are moms adequate for the task of raising sons?

(As I am sorting through my files, I have decided to share good thoughts from the podcast archives.)

Today, I want to discuss an emerging idea that concerns me, the notion that teenage boys cannot be properly taught at home by their mothers and that fathers need to intervene and teach their boys themselves either by taking them along to work with them or leaving their jobs to work from home.

At first glance, this isn’t even a possibility for the majority of families.  While I personally know several successful men who are in business for themselves, some even working from home, for most individuals, coming home is many steps away from reality.  Also, the possibility of taking your sons with you to work on a regular basis is outside the scope of what most employers would ever allow.  While these are legitimate options for some households, it should never be established as a necessity because supposedly mothers are unable to teach their own boys.

Some homeschooling leaders like Rev. Steve Schlissel are even suggesting that Christian schools are a better option than homeschooling for young men. This is what he has to say: “We should let the little secret out of the bag that homeschooling is far more fitting for girls than for boys. By learning at home, girls are in their future dominion headquarters; boys are not. The truth is that homeschooling can be dangerous for boys, keeping them from challenging male role models, narrowing their field of vision, stifling their godly instinct to be aggressive, a little messy, and overtly and physically competitive.”

I have spent the past nearly 34 years as the mother of boys….I have 5 of them and 7 grandsons as well.  As I have thought about Schlissels’ perspective and others like him who share his concerns about moms being able to adequately teach their sons, I have also chatted with my own boys about their years growing up in a home where, aside from math and science, mom did most of the teaching.  I cannot see, and neither can they, any adverse effects on their lives.  Truth be known, if anyone is a survivor, it is me.  Between flying lessons, bungee jumping, car accidents, speeding tickets, extremely large fireworks, and any number of tree climbing or athletic injuries, all of which belong in my husband’s personal “don’t tell mom” files, it is amazing I have made it thus far.  Three of my sons are grown, all of them are productive.  All three were homeschooled through high school.  The oldest one is an attorney who recently opened his own law firm.  The next one is a sales manager responsible for the oversight of multiple offices and sales training for all personnel.  The third son is a sound recording engineer in the process of building his own studio in Nashville.  If the zeal for delivering newspapers at the crack of dawn is any indication, I have every confidence that the younger two boys will also be productive citizens in due season.

But my own experience as a mom instructing her sons certainly isn’t the bellwether for all homeschooling families.  Examples from Scripture, however, are another story.  Over the years I have learned several truths about raising boys that I think are important to pass along.  Some of these things are applied to raising daughters as well, but the examples I am sharing from Scripture are those of women and their sons, in order to show that the Scriptures demonstrate a greater value on a mother’s instruction than some today would allow.

A couple years ago I wrote on my blog regarding the instruction of King Lemuel’s Mom to her son as found in Proverbs 31.  As I read what she wrote to her son, I am so blessed to realize that she was considered “adequate” for the task by the Lord.  Her lessons were certainly not geared for younger boys, but rather were given to an older young man.  She warns him to be careful not to get involved with those who would keep him from being a leader, including the wrong kind of women who could ruin his life.  She admonishes him to avoid the use of alcohol because it could cloud his discernment.  She reminds him that being a man of compassion is of the highest priority.  And finally, in the most familiar verses, she lists for him the qualities necessary in a godly wife.  These are all topics of discussion that a mom, a mom the Bible describes as being full of wisdom, has with an older son.  It is obvious to me, then, that the Scriptures teach that moms have a place in the character training of the young men in their homes.  Another thing to note is that the very fact that history records her counseling her son is incredible, given the fact that women where typically not allowed to do so at the time.  This passage is considered remarkable by many Bible scholars today, which to me makes it even more important that we pay attention to it.

Two more moms from the Bible that I think are worthy of looking at are Lois and Eunice, the mother and grandmother of Timothy.  Lois and Eunice were of Jewish decent but Timothy’s father was a Greek who never became a Christian.  In the second letter of Paul to Timothy, the apostle commends the young man for his faith, recalling that it was, in part, as a result of being raised in a home with two godly women who greatly influenced his life. Both Lois and Eunice imparted the truths of God’s word to Timothy, preparing him for the future work as a co-laborer with the apostle Paul. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul admonishes Timothy to continue in the things of the Lord that he had been taught by these dear women from the time he was small, telling him that their teaching had made him wise for salvation through faith in Christ. It was the instruction in sound doctrine, in true theology given by a mother and grandmother to a young man that Paul recognized as the means of grace God used to bring him to Christ.

Some of my most fond memories of teaching my own sons involve sharing times together discussing spiritual truth.  To this day, even though we might be 2000 miles apart, it is not unusual for one of them to call me from his cell phone while he is on the road and, together, we will share genuine fellowship, what we are both learning, and how we are able to apply God’s word to life.  How foolish it would have been and how much we would have missed had we decided that young men cannot be taught spiritual things by their mothers.

Finally, one of the supposed reasons given for homeschooled boys not flourishing under the care and training of their mothers is that we do not allow boys to be boys and that our feminine ways might undermine their potential for real leadership.  In other words, our protection of them might turn them into sissies.

As I mentioned earlier, I have seen my share of dare devil stunts and “manly” acts, all in the name of boys will be boys.  My sons are rugged, like camping and hiking, enjoy sports, and are creative and adventurous.  They are also caring and nurturing and the ones who are married are genuinely servants to their wives and children as well as spiritual leaders and protectors.  One of the greatest leaders on the pages of Scripture is Moses.  Called out by the Lord to lead the children of Israel and given the privilege of handing down God’s law to them, this man’s humble beginnings would be suspect to those who believe moms are too protective.  Jochabed, his mother, was a wise and intuitive woman, not to mention creative.  She knew that it would only be a matter of time before the government officials found her sweet baby so they could kill him.  So she ingeniously made a small boat from bulrushes and placed her tiny son inside, sending him down the river to the place where she knew the Pharoah’s daughter would be bathing.  Isn’t it interesting that even in her protecting of her son, she placed him in danger?  Who would feel comfortable placing a tiny baby into an alligator invested river?  But this woman, called out by the Lord, trusted that God had a plan for her son.  She also made sure that she was available to continue nursing her little one and, in God’s providence, she was able to have a hand in his upbringing.  You see, even as we “place our boys in danger” as some would say, by keeping them with us, we are, in reality, protecting them, making sure that what we are teaching them is right, just as we have done in all their earlier years!

Pastor T.D.Jakes makes this observation about Moses’ mother, “The wise and courageous Jochebed knew a secret that would serve today’s mothers well.  She knew how to recognize greatness and she knew that greatness needs to be hidden at certain times.  She knew that a child of destiny cannot be treated as ordinary, cannot go along with the demands of culture, otherwise Moses would have been dead before he was a day old.”

Typically, we might think that this applies to keeping our children from the ways of the world. But I look at this in a different light.  As homeschoolers, we are continually being conditioned by articles in magazines, books, and conference teachers, to raise boys to be men in ways that, in the end, I believe will be detrimental to their homes and families.  They are being taught from the very earliest of ages that there are certain chores that only men do and that women have no callings of their own, but rather, have only one calling and that is to fulfill either the calling of their brothers, fathers or husbands, a most popular idea but one without any Biblical support whatsoever.  Indeed, we are being told that moms cannot adequately teach their own sons so of course it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, giving boys license to disobey anyone but their dads.  Our homeschooling culture makes much ado about fathers training sons to be men, as though moms don’t know what real men are supposed to look like!  When we recognize the greatness in our boys that will be realized in the future as fathers and husbands, we know, perhaps better than anyone else, what that requires.

I contend that moms have a vital role in raising their sons, all the way to adulthood.  I also contend that insisting that a Christian school or even primarily a dad would do a better job is silly.  Yes, boys need their dads.  It is a fact.  But moms are more than adequate for the task of teaching young men, especially if we really believe that it is all by God’s grace alone.

I recently read the story of a young woman named Sonya who was raised in poverty, the 22nd of 24 children.  After spending most of her childhood in foster care and having only completed the 3rd grade, at the age of 13 she married an older man.  He turned out to be a bigamist and eventually she was a single mom who lived in a tiny house she couldn’t afford, with no marketable skills, and two little boys to raise alone.  What she did have was an incredible faith in God.  She worked as a maid to pay the bills and early on crafted a plan for raising her sons.  She made sure they knew how to read, turning off the TV, and kept them in line, making sure their homework was done every day. But, as one insightful author put it, “no one could have guessed, least of all Sonya, that through all her sufferings, God was preparing her to raise one of the world’s finest neurosurgeons and a bright light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  Her son, Dr. Ben Carson, now a nationally recognized figure and the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, openly acknowledges his indebtedness to his mother.  In his own words he says, “I not only saw and felt the difference my mother made in my life, I am still living out that difference as a man.”

Moms, do not let anyone tell you that you are inadequate for the task of raising sons.  Remember that God, in his sovereignty, gave you boys to raise and He has already promised in His Word to give you all that you need for life and godliness!


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  1. Laura says

    Karen- since we are dealing with ideas from the land of make believe, I would like to offer a new definition .

    Patriarch (petri:ark)n, a man who desires to have his face shaved by daughters in group shaving ceremony// a man who is prone to dressing in costume for weekend forays into the world of revisionist Christian history//a man who is seized by the fear that somewhere, somehow, a woman may be competent or capable in any way….

  2. says

    Thank you for this post, Karen. I do have fears as my sons grow older of not being able to really instruct them. I don’t think my fears are based on female inadequacies so much as having seen a lot of other homeschool moms whose relationships with their sons are threadbare. So what is the real issue behind this fear (mine and the one propagated by those you mentioned)? I wonder if the relationship parenting paradigm is part of the answer. Less preaching at/moralizing/thinking for our sons – more gentle mothering, letting them be adventurous boys who sometimes fail and often succeed ….

  3. says

    I think that a mom has a very important role in showing a boy how to be a man, showing him what being a man means for a woman. I don’t think men and women always value the same things when the thy to imagine ‘a real man’ and by making the boy see that he can grow much more as a person. Personally I don’t see anything wrong with a man with softer sides and who does not enjoy rough play or camping but I don’t see that as something either male or female since I grew up in a family with plenty of forest activities and with a summer cabin in the woods where we as children could (almost) run completely free. I was also in the scouts for 11 years of my childhood and teen years so I have never seen that as something that just boys could do.

  4. Pressing On says

    Thank you for the timely reminder. My husband is disabled, so much of parenting falls to me and it is up to me to make sure that my teen son gets his time with godly male friends, is put to chores and activities that test him physically, and is affirmed by me as a young man. This week I took him in for his physical, and the pediatrician (a wonderful, insightful friend) suggested that I take him with me to work out. This middle-aged body wouldn’t be moving if I didn’t do that regularly, and the doctor suggested that my teen boy should have an appointment with the exercise physiologist and be put on his own program of physical strengthening. I took that as encouragement from the Lord that He will point out what I need to grow this boy into a man.

  5. Michelle G. says

    Thank you Karen. I am the stronger Christian in my family (saved before my hubby) but God is working out His plan for us in His time. For a while there though, I was so lost in the patriarchy junk that I began to think that I shouldn’t be instructing my boys spiritually. Thank God for His true Word that He so mercifully gave to us. Hard to ignore things like Jesus’s command to make disciples and Lois and Eunice’s influence on Timothy kept bringing me back to reality.
    Here a couple of years later I am still the main bible reader, bible teacher and church attender around here. It’s not because I’ve failed at “winning him without a word” it’s because God is working on my husband in is own way in His own time and in the process giving me HUGE instruction in patience and faith among other things. If I had bought into the paradigm my sons wouldn’t be in the place they are now spiritually. If it went on for years they may have been lost completely. Then I would have to give an answer one day before the Lord as to why I didn’t disciple them as Jesus had instructed.
    We are all commanded to co-labor with God regardless of gender, and Chrisitan moms are a huge asset to sons.

  6. Michelle G. says

    To Carole –

    I so understand your fears and I felt a year or two ago that my relationship with my oldest son (then 8.5) was pretty “threadbare” (like that phrasing btw). I looked ahead and saw that I indeed wouldn’t be able to influence him or even teach him if things kept progressing the way that they were.

    I prayed long and hard and took notes. And then I did these things among others:
    I started to look him in the eye a lot more when he spoke to me, started to REALLY listen to him and enter his Hot Wheel, Lego building world. I also stopped spanking him and my other children (not here to say that YOU or anyone else should, just telling what I did). Started hugging him a lot more and started to make a wee bit of time each week for just him and me. I prayed earnestly for a meeker and quieter spirit (for I had been raised in a family of yellers and just needed to s.t.o.p.)and God graciously helped me learn how to relate to this sweet, senitive, yet rambuncious (sp?) boy in a much better way. I also started to really live out my convictions and actually apologize to my kids when I behaved in a way that didn’t glorify God and asked them to pray with me and for me (still doing that btw – a lot more than I’d like!)

    Now he’s 10.5 and a “tween”. He’s staring to have his own tastes and interests and because God’s graciously changed me my son’s “changes” aren’t sending me into that old trap of fear. I pray for him a lot and keep attending to our relationship and I am very optimistic about our future.

    Relationship parenting IS the answer. Love is very powerful and it is so needed in our families. Love is the glue that holds us together in relationship to eachother. In loving families kids obey in the same way that we, who are in love with Jesus ought to obey Him, out of love and for the sake of the relationship – not because we are trying to look good on the outside. Our kids shouldn’t spend their young lives with us having to just look good on the outside.

    Hope this helps someone – its so near and dear to my heart. Perfect love casts out fear and really, fear is evil. If we come from a fearful place in our parenting, can there ever truly be a good outcome? Preaching to myself here!
    Love and blessings,

  7. says

    Michelle, I hope every mom who wanders in here reads your sweet testimony! Such wise, gracious, humble, and encouraging advice from you this am, my dear sister in Christ. One of my boys has some learning disabilities that often results in his frustration (and mine!) I have discovered that when I most want to really scold him, which is when he is usually really touchy and unreasonable, if I hug him tight and tell him I love him and rub his back, I can feel his frustrations melt away. Mind, too.

    Thank you for sharing!

  8. Michelle G. says

    Karen I would be remiss if I didn’t pop back in quick to THANK YOU for sharing. Thank you for being wise and willing to share yourself this way on this blog. I have learned so much about the Lord, Christianity, Theology and parenting through you here and those you’ve linked to, interviewed, etc. It has been a major couple of years of growth for me and you have been such a wonderful example of a godly Titus 2 sister-in-Christ. My life and family are in such a better place now than that first time we talked and I so appreciate your willingness to be a vessel for the Lord. Thank YOU so much!

  9. Nicole says


    This almost made me cry. How absolutely encouraging. I have two beautiful boys, one on the verge of manhood, one a newborn. Because my husband works long hours, I often worry if spending so much time with me and all his little sisters is healthy for my older son. This makes me want to wake him up and give him another hug goodnight.

    I cannot begin to tell you how much this site has encouraged, inspired and challenged me as a Christian, a wife and a mother. As someone said before, my family will be so much better for your willingness to share your life and thoughts with us.


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