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Part 3- What Do You Do With BOYS?

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The Boyer Blog: Part 3- What Do You Do With BOYS?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Part 3- What Do You Do With BOYS?

The Young Stallions: Boys and Sibling Rivalry

It’s no secret that boys quarrel with both their brothers and their sisters. Most of the issues that cause or enhance sibling conflicts apply regardless of the sex of the combatants. In my presentation, Raising Cain Without Killing Abel (available on CD or DVD), I discuss several cases of sibling rivalry in Scripture and what parents can do about the causes of it. In all those cases, it’s plain that the issues involved could easily cause conflict between siblings whether they were of the same or opposite sexes. Briefly, here are a few examples:

Cain and Abel, Genesis Chapter 4: The root is an unresolved conflict between Cain and God. Cain tries to deal with God on his own terms, is rejected and takes out his bitterness on Abel.

Jacob and Esau, Genesis Chapters 25 and 27: There are several root problems here. First, Jacob actually wrongs Esau by catching him in a moment of weakness and persuading him to sell his birthright for one meal. It’s a genuine offense. Then, Jacob steals the firstborn blessing by deceiving his father. This situation is made worse by mother Rachel, who favors Jacob and encourages his duplicity. So parental favoritism and Rachel’s evasion of her husbands’s authority come into play. She warns her son Jacob to flee to Haran “for a few days” until his brother’s anger subsides, but as far as we know, she never saw her boy again.

Rachel and Leah, Genesis Chapter 30: The root is Rachel’s self-rejection over her barren condition. Verse 1 says, “Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister…” Persons with a sense of inferiority will find a multitude of different issues on which to compare themselves unfavorably with others, whether in appearance, talents, or other abilities. In Rachel’s case, it found its outlet in the area of childbearing, but self-rejection will express itself one way or another, and a child who suffers from it will express it toward siblings of either sex. Inferiority feelings are so common to young people that I made it the theme of my first novel, a boy-and-dog story called The Runt.

Joseph and his brothers, Genesis Chapter 37: Parental favoritism shows itself again, as Jacob betrays his partiality to Joseph by presenting him with a princely tunic that his brothers can scarcely fail to notice. Then, Joseph has two dreams indicating that he will one day rule over his brothers and his parents. Apparently pride is the root cause, as Joseph lacks the discretion to keep his dreams to himself. Would sisters have responded any better than his brothers did?

The greedy brother in Luke Chapter 12: A man asks Jesus to settle a conflict with a brother over the family inheritance. Jesus refuses to resolve the issue because He knows the man’s root problem is not the inheritance itself but a materialistic value system (greed). So He immediately launches into a parable to illustrate His point.

Parental favoritism, jealously, self-rejection, greed. These things can obviously cause problems between brothers and sisters as easily as brothers and brothers.

But it’s interesting to notice that in all these case studies, the conflict recorded was between siblings of like gender, and that all but one were between brothers. Researchers have also noted that sibling conflicts are more frequent and severe between siblings of a common sex. It stands to reason; little girls would more likely fight over a baby doll and boys over a favorite fire truck or BB gun. Few boys would fight with Sis over a doll.

Still, sibling rivalry between brothers is…well, special. I have six sons and eight daughters so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe.

For one thing, it’s more likely to develop into physical violence, as with Cain and Abel. Boys have more of a natural tendency to express themselves physically. They are designed to be protectors of the female sex and nature has given them both a sensitivity to the needs of girls and a disposition to fight when it seems in order. This easily gets out of hand in the immature days of boyhood and violence sometimes flares when it is entirely inappropriate.

Boys are also designed to be leaders. That may not be politically correct, but it’s fact. God has designed the sexes to be equal, but definitely not interchangeable. Boys are growing into men and men are charged with responsibility for leadership in the home, the church and the government. So, when boys grow up together, all consciously or unconsciously trying to assert their leadership with their increasing maturity, they are more likely to irritate each other than their sisters. By the same token, this can also lead to conflicts with Dad as the boys try to balance their loyalty to him with their innate need to stretch their wings and make some of their own decisions. There is only room for one lead stallion in the herd, but the young colts must have the chance to prepare for leadership. Consequently, they may occasionally buck the authority of the senior stallion, but they are much more likely to fight with each other than with him—or with their sisters.

Trendy parents who have tried to raise boys to act like girls or girls to act like boys have created a lot of frustration for themselves. That’s what happens when we adopt the assumptions of the secular world rather than doing it God’s way. That’s why we need to study what God’s Word has to say on the topic. The current cultural war against masculinity, with its denigration of manhood and fatherhood has certainly infiltrated the church. But it doesn’t have to infiltrate your family. So remember that boys are growing into men and they must flex their muscles sometimes. That doesn’t mean they should be allowed to jettison self control or to be rude, boorish or violent. It does mean that they need special challenges and responsibilities. They need mountains to climb, fortresses to conquer, causes to champion. They need the opportunity to slay dragons.

Boys will be boys and they need to be. Because someday, boys will be men.

~Rick Boyer



Blogger Kris said...

Thank you for this series. As a mother to two boys and two girls, I see this sort of rivalry flair at times and I am finding your seasoned perspective to be both encouraging and helpful. May God continue to bless your wonderful family! Thanks again!

March 18, 2010 at 6:18 AM  
Blogger Janice said...

Good article and so true. What I would like to see in this article is some more in-depth, practical ways to avoid this. HOW do you make peace between them? What ARE some of the causes they can champion or dragons they can slay? Or can you recommend some resource that gives ideas?

Thanks so much.

March 18, 2010 at 6:49 AM  
Blogger Courtney (Women Living Well) said...

This has been an excellent series! Thank you so much! I just read all three parts out loud to my 7 year old son. Thank you for giving us direction, wisdom and guidance.

Much love,

March 18, 2010 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger Mariel said...

thank you so much for this insight. My husband and i are raising two boys and no, all we know is boys!! Your article could not be truer...especially being the only female ina family of "men"...there is competition for my attention. I try to spred myself to all of them...daddy first. it is a process and a learning experience. homeschooling them boys are very best of friends! (they are 9 and 7)

March 18, 2010 at 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

And then throw a set of brothers into the family mix that are only 18 months apart...yikes. We have 6 boys and 4 girls, but those 2 fight more than any others. I call it "vying for Top Dog". Sure makes things interesting around here. LOL!

March 18, 2010 at 11:46 PM  
Anonymous kirstin said...

Wow, this is so encouraging! We have 2 girls and 4 boys and 1 in Heaven.
My younger 2 ages 3 and 5 have daily frequent squabbles, especially the older exerting his authority over the younger. Its' good to know we are "normal" after all! lol.

November 10, 2010 at 10:14 AM  

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