There is nothing more exhausting than parenting. Well, maybe being POTUS, but parenting has to be a close second.
As winter approaches here in Washington, D.C., I’m reminded again of the exhausting pursuit that parenting is, as we (Grace and I) attempt to wrangle and channel the energy of our 3-year-old son. To be fair, his sister (5) is a close rival in energy, but the boyhood energy of my son outshines all three of us—his mother, his sister, and his daddy—combined.
There is another interesting dynamic at play in our lives right now, though. We recently moved from a 2,000 square foot home in the suburbs of Knoxville, Tennessee to a 900 square foot apartment in Washington, D.C. to plant Veritas City Church. For the last 2-years, we lived on almost 1 full acre. That is definitely not the case today, and it is apparent in how much our children remind us of the lack of wide open spaces as they literally bounce off the walls of our new homestead.
With that said, parenting boyhood energy has its challenges everywhere, but especially in the middle of winter in a tiny, little apartment. As I’ve processed this lately, here is some encouragement for you, if you’re also attempting to wrangle the goodness that is boyhood energy.
Love the energy in your child. God has uniquely created your child and gifted them in great ways (Ps. 139:13; Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 2:10). Don’t become adverse towards them for their God-given nature of desiring to climb stuff and punch each other. Boys don’t often want to sit Indian style in a circle and play quietly and relationally.
Buy dangerous trampolines for your backyard, if you have them. Wrestle with your boys in the living room floor. Let them climb all over your back like Mt. Kilimanjaro. Use your conscience here, but give them permission to run around and explore the neighborhood—and kid world. Have dance parties in your kitchen. Buy them dirt bikes, not just normal bikes. Put them in Little League, Pee Wee Football, and put a basketball in their hands. And when you do this, you’ll learn to love how God shaped them, instead of perceiving their energy as a problem to solve.
Furthermore, teach boys to channel their energy. This will take time, yes, but when you give them a legion of outlets at their disposal, they will eventually begin to find a favorite one. When they do, channel them to their favorite outlet.
My outlet-of-choice as a child was the sport of basketball. I loved the game at an early age, and I learned quickly that I was okay at it. I spent hours and hours in my driveway playing basketball. So much, in fact, that my neighbors would come out at midnight and finally ask me to go inside. I played on the Varsity team as a freshman, and I played AAU with a traveling team sponsored by Nike. Several of my past high school and college teammates play in the NBA, or professionally overseas. I even coached high school basketball for a few years after seminary. Basketball allowed me to channel the mountains of energy I had through middle school and high school. Today, I have learned to channel this energy in different ways, and over the years, God has taught me that this is a gift to be used for his glory.
And, finally, I would encourage you to celebrate the energy in boys. As we learn to love it ourselves, and then channel it in them, we also need to celebrate their energy with them. Boys do not need to feel like they are a disappointment or a problem because of their energy. I know that’s easier said than done; there will be times when they need to actually sit still (e.g., school, the dinner table, Sunday morning worship, family devotions, etc.). In the event they do these sometimes-impossible acts, celebrate that with them, and discipline them when they don’t. When boys are learning quietude, they are learning to exercise dominion over their life. It’s not all outlets of energy and no self-control. We want them to learn self-control and times of stillness. The conquering spirit of young boys can be extended to learning to take dominion over their energy. This is a Genesis 1-2 concept. We, like Adam, are dominion-takers, and we should teach boys to take dominion over their quietude, and not just the playground.
As you do this, help them see that God created them to grow up to be men—leaders, providers, and protectors. When you celebrate with them what God is doing in them, you are having teachable moments about the God who created them. In turn, you are teaching them to celebrate the only One worth celebrating.
DON’T EVER STOP PARENTING THEM
The energy in our young boys is an awesome characteristic of boyhood that God has given us to enjoy, not as a problem to write off, or (in my opinion) to even medicate (I do, however, realize this is the case sometimes). Boys are filled with testosterone. When God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, the first thing Adam did was go out into the Garden, full of testosterone, and began to explore and name stuff. As parents, we shouldn’t be afraid of this exploratory essence and energy in our boys. We should love it, channel it, parent it, and celebrate it.
Parents, help your boys thrive in a culture of lectures, walls, circles, niceness, and quiet rooms, but give them permission to be boys. Constantly pray for their salvation. Give them grace when they fail. Discipline them, too. But, most importantly, don’t ever stop parenting them. Don’t give up. It will be hard. Trust, and lean into, the promises of God in Christ alone—who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
When we stay close to that truth, we can channel everything… and help our boys—in Christ—conquer just about anything.
This post is adapted from a past post at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.