Wild at Heart is a book by John Eldredge in which he began a conversation about the role of masculinity in the Evangelical Church. It was needed in 2001, when the book was first published, and is still needed today.
If you know me or read this blog you know I strongly believe that we need to allow our boys to be “wild” and develop their masculine side. But can boys be too wild? Can wild go from “healthy” to “unhealthy?” Lets rephrase the question.
If you ask “can a boy be too masculine?” I say “no.”
But if you ask “can a boy be too macho?” I say “yes.”
Can a boy be too crude? I say “yes.”
It is time we begin to allow true masculinity to flourish, and separate it from crudeness and foolish macho behavior. I don’t believe for a moment that to be a true gentleman a boy has to give up his masculine side. He has to be taught when and where certain behaviors are acceptable. He has to learn self control of his masculine side, not total denial.
But on the other hand, I am tired of people totally excusing inappropriate behavior by saying “boys will be boys.” Dirty jokes, sexual innuendos, inappropriate talk among mixed company, rough housing at inappropriate times, being mean to younger or small ones, and so on. Some parents simply use the “wild” card as an excuse for poor parenting. Raising a gentleman is possible while at the same time allowing your son to fulfill his “wild” side. We just have to understand the difference.
Here are some helpful hints on how to let your boy be a boy while not being inappropriate:
Respect your boy as a boy.
I have said for years that while children want both, girls especially want to be cherished and boys particularly want to be respected. It is work for Dads to cherish their girls and work for Moms to respect their boys. Accomplishments and victories may seen silly to Moms, but if it took some work to make that fort in the backyard, don’t immediately complain about the mess. First, point out all the “amazing” qualities it took to construct. Then let them know they will need to put those “building” materials away when done. Many “boy” accomplishments seem silly to mom, but if mom continually disrespects her son’s accomplishments, then when she wants to teach about respectful limits and proper behavior, boys are not interested in listening.
Don’t mind dirt.
Teach your boys when they can get their clothes dirty. That means special “play” clothes for allowing these type of activities. It may mean special procedures on how he may enter the house. My mom used to make my brother and I take our dirty, muddy clothes off in the laundry room, just off the garage. Then we could go through the house to our room to put on acceptable clothes for the house. My mom did not love our dirt, but she tolerated and managed it.
Let boys take risks.
Of course, if the consequences are too steep, stop them. But the occasional skinned knee or even the rare broken bone is not horrible. Instead of never teaching your child to ride his bike in fear of his getting hurt, make him wear a helmet and let him ride – and so on.
Teach your boy to treat women and girls properly.
Moms – STOP pretending that boys and girls are the same. Maintaining that there is no difference between the way your son should treat a boy and a girl is confusing to your son. Trust me, you are messing with your kids head! He knows there is a difference. He knows boys talk about bodily functions and girls do not. So teach him how to behave with a girl and a woman. Let him play with worms if he likes, but never terrorize a girl with his worm – and so on.
No dirty jokes.
Sexual perversion and dirty jokes are perversion even if girls are not present. Let them know this.
Teach boys to defend women, children and the defenseless.
Force is for self protection and to defend weaker individuals. Never to dominate or bully. If your son wants to dominate make him join a good physical sport or activity.
Don’t stop innocent roughhousing.
Within reason, let boys bump and bang and wrestle in the right places and at the right times.
Stop insisting everything be “perfect.”
It is OK to eat the hot dog that fell on the ground. It is OK if they go on a weekend camping trip and return still wearing the same underwear. It is OK to run around without shirts and shoes. It is OK to laugh and giggle and be silly at the right times. It is OK to pee in the woods as long as they do not expose themselves. Come on Moms – take a breath and concentrate on the really important things.
Strike a balance.
Allow the two sides of masculinity – the boyish “wild” side and the strength side – while teaching what is not masculine. Embarrassing crudities in front of women, bullying, taking advantage of others are NOT masculine. They are sin! Getting muddy and joking about farts is NOT sin.
Just remember to set limits.
Remember, like Eldredge pointed out so well, a boy really is wild at heart. So let that wild nature grow while helping him to understand the responsibilities that come with that masculinity. But don’t make excuses for inappropriate, crude behavior. Honestly, your son will thank you for both letting him be free when he should be and setting clear limits when he needs them.
Blessings on your journey with your boy!
At allboy.life we want to encourage parents to enjoy raising their boys! If you have suggestions or comments let us know.