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7 lessons that turn a boy into a man

My wife, Ashley, just had an ultrasound and we found out that we’re having another BOY! That’s right, four boys in a row. I’ve never seen an ultrasound without also seeing a penis. Pray for my sweet wife who is now completely engulfed in a house full of testosterone!

Since God has entrusted me with the sacred duty of raising four boys to noble manhood, I want to make sure I’m teaching them the right lessons! They’re growing up in a world where manhood has been redefined and good role models are harder to come by. I want my boys to know that they’re not automatically a “man,” just because they start shaving or hit their eighteenth birthday. Manhood is about so much more than hair and age.

The modern ideals of masculinity are a schizophrenic mixture of unrealistic or even destructive role models. Hip Hop culture presents a man as a lawless, materialistic, womanizing thug with with no respect for authority. This is particularly damaging, because that music has the most influence in urban settings where fathers are largely absent which intensifies the influence of the artists. Those boys are looking for role models, and sadly, there’s often not one at home so the ones on TV fill the void.

Mainstream media paints the picture of ideal manhood in drastically different ways. One minute a man is being told to reject his masculinity and take on an extreme model of egalitarianism in the home where there is virtually no distinction at all between men and women apart from genitalia. The next minute, men are being told to “man up” which can mean anything from eating more red meat and lifting weights to working longer hours to provide the “American Dream” for the family.

With all the conflicting messages and so few healthy outlets for genuine manhood, many guys escape into their “man cave” or into the cyber world of video games, porn or fantasy football, because the “real world” doesn’t (in their minds) have any place where they can be “The Man.”

I don’t want that for my boys. I want them to be the courageous men God created them to be. For more on my hopes for their life and legacy, please read this short-but-heartfelt letter: A letter to my sons.

I don’t want to raise them with an idea of manhood that’s based on my own opinions or the ever-changing opinions of culture. I want them to learn the truths of manhood from the One who created Men in the first place. Below are seven timeless truths taken from God’s Word (The Bible) which have universal application to all men in all cultures. These are the tenets I hope to teach and model to my sons.

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Here’s our family picture announcing the upcoming arrival of baby boy #4! We’re pumped! For ongoing encouragement to help you build a stronger marriage and family, please connect with me on twitter and subscribe to our email list at the top of this page.

The 7 Duties of a Man: (In no particular order)

1. Fight for what’s right.

Being a man doesn’t mean you have to go around punching people like your in a UFC cage match, but it does mean you must have the courage to take a stand for what’s right. Speak up for the powerless. Defend the weak. Fight for justice for the oppressed. Fight for your family.

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.Nehemiah 4:14

2. Take responsibility.

Boys run from responsibility; men run towards responsibility. If you’re a grown man living in your parents’ basement and constantly bouncing around between different women and dead-end jobs, you’re not a man. You’re a boy with a beard. Grow up.

“A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.Proverbs 10:1

3. Provide for your family.

Your wife and your children should know that you would be willing to go hungry to make sure they’re fed.  It’s not the government’s job to feed your family. It’s YOUR job. There’s no shame in assistance when you need it, but you should also be willing to work hard to provide.

“The man who is unwilling to work shall not eat.2 Thessalonians 3:10

4. Control your emotions.

Emotions are a tool given by God and there are healthy and important ways to express them, but don’t be ruled by them. If you don’t learn to master your anger and your emotions, then your anger and emotions will master you.

“Fools are quick to express their anger, but wise people are patient and control themselves.” Proverbs 29:11 

5. Love your wife.

In many ways, your life and legacy will be defined by how you love your wife. Show her you’d be willing to lay down your life for her. Show your boys what it means to love and respect a wife, because they’re learning what marriage means by watching you. For more on this, check out my free video on How to have a stronger marriage.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for herEphesians 5:25

6. Keep your commitments.

Fulfill your commitments. This is the essence of manhood. Pay your debts, keep your word, and always speak the truth. When you’ve blown it, admit and seek forgiveness. Don’t make your decisions based on your feelings; make your choices based on your commitments.

“Keep an oath even when it hurts.Psalm 15:4

7. Trust God.

God made you and His plan for your life is the only plan that counts. Don’t be so prideful that you try to do it on your own. Life is meant to be lived in relationship with your Creator. If you’re walking with Him, you’ll always be headed in the right direction!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

For more tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage and family, please check out my bestselling book, iVow: Secrets to a Stronger Marriage which is now also available on iTunes for instant download on iPhones, iPads and all Apple devices.

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28 thoughts on “7 lessons that turn a boy into a man


    1. dave willis Post author

      Jane, thanks for asking. I don’t have any daughters, but I’m planning to write a post on what lessons I’d teach if I had a daughter. Keep watching the site.


  1. Nikki Casey

    This is great! My husband welcomed our first child, Caleb, on the 12th and these are definitely an article we will have to save.

    Reply

  2. Diana

    As a divorced woman I always question myself on how I should raise my son. He spends every other weekend with his dad but 95% of his time with me. And now that he’s 6yr old, I’m at a loss. I grew up with 4 sisters and my brother is the baby and almost 10yrs younger than me so I know nothing about raising a son. I do try my best and ask my parents and family for advice all the time but oh my! This article. I couldn’t have found it at a better time than now. Thank you so much. I will be forwarding this to my sons dad so he can see who I want our son to be. From the bottom of my heart truly thank you for this!

    Reply

  3. Jeff

    Hey, congrats, Dad. Father of 3 boys here in GA myself… one more that I’d humbly like to suggest is, Prioritization. I’ve told my sons (and myself) for years that they must prioritize their lives to put their Faith, their Family, and their Work (school as appropriate) and THEN hobbies, in that order. I’ve seen many men who have fallen into serious trouble by putting their work before their wife and family, or by putting sports over their sons’ best interests (e.g. pushy youth sports dads/moms), or by focusing on leisure life in lieu of their role as the spiritual head of the family. I am of course pointing the finger at my own fallible experience first, in stating the absolute need to put no gods before God the Father almighty, and thus to keep a sense of proportion and priorities straight. That said, I love your list, and God bless, Dave.

    Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before me”.

    Reply

  4. tasha niemeyer

    I absolutely love this post on raising boys into men. As a mom of 5, four of which are girls, I’m always looking for ways to make my son feel special without spoiling him! My husband and I are coming up on our 10 year anniversary (in 2016) and are planning a vow renewal to celebrate. I love reading all of your posts, they relax me in times of stress. You have a beautiful family and congrats on baby boy #4! If you ever need tips on raising girls, I have plenty!

    Reply

  5. Edwin Soler

    Dave, this is a courageous post you have written. Why? Because the Western culture has no way of doing just that, explaining a boy when he is a man. Many other cultures have ceremonies and rituals in the passing from a boy to a man but not here. I was told in my younger years that I was not a man at all. I was almost 26 at the time and it hurt deeply. I saw the same person almost 18 years later (she was an old crush) and saw me married with a son. The conversation with her was very different. We never spoke about that day she said what she felt. But a few days later it hit me HARD. The holy Spirit reminded me of that conversation and then told me: “I have made you into a man through the experiences I have guided you through”. The western world is in a crisis because so many young men (such as me a long time ago) never had any role models to help them become men. I have a son now and will do everything I can to make sure he has me as a godly role model. on a final note, did you know that the word teenager did not even exist until after WW-2? It was created to better explain the transition of a person’s growth, particularly the boys. God help us brother, God help us.

    Reply

  6. Kendra Miller.

    Dave,
    In your third paragraph, you put forth the suggestion that in where there is a lack of fathers in urban areas, TV and the Hip Hop culture step in to provide the role models these children never had, and that that creates a disrespect for authority. Could you emulate on that? It’s a very interesting idea .

    Reply

    1. dave willis Post author

      Kendra, the recent stats I’ve seen say that as many as 4 out of 5 urban, African American children are growing up without a father in the home. The epidemic of fatherlessness in America (whether an absent father or a “present” but completely uninvolved father) is a crisis. Without a real example to look to, boys will emulate role models in pop culture (and there aren’t many good ones). Girls without a dad in the home are also much more likely to fall into a promiscuous lifestyle to fill the void of male attention. It’s a tragic cycle. I’m praying that Dads across the world would step up (myself included) to invest into the next generation.


  7. Kathryn

    Thank you for that. I to would like to read your tips from the Bible with the girls. I have 4 daughters, 3 of my own and 1 step, 2 sons, 1 my own, 1 step and it’s really hard at times with blended families. The discipline doesn’t seem to ever be the same or consistent so needless to say, it causes arguments, usually between us parents. Any suggestions for me there?

    Reply

    1. dave willis Post author

      Kathryn, I’m planning to get someone with more expertise on Blended Families to do a guest post on my site. These are very important issues and also very complex. Praying for you and your family.


    1. dave willis Post author

      I’m in the process of getting my iVow ebook translated into Spanish and I plan to make it available for free once it is finished.
      Gracias y Dios te bendiga!


    1. dave willis Post author

      If you signup for our email list at the top of my homepage you’ll also receive a free ebook download.


  8. Myndi

    Congrats! We also have four boys and no girls. It’s a crazy but wonderful life. Enjoyed this article so much!!

    Reply

  9. Margaret

    Hi Mr. Willis

    As a mother of a boy and a girl, I feel that these 7 lessons also a apply to girls. We need girls to do all of these items as well. My husband and I want both our children to be fight- speak up for themselves and for what’s right. Make smart choices and be responsible for their outcome as it does affect others. Provide for their families, control their emotions as women many times we want or have to do both. Love our spouses so the boys know how they should be honored and respected. Keeping commitments be it a play date, school volunteer or a board meeting, they must learn how to also balance time and know it is ok to decline an offer. And finally, having faith in God and sharing that knowledge with those who they love. You seem these 7 rules are for all of us. Maybe less girls would be getting lost on their way too if they weren’t expected to know or be perfect without ever being shown.

    Reply

  10. Jim D

    A friend shared your article with me, so very well done Dave! So needed in todays society. Thank you for this!

    Reply

  11. Channing Smith

    Wish there were men out there like this! I am raising two boys alone. It’s hard to raise a man when you aren’t one! Thanks for this it will help!

    Reply

    1. Mandy Dunn

      I can only imagine doing it all alone. I have 2 as well. The first ones bio father was never there but my husband has been in his life since he was 7 months. We recently got married last year. Im thankful for him. I will keep u n my prayers. Keep your head up love. U can do this.


  12. Carry S.

    I am a single mom of 4 beautiful teenagers…two of which are amazing sons 17 & 19 years of age. These 7 things I try to instill daily, and this article just helped reinforce what my heart tells me should be priorities. I can only hope they carry these values on to their children! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  13. Chad Hall

    I am not a religious person, in the sense of organized religion. I do not totally believe that the bible is real or to be taken literally. I have my own idea of what God is and what afterlife is like. However, I do agree with your views on how a boy should become a man and some verses from the bible can be very good rules of thumb as a guide. Your article is well put together and thought out.

    Reply

  14. Mandy Dunn

    I have 2 boys. One just turned 4 n the other one will be 2 in January. I took note of all 7 steps n just wanted to say thank you. It is very good advice.

    Reply

  15. Kyla

    Wow!!! Very well said!! I absolutely love this Dave!!! As a single mother of 3 boys, all 3 with different dads, one of them is disabled and his father passed 5 yrs ago, these 7 make it to the top of my list, and yes I agree, in today’s society, there are a LOT of “boys” having boys of their own without a single inclination of the right direction or how to raise them. We need good God fearing men :-) great job!!

    Reply

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