5 Tips for Raising Boys to Be Good Men

mom and dad hugging young son kissing mom

I always thought my first child would be a boy. My second son was a surprise. Fast forward several years later, and I am the proud mother of three growing boys, including a preteen and toddler.

I still recall the day a friend of mine and I were talking about having boys while our oldest children, who were still infants, played nearby. “I want to raise gentlemen,” she said. “The world needs more gentlemen.” And just like that, a mission of mine was born.

Raising sons who will become men is an adventure, especially for me who only had a sister growing up. I have been indoctrinated into a world that knows surprisingly less drama, or maybe it’s just masked in building challenges and wrestling.

Regardless, the enterprise of raising boys to be gentlemen has high stakes amidst a national backdrop of growing division, disrespect, and estrangement.

As a pastor and host of a faith and parenting TV show, I have distilled five tips for encouraging parents to raise gentlemen at such a time as this:

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  • 1. Leaders Are Cultivated, Not Opportunists

    1. Leaders Are Cultivated, Not Opportunists


    As I examine my Twitter feed on regular occasion, I notice the loudest voice often wins. Snarky comments boost followings but also add to the growing divide.

    People are thirsty for strong leadership but are often drawn to places that end up dry. I have unfollowed more than one person recently who seemed more bent on sparring with others than leading with patience, humility, and wisdom.

    When I examine the Bible, I am reminded of Moses who had his calling right, but his reaction wrong. He wanted to lead his people away from injustice, but his immediate reaction was murder, which sent him into hiding.

    After decades in the desert, God matured him and enabled him to take a firm, patient stand to lead God’s people to deliverance from slavery.

    I want to impress upon my sons that kingdom growth is slow and abiding, and what happens behind closed doors is more important than what’s flashy.

    If God has tucked you away and is working on you, it’s not lost time, even if you have a heart for impacting more. Entrust your preparation to the Lord and trust his timing.

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  • diverse school kids lined up at chalkboard smiling

    2. Listen and Connect with Others


    I recently had the Emmy-award winning journalist Linsey Davis on my show. Linsey is the bestselling author of a Christian children’s book on inclusion, and she shared her book’s backstory with me. She noticed how her young son naturally chooses friends based upon common interests (like Legos) rather than differences (like skin color, religion, or political views). While children notice differences, they don’t assign value to them like adults often do.

    I was challenged by her call to intentionally expose children to diversity. She said that she pulled her son out of a great school because he was the only black student. She said this shouldn’t just matter to her as a black mother; it should matter to the other parents, too.

    Having the opportunity to interact and connect with different people is important learning for everyone. She notes that it’s relationships—not facts—that change people regarding any important social issue, like race.

    I’m encouraging my sons to broaden their exposure. They can explore differing perspectives in their coursework, through books, or in relationship. It’s an essential step for their own development and leadership, and it resonates with the work of our Creator God, who must love differences because he made every single one of us. Linsey agrees.

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  • young man walking through desert alone, affirmations for parents of prodigal child

    3. Don’t Be Afraid to Risk


    While we live in a society that’s propelled by (sometimes risky) immediate gratification, it’s often surprisingly risk-averse when it counts. For example, it’s more convenient to shrink back and live within our comfort zones rather than step out.

    It’s easier to shy away from being vulnerable with another in person, even though we might be hyper-connected online.

    Failure to take appropriate risk can lead to boredom, isolation, and deflated spirituality. That’s because God created us to live in vibrant relationship with him. We’re made to stretch, connect, and grow—which includes risk—in response to his voice.

    The thrill of his call and our response helps form the adventure of a life of faith. I talk more about that in my recent book on life purpose.

    Learning to take appropriate, godly risk is a product of discernment and character development. It’s a vital exercise that will allow children to rise to the place that God has prepared for them.

    I recently told my nine-year-old son about the value of our trust muscle. It’s not always fun when God builds it, but it will supply us with the necessary strength when it counts. I love how strong Joshua’s trust muscle was amidst opposition—his willingness to trust and risk led the Israelites into the Promised Land.

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  • teen boy helping a sad angry teen boy

    4. A Sensitive Heart Is a Strong Heart


    Humility is an especially rare resource in our self-aggrandizing social media world. That’s a shame because there’s freedom in recognizing our God-given finitude. We don’t have to have all the answers, and we don’t have to be everything to everybody. We’re just called to live our best selves in relation to God.

    A sensitive heart is willing to take time to receive its nourishment and direction from the Lord. It’s therefore able to capitalize on a strength beyond its own.

    When life is too much, God can step in and make up the difference. I can imagine no better gift than to inspire this kind of faith in my children, for I won’t always be beside them or on this Earth to help.

    When a heart takes its direction from the Lord, it also develops a sensitivity toward others. It’s a natural extension of the Golden Rule.

    I want to raise gentlemen with sensitive hearts who respect women, seek to protect the oppressed and hurting, and aren’t afraid to draw upon strength beyond their own when their silence is effective or their voice is needed.

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  • boy running down beach toward sunset at dusk

    5. Dream Big


    Propelling my boys to dream about their contribution to a better future is the sacred role of parenting. A parent’s words have immeasurable impact. When our words are used to plant seeds of hope, gift with direction, and pour in blessing, they’re expressions of God’s Word to us. I try to intentionally speak one blessing over each son every day.

    I heard an older Christian couple with grown children, children who formed the band Switchfoot, describe their parenting role. They viewed their role as archeologists. They observed their children for God-given tendencies and tried to fan them in a Christ-like way, rather than impose their own vision upon them. What a gift to children, and how their own have soared!

    A faithful follower of Christ isn’t afraid to dream dreams that are woven together with the Lord. In so doing, we participate in the promise of Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

    There’s something innate and even God-driven when we step into our destiny and demonstrate our capabilities for the betterment of ourselves and others—that fruit gives God glory.

    The world needs men bold enough to do just that.

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    5 Things Fatherless Boys Need to Be Godly Men

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    headshot of author Noelle KirchnerRev. Noelle Kirchner, M.Div., believes we don't have to live with full schedules and thin souls. A busy mom of three boys, she is passionate about making faith fresh and relevant. Noelle is a graduate of Northwestern University and Princeton Seminary and an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served in churches for over ten years. She has written for places like the TODAY Show Parenting Team, Huff Post Parents, Crosswalk, iBelieve, and (in)courage. Her faith and family cable television show, "Chaos to Calm," features parenting hot topics and has hosted three New York Times bestselling authors and two Emmy Award-winning journalists. Watch her episodes or sermons and sign up for her free devotional e-book by visiting her website, noellekirchner.com. You can connect with her on social media (TwitterInstagram, and Facebook) and also check out her new book, How to Live Your Life Purpose: The Six-Step Journey to God's Best, that launched as a #1 New Release on Amazon and includes end-of-chapter Bible studies.