Joining Together to Raise Strong, Loving Christian Sons
Thank you for bringing this book into your family. As we join together to explore with you the best parenting practices based on biblical insights and scientific research, the two of us—one a Bible-based psychologist and the other a science-based marriage and family counselor—draw not only on our more than fifty years of collective research and experience but also on the shared belief that faith and science can and must serve one another, especially where the development of children is concerned.A Note from Dr. Gregg Jantz
Welcome to this book! I’m so glad to be working with Michael and with you on this very important subject. I had been asked for a number of years if I would consider providing a book for parents who are raising Christian sons. As the father of two sons and a professional who has worked with young males for decades, I wanted to write that book. My research and clinical practice has constantly brought me into the lives of boys and their families, and the wisdom I’ve gained from these young people and families has inspired me to look deeply into the available research on male development in both religious and secular contexts.
As part of that journey, I met Michael—initially through his book The Wonder of Boys
and then personally when I attended the Gurian Institute Summer Training Program at the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs. As he presented his findings, I was immediately moved by the fact that his science-based theory coincided in many ways with my own theoretical and clinical work in helping the families of boys and girls. Not too long after our meeting, the two of us became friends and started sharing our perspectives. I soon began considering how I might partner with him to bring our intersecting theories, research, and practical strategies front and center into the Christian world. That Michael is a practicing Jew and a man of deep spiritual commitment helped me to immediately feel comfortable with him.
As the two of us compared notes, I learned that Michael, too, had been asked to write a purposeful resource for Christian parents.Michael’s Story
I join Gregg in welcoming you into this book and its passionate journey! It is an honor to walk with Gregg and Ann in helping you raise your sons.
Much of my career has been devoted to working with parents, teachers, and organizations to integrate science-based research into their lives. As a clinician and counselor, I’ve also worked hard to help bridge gaps between religion and science. Part of this intention grows from my Christian clients and readers. In my office, in e-mails, or after lectures, they have asked things like, “Can you put together your science- based research with the Bible?” “Would you consider writing a Bible-oriented book for Christian parents?” “Is there a God-given design to males and females?”
The questions I’ve received that relate to Bible-based parenting were not questions I had the expertise to answer, but the concept of “God-given design” is, I believe, a profoundly important concept to consider. In the early 1990s, from a secular perspective, I coined the phrase “nature-based theory” to reflect the fact that gender, personality, talent sets, and many other aspects of human development do indeed possess a “nature” component (we will look in detail at the scientific studies behind this assertion in chapter 2).
Male and female natures (gender) begin in our genetics, before birth, and we carry those natural gender proclivities (what are called, in developmental science, “biological tendencies”) with us throughout our lives. So while each boy and each girl, each woman and each man is influenced significantly by nurture and culture, each gender comes into the world with some profound gender differences in tow.
As I met with Gregg, I heard him using the terms “God-given design” and “parenting with God’s design.” His theories provided a meeting point with nature- based theory and science-based parenting. We realized that the phrase “design-based parenting” integrated our common themes. As we developed this book, we found significant intersections between the Bible and brain science.
Our bridge building between the Bible and science feels to me like not only a powerful and positive resource for parents and others caring for children but also a way for faith-based and secular worlds to work together to deepen our human conversation regarding the lives of our precious children.Our Team and Your Team
Together, as experts from two different worlds, we are excited to provide this leading-edge resource for Christian parents. Our work is elevated by the behind-the-scenes efforts of our respective teams. We want to thank Ann McMurray, Gregg’s partner at the Center for Counseling and Health Resources, for bringing her gender perspective and expertise to this project, and we want to thank the staff of the Center. We also want to thank the Gurian Institute team in Colorado and elsewhere in the country and give special thanks to Rev. Tim Wright in Peoria, Arizona, for his expertise in matters regarding boys and church life.
Our two teams join us in hoping that the practices in this book will help you gift your son and family with an approach to parenting that brings together the best of the contemporary scientific world with the abiding truths of ancient wisdom.1: Our Sons Need a New Approach to Boyhood
We live in a culture that has forgotten many crucial aspects of the divine design at work in the body and soul of boyhood.
They come into the world red-faced, sometimes screaming at the top of their lungs. With the joyous pronouncement, “It’s a boy!” our sons are celebrated. Into their tiny bodies we stuff our hopes and dreams as parents. As we gaze at their faces, we see our fathers and mothers, our grandmothers and grandfathers gazing back at us. Though our new son is barely a part of our present, we look at his squirming, warm bundle of future potential and say to ourselves, “Hello, little man.” Little do we know the adventure we are beginning! Our sons grow and change, sometimes before our eyes, and we can barely keep up with their active, inquisitive natures. We seek to mold their wills to our own without breaking that spirit we know they will need in order to become a man.
And we worry what sort of men they will become. Will they be strong enough to shoulder an adult load? Will they be humble enough to learn the lessons we yearn to teach? In a culture where the rules for manhood don’t always align with our values, whose wisdom will they listen to and follow? We watch our sons change and mature. We watch them succeed, and we watch them fail. Knowing they must someday take over their own lives, we wonder how much to intervene. The line between too little help and too much help isn’t always clear to parents of boys today. Our sons must learn to bear the weight of their thoughts and actions, but how much is too much and how soon is too soon?
It’s difficult enough to deal with these questions and doubts when our sons are small and relatively contained under our roofs. When our sons enter preschool and then school, the circle of adults with input and opinions and responsibility over our sons expands. Our choices and decisions and the conduct of our sons come under review. The schoolhouse is just one place where our parenting and the character of our sons can come into question. As you notice your son measuring the world and being measured by it, you may feel that now is the time to fully embrace the complexity of raising boys in this busy, challenging world. Now is the time to take a journey into the divine design of your son.Boys Need to Know They’re Made in God’s Image
For me (Gregg), schooling is what challenged my family and me to look at the divine design of boys. In grade school and even through middle school, I often found myself bored and unmotivated, trapped in a curricular purgatory of meaningless worksheets and monotone lectures. I (and therefore my parents) would get comments from teachers such as “Gregg is disruptive in class” and “Gregg is not working up to his potential.” After many discipline referrals to the principal, I finally learned to play the game. I was mentored in how to power through the tedium of what I was expected to do so I could finally get to what I wanted to do. And contrary to some of the dire predictions prophesied to my parents and teachers over those early years, I actually did graduate high school and even went on to earn my doctorate.
As I established my career, I thought I had put all of that early anxiety and struggle behind me. Imagine my surprise when many of those feelings came flooding back as my sons began their schooling. Through my sons’ eyes, I realized that not much had changed since I’d been in school. The tipping point toward looking at the design of boys for the sake of my sons came soon after my oldest—my namesake, Gregg-started sixth grade at a new school. One day he reported a weird thing that had caught his attention. At the start of each day, a line of boys paraded up to the teacher’s desk and took some sort of pill. When he relayed this oddity, my heart sank. The only conclusion I could draw was these boys were being medicated, probably with Ritalin or a similar drug, probably for ADD or ADHD.
Not long after we learned this disturbing news, my wife and I were advised by school administrators to consider putting our son on medication as well. Hearing a recitation of what he was like to “deal with” in class was like reading over the comments on my own childhood report cards. Please hear me: As a seasoned counselor, I know that some children absolutely need medication to cope with very real issues. But I also know that medication is being overprescribed; far too many social systems today, while being truly devoted to helping children succeed, simply do not understand the way boys are designed.
Excerpted from Raising Boys by Design by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, and Michael Gurian with Ann McMurrary. Copyright © 2013 by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, and Michael Gurian with Ann McMurrary. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.