As our boys grow older, my wife and I find ourselves more frequently conversing on how to help form them into men. It wasn't until we listened to Fr. Ripperger's talk, 'How to Raise Men' (that we found on Youtube) that we really began to connect the dots.
Fr. Ripperger begins the talk by discussing the many ways in which men have become “effeminate,” including through self-indulgence, weak wills, and too much leisure. In order for boys to grow up manly—and by manly I mean men who take responsibility for their actions, their bodies, their minds, their faith— they need to face hardships.
Hardship and responsibility is what forms a boy. It develops perseverance (the number one virtue today’s boys are lacking in), strength of will, strength of body and a sense of accomplishment.
It is almost easier to raise boys into men in a farm setting where farm chores need to be done on a daily basis, an expectation with which these boys grow up with from infancy.
But how about us folk that live in urban areas? One can only give so many dish chores ...
Fr. Ripperger suggests that one hour of hard labour a day is needed for the proper formation of a boy. Whew! That doesn’t sound too bad! But where do I find this type of work around my house?
The solution lies in the second premise: responsibility.
A boy needs to be given responsibility. Responsibility for himself, for others, for property, for work, and all of this with an expectation of excellence. The key is that we want our boys to be men that face hardship with barely a shrug. In other words, when a man is a father he commits to a life of sacrifice. But he can't mope every time he has to change a diaper, fix a blown switch, or change a flat bike tire. A man needs to be able to embrace hardship, to run into it without a second thought. If an especially loathed job needs to be done, you simply do it because you are the man of the house.
Now, living an urban lifestyle makes this more difficult, but not impossible. To our oldest son, who is 12 years old, we have given over the responsibility of caring for the entire lawn for the duration of the summer. And we gave him very clear expectations: the grass must be cut regularly, it must look presentable, toys must be cleaned up off the yard, it must be watered, and so forth. For the first few weeks I'll work with him to demonstrate how I want the work done and then he'll own the project.
There are other ways to hand over household responsibilities to your sons, as well. Our oldest son is now also signed up for a babysitting course and is taking his role as an older brother to the next level. Other responsibilities could be raking, wood splitting, wood stacking, car washing, carpentry work, and so forth. This is physical work that needs to be completed each week, over and above his homeschooling.
I don’t see why we can’t extend this idea towards pursuits like learning to play a musical instrument, a sport, or any number of outdoor activities. These things too, require physical endurance, discipline, and instil a sense of responsibility.
There has been one specific thing that we have done that has made all the difference: entrepreneurship.
Two years ago we decided to help our children build their own businesses. My son chose to make beeswax candles. Now, two years later, he has a website, his products in two stores, he sells at Farmers’ Markets, and his interest is now branching out into bees in order to learn how to harvest his own wax.
The transformation that happens when a young man begins to own what he is working is something to be in awe of. Responsibility—it is key.
This is a new venture for us and the results thus far have been great!
Every morning, our oldest son also wakes up and heats up a bottle for our youngest. We’ve also noticed that he is doing more and more tasks without complaining. He is even taking responsibility for his body and running in the morning, all of his own initiative. He still does his chores very quickly (efficiency is great IF the quality stays high) so we are still working on finishing the job to completion (meaning that all the instruments used in the job need to be put back where they belong), but I’m proud of him nonetheless.
Today, on Father’s Day, it is good to reflect on how we are raising our sons.
Are we raising them to be men?
Are we the men we ought to be?
Do we embrace hardship when it is right to do so?
Hardship and responsibility. Life changing principles that make a boy into a man.
Kenton E. Biffert
Kenton is a writer and speaker, and works at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College as an adjunct professor and the Dean of Students. Together with his wife, they homeschool their 8 children, explore the wilds of Ontario in the canoe, and read voraciously. To learn more about the art of fatherhood, visit Kenton's personal page.