheated on me, but i am still here, fighting for my kids, and my relationship is getting better all the time with my husband….no one is perfect….

    hey got those candles on that birthday cake (only $1.69 w/free shipping on ebay) they are so cool thanks so much!