Interview with

Founder & Teacher,

Audio Transcript

Happy day after Mother’s Day to all the moms listening in. Thanks for listening to the podcast. We’re often asked parenting questions. You know that, Pastor John. And it is not uncommon to hear from moms who want advice on how to raise young boys into men. This applies to single moms and their special challenges in parenting, which we got into back in APJ 1075 in the archive. But share with us, Pastor John, just broad counsel that would apply to Christian mothers — whether they’re single moms, or moms married to non-Christian men, or moms married to Christian men. In these various situations, what’s a mom’s role in raising boys?

The first thing I would say to a mom is teach your son. Teach him especially the word of God, and how to see the world through that lens. If you’re married to a believer, 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). Or, “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 6:20).

Remember, there’s 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’s that? That’s his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois (from 2 Timothy 1:5). We know that. And we know from Acts that his father was not a Christian. I think that should be encouraging to mothers — that Paul chose, for his missionary band, a young man who was largely formed in his faith by his mother and his grandmother.

Require Obedience

The next thing I would say is expect obedience from your son. “Children, obey your parents” — not just your father, but your parents. Mother, get your son to obey you. May he obey “in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1). It’s dismaying to me to watch one-year-olds, two-, three-, four-year-old kids make their parents miserable because the parents have not required obedience at home. So in public, they have no control over them. They don’t get any kind of respect in public. The kids just do what they want to do; they wrap their parents around their finger.

Mom, you can require and receive obedience from your son. Teach this little one, from the earliest times, with words and with spankings if necessary, that you have God-given authority in his life. He does not decide what is acceptable behavior. You do, all the time. Reward him joyfully. Make him happy in the boundaries that you set for him. Do all the good possible for him, and punish him appropriately for the bad that he does. That’s so crucial, if you want to have a happy home and a happy public life with your children, and to be just plain obedient to the Scriptures.

Model Strong Womanhood

Then I would say, model strong womanhood. Peter says, speaking to the women in the church, “You are her children” — Sarah’s children — “if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6). I just love that verse. The godly woman in the Bible is fearless because she hopes in God. That’s what it says. She puts her hope in God.

“Teach your little one, from the earliest times, that you have God-given authority in his life.”

Or Proverbs 31:25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Oh, how needed in our day is that, right? Everybody’s trembling and wringing their hands about the time to come, and the Proverbs 31 woman is laughing at the time to come. A son should look to his mother not as a weak woman who is always anxious about tomorrow, but as a stable oak of righteousness who laughs at the time to come because she trusts in a sovereign God.

Honor Your Husbands

Then I would say, honor the leadership and protective instincts of your husband. Let your son see this. “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 joyfully deferring to the initiatives, leadership, protection, and provision of her husband — the spiritual leadership of a strong man. Of course, a Christian wife does not follow a husband into sin (that should be obvious). She makes clear, “There is one, supreme Lord in my life: Jesus Christ.” But under that lordship, she delights to honor her husband’s leadership.

One Strong Mom

And I can’t help but be a little bit autobiographical here because I think some of my thinking about competence in complementarianism was shaped by my home. I grew up in a home where my father was away two-thirds of the year: weeks gone, week at home, weeks gone, week at home. He was an evangelist. My mother, in his absence, did everything. She was, in my view, omnicompetent.

She taught me just about everything practical that I know to this day, and she made me a worker. She made me love diligence. She never once gave me the impression that she couldn’t do anything. She paid the bills. She ran the little laundromat. She tried her hand at Amway. She climbed a ladder and painted the eaves of the rotting house. She pushed a wheelbarrow — I watched the sweat drip off the end of her nose as we were digging our own basement. She pulled the Bermuda grass out and taught me how to get it by the roots so they wouldn’t grow back. She loved flower beds. She taught me how to cut the grass so that you overlap and you don’t get skippers when you do the grass cutting.

She said, “Johnny, cut the potatoes like this and wait until the oil is boiling, because if you put the potatoes in before the oil is boiling, they’ll get soggy, and you won’t get good fries. And when you make pancakes, wait until the bubbles around the edge are forming, because if you try to flip them too early, they’ll flop all over the place.”

Not About Competence

She taught me everything there was to know, practically, in our home growing up. Which taught me this lesson: the biblical roles of a wife’s submission and a husband’s headship in marriage are not based on competence — like, “You do this because you’re good at it.” That’s not the point. They are based on the deeper realities of how God designed male and female, and how we flourish in those kinds of relationships.

But when my dad came home from being away for weeks, my mother beamed with joy that now he could lead. He’d lead in the discipline of the children. He’d lead in giving counsel. He’d lead in prayer. He would lead by saying, “Let’s go to church. Let’s get there on time.” He’d lead by saying, “Let’s go out to eat.” He could model the small courtesies that a man offers a woman and that a boy needs to learn in the dynamic between a mother and a father: pulling out her chair, opening the car door, checking out strange noises in the house, and on and on and on.

“A son should look to his mother as a stable oak of righteousness who laughs at the time to come.”

A man is a man, and a woman is a woman. And a boy watches this; he absorbs it. So, as a boy, I watched that dance, that choreography, and I marveled at my mother. In his absence, she could do everything; in his presence, she loved it, she flourished when he took that kind of manly initiative. That’s what we need to show our sons, that they are not belittling or demeaning when they take initiative to protect, to provide, to lead a woman.

Give Him Examples

I would also say, point your son to strong manhood in Scripture, in history, in fiction, in media, and in your husband. I don’t mean, necessarily, when I say “strong manhood,” physical brawn. What I mean is true, masculine, responsible, mature, sacrificial, protective initiative with courage and strength. You don’t have to be a football player to be that kind of man. If there’s no husband to be the model, if you’re a single mom, find ways to point your son to the kind of men who embody mature manhood. I think my mother was very jealous that that happened in my father’s absence.

Expect Strong Manhood

One last thing. Expect strong manhood from your son. Give the boy responsibility early on. Require as much as you can, as he grows older, of his manly behavior. Insist on politeness toward his sister or toward you, other women, other girls. My mother taught me, “Don’t you go through a girl’s purse — ever.” Walk on the street side when you’re walking beside a young lady, in case there’s a splash or some danger. Offer to open the door. Pay for the date. Use respectful language. Take responsibility. Be willing to sacrifice. You build into your son, as a woman, what the appropriate dynamics are between a man and a woman, to be biblical in your understanding of headship and submission.

Now, I know there’s so much more that we could say, oh my goodness. So, seek God’s wisdom in creating a healthy, Christ-exalting home. Seek his wisdom. He’ll help you. If Dad is there, that’s just great. He is crucial in raising daughters, just as you are crucial in raising sons. And if he’s not, if he’s not there, and you’re a single mom, trust God to make up the difference. He’s done that for thousands. God is faithful, and he works for moms who wait for him.