“It’s hard to find a good man these days.”

I hear that a lot. I have many single woman friends who are discouraged about the lack of even distant possibilities. And I read more and more about boys remaining in “adolescence” into their late twenties or even thirties. I’m sure many factors play into this, but I suspect that much of it has to do with the goals, or lack thereof, of parents.

Not that long ago, boys had to be ready to support themselves at age 14 and 15. Everyone knew this and everyone prepared their children for it. I don’t see any reason why we should have similar goals even if they don’t physically move out until they are 18.

God blessed us with two sons, and we’ve made a personal mission to raise them into good men. They are young, so we can’t claim any success. We’re trying very hard to be deliberate and pro-active in our parenting, instead of drifting from one episode to another. I pray that we don’t look back when our kids are grown and realize that we’ve totally missed the boat.

Our efforts fall into three main categories (and they apply to our daughter as well, except the “be a gentleman part!):

1. We are trying to teach our boys to be gentlemen.  This means many things, like holding doors, lending a helping hand, telling the truth, doing the right thing even when others are not, speaking encouraging words, and adjusting your performance to others who are less skilled so they don’t give up.

This last one is really tough for my competitive boy — he keeps saying, “But Mom! It’s a race. I’m supposed to go my fastest!”

To which I reply, “Do you want your sister to keep racing with you?”

“Yes,” he grumbles.

“Then you have to slow down. If she always loses, she will give up. Mom and Dad do this with you, you know. We purposely lose games and races with you so you’ll enjoy playing.”

That gave him some food for thought!

2. We are try to teach them to work hard. We give them allowances so they can practice saving and spending, and we show them how much things cost. Big Boy has been quite shocked at how much a school lunch or a doctor’s visit costs, now that he knows how much allowance he gets every month.

We encourage doing extra jobs to earn money. Big Boy took his first job caring for a neighbor’s dog while they were out of town a few months ago. He was so proud of the money he earned!

We also expect certain things from them that we do not “pay” them to do. “This is part of living together in a family,” I told our son when he asked for extra allowance for making his bed and putting dirty dishes in the sink. “I don’t pay you to do those things.”

3. We are trying to teach them how to keep house. We are working with them to learn practical life skills such as how to cook, wash and put away dishes, do laundry, vacuum and sweep, clean bathrooms, and make up beds. Not only do I refuse to be the mom who follows her sons to college to do their laundry and dishes, but I know what a blessing these skills will be to their future wives.

I’d love more ideas, suggestions, and especially success stories from those of you who have grown boys. What are you doing with your kids, both girls and boys, to prepare them to be good, responsible men and women when they grow up?