Teaching a father/son class on growing from a boy to a man I described sexual intercourse to 10 year old boys. One boy raised his hand and to the horror of the Dads asked, “how will we remember to do this with our wives?” Not much later our boys no longer wonder and can’t seem to get sexual matters off their minds. We need to prepare our boys.
Yesterday I spent the day with a Middle School English Immersion camp with 30 kids from China. It was enjoyable. But being with many boys who are in the process of becoming a man I was reminded how important it is that we prepare our boys for what is coming.
I know, you have heard this before from me and from others. Yet, we still have 11 and 12 year old boys who are struck down by the changes of puberty like being hit square between the eyes with a two by four because they have not been prepared by their parents.
The picture above is from yesterday. The two boys looking at the girls are 12. The boy behind them is the 10 year old son of a leader. Two years, big, big difference! The 10 year old probably does not even know what they are looking at.
I know your 11 or 12 year old boy is cute, charming, innocent, still has toys and sometimes plays with other little kids. But trust me, just as the picture shows, there is a difference. A powerful hormone called testosterone. And like it or not, that hormone does more than kick off the needed changes to produce babies. It also produces a desire to want to make those babies and in a powerful way.
I heard one parent tell me how a 12 year old boy confessed to her daughter along with the whole lunch table that he could not control looking at pornography and needed help. Another parent told me his son was nearly crying telling him that when a women wears a low cut shirt he can’t stop thinking he wants to rip her clothes off and rape her. He does not know why he thinks those things.
Years ago Time Magazine had a feature on 13 year olds. Their research stated that 13 was the age Dads finally talk to their boys about masturbation, but they are 2 years too late, as the average boy begins to masturbate at age 11. (Since then the average age of the onset of puberty has fallen.)
I have on occasion spoken to men about struggles they had when they were a very young man. Those who will talk about it quickly admit they were surprised and worried about the sexual thoughts they had starting at the onset of puberty. Obviously the crudities spoken by underparented middle school boys is testament enough of what is going on in their minds.
So, why are we so bad at preparing our sons about what is to come? Seriously, if you interview my son I am sure he will tell you I did an awful job preparing him. Yes, we had a half day together when he was in 5th grade and he had a youth group seminar on purity and the battles men face, but other than those formal times we just about never spoke about these battles.
Here is why I think we are so bad at this:
- 9, 10 and 11 year old boys look too innocent to talk about what is coming
- We don’t understand the physical and emotional changes testosterone brings
- As men we think we were the only one facing this battle
- We misunderstand and think we had these feelings and thoughts because we were bad, rather than these thoughts being a byproduct of our changing body
- Because a few boys who hit puberty before us talked about sexual things, then we began to have sexual thoughts, we inappropriately link the introduction of such talk with why we began to have the thoughts – but such thoughts are a result of changes in our bodies that are coming with or without such introductions (though very graphic descriptions, pictures, etc. do harm so we need to protect our boys)
- It is easier to ignore than face how uncomfortable such talks can be
So here is my encouragement to you dads of boys, especially as they get close to 9.
Get ready. No, you don’t have a few more years before you have to deal with this.
Well before your son hits 9 begin to talk freely about boys bodies and “boy” stuff. Boys know they get erections. They know that where the Glans (or head) and shaft of the penis meet it feels good. Begin to talk about these things. Let them know that someday, God willing they will have a wife and their penis will do more than just pee out urine. At the right time they will use it both to “become one” with their wife (or you can say God will mold your emotions together so you love each other very much) and to make babies.
When your son hits 9 talk to him about the coming changes. This does not have to be formal, but you can continue to have your boy talks and let him know that his body has changed and will continue to change. Soon his penis will double in size. His chest will grow wider. His voice will get deeper. He will get “man” hair in several places just like you have, and he will think about things he has not thought about before. He may also be moody and want to be more private about things. Let him know all of this is OK and part of growing up.
Begin to talk about “thoughts” and how sometimes a “thought” comes to us that may be unkind, mean or very bad. But we are not bad for having those thoughts, only if we keep thinking about them or act on them. Help your son understand that sometimes we have thoughts because of emotional responses and sometimes because of physical responses. Emotional – upset at a loss. Physical – tired and grouchy after a huge physical output. Then begin to explain that soon he will have a hormone that will make him into a man, and will also create physical changes and desires that will produce thoughts that may be scary. But just like our other thoughts, it is not wrong to have those thoughts but to remember we should not keep thinking about them or act on them.
Then remember that the very testosterone you will be talking about is going to produce another change. Your son will begin to talk to you less and less about these things as he begins to have a desire to be “his own man.” So get him prepared well before that happens.
God bless you in your very important job as parent!