Generation Cedar

A reader mentioned that she hears a lot about preparing daughters for marriage, but not much about sons.  While we haven’t yet walked through marriage  We’ve walked through marriage one, and we desire, even now, to prepare both our sons and daughters for the monumental event of marriage.

I think it is worth noting, though it seems like stating the obvious, that a serious decision like marriage should warrant years of preparation.   Most often in our culture, we seem to miss this.  We think that kids can (and deserve) to just have fun during their teen years, with little responsibility and even less preparation for their adult lives.

Is it little wonder, then, why so many couples struggle to even stay together?  Much less flourish in marriage.  Good marriages don’t just happen.  And as parents, we have a grave responsibility to help prepare our children for the next phase of their lives.

These are random thought my husband and I have had about how to prepare sons (and some will apply to daughters), and I’m hoping many of you will lend your thoughts and advice as well (especially if you have married children!)

  • Paint the picture. We start early by talking  about the concept of keeping one’s self for marriage.  Nothing heavy, but even as early as 9 or 10 we are painting the picture of giving all of one’s self to a spouse.  It is quite a natural thought when discussed regularly, and the idea of recreational dating becomes absurd.
  • Vision. As sons get older, they need parents to lay out a vision of what is expected.

Financial responsibility is something we talk about.  Sons need to enter marriage not only financially secure (i.e. at the least, providing income, preferably a nice savings and I would suggest NO debt), but also with a solid grasp of wise financial behavior.  If parents helped their children with just this one thing, it would save many a heartaches in their marriages.

Spiritual leadership. A man doesn’t just become a spiritual leader once he is wed.

(I’d kindly ask that those who hold an egalitarian view of marriage save your comments.  I know the arguments, the Greek definitions, the interpretations–I’ve heard every angle, so you don’t have to spend your time trying to convince me.  I also know the Bible never uses the term “spiritual leader”.   If it makes you feel better, believing a husband should be a spiritual leader DOES NOT  imply that a wife can’t be equally knowledgeable and spiritually wise.)

Helping sons take responsibility in this area is something easily overlooked, but vitally important.  Of course talking about it is one way to emphasize its importance, but  getting him in the habit of leading will make the transition natural.  Having him read Scripture to the family as soon as he is old enough to read is one way.  As he matures later on, Dad may have him prepare and lead the family in short devotions from time to time.  I think it’s important to challenge both our sons and daughters about spiritual matters by asking them questions and pressing them to “rightly divide the word of truth”.

Honor. Believing that husbands should honor their wives, we expect our sons to “practice” by honoring their mother and sisters. This is an area where I think Dad especially needs to hold the line and require it. I try to remind my boys to let the girls get out of the van first, and I try to make them alert to helping them carry things, opening doors, etc.  You know, all those things that now offend many women.  Chivalry is still encouraged at our house.

Example. I’m guessing the most important thing parents can do for their children in general, is to model the behavior they wish to teach.  Nothing cuts deeper into my soul than those words, because I fail SO often.  And yet I am reminded that “more is caught than taught”.

I’m eager to hear some of your thoughts on this…like everything else with raising children, I think it’s about being deliberate.  Thinking ahead and asking the question…”what kind of husband do we want him to be?”  And then gearing your thoughts and actions toward preparing him to be that husband.

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37 Responses

  1. Great post!

    We have only sons, so this is a big issue for us! Our oldest is only 6 but we already talk about these things. Not intimate issues, of course, but the importance of choosing a good wife (if you’re going to live with someone for decades, pick wisely!), the importance of responsibility and trustworthiness, what is loving behavior and what is not. We talk about the good qualities of their father and what they think it means to be a loving husband and father. In school we encourage excellence, and we are open about budgeting and financial responsibility. One of my husband’s reasons for investing in real estate and becoming a landlord is to give our sons an example of self-motivation and hard work, and also provide opportunities for him to train them and work with them as they grow.

    We listen to Dr. Laura at times and that has sparked some good discussions. Our inside joke right now is “So, ds, what will happen to you if you ever hit your wife?” ” My mama will come marching over and the paramedics will have to scrape me off the floor with a spatula!” He knows it’s a joke but he also knows that his parents will never, never support or encourage him mistreating others, particularly his own family when he’s grown.

  2. I bought my husband a book for Father’s Day called “What He Must Be if He Wants to Marry My Daughter”. Not only is it valuable information to teach our daughters, but also for preparing our sons. My boys are 2 and 5 months lol, never too early to start learning. You may have heard of this book already since it’s by Voddie Baucham. My husband has really enjoyed it. He grew up without a Godly role model so it has also helped him learn some things

  3. These are good things to teach sons in preparation for marriage whether they “court” or “date” as both can be done with much integrity.

  4. Good Morning Kelly!

    Ben is 15, and we have thought a lot about this issue of having Ben be prepared to lead a family.

    You know, one issue that has bothered Ben (and us) is the fact that he is concerned that he will not be totally financially stable until he is much older. His thought was, “I will be so much older. I could be in my late 20’s or early 30’s?”

    We have discussed that the optimal situation would be to have no mortgage etc. However,if we pressure these young men to be so “perfect” financially, have we inadvertently been discouraging childbearing until much later? Isn’t the young lady to be a help meet for these young man?

    Kelly, we have concluded as parents of a young man that there is some value to scraping and working together to build a home, a vision as a family for Christ. Ben should and is working to build a savings for his future family, but he may not be financially stable enough to be able to purchase a house debt free.

    I just hope we don’t expect perfection for these young men and then discourage them not to pursue family until later years. I think it would be frustrating for the young lady in waiting to see the man she loves work so hard and not really be able to help him while she is under her father’s house.

    Does this one cup of coffee comment make sense?

  5. Great advice, Kelly! I would add one more thing, and I appologize that it might have what some consider crass language. I don’t mean to be crass; I just want to be clear.

    My additional point is that I think we need to teach chastity to our sons. All Christians are meant to practice chastity their whole lives, even if they are having God-ordained sex within marriage. Chastity is more than just avoiding premarital or extramarital sex. We need to teach ours sons to spurn sexual sin such as viewing pornography, masturbation, and looking or thinking lustfully about women. I can think of few greater gifts a young man could offer his bride than a chaste heart, mind, and body and the confidence and trust that he knows how to rightly handle and orient his sexuality.

  6. Leslie,

    That is SUCH an excellent point and thought to consider. While I do think it is possible to even have a house with no debt at a fairly early age, it is not easy or likely in most cases. My personal thought (and I could be wrong here) is that maybe the house could be the exception to no debt? Perhaps a nice down payment would be a great start.

    But, thinking outside the box for a minute…a young man we know is entertaining the thoughts of starting with a 2-room cabin, built for around $15,000, I think? And then adding on to it as his family grows.

    While I don’t think we need to expect “financial perfection” as you said, wouldn’t it be great if we could get them thinking differently–avoiding the cultural pressure of what “set up” looks like? I think there’s a good balance to strike there.

    Also, this should encourage young men to not only work hard, with a purpose, but to consider living at home until marriage–financially smarter.

  7. Bethany,

    Heartily agreed. My husband and I discussed that very thing and I failed to mention it. He even talked about the garbage young boys are exposed to from their peers that parents rarely know about. It is nothing in our day, to be exposed to pornography by the 4th grade if he is in school. My heart breaks to know what this kind of exposure is doing to boys as they become men.

  8. One more thought about having chastity robbed from our children…you would shudder if I shared some of my early experiences about this subject. Older boys were happy to “enlighten” me as early as 9 years old about things that only married people should know about, the *mildest* of which was being taught about sex from our pastor’s son through coarse jokes. I say that to say, “Parents, don’t be naive.” Both about what your children are being exposed to AND how it affects them.

    This is probably why I may seem a little hyper about what my children are exposed to,(such as the half-naked poster hanging up almost wherever we go) but IMO, this is no area to play around with. Some things can’t be taken back and have profound effects, especially on boys.

  9. We are praying for our daughter’s husband already. We are hoping he comes from a family teaching these things already. But we are careful to not limit God on this. He may be someone raised without these things, have a radical encounter with Christ in his late teen/early 20s and become pure through the Blood of Christ. Although that is not our favorite scenario, we know that God already knows her spouse, so we are trying not to set ourselfs up for a rude awakening LOL when the man God says is not the man we had dreamed of. Except for the strong Christ Follower part; no exceptions on that one!

  10. Bethany,
    I totally agree with you! A family who we are ministering to has girls in public school. They are both in 5th this year and have invited my daughter to go to their 5th grade prom. Nikki and I had a discussion, I didn’t just want to say no, I wanted her to submit to God to have her heart and ears to Him, not just me. So I asked if it were ok to dance with a boy, if that would guard her heart. “no” Then I asked if it is OK with the Lord to flirt. “no” Her face is getting sadder by the moment. Final ? do you think God wants us to put ourselves in situations where we might be tempted to do the things we don’t want to? “No. I don’t want to go to the dance.” Letting her go through this logicaly and with God pricking her heart has squashed any rebellion that could have arisen. Before you think I am that smart that was totally God lead. I wanted to scream “NO! Are you crazy?”

  11. I agree…a 5th grade prom sounds kinda nuts. I was already uncomfortable that we had an 8th grade dance when I was in school in the late 90s, and I just danced with my girlfriends all night! I’m so glad your daughter could come to that decision, Kelly L–sounds like you’re raising her right!

  12. I am always happy to hear that someone is teaching their children good manners, especially holding the door. It bothers me to see a woman object to someone holding the door for her. It is not a statement about the alleged “weakness” of the person for whom the door is held. It is about treating other people with kindness and respect. My husband insists on getting the door for me, whether it be the door into a store or the car door. In fact, if some situation occurs where he is unable to open the door for me (like someone has parked too closely for us to both fit there and open the door all the way), it upsets him a little bit that he can’t open it for me. When we walk down the sidewalk, he puts me on the side away from the street and away from the cars. This is not because he thinks I am helpless… he knows that I am a grownup and can keep myself from walking into the street and can open my own car door with my own hands … but he values me and wants to keep me safe and this is how he can express that on a daily basis. And I appreciate that. By the same token, I am happy to hold the door for someone behind me while entering the building or for someone whose hands are full — man or woman — because we should help each other that way.

    I agree… children should be raised with the adults that they will become in mind…

    … and a fifth grade prom? (*scratches head*) Isn’t that still during the “boys are gross” and “girls are gross” stage? Will there be lots of wallflowers there, or do I just remember that phase differently? (*rocks in rocking chair*)

  13. I totally agree, Kelly!

    We have encouraged Ben when he is of marrying age to look for a godly wife who is willing to begin small–like you said—with a modest home.

    As for preparing Anna, it is important to raise her to serve and be willing to work hard with her future husband….a true helpmate. She needs to be feminine, but a hard worker! Hmmmm, she would love to learn to help build that log cabin! (If that was her future husband’s desire.)

    Again…great post to get the thinking going biblical!

    PS LOVED, absolutely LOVED your frugal vacation! Go, Kelly go!!! My favorite was the blowup shark/dolphin! Did you blow bubbles in the air and try to catch them as they jumped in the water? F-u-n!!!!

  14. I think a good point was made about home-ownership. I think it is awesome if a young guy can do that debt free before he marries but…it may not be possible. Do we just tell him to “burn” until he’s mortgage free? Yikes.

    I married a man with literally nothing to his name. He has taken care of his family even when that meant working 3 jobs and bad shifts. I have been an at-home wife and then mom since we married. *That* is what I want my boys to be like, regardless of their savings account at the age of 25. We will encourage them to make decisions that will lead to early financial stability, but moreso we will encourage them to be willing to do whatever is required to take care of their families. And to marry a young lady who is willing to start out small and work upwards gradually. And to be creative. Maybe they can’t start in a 4-bedroom colonial. But there is always cheap land available somewhere, and some pretty neat yurts on the market. :p

    Even good things can become idols. Even good things like paid-off homes.

  15. Regarding finances… That is something my husband and I are thinking about getting our boys ready.

    That is SO MUCH easier said than done, but some things we are doing:

    *Saving most of their birthday money (given by grandparents)
    *Hoping to get them started in their own business (raising animals) soon
    *Allowing them to work as much as possible as teenagers and sock back as much as possible into savings

    Of course girls can save up too so they can help their husbands…

    Also, I love the idea of starting out small and adding on. My cousin built a pole barn home for his wife when they were newlyweds.

    It only cost him $10,000 total! It was a one bedroom loft style. Of course that was several years ago, but still…great ideas!

    Also, I love your pointers about starting NOW discussing each of these things so that they will be ingrained into their hearts.

  16. I am wondering what you mean that you don’t hold a complementarian view of marriage? I thought that complementarian means that one complements the other…as in men have their roles and women have their roles. (I am really not wanting to start a big long discussion because it is off topic from this post) My husband has described complementarian to me as how you all live…so I guess I’m a little confused.

  17. “Sons need to enter marriage not only financially secure (i.e. at the least, providing income, preferably a nice savings and I would suggest NO debt), but also with a solid grasp of wise financial behavior.”

    This could just mean that he has no consumer debt AND no morgage. I kind of liked shopping for my first house with my husband, after we got married. He had no morgage when we married. It was nice, though it would have been o.k. with me.

    I think the important thing is for men and women to start their life together free of consumer (credit card) and pref student loan debt. And yes, a nice savings account. To put toward a down-payment. We should ALL have a nice savings account (min 3 mos living expenses for emergency, pref 6).

    I agree with Kelly, this would be a good reason for a son to live at home until married, to save for his married life.

  18. Allie,

    Oh dear, I fear I’ve misused the terminology! Color me *embarrassed* 😉 I meant to defend the complementarian view and say I don’t hold the “egalitarian” view…wrote in a hurry. I will fix it.

  19. Margaret,

    I can’t BELIEVE you said YURT! You must know, about 2 years ago, I had a yurt fetish and all the neighbors were very concerned about my idea to have a 3-tiered “yurt colony” ;-P I think they’re the greatest. I think a couple who started off with a yurt would be brilliant!

  20. Another thought on finances: Some young men will have quite a bit of student loan debt in order to enter their profession. My husband is a computer engineer. He put himself through college (full scholarship) but that still ended up costing him about $30,000 for rent, lab fees, books, air fare home, food, etc over 3.5 years. We got married halfway through our senior year. We have a great handle on the loans; he incurred them knowing that with his chosen profession, he would be able to pay them off in 10 years. Doctors and dentists, etc. have similar expenses. Because of the salaries they can expect to command once out of school, however, they know they will be able to pay off the debt in time. If a young man thoughtfully incurs debt in order to put himself through school, I don’t think that’s a problem at all. Frankly, it is the ONLY way to enter certain professions unless you come from a wealthy family.

  21. Oh! You really threw me for a loop, LOL.

    Also, yurts are fantastic. Big fan. I’ve only ever seen one at the college I attended, but it was fabulous. They ran the university radio station out of it. Surprisingly spacious and awesome.

  22. It would be alright if both daughters and sons were told as they are being trained and groomed to be a spouse what they should look for in a spouse as well as what their part is in the covenant marriage relationship.

  23. Have you heard of the book “Preparing Sons, to provide for a single income family”? It is written by Steve and Teri Maxwell (titus2.com). It talks about what is being discussed here. Very good!

  24. I definitely agree. And, its interesting that you point out that people today seem to loathe chivalry (because of feminism, mainly)… we still encourage it in our home as well!

  25. Lori said: this would be a good reason for a son to live at home until married, to save for his married life.

    Really? What if a son doesn’t get married until he is 30 or older? You still want him at home?

  26. Whereas my husband and I were not raised with Godly wisdom surrounding anything, including finances, we are currently seeking to reach a debt-free state. Our prayer is that through our example, our daughter recognizes that waiting on the Lord for needs (and some wants!) is always better than putting faith in the bank. Yes, I believe NO debt includes NO mortgage. This is an extreme thought for our society, but still possible to seek through generations.

    My husband and I will not have a mortgage home (we will likely rent for a long, long time), but by putting our savings in wise places we can seek to help the next generation be home owners without a mortgage. It has to start somewhere!

    Still enjoying the series very much, Kelly.

  27. LOL…Yurts!
    Michael and I said the same thing about how cool they were (I used to subscribe to Mother Earth News because of all the farm-y things in it).

  28. I’m amazed at how different things are today for young people (I have 2 sons, 22 and 20).

    When I was a senior in high school, most of the young men were drafted for the Vietnam war. There used to be deferrments for married men, so lots of them got married right away! Also deferremnts for fathers, so lots of them after they got married had children right away. And deferrments for ministers, farmers, or students, so people scrambled to do those things if they could!

    Then they did away with deferrments and went to a lottery draft. Most of us wondered if we should wait to get married until they got back from Vietnam (why be widowed young?) or marry right away, so that at least we could be married and possibly have children to remember them by if they should be killed in action.

    My husband enlisted just before his draft number came up, and we married. I was 17. I wouldn’t have stayed at home, single. My father was drunk a lot and beat me up once.

    Well, we got stationed in Germany and saw Europe. Interesting how our lives turn out. Back then because of the war, young men didn’t have much control over their lives. My high school history teacher was snatched by the draft just a week before he turned 26 and had to suspend his career for a couple of years.

    Life is so different for younger people now. They have more control over their lives and more opportunities, as you say. My husband and I have been married 39 years.

  29. Kelly,
    I have been reading some of your posts, but have never commented before.
    I completely agree with you that both sons and daughters have to be prepared to marry, knowing what their responsibility will be, and starting to practice it.

    My mom always said, if you observe how your boyfriend (or fiance, or prospective husband, whatever you want to call him!) interacts with and treats his mother, you get a fair picture of how he will be treating you in the future.
    And she is right.

    A young man who listens attentively to his mother and DOES what she says, as much as he listens to his father and does what he says, is showing that he truly honors his mother and his father.
    If he expects her to sew his buttons, iron his clothes, make him a meal, and basically serve him hand and foot, that is exactly what he is going to expect from his wife. A maid.
    If he hears her out, nods his head, and then brushes it all away because “he knows better”, that is exactly what he is going to do with his wife’s counsel, concerns, etc…

    Another person to observe is the father. How does he treat his wife? Because sons will very often do as their father did, like daughters will do as their mother did. Even if they may loathe what their parents did, they still can’t really help it unless they purposefully choose to actively do the opposite!

    So, while I agree with the points you want to teach your sons, (even if I think spiritual leadership is shared in marriage, but I won’t start a debate!), I believe it’s very important to check the way we treat our spouse, knowing that our children are going to pick up on that and repeat it, unconsciously, and also teach them to treat others (including spouse) the way they want to be treated.

    It’s ok to teach your son to be a leader, but a Christlike one, one who understands leadership as becoming a servant first.

    It’s great to teach good manners and chivalry, but don’t forget true honor, the one that esteems his wife as above himself, her needs as above his, her limitations as honorable reasons to go into prayer, with her, about a decision. Etc…

    I say this because the Complementarian-patriarchal teaching of marriage seems to place a lot of emphasis on leadership=decision maker, teacher of the word, etc… Often forgetting Jesus’ words regarding leadership: becoming the lowliest of servants.

    I’m sharing this because I have been burnt by those teachings. I have a husband who brushes my concerns away, and I should have seen it coming. He ignores his mother’s concern, even if he hears her out and it looks like he is really listening.
    He is a “good man”. He is caring, understanding, a great listener, etc… but he still does whatever he wants, whenever he wants to. He knows best. And he lets me shoulder burdens that ought to be his (like the issue with medical insurance, which we don’t have, and he should be doing everything in his power to provide, because it’s illegal not to have one).

    He was taught to be the leader. That he has the last word in the home. He knows how to conduct excellent Bible studies. His father will pray that God will give ME wisdom to counsel my husband, but he has taught him to brush that counsel away, unless it suits him. Basically, unless I’m telling him how to better achieve what he wants, my counsel is “not from the Lord”.

    I agree with those who have said it’s very valuable to teach children to start small. Delayed gratification instead of getting into debt to get what you want NOW. I don’t think they have to own a home. That’s just not realistic for most young people today, and completely debt free, as Breathing Grace said, is not possible for many professionals until much later in life.
    I think it’s important to teach them to make wise investments, take their time, and save up for things rather than use credit cards.
    AND to prioritize. Oh dear… that one is SO important! What’s more important, a roof over your head and paid bills, or a new car?

    Lastly, what about teaching them to make decisions on their own and be responsible for the outcome? Men have to leave father and mother and cleave to their wives. Many boys are not being allowed to live with the consequences of their bad decisions. Daddy and mommy come to the rescue, and they remain like little children. Allowing them to make a mistake here or there is not a bad idea.

    Sorry for the length of this post… I’m happy to see people addressing the need to train our children to be good spouses, even if I may not agree 100% with what they believe constitutes a “good spouse”.

    Oh, and I agree with involving one’s parents or other godly friends in the process of choosing a mate, and waiting until one is completely sure before making “I love you” statements or getting emotionally close.

  30. Madame,

    “It’s great to teach good manners and chivalry, but don’t forget true honor, the one that esteems his wife as above himself, her needs as above his, her limitations as honorable reasons to go into prayer, with her, about a decision. Etc..”

    I agree and have repeatedly express this through posts where I talk about roles in marriage. If a man isn’t demonstrating “loving his wife as himself”, it’s not true patriarchy. It’s selfishness.

  31. Kelly,
    I’m glad you said this:
    If a man isn’t demonstrating “loving his wife as himself”, it’s not true patriarchy. It’s selfishness.

    There are too many overgrown teenagers with heads full of notions, both in and out of the church, claiming their “right” to a woman who will serve them. It’s perfectly understandable outside of the church, but very sad when you see it in the church.
    That said, most non-church-going men that I have met (through my son’s kindergarten) are men who take their responsibility as breadwinner seriously. Their wives may work outside of home or not, depending on what they have agreed upon, or the needs of the family, but the men are carrying the main responsibility and it’s visible. They are men who are often seen with their children, who understand the hard work of raising children, and take their wive’s work at home less for granted than some church men.

    I have also met very kind, very loving and understanding, more traditionally minded Christian men, who wanted their wives at home, and who would be considered patriarchs (their wives always defer to them), but they were not seen claiming this right. At least I never saw them claim it, instead, they always look at their wives to make sure they are happy with the arrangement.

    You can see a marriage where the love and respect flow mutually and it’s beautiful. both sons and daughters of such marriages should need very little training!

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