Educating Boys

Advice from the Sisters of the Society of St. Pius X

“Look, Mom, they are all dressed the same way!” Some young people, clad in jeans and jackets, are chatting in front of a high school: same clothes, same behavior; the hair cut makes it hard to tell: boy or girl? The Revolution has done its work: it wants neither man nor women but only gender. While Satan fights tirelessly to destroy human nature and the proper mission of man and women, we want real boys.

Physical Strength and Healthy Aggressiveness

“Bertrand can’t sit still, he is like a lion in a cage!” Boys are generally more robust, muscular and athletic than are girls. This strength helps them later on to practice a professional activity that requires vigor and endurance even in tough circumstances, for nervous fatigue and worries are easier to bear with a virile body. How many of our young men give up their first job because they have been caught up in the comfort and ease of modern life and are too exhausted to carry on. To develop their virility and their endurance, boys need tiring physical activities: gardening, big cleaning jobs, moves, hikes, sports ... These allow a boy to “use up his batteries,” his energy, to renew himself and thus strengthen his nervous balance in a disciplined way. Requiring him to sit properly at table or in the living room is a basis for teaching him to master his body.

“Mom, we won 6 to 2!” Boys have an innate taste for competition: they need to measure up to others, and through emulation they learn to conquer their fatigue, go to the limits of their strength, and outdo themselves. This taste for effort in all sorts of physical or intellectual activities will enable tomorrow’s adult to go forward and not to give up in the thousand and one difficulties that are sure to arise. Encouragement and congratulations for a boy who has fought well or given of himself (even if it was an apparent failure) will give him tenacity and confidence.

“Oh my, what a child, he’ll break his neck!” A taste for adventure, risk and danger is a masculine trait that must be channeled and often developed, for our children live in a soft and overprotective atmosphere. How many young men are anxious and fearful because as children they never had the opportunity to conquer their fear in the little things: going to the cellar alone, walking in the dark, climbing a tree, going to the top of a mountain, speaking to a stranger... That was how the “fearless knights without reproach” began. War games, combat sports (fencing, judo...) are necessary to master and develop a healthy “aggressiveness” for those who are to become the defenders of their family and of their country.

Work and Responsibility

“Dad, may I change the tire?” Boys find their bearings easily because they are good at evaluating angles, distances and speed. They have coordination skills (eyes, hands, feet) that can be developed in games that require dexterity, balance or teamwork such as basketball and rugby. Manual activities, work camps, and models develop the manual skills and knowledge that are so useful to those who will later practice a manual profession or one involving observation. Working with Dad is also important because it attaches boys to their home and teaches them to save.

“Father made me head of the team!” Our boys are to be tomorrow’s leaders, and capable of exercising their authority so as to seek the good of their family and their company. They must first learn to obey in order that they may know how to lead. Within the family, it is easy to put the boys in charge of their younger brothers and sisters sometimes: little by little, they understand that a beneficial authority is neither a tyrannical power nor a demagogy, but a service made of goodness, firmness and wisdom. Encourage your boy in his exercise of authority, advise him, assess it afterwards; you will be doing him a favor. There are so many selfish young men who love a solitary, easy and peaceful life! Draw his attention to the miseries of others who are weaker; it will broaden the heart that is later to become a defender of the good cause. Catholic youth groups help boys to devote themselves to others and to sacrifice themselves. There will be so much to do tomorrow: society needs to be rebuilt to manifest the Faith and the Christian life. It is the parents who inspire them with this Christian spirit of hope and conquest, so unlike the defeatism and withdrawal that paralyzes and sterilizes.

Cleanliness and Purity

“Antoine, run a comb through that hair, and brush your teeth!” Boys have less of a sense of hygiene than do girls: learning order and cleanliness, without excessive care and with a certain austerity, develops good habits against the sloppiness and materialism that would make them soft: it is normal for them to make their beds, put their things away, and keep clean; washing with cold water, bearing the heat and wearing simple clothes favor the freedom of the soul.

“Mom, may I have some more fries?” Because they exert themselves more, boys need more food than do girls. They tend to be voracious if their parents are not careful to teach them moderation: to think of their neighbor, not to eat too much or too quickly. And a temperate boy will have an easier time protecting his purity in his teen years since he will have learned to master his body. Boys are tempted earlier and more often than girls in the domain of purity. Fathers must instruct their boys, and vigorously denounce vice by punishing vulgar gestures and words and unhealthy curiosities. The walls of our cities, contact with contaminated children, and Internet offer so many dangers! The recitation of the rosary and a devotion to Mary, along with the practice of the sacraments, enabled St. Dominic Savio to go through adolescence without tarnishing the lily of his purity.

The Father’s Presence

“My father is a genius, he knows the answer to everything!” Boys are naturally drawn to admire their fathers and imitate them. It is important for fathers to be present at home and available to form their boys, despite the requirements of their professional lives. Along with the solution to their problems and the answers to their questions on modern life, boys will learn from their fathers common sense and the hierarchy of values, a wisdom so necessary in our artificial world. It is up to the head of the family to supervise his child’s books and friendships, to encourage a solid culture, permeated with the Faith and in keeping with our Christian ideal. Good discussions, “orator jousts,” and chosen books form a lively, enlightened and combative spirit. Chosen information gives knowledge of today’s society along with the desire to do something for society tomorrow.

“Son, start over!” Especially when they get to be about 9 or 10, boys need to be able to rest their weakness and instability on the paternal authority that will little by little strengthen their weak wills through advice, encouragement, and punishment. By supervising schoolwork and homework, a father teaches his son to do his duty of state fully and well. This care for the finished product will also give the self-confidence of a responsible young man who can be counted upon. By helping their fathers build something or direct an activity, boys acquire a sense of decision and learn to keep their promises even against odds. Boys thus come to realize that with the help of God’s grace, they are capable of acting and succeeding, and ready to take on responsibility.

Spirit of Faith

“God first.” That was the principle that guided St. Joan of Arc in restoring the kingdom of France when all was lost. It is the same principle that must guide our boys, and it requires a strong faith, a balanced piety, and a serious Christian life. If they receive this religious formation in their families and from the priests, our boys will be determined to make of their lives something great and beautiful, at the service of their families, of society, and of the Church. If we conquer human respect, if we are not afraid to be in the front rows at the church, to say our grace in public, to show we are Christian at soccer practice, to say the Rosary every day, then manly souls will grow in our homes for tomorrow’s restoration.