Boys Should Be Boys by Meg Meeker, M.D.
Seven Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons
This is an encouraging book about parenting. It has a lot of sound advice and is worth reading multiple times. My wife and I got to hear Dr. Meg Meeker speak in person at a Dave Ramsey SMART conference in 2019 and we’ve learned a lot from her. If you enjoy this, you may want to check out some of her other books on parenting.
My Favorite Quotes
- Time, attention, affection, and approval are what every boy needs in abundance from his parents.
- To a son, a dad’s words are the final truth.
- When a father trains himself to drop positive words of encouragement periodically to his son, I cannot exaggerate the positive impact that this will have over a boy’s self esteem and the outcome of his life.
- Haste is the enemy of virtue because it gives us no time to discuss, think, wonder, or pray.
- Humble people are excellent at making anyone feel better about life and about who they are.
- When a boy learns to value the life of another as he values his own, people’s lives around him change.
- It is hard to rise above low expectations. Especially when they come from parents, teachers, and coaches.
- Today, right now, make a commitment to double the amount of time you spend with your son.
- Success in work only takes you so far. Having rich relationships with those you love is the source of real joy in your life.
- What does every son need from a father?
- What can his father alone give his son?
- What will my son’s character be like when he is 25?
- Where, during your son’s day, does he learn that he is worthy of respect?
The Seven Secrets:
- Know how to encourage your son
- Understand what your son needs
- Recognize that boys were made for the outdoors
- Remember that boys need rules
- Acknowledge that virtue is not just for girls
- Learn how to teach your son about the big questions in life
- Remember that the most important person in a son’s life is you
Chapter 1: Boyhood Under Siege
The foundation of any boy’s life is built on three things:
- His relationships with his parents
- His relationship with God
- His relationship with his siblings and close friends
If these three are strong, any boy can thrive in the midst of academic and athletic challenges, a toxic culture, and harmful peer pressure.
Chapter 2: Bucking Peer Pressure
What we should usually do is schedule fewer activities for our children.
Take a critical inventory of what you do for your son and why. How many sports is he in? Does he enjoy them?
Every good parent intuitively knows what is good and what is not good for their sons. The problem is that we ignore our intuitions.
Time, attention, affection, and approval are what every boy needs in abundance from his parents.
Chapter 3: Bullfrogs and Race-cars
Boys look for outlets to define their power (such as fast cars).
It is extremely important for young men to learn the limits of their power. It is a challenge they feel bound to confront. That is why they climb mountains, race cars, and wrestle.
It is when boys hit the wall that humility sets in.
Boys learn a deeper appreciation for others’ abilities, as well as their own, through competition. Boys need to learn to apply their skills, their power, to helping others. Boys need to serve, it is good for them. It helps them define the useful purposes of power.
It is always good for boys to be reminded that their is far more to life than just themselves. If you want to strengthen your son’s character, help him find activities where he can develop his sense of service. It will help him to recognize how valuable his gifts are and that all people are valuable.
Chapter 4: Electronic Matters
If we don’t act on behalf of our son’s interests, no one will.
As a pediatrician, Dr. Meeker says that disconnecting, or strictly limiting, your sons access to electronic media is one of the best things you can do for his emotional, mental, and physical health.
Not only do our sons benefit from the energy we invest in them, so do we.
Chapter 5: Does Testosterone Drive Cars?
I didn’t take any notes on chapter 5.
Chapter 6: Encouragement, Mastery, and Competition
Every boy needs more encouragement.
By acknowledging anger we help lessen its intensity.
By establishing rules for when a son is mad (no hitting, destroying things, or calling bad names), we instruct him about what to do with his anger.
To a son, a dad’s words are the final truth. If they are positive, a boy feels that he cannot be beaten. If they are negative, a son feels that he could never win.
Many fathers fail to realize the power of their words in their sons eyes.
What a father says and what a boy hears can be completely different. In teasing, there is always an underlying bite. Boys usually hear that bite and it magnifies in their mind when it comes from a father.
When a father trains himself to drop positive words of encouragement periodically to his son, I cannot exaggerate the positive impact that this will have over a boy’s self esteem and the outcome of his life.
Achievement in competitive venues help a boy to learn self-discipline, self-mastery, concentration, and the proper direction of his energies (to achieve desired goals).
Little by little a boy can learn to take charge over one aspect of his character, then another, and another. Mastery feels wonderful to boys, and it is sad to see so many boys who have not learned this process. Many children live without discipline and order, and know only internal and external chaos in their lives.
It is essential that parents teach their sons that living an ordered life, replete with fun and discipline, paves the way to a free life and a successful one.
Chapter 7: A Mother’s Son
I didn’t take any notes on chapter 7.
Chapter 8: The Difference a Dad Makes
It takes a man to raise a man.
What does every son need from a father? What can his father alone give his son?
- A boy needs his father’s blessing
- A son needs love from this father
- He needs his father to teach him self control
Every man is haunted by the question “Am I good enough?” The question for every boy is “Am I good enough for my dad?”
Five Elements of a Healthy Blessing
- Meaningful touch
- A spoken message
- Attaching high value to the one being blessed
- Picturing a special future for the one being blessed
- Showing an active commitment to fulfill the blessing
Chapter 9: The Forgotten Step from Boyhood to Manhood
Have you ever met a 55 year old man who forgot to grow up? We all have.
Tenacity requires great conviction. A hallmark of a mature man is that he knows what he believes and why. Dr. Meeker quotes the poem If by Rudyard Kipling as a great summary of this.
A boy’s peers can’t teach him tenacity, but you can.
Parents too often rob their sons of moving into manhood by letting them quit their commitments. If your son starts something and impulsively decides he hates it, make him wait at least 2-4 weeks before he decides to quit. Quitting something should never be done lightly or finished too easily.
Chapter 10: The God Factor
Boys need God. All boys, no matter the age.
Medical studies show that the best way to help your child by happy is to give your child a belief in God.
Your sons need to know God.
Why boys need God:
Any boy who lives without hope cannot last long.
Knowing love is a primal need. Knowing truth is a primal need.
All boys desire to find the truth. They want to know what is right and wrong, and what is true and false.
Four quests in every man’s heart:
- Men sense that there is a transcendent order, and this prompts a search for its Creator.
- Men have a natural, universal wonder about beauty, which prompts them to seek the meaning behind beauty.
- A man’s quest for a meaningful relationship leads him to conclude that such relationships are precious. Because they offer a deeper sense of belonging, of being home. This leads men to wonder whether this sense of belonging isn’t formed by God.
- Every man has a sense of right and wrong, of fairness and unfairness, and this leads man to wonder whether this universal moral law is not the law of God.
Nothing affords a boy the opportunity to receive grace like the person of God. Every boy needs another chance. He needs to know that when he makes mistakes, he can start again. Only grace opens the door for a fresh start.
Chapter 11: How Then Shall We Teach Them to Live?
Deep down, what most parents want to know is how they can raise their boys to be men. The kind of men that we respect when we meet them in our daily life. Men of character.
Every parent can raise a son to be kind, truthful, and courageous. When we strip a man down to his character, we can see what he is made of.
If you want your son to use his masculinity constructively, teach him that strength, courtesy, and respect go together.
Haste is the enemy of virtue because it gives us no time to discuss, think, wonder, or pray.
Give you son time to dream, encourage him to question and to think. Boys must have time to think upon virtues before they embrace them.
At the outset, simplify your son’s life. Give him space to be bored, to find ways to fill his time. When he does this, he will be forced to think. Give him a copy of Aristotle’s ethics.
Built time into your son’s day for him to exercise truthfulness and for the two of you to discuss its importance. Boys will search for virtue just as they will search for truth and self-worth.
Watch a humble young man talk to his friends. Humble boys and humble men are excellent at making anyone feel better about life and about who they are.
Boys with an accurate perception of life, and themselves, spend little time worrying about themselves. They look outward, not inward. They enjoy a healthy respect for themselves and they respect others.
Humble people can embrace others’ frailties, successes, and strains because their own sense of worth does not come from others, it comes from themselves.
Humility is the virtue of balance.
When a boy learns to value the life of another as he values his own, people’s lives around him change.
Meekness means “constrained power” or “power under control.” Every boy must know meekness.
Undisciplined teens are a danger to themselves and others.
Before he is a teen, you need to teach your son that when he uses his energy in a bad way by acting inappropriately aggressive, by hurting others, he will run into a stronger force (you). If he is out of control, catch him and turn him around quickly and lovingly.
Boys are naturally active and have energy to burn. Boys need exercise. Through sports and exercise they learn to control their muscles, their bodies, and even control their emotions and their minds.
A boy can never learn to control is energy if he is not allowed to experience the fullness of its power.
Meekness is also an intellectual virtue, not just a physical one.
Boys who are highly creative might exhibit difficulty with concentration and attention because their minds are working too furiously. Give them books to read, instruments to play, and projects to dive into. Bright boys are stunted if they are stuck in front of a television.
Boys who are trained in kindness lead happier lives. They learn to be better friends, stronger spouses, and better businessmen.
Boys who are kind learn to take on the burdens of others.
When boys are young, parents can begin developing their kindness by teaching them to speak well of others. Speech and behavior go together. Train a boy to speak well of others, and over time he will treat those people better.
Disciplining a boy to talk differently will make him think differently. When boys are prohibited from complaining they become happier. Boys think on what they say. If they complain, negative thoughts not only precede the complaint, they follow them.
A boy can take his thinking into any direction simply by changing his choice of words or the tone of his words.
Boys who disregard truth and learn that lies are always a viable (even helpful) option never experience the fullness of masculinity, of self-respect, honor, and truth.
Chapter 12: Ten Tips to Making Sure You Get it Right
Loving your son and being loved by him in return brings an indescribable richness to your life.
Ten basic principles that all successful parents follow:
- Know that you change his world
- Raise him from the inside out. Character counts more than performance
- Help his masculinity explode. Boys want to know how to lead
- Help him find purpose and passion. Passion follows purpose
- Teach him to serve
- Insist on self-respect
- Be his hero
- Watch, then watch again
- Give him the best of yourself
One: Know that you change his world
His relationship with you sets the template for his world.
Parents are the #1 influence on a boy’s life.
His relationship with his parents is the best indicator of the decisions he will make.
Three: Help his masculinity explode
Encourage your son to exercise his masculine nature as a protector.
A boy’s desire to provide, protect, and lead can make him a great husband, a great boss, and a great dad. Help him to direct and fulfill these instincts.
Four: Help him find purpose and passion
A boy understands that if he was born to fulfill a purpose, some higher power will be there to help along the way. Passion follows purpose. Parents can motivate only to a certain point.
Passion to achieve his life’s purpose can weave virtue into his character.
Six: Insist on self-respect
Where, during your son’s day, does he learn that he is worthy of respect?
It is hard to rise above low expectations. Especially when they come from parents, teachers, and coaches.
Boys learn self-respect by extended respect to others.
Today, right now, make a commitment to double the amount of time you spend with your son.
Ten: Give him the best of yourself
When your son opens up and divulges his deep thoughts or troubling feelings, don’t ever criticize him, listen!
Boys who learn that their whole person, their abilities, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are taken seriously, grow into confident mature men.
When he realizes that he is seen, he pays attention to what he is doing.
Our sons deserve nothing more or less than the best of ourselves.
Raising a boy to be a man will be the toughest, most exasperating, painful work you will ever do, but the joy it brings is unmatched by anything else in your life.
Success in work only takes you so far. Having rich relationships with those you love is the source of real joy in your life.
Related Book Summaries
- Love Like That by Dr. Les Parrott
- The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey
- The Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes
- When Work and Family Collide by Andy Stanley