One of the struggles we’ve had raising teenage boys is that they don’t receive corrections well from their mother. This is a big issue in that we homeschool and the children are home all day under the sole authority of their mother.
It got to the point where my wife was getting quite frustrated with my older two boys, so we finally sat down to discuss what to do about their behaviour. I will share our journey with you as I’m assuming we are not the only ones facing this kind of conundrum.
First, we had to look at the problems and categorize them. They were as follows:
Personal Hygiene: For some reason, the call to the barbaric sings loudly in boys. A mother’s cry that “You stink!” was being seen as a compliment.
Quality Chores: The boys have been consistent in getting their chores done, but the quality with which they were being done was inconsistent.
Completing Chores: By completing a chore, I simply mean putting away that which was used to do the chore, like putting the vacuum away or cleaning the counter after you made lunch for the little ones.
Spare time: When teenage boys have too much time on their hands they end up becoming a terror to their sisters. That and they’re found constantly snacking before meals and vegging out in front of devices.
Next, we looked at solutions.
By putting in the energy—especially with the firmness of the father—we can hope to decrease the exhaustion in the long run, and hopefully help to raise boys who are hardworking, virtuous, and take responsibility for their actions.
There are some things that fathers must explicitly take responsibility for—or so we think. The first is hygiene. As the father, it seemed right that I take the lead in improving my sons’ desire to take a shower. Telling the boys that they wouldn’t be appealing to girls if they stunk made no impact at all. They are not at the place yet where they are interested in the opposite sex. I could’ve tried talking about personal hygiene as having respect for others, or that because you are your body, as St. Pope John Paul II taught, it isn’t your body that stinks, but you that stinks, and I could’ve discussed the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit … But I didn’t really do any of these. I was too frustrated. So I basically told them they could not come upstairs in the morning until they showered, put on deodorant, and put on clean clothes. Failure to do so would result in fines. The result was actually immediate. Honestly, we were both surprised. Mom stopped nagging and pestering and began to compliment and Dad just laid down the law—it worked.
The next solution had to do with chores, and here I think the problem often lies with us, the parents. If I see the mop thrown on the floor in the mud room and not hung up as it should be, I will almost always hang it up myself as it is too much work to find out who did not hang it up in the first place. Further, we need to demonstrate and enforce what it means for a chore to be “well done.” For example, when it comes to sweeping the floor, as parents we must be explicit with boys as to what portions of the floor need to be swept, what furniture needs to be moved, what needs to be picked up off the floor, and so forth. Once the expectations are understood and demonstrated then it is important to enforce that level of quality. There are times when I call the boys back 3-4 times to sweep up what they missed. When it comes to enforcing it, this is an area that both the mother and the father seem to be able to find equal success in doing. The issue here is consistency in the standard we expect. If the boys refuse to do the chores or do them well, then me, the father steps in and the consequences are hours of work outside hauling wood out of the forest.
Dealing with too much spare time is the hardest. It is important for all children to have free time and to learn to play and use that free time well. The rule in our house is that there are no video games allowed and movies can only be watched once a week. We have hundreds of books to read and an entire wall full of board games, and still the boys get restless and get into trouble. One solution we are playing around with is the idea of hobbies. I’ve noticed that men, in particular, can really benefit from having hobbies. From fixing cars, to woodworking, to stamp collecting, to fishing, and so forth. Somehow we need to encourage the boys to dive into a hobby, learn the skill, and gain a level of mastery with it. The hard part is often the “sticking to it,” aspect as it is easy for boys to quit when the going gets tough. This is one reason why music lessons are such an essential part of a boy’s education—it’s challenging and they aren’t allowed to quit. The goal is to deflect poor behaviour by encouraging these hobbies. Chances are that terrorizing sisters will still happen and will need its own consequences, but perhaps the frequency will decrease with the decrease in “bored” spare time. Here is a place where the father is more of a model than a disciplinarian. This is a great place for the father to bring his boys into the hobbies that he enjoys and to teach them the skills he knows.
Discipline is tough especially when we parents are exhausted after a long day at home and at work. But by putting in the energy—especially with the firmness of the father—we can hope to decrease the exhaustion in the long run, and hopefully help to raise boys who are hardworking, virtuous, and take responsibility for their actions.
God help us raise our boys to be men.
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.