My dear friend, Monica Swanson, is sharing an excerpt from her book, Boy Mom, today. Monica has four children, as well. Her sons are ages 20, 18, 15, and 9… to say that she has experience raising sons (especially teenage sons!) is an understatement. Monica has an amazing quality of sharing her stories with the world on her blog, MonicaSwanson, in her book, and on her Boy Mom Podcast. (I listen to her podcast when I’m driving alone in the car… I always walk away with some sort of ah-ha moment, idea or feeling of encouragement.)
Monica is an amazing person. She is kind and thoughtful, not to mention that she has raised (and is raising) four very respectful, kind, helpful, and loving sons. Today she is sharing thoughts on how to raise sons with noble character.
Take it away, Monica…
Raising kids of noble character, by Monica Swanson:
I’m humbled and grateful when people comment on the strong character qualities they see in my four sons. It makes me so happy that I made this a focus when my oldest boys (now 20 and 18) were young, and it inspires me to keep pressing on with my younger boys (15 and 9.) Character shows up in just about every area of life, and it is one of the things I love to encourage moms to be intentional about.
Here are a few thoughts from the chapter on character in my book, Boy Mom:
Raising a son who knows the rules of behavior may get you through a dinner party, but it will not get him through life.
Our goal should not be to raise a kid who can act good but one whose heart is good. While I have taught my boys a handful of appropriate behaviors, from opening the door for a lady (yep, I still teach them that!) to shaking hands with people when they are introduced, I try to put much more emphasis on the heart than on the actual actions.
As John Wooden, the famous basketball coach said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” A person’s character will be revealed by his behavior, but it is determined by the thoughts, intentions, and attitudes behind that behavior.
It is important to remember that character is fashioned by these things over time and in various circumstances. Every kid has some shining moments as well as moments when character is lacking. Our sons will be known for the consistency of their character in the long run.
Jesus said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45) To raise a son who embraces noble character, we must begin with his heart. Much like cultivating faith, this happens through modeling, daily interactions, and years of training with patience and endurance.
Manners as a great training ground for character development.
Manners are an excellent way to teach the core attributes of good character to young kids, and most parents, regardless of their parenting style or philosophy, automatically do so. They have to because babies are born without a clue about socially appropriate behavior.
Babies spend their first months crying loudly, putting random objects in their mouths, drooling ceaselessly, and going to the bathroom anywhere they please. Parents naturally take on the responsibility of shaping their behaviors.
We sleep train, potty train, and teach them to say “please” and “thank you”. We sing the cleanup song twenty times a day and use the word share as if we’re on autorepeat.
These basic social skills are where it all begins… But not where it ends.
There is much more to the art of manners.
As they grow up, we must teach our sons how to do everything from answering the telephone properly to establishing eye contact with people to knowing how and when to properly interrupt a conversation. Role-playing and practice can be super helpful in teaching manners and building character.
As our kids grow up, we can help them understand the reason behind the things we are training them to do – the why behind how we interact with other people. We can share with them Jesus’s response when He was asked to name the “greatest commandment.” He said, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39)
The heart behind manners is to love our neighbors, to show kindness and respect to the people we walk this earth with, whether they live in our home, across town, or across the planet. Emily Post, one of the most well-known authorities on manners said it very well: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” This is true not just for manners but for all aspects of character, such as honesty, humility, and respect.
As we raise our kids, let’s focus intentionally on their heart and their character. Start with manners, and then keep going. Then enjoy watching them grow and mature, from the inside out.
Use this link to get a downloadable list of Noble Character Qualities for your inspiration!
Thanks so much to Monica for sharing her advice today & every day.♥ If you are interested in more stories about raising sons, check out the following posts: