Up until 4 years ago I was strictly a boy mom. Even though God blessed us with a spunky, blonde, cherry-on-top girl, I am still very much a boy mom. I always felt pretty confident in my boy mom skills. I knew how to discipline them as well as their daddy does. I am accustomed to their wild boy antics. The smell of dirty boy doesn’t even bother me any more. I was raising boys and doing it pretty well if I do say so myself.
And then I realized that my job wasn’t to raise boys.
I’m here to raise men.
I’m not doing as well as I thought I was when I look at my boys through the lens of manhood. My oldest son is eleven and he’s got a case of the lazies. He’s smart, beautiful, loving, Godly and fabulous. But the boy hates to work. H.A.T.E.S. it. He has chores but does them begrudgingly and half way. Every single time he takes the trash out (which is every day) I have to remind him to put a new bag in the can. I often don’t realize it needs a new bag until I have my hands full of dripping, gooey mess that needs to be tossed… it’s frustrating.
This past weekend my eyes were opened and I saw how we had failed our boys. My husband took the day off of work Friday and took our boys to a celebrity golf tournament. It was free for them but it was a very long drive, lots of walking and a ton of planning on my husband’s part. The boys had an amazing day! They came home begging to go back the following day as well. We said no. There was yard work that needed to be done. Quite a lot of it.
Saturday morning came. It’s a balmy 70 degrees here on a January morning in Florida. Perfect yard work weather. I loaded up Liv and we headed to the grocery store as the boys were starting their work with their dad.
John and Collin were working hard, pulling weeds, trimming bushes and mowing the grass. But Kaden was not. Kaden was moping and sloth-like. He was too hot, too tired, too bored.
Kaden has always had what my mother calls “the quitsies.” He has always had someone to do everything for him. I guess it’s first child syndrome, but this boy is helpless. We’ve made light of it for years.
“that boy has a lot of quit in him.” “I’m praying for his future wife because she’s going to be busy.” “He’s going to need to marry Mary Poppins.”
It’s not funny. It’s not cute. It made being lazy “acceptable” in his mind.
My husband had a come to Jesus meeting with him that day. Work ethic isn’t optional. It’s what separates men from boys. He made it quite clear that we were raising MEN.
Let me share with you where we went wrong and what we’re changing to help our son… notice I didn’t say “fix” him, he’s not broken. Just mislead… by the two people who love him more than all others.
We failed our boys by always doing things for them.
I think it’s somewhat natural to fall into this trap. When our boys make their beds I tend to go behind them and straighten them. Bring them up to my standards. I did that so often that they stopped trying. Sloppy covers, pillows missing pillow cases were the norm. They knew mom would take care of it. Same goes with laundry. I always did the wash, if they put their clothes away they get stuffed in a drawer or thrown in the bottom of the closet. Rather than making them do things properly, I just did it for them so that I didn’t have to iron.
I still put peanut butter and jelly on their waffles for them. *blush* They’re 11 and 9. They’re capable. Yet when they wine, or say that I do it better, I fall for it. Sometimes they will bring me a package of snacks to open for them… because they can’t? Really? Yet I would open them. Ridiculous right?
We failed our boys by not implementing chores early enough and being consistent.
We never gave the boys chores when they were little. I felt like it was my job to do the housework. They were just little boys right? Guess what happens when you clean up tooth paste every single day for a 5 year old? You’ll find yourself doing it for a 10 year old one day too. My boys have never used a vacuum cleaner. Never. When they do work in the house they do it half way. Sweeping the front porch is a common chore, yet they never actually do it right. Moving the welcome mat never crosses their mind. I have to remind them daily to clear their own dishes after meals! It’s like they feel as though I am their personal assistant.
We failed our boys by not making them earn the things they wanted.
We’re like many parents out there and we love to bless our kids. Their grandparents do as well. I remember a few years back my parents bought them both Ipads for Christmas. We were just starting our homeschool journey and my parents thought they’d be useful. The boys loved them, but didn’t appreciate and care for them properly. A few weeks later I noticed that the screens were dirty and cracked. I had the screens replaced and within weeks they were cracked again. I’m sad to say that this went on for months before I stopped paying to have them replaced. My boys didn’t care enough to take care of them. They expected me to pay to fix them over and over again. This is a common theme in this house. The “I broke it so I need a new one” attitude is strong in these two.
We failed our boys by paying them for the chores they did
Don’t get me wrong, allowance is great. So is learning the value of a dollar. However, not all chores need to be paid. I would ask my boys to take out the trash and they’d reply with “how much money will you give me?” Wait, what?? My boys were deciding if they were going to obey me depending on how much money they would make? Um… let’s give that a big fat No.
So clearly changes were needed. Here’s how we’re shaking things up.
First let me say, my boys are great kids. They’re loving, smart, Godly young men. They’ve been spoiled and lead to believe they exist to play. But we’ve got time to turn them into the men they are called to be.
We are working to foster independence and work ethic
We actually implemented a rule that if you are unable to prepare the food or open the package, you can’t eat it. That means if they bring me a cinnamon bun and ask me to open the wrapper they will go hungry. Guess what, they can be dang resourceful when they need to be.
I stopped doing their laundry. Even if I wash clothes, their clothes go in their own basket to be folded and put away. If they shove them in a drawer or the bottom of the closet they will wear them wrinkled, or figure out how to work the wrinkle release cycle on the dryer themselves. I am the iron queen no more. I don’t straighten their bed sheets, I don’t pick up their rooms. If their friends come over and think they’re slobs it’s on them, not me. It’s amazing what a disgusted friend can do for the work ethic of a
little boy young man.
We’ve implemented daily chores
If you read my post about spiral notebooks (here) you’ll know that I’ve started putting their daily chores in their agenda for the day. The only reward they get for these chores is a painted quarter for a small amount of candy at the end of the day. They have to do their chores as though Jesus Himself were going to inspect them. If they don’t follow through from start to finish they lose their electronics for the day and they don’t get their reward.
We don’t buy them anything they want
The only exception is Christmas and their birthdays. We provide food and necessary clothing, period. If they have an item they want they are responsible with earning and saving enough money to purchase it. This also makes them a ton more careful with their things. Had they purchased those Ipads with their own money I bet the screens would be in their perfect, original state. A child who earns money, purchases and item and then has to earn money to replace it will only have to learn that lesson once.
We aren’t paying them for all their chores
The rule we are using is that if they do a job that we would have to pay someone else to do, for instance mowing the grass or large amounts of yard work, then we will pay them for the amount of work they do. However, anything they contribute to on a daily basis… toilets, dishes, trash, laundry, is free labor. They contribute to those messes as much as we do. Those are things they will have to do for the rest of their lives. I don’t want them to think that their wives (God bless their souls) will just take care of it. I have a husband who washes dishes, helps with laundry and vacuums every week. He’s got an incredible work ethic and takes pride in serving me. I want my boys to do the same for their wives some day.
Momma’s, it’s so easy to fall into these traps, but we are not raising boys. Raising boys is why our society is the way that it is today. We have a world full of men who would rather play video games or play outside than work hard providing for their families. Those aren’t men. I’m setting the stakes higher for my boys. I want them to be Godly, hard working men one day. Men who will bless their wives and raise their children with a strong work ethic as well. We need more strong men. It’s up to us to raise them up.