Mother number one: “I simply can’t understand what has happen to my son John. He has always been the one child I could trust to consistently do what is right. He has always been so thoughtful, polite and sensitive to the younger children; and even though his attitude is still good, he does the most unexpectedly mean things. Like the other day, I heard his younger brothers crying and hollering. I raced into the room and found him sitting on them, holding one in a headlock and laughing, having a great time. He was ashamed as soon as I began to reprimand him, and he immediately asked his little brothers to forgive him. How could he enjoy doing something so mean and then have such a repentant heart five minutes later? What has happened to my son?”
Mother number one thousand, three hundred and seventy two: “Our thirteen-year-old son has always been such a joy to us. He has a heart for God that has caused him to seek to do all he can for others. But just lately, totally out of character, he seems to be asserting his will over mine. It’s like he wants to gain authority over his younger brothers and sisters and occasionally, even me. This new person really runs into trouble with his father, who takes his son’s questions as a personal insult and really comes down hard. For the first time as parents, we disagree on how to handle our children. We both know we cannot let it go, but how do we deal with this new kid? Our son’s attitude still seems so right, but it almost looks like a seed of rebellion. It is hard to explain. What has happened to my sweet little boy?”
Debi Pearl responds:
Have you ever raised chickens? We have eight hens and one rooster. Many times I have gone out to work in the garden and noticed our rooster making a pest of himself. The hens will be busy scratching the ground, and then he runs over and shoves them away. The little hens just turn and start scratching some other place. The rooster waits a few seconds and again shoves another one around. Of course, every time I open the hen house door I run for dear life, or he will be trying to shove me around. That crazy old rooster doesn’t know how many times I have pondered putting him in the cooking pot. When Mike is outside, the rooster steers a wide path. On occasions Mike has had me let the hens out while he hides around the corner just so he can give the rooster a heart attack. I figure it takes a bigger rooster to intimidate a smaller rooster—and of course, enjoy the intimidation. It is a mystery to me why the rooster feels compelled to be such a jerk, but Mike thinks its real funny.
I said all this to tell you, I suspect your little roosters are feeling their natural hormonal competitive instincts, and as of yet haven’t learned to harness their urges to dominate. Since it takes a rooster to understand a rooster, I’m going to let the big rooster in this family tell you how we handled this new and exciting challenge when our boys came of age.
Mike Pearl continues:
Thanks for that introduction, Deb. Remember, behind every good rooster is a good hen. The two mothers above, voicing their concerns, are representative of many homeschool mothers. If your children are away from home most of the day, attending school, you will not be as aware of this change that occurs in the thirteen and fourteen-year-old boys. But when the mother has her “sweet son” under her constant tutelage, the inevitable physical and psychological changes that come with puberty will be a shock to her concept of childhood submission. The boy’s “problem” is a result of gushing, exploding, rampaging hormones. In the Eastern cultures, it has been traditional to remove the boys from the women’s quarters to the men’s domain before this change takes place.
It is often obscured in our perverted culture, but a boy’s destiny is to become a man. Although, prior to puberty, boys are psychologically different from girls, the contrast increases to stark dimensions when they each go through this natural, maturing change we call puberty. The male becomes more independent and domineering. This independence is not just directed at females but at all people and things. Keep in mind that the boys are growing into a role of leadership. Leadership in the male population is not just an office they inherit upon marriage or at some manhood graduation ceremony; it is a growing process that causes them to begin to assume authority at puberty. It is not natural for a woman to rule over a man. For that reason, the young man’s conflict is more prominent with his mother than with his father.
You may observe, and want to protest, that your young teenage son is just a child with no abilities or wisdom to lead. This is generally true; but leadership in a man does not necessarily come from wisdom or ability. It is initially hormonal and psychological. The boys will become more competitive and aggressive. They begin to step away from the crowd (including the family) and seek their identity alone. They become self-assured and cocky. They are ready to conquer, go to war if necessary. As their “own man” they may question untried authority or challenge unproved regulations. They are beginning the process of marching to their own drumbeat, and not that of the crowd, including their mother’s.
Fathers can also have a problem with this development in their sons. Remember, the father has been the rooster of the yard, and suddenly he is challenged. If he is insecure, especially if he does not have the submission of his wife, he may rise in anger against this challenging upstart. For twelve or thirteen years, with just a hard look he has been able to crush any challenge. Suddenly his hard look is returned. He may fly into a rage to try to strike down his challenger.
To compound the problem, if the father does not cherish the females in his life, the son may not discipline his own feelings of dominance or conquest. He must have his impulses tempered with wisdom and kindness. It is not desirable to break these male impulses, only to channel them. Gentlemen are not broken men who have no urges to conquer, but men who know how to vent their steam on creative living rather than against others. When a man or boy finds his identity in the process of ruling over others, it is an unjustified use of his impulses and powers.
When a young man (going through puberty) experiences this change, it is time for him to be engaged in hard work with the men. It is against nature to place a developing young man in the care of his mother. His impulses are to care for her. He needs to be straining his muscles, putting his back to the burden. If his education continues, it should be under the tutelage of the men. A boy could sit down for a short time to the teaching of his mother if his body and mind have been engaged in a man’s world. The conflict comes when the parents do not recognize and provide outlets for his development. A little steam continuously released is of no consequence; but if it is bottled up, it will become a great explosion.
Ideally, the boys should be engaged in physical labor, but if you find yourself locked into this strange American culture and feel you are unable to make a change, understanding your son’s developing passions will enable you to artificially make allowances. For instance, Mother, if you must have your son under your constant care, provide outdoor activity for him. Allow him to go out and do something physical about every hour. Do not try to pen him up like a docile female. Let the boys run, jump, holler, wrestle, climb, and race on bicycles. One mother supplied their garage with tools and had someone teach her boys how to use them. They spend most of their day making things, which they sell. When it does come time for book learning, they are calm and relaxed.
Some families have been able to create a mini farm on one or two acres where the boys can tend animals and make repairs or modifications on buildings or fences. Small engine repair or rebuilding old bicycles and selling them are just a few of the possibilities.
You say, “But my son is so ignorant now, he needs to be in school.” Most of the boy’s time is probably spent daydreaming and griping. Put him to a physically exhausting or mentally challenging task and he will learn more in one tenth of the classroom time.
Mother, you must turn loose of the sweet boy and let the man emerge. Demand respect and obedience, but learn to live with another man in the house. In the dark ages, they often castrated the male household servants to maintain the docile boys, living in unquestioning submission. I wouldn’t give a dime for a boy who didn’t put his brothers in a headlock occasionally. Real boys are like the old coal-burning steam engines; they make a lot of noise and smoke. They blow their whistles so everyone will know they are coming and get out of the way; but mostly they are just letting off steam. Mother, picture yourself as rearing a leader of other men, a conqueror of frontiers, a missionary who will laugh in the face of death and charge hell with a King James Bible; then you will not be disturbed by this growing change.
Mike and Debi Pearl are authors of the popular book Train Up a Child. More great articles plus details for obtaining their book can be found at their website, www.NoGreaterJoy.org.