Pastor John, we’ve received a number of emails that have asked a similar question asked by moms who are interested to hear your thoughts about their role in raising sons.
The first thing I would say to mom is teach your son. If you are married, you and your husband together teach the whole counsel of God to your son. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8). “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 6:20).
There is that wonderful story of Lois and Eunice in 2 Timothy where Paul says to this young man, “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it” (2 Timothy 3:14). And who is that? Paul already mentioned this in 2 Timothy 1:5 when he said, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5).
“Be a woman that communicates when you have God, you can be strong and laugh in the face of uncertain futures.”
We know from Acts that his father wasn’t converted. He was a Greek, and he wasn’t a Christian. It appears that Paul chose as part of his missionary band a young, and I think we would say timid man, who had been almost entirely schooled by his mother and his grandmother. I think that should raise the stakes of a mom, a single mom or grandmother in particular. It raise the stakes very high concerning your mighty influence in shaping the life of your son.
The next thing I would say is expect obedience from your son. “Children, obey your parents,” — not just your father, but your parents — “in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1). Require that this boy recognize God’s authority in you and punish disobedience while requiring and rewarding obedience.
Then I would say model strong womanhood. “And you are her children,” — Sarah’s children — “if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6). The godly woman is a fearless woman. That is what I mean when I say strong womanhood. Or Proverbs 31, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” A son should look to a mother not as a weak woman who is always anxious about tomorrow, but this woman should be like an oak of stable righteousness who laughs at the time to come and communicates that when you have God, you can be strong and laugh in the face of uncertain futures.
Then I would say, honor the leadership and the protected instincts of your husband. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:24). A son should see a strong woman deferring to the initiatives and leadership of her husband—the spiritual leadership of a strong man. Now I am, of course, assuming that this man is a believer. You do what you can if that is not the case. But if you have got an intact, spiritual marriage, what a son needs is to see his mom doing that.
In the home I grew up in, my dad was away two thirds of the year. My mother did everything. She was omnicompetent. She taught me just about everything I know when he was away and she never once gave me the impression she couldn’t do anything. She could paint the house. She could push a wheelbarrow. I watched the sweat drip off the end of her long nose as she weeded the Bermuda grass out and showed me how to take care of the yard.
She taught me how to make French fries in deep grease by waiting until it is hot otherwise they are going to get soggy. She taught me how to flip pancakes. That you need to wait until the bubbles appear around the edge because, if you turn it over before then, they are going to spill out over the edge of the spatula and on and on and on.
“Point him to strong manhood. Don’t give the impression that he is not masculine if he does not hunt, carry a gun, and play tackle football.”
But when my dad came home, my mother beamed with joy that he could now lead in prayer at the table. He could now say, “Let’s go to church.” He could now say, “Let’s go out to eat.” He could pull the chair out for her when she sat down. He would open the door for her when he went through.
I watched that dance, that choreography, and I marveled at my mother. In his absence, she could be everything, and in his presence, she loved it when he took that kind of initiative. That is what we need to show our sons so that they are not belittling or demeaning in any way when they are taking initiative for the sake of a woman.
Point Him to Manhood
I would also say, point your son to strong manhood in Scripture, history, fiction, media, and in her husband. I don’t mean necessarily physical brawn. Don’t give the impression to the boy that he is not masculine if he is not an athlete.
What I mean is true masculine, protective initiative with courage and strength. Maybe he is a guy who is into art and has a more sensitive spirit. Don’t let him think he is less a man. Don’t give the impression, oh, you are not really a man if you don’t hunt, carry a gun, and play tackle football. No, no, no, no. There is a masculinity that is strong, initiative taking, courageous, and protective. She needs to show him that in all the ways she possibly can.
Expect Strong Manhood
One last thing, expect strong manhood from him. Give the boy responsibility early on. Ask for his manly behavior. Insist on politeness towards his sister or towards you. For example, letting you go first through the door and showing him how to open a door. Show him how to use respectful language. Train him how to treat girls in a respectful and protective way.
Those are some ideas. I am sure there is lots more, but I think, a mom and a dad should see God’s wisdom in creating homes with a mother and a father bringing something remarkably unique to the sexual wholeness of both sons and daughters. So, mom and dad are both important for a son. Mom and dad are both important for daughter. And if you are in a marriage where you are a single mom or a single dad, God will have mercy. God will provide. God will make up the differences if you keep all these things in mind and make up for the losses in various ways.