Faster than a speeding bullet. More fidgety than a rabbit with an itch. Able to run circles around mom and dad for hours on end. Look, in your living room...in your classroom...in your church…it’s a boy!
Where does all that energy come from?
In a word: Testosterone. Testosterone in an energy hormone. An action hormone. A get something done hormone. A risk-taking hormone.
Michael Gurian, in his book, The Wonder of Boys, offers these insights into testosterone:
· Because of their dominance by the hormone testosterone, aggression and physical risk-taking are programmed into boys. It’s important to distinguish between “aggression” and “violence.” As psychologist Aaron Kipnis has put it, “Violence is not hard-wired into boys. Violence is taught. Aggression is hard-wired.” (p. 6)
· A little boy (on average) will turn toys into guns or swords more frequently than girls will…He will tend less toward empathic first responses to other’s pain and more toward provocative first-responses. He will generally be more competitive than his sister and especially in the few activities in which he perceives the potential to dominate over or be superior in…He will seek rough-and-tumble play… (pp. 7-8)
· When a boy hits puberty, the influence of testosterone on his body and brain will increase manifold. His testosterone level itself will increase in quantities ten to twenty times more than girls. (p. 10)
Testosterone is the energy that causes boys to fidget when they sit too long, that demands movement to learn and to bond, and that enables boys to laser focus on a particular item but makes it difficult for them to multi-task. Imagine experiencing a surge of that volcanic energy 7 plus times a day! That’s the story of boys as they begin to move into puberty. And they often leave in their wake frazzled moms, dads, grandparents, and teachers.
That, of course, begs the question: How in the world do we help our boys harness that energy productively?
It begins by giving our sons a vision for their lives. Testosterone offers us and our boys a powerful insight into the overarching purpose for the boys in your life: To save the world.
Testosterone is the fuel of superheroes. Testosterone is the energy that motivates a boy, when forged in healthy ways, to positively shape life around him. Every boy begins life wanting to be a superhero…to fight the bad guys, to save the world. To make the world a better place. When harnessed for good and noble purposes, testosterone is the power that energizes our boys for greatness.
Managing the force of nature that is the boy in your life can be a daunting task. But it is a noble, sacred call—the opportunity to raise a boy who can change the world.
Here are some things you can do to begin to forge your son into a world-changer:
· Let him be a boy. If the boy in your life is a testosterone tornado, give him space to exercise his super hero powers. Let him fly. Let him explore. Let him breathe. Let him move. Let him build.
· Give him boundaries. Boys need strong men and women to harness the energy of boys. While you want to give a boy his head (to use a horse training metaphor) you also need to let him know that you are the boss and that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to use his energy. Boys thrive in hierarchies. As dad and mom, you are at the top. Teachers in the classroom or youth leaders are at the top as well when the boys are with you. Loving, compassionate, safe boundaries will teach a boy how to use his powers for good.
· Hold up models to emulate. Teach boys about heroic men, men of different temperaments, personalities, race, and religion, to give them a vision of what’s possible. Washington, Lincoln, Patton, MLK Jr., Fredrick Douglass, Jesus, Gandhi, Grandpa, Dad, and so on give our boys insights into men who used their energy for good. To say to a boy—This is the line of men you come from—energizes him with a noble vision for his life.
· Affirm his super hero actions. Whenever your boy does something honorable, responsible, good, or sacrificial, pat him on the back in a variety of ways. Keep affirming in him his power to do great things and he will live into his purpose for saving the world as a man, a dad, a husband, a brother, a co-worker, a boss, and a citizen.
Imagine a world filled with boys living out their purpose of changing the world!