Woman #1: What I think boys need most is just a really good dad.
Man #1: I have two boys that love to get up on top of the roof and I just tell ‘em, “Okay, if you’re cleanin’ out the gutters, just stay away from the edge.”
Woman #2: I’m trying to teach my son how to balance a spirit of tenderness, especially toward God with the strength of manhood.
Man #2: What it means to respect a woman, especially their mom, is something that I want them to know and to do very well.
Woman #3: If I can teach my boys nothing other than brush your teeth and put on deodorant, I think I’ve succeeded.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Those are some great ideas about training your boy to become a man, and if you’ve got a son in your home or maybe you work with young boys at church or in school, you probably have an opinion about what should be added to that kind of a list. Welcome to Focus on the Family with Focus President and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Jim, I’m still working on some of those issues with my youngest.
Jim Daly: You’re living the battle, John. And it wasn’t that long ago that Jean and I were doing the same thing with our sons. I remember how we were always reminding them, “Brush your teeth!”
John: Brush your teeth, yes.
Jim: “Use deodorant!” Sometimes I still remind them.
Jim: I don’t wanna embarrass them, but here we go. We also had a lot of discussions as a family about the future and what being a good and godly man looks like. We’ve done a couple of Bible studies in that regard, as a family, because we wanted our sons to launch well. And every parent who’s doing their job should be concerned about launching their kids well.
In our culture today, we don’t really have a good process for the transition from boyhood to manhood. I admire cultures like the Jewish culture where you have Bar Mitzvah saying, “You’re no longer a boy; you’re a man.” There is this demarcation line. You were a boy yesterday, but today you’ve made it. You’re into manhood, now go get a job.
John: That’s a good line right there.
Jim: It is. But we struggle with that. Where’s that line today? I mean, it is when you get your driver’s license perhaps. Or when you’re able to vote. But that’s, you know, 16, 18. I think we can fumble a bit on that point and that’s why I’m looking forward to the broadcast today.
John: Yeah, we’re gonna return to a conversation that we recorded a few years ago with Jonathan Catherman. He’s worked for decades in private and public education and has a real expertise in youth and leadership training. Jonathan is the father of two boys himself and he’s written a book that will benefit any family that’s raising sons, called, The Manual to Manhood: How to Cook the Perfect Steak, Change a Tire, Impress a Girl, and 97 Other Skills You Need to Survive. Let’s go ahead and hear, Jim, how you began the conversation with Jonathan.
Jim: Now our boys are about the same age. I was curious about that.
Jonathan Catherman: Yeah, I was regrettin’ not bringin’ ‘em with me on this trip.
Jim: That would’ve been fun. They could’ve gone fishin’.
Jonathan: Well, my boys have been fishing this weekend. They would’ve liked to have done that again.
Jim: It’s a great experience. Let’s talk about that in general. Paint a picture of the typical boy you meet. You’re engaging with a lot of young men. Talk about, if we could, who is that typical boy today?
Jonathan: Sure and you know, I don’t mean to be too generic, but I think when we do a typical boy today, we almost have to do a comparison of when we were boys versus what boys are like today.
Jim: Is there a difference?
Jonathan: Oh, absolutely; the cultural norm has shifted so dramatically between when we were growin’ up and they are now. Like a boy today, here’s an example, being deodorant, like in – in the lead-in here.
Jim: Right back to where…
Jonathan: Wearing deodorant, right?
John: That’s what it’s gonna be all program long.
Jim: Jean is very happy.
Jonathan: Well, how many options of deodorant did we have when we were growin’ up?
Jim: Probably one…
Jonathan: Like the one you got…
Jim: …called Shock.
Jonathan: …out of your dad’s…
John: Old Spice.
Jonathan: …yeah, Old Spice, right? Well, now you’ve got 13 flavors of Axe or scents and you go down the aisle. What am I supposed to wear and how much am I supposed to wear? When am I supposed to start wearin’ it? And you’ll meet these young men today. And again, I’m not just to beat up all young men, but I’m finding an inconsistency in the capabilities of young men, starting at about age 11, 12, 13-years-old, where they’re really struggling, tryin’ to figure out how do they control everything from wearin’ deodorant, to their voice changing, to knowing how to shake hands, to confidence that is just not being brought up like it was a generation ago.
Jim: You’ve written this book, Manual to Manhood, which I love and you said yourself, it’s a simple approach to helping your boy become a man. And I understand you wrote this book because of a handshake, so how did a handshake lead you to writin’ a book?
Jonathan: Right, I was at a leadership conference at UCLA and after I spoke, there’s this long line of “Let’s go shake the speaker’s hand.” This guy walks up to me and I’d already noticed a couple patterns, one being, what is wrong with these young men? How come … don’t they know how to iron their shirts and their slacks? This is a global leadership conference and they’re lookin’, they’re walkin’ towards me like they just stepped out of their own luggage.
And this young man walks up to me and it just clicked, ‘cause he gives me this just dead-fish handshake. I’m like, I have yet to receive a good handshake out of everybody who’s met me. It’s either been overpowering or underwhelming. I said, “You know what? We gotta do something because these young people are the leaders of not just today. I mean, we call ‘em the leaders of tomorrow, but they’re the leaders of today, as well.”
Jonathan: And never before in history have we been given more to steward and we all will agree. To those who have been given much, much is expected, but yet, they’re struggling with the little things, yet we’re expecting them to steward the big things.
Jonathan: So let’s bring it all the way back down to something as simple as a handshake to demonstrate, “I know how to control myself. Now will you trust me with some values?”
Jim: So much of this is father engagement, too, and I think, you know, we fall on the excuses of “We’re busy” and “They’ll get it. I got it. I didn’t have anybody tellin’ me.” I mean, I didn’t have a dad in my life and – in that regard – I remember frantically trying to figure out how to tie a tie. This is before smartphones and I’m probably in junior high goin’ off to the junior high dance and I didn’t have anybody to ask. So I kinda threw a knot together and I think I got teased a bit for it. But the point of that is, you know, some dads feel like boys will figure it out. That’s not a good perspective, is it?
Jonathan: I don’t think it’s a good perspective at all. In your case, you said you had to experiment to get it right. So we can observe and we can experiment. We can be instructed and a father engaged, showing his son how to tie a tie who might not get it the first time but then we re-engage. It’s relational and it’s skill based. And so, he walks away with a tie tied and the feeling like he did it says the 12-, 13-year-old. Dad’s thinkin’, “I really did most of the work there.” Next time out, the son comes and says, “Dad, what do you think about my tie?” “Well, let me help you fix it up a little bit, son.” And now the son’s done the majority of the work. Third time round, Dad goes, “Your tie looks really well.” Well, we now have three engagements of compliment just about tying a tie, bonding relationally, as well as building a skill or you can experiment and try it out and maybe get teased…
Jonathan: …and see if you got it right or not.
Jim: You know, you talk about that handshake. Something Jean and I did for both Trent and Troy, both against their will, was to enroll them in Cotillion. Now a lot of people, I didn’t understand what that was when we first enrolled them. I said, “It’s gonna be mostly about dinner table manners,” and that was only a small fraction of it. It was mostly about dancing in appropriate ways, like ballroom dancing, the waltz and those kinds of things. And they were mortified.
And I remember the first night when I took my oldest, Trent, he just looked across the room at the beautiful Broadmoor ballroom here in Colorado Springs. It’s a gorgeous resort hotel and he looked across the room at me and his eyes are saying, “When I get ahold of you, Dad, you are dead.”
Jim: ‘Cause that was the first time he had to hold a girl’s hand and introduce his companion to the adult chaperone, shake the chaperone’s hand. And that, I would say, Trent told me this morning, he said, “That’s where I learned how to shake a hand properly and look the adult in the eye.” It’s important to know that.
Jonathan: It’s critical to know those little skills. When I meet young men today at a school, at a conference and I get the bad handshake, I’ll stop ‘em. I’ll say, “Hey, man, really nice to have met you. Let’s do the handshake over again. Now look me in the eye. Good. Now, hey, excellent job. Now next time you shake someone’s hand, that’s the way to go, a really good handshake, congratulations.” I always lead it up to a compliment, or how many times would you have done it wrong and the person walked away thinking, “What was that?” So having an opportunity to be instructed. And – and your son’s going to an experience like that – that’s a controlled environment. It’s a safer controlled environment. Or we can go out in the world, which is not one of the controlled environments and there aren’t too many folks out there wanting the best for your – our boys. They’re wanting to get the best from our boys.
Jonathan: So if we set them up for success with a simple handshake, they might look, Mom and Dad, at you now, cross-eyed, thinking you’ve got two heads growin’ out of your shoulders, goin’, “Why in the world are you teachin’ me how to shake hands?” These are the little things. Those who can steward little, can learn to steward much and shakin’ hands is a great place to start.
Jim: It’s a good point. Talk about those bad role models in the culture today. It seems that the culture is demanding attention from our kids. They’re pulling them in to the, Dr. Dobson used to describe it as a hallway of doors and each door had a different label on it – drugs or premarital sex or whatever it might be. And he said in his day, the doors would be shut and locked. You’d have to find a way to get through the door. And then in the ‘80’s, ‘90’s, the doors were there but they were just a little bit ajar. Today I’d describe that analogy as wide open.
Jim: Television is grabbin’ our kids, movies, pop culture in general. How do we train them to manage that as a Christian young man in a good way?
Jonathan: I think honestly the first training needs to come to the parent. Marketing is much better at gaining and retaining the attention of our young people than most parents are. And the reason is because marketing teams sit around tables strategizing about how to get the attention of a young person, hold onto it and extract value from it.
Jonathan: Maybe as parents, as a men’s group or a women’s group or within the church or just in my – how about mom, dad, at your own home, sit down with your kids not there and strategize about how to gain and retain their attention in something that instead of taking value from your son or daughter, gives value to them.
Jim: What would that discussion sound like? Play it out a bit for us, you and your wife sitting down at the table. Kids are in bed and you’re saying, “You know what, honey, I think we need to strategize about where our boys are at. They’re 9, 10 and the big years are right around the corner for us when they hit puberty.” What would that discussion sound like?
Jonathan: You need to start with a description of where we are, maybe talk about where we’d like to be. So what’s the aspiration? Where do we long to see our sons, say two years, five years, 10 years out from now? ‘Cause right now, if they’re young, they’re – essentially they’re dependent. Our intent is to get them to become independent, with a greater level of maturity beyond that, even interdependent.
So if we want them to be able to, and you have to fill in the blanks here. An example is, you stick with the example of shaking hands. We’d love to see our sons be able to go to – they need to get a job in the next couple years. And the – you know, my son’s 14 and four years from now he’s gonna be 18. And he needs to be able to know how to work by then. Okay, so I shouldn’t – you know, “Hey, son, Reed.” My 14-year-old son’s Reed. “Reed, come in here. You gotta start thinkin’ about getting’ a job.” We’ve just jumped the gun there. You – you went from zero to 100 in one sentence. So if the intent is for my son to be able to get and keep a job so he can earn his own money to start payin’ his own way and to understand what finances and independence and interdependence looks like in the world, let’s bring it all the way back to what is he capable of now and how can we build him up into a place where that release to independence is realistic, not aspirational?
Jim: Now that is really good and I’m thinkin’ of again my own boys. We’re right now talkin’ about being able to do lawn work and things like that. So I was tellin’ ‘em, “You need to make a flier up and determine what your price is gonna be and then you send those out. And if it’s not workin’, then you gotta go door to door and kind of negotiate a good price.” And so I’m lookin’ forward to seeing that unfold over the next couple of years.
Jonathan: Well, and as adults, we have that background knowledge. You just described sales and marketing. All right, we know what that is because we’re mature adults. They don’t know what that is yet, so you gotta walk ‘em into the process and be okay with them not being great at it at first.
Jonathan: Practice – mom, dad hear me – practice does not make perfect.
Jonathan: Okay. There’s only One Who’s perfect and His name’s Christ and I’m not Him. He lives within me but that doesn’t mean that what we do is perfect. Practice simply makes better and nobody – you’re not a failure until you give up. So if my son goes out and he just botches someone’s yard, you know, he mows their yard and it’s just a terrible, you know, weeds are still growin’ up on the sides and he didn’t do a good job sweepin’ and it’s not a failure in the yard. You gotta go back and finish the job or fix the job and next time you’ll become better and will become better and become better.
I think we all need to look back to experiences in our own life when we were “tweens” and teens and young adults and say, how many times do we have to practice somethin’ before we got it right? Hopefully, nobody saw us get it wrong, because we want to and this is something I stress heavy in the book about young men is they want to gain respect and avoid embarrassment.
Jim: Yeah. I think, you know, an example for us, my youngest, Troy, wanted to play Little League this year. Now he’s 12. He’s never played Little League. Some of those kids have been playin’ for five years. So ahead of time, I’d think, “Okay, he’s not gonna do well. He doesn’t have the skills.” So I said to Troy, “You know, Troy, this’ll be your learning year. You’re gonna be at bat. You may not rise to some of the capability of the other kids, but that’s okay. This is your year to learn how to hit. The coaches will help you. A couple of grounders might get through your legs, but don’t be discouraged.” He goes, “Oh, yeah, Dad, that’s okay. I know this will be the year I’ll learn.” But it helps begin to frame, ‘cause there’s gonna be those times when you don’t rise to the level of your peers ‘cause you haven’t done it. And you could put any circumstance around that, whatever your young man is going to be trying to do. And I think it’s helped him. I’ve seen it. He’s still engaged in that endeavor. He’s improving, but at the end of the game, the sting doesn’t last as long. Is that a good approach?
Jonathan: I think it is. I think it’s a great approach, because again, it’s in – we’ve got another game comin’. Let’s try it again, practice a…
Jonathan: …little bit better. The worst curse I think we could bring upon ourselves in this context is that when the opportunity is there, we’re unprepared.
Jonathan: And so, what we’re tryin’ to do is prepare these young men, so that when the opportunity arises, they can rise to meet the opportunity.
Jim: And we’re reacting out of emotion and that’s not a healthy place be.
Jonathan: That would not be a healthy place, no.
John: I really appreciate Jonathan Catherman’s book, The Manual to Manhood, because Jonathan, you’re framing things in a big picture kind of way, but the subtitle is all about the little things, “How to Cook the Perfect Steak, Change a Tire, Impress a Girl and 97 Other Skills You Need to Survive.” So, you really are talkin’ about little things that lead to big things. Go ahead and stop by our website to find out more about The Manual to Manhood, maybe get this CD or download the program so you can refer to it again. That’s www.focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
And I mentioned before we came into the studio that respect, that element of respect and avoiding embarrassment, I mean, that resonates with me – 13, 14, oh, horrifically embarrassing years for me.
Jim: Those are mountain moments.
John: They are; they are and my 11-year-old, Zane is really into football and I had kind of signed off on any physical thing for him. He just did not seem to have coordination when he was younger. That boy throws a really nice spiral and it’s because he has practiced and practiced.
John: But what I see is, he is totally motivated by playground respect. It’s something that he intuitively wants to get and to avoid that embarrassment. Is that just somethin’ wired in us? Or do we have to guide our kids to understand that?
Jonathan: I can’t wait to ask God that question. If it’s wired in; is it part of the DNA of male to gain respect and avoid embarrassment? It’s certainly the reoccurring pattern. I don’t know many men who aren’t concerned about that. I think we can boil it down in many different ways, but I think that most young men and old men alike, from the youngest to the oldest among us, to gain respect and avoid embarrassment is a strong value and I do think it’s something that God put into us. The question though is how do we go about doing that? And for your son, Zane, to throw a spiral and everybody looks at him and go, “Wow! Look at that ball go!” That – you know what? It builds him up. So what of the young man who doesn’t have dad there throwin’ with him? Or maybe it’s not his deal, right? Maybe he doesn’t like sports.
Jonathan: So, what else can he do to gain respect? Have you ever seen somebody swing a hammer, but they choke up on the hammer and they’re holdin’ it right up by the hammerhead and you ‘re lookin’ at that guy goin’, “Who taught him how to swing a hammer?” And the answer is, “Nobody taught him how to swing a hammer.” And that’s an awkward feeling to realize that everybody’s lookin’ at you goin’, “This guy doesn’t even know how to use a tool.” Or overcook a steak. You know, where you invited your buddies over. You…
Jonathan: …got the grill goin’…
Jim: I’m still doin’ that!
Jonathan: …next to you.
John: That’s because nobody taught you.
Jim: Yeah, I can burn anything on the grill, man, I’m tellin’ you!
Jonathan: Well, let me – let me real briefly tell you somethin’ that happened. I was in South Texas driving on the freeway and I’d just come from the university speaking and I was livin’ the post-dopamine high of, “That was a great experience,” right? And all of a sudden, I was in this car accident I didn’t see comin’. And I was doin’ 75 and that’s just one of those things – if you don’t know you’re in a car accident at 75-miles-an-hour on the freeway and all the air bags are deploying and all the glass is breaking and you’re thinking, well, at that time I was thinking, “I’m gonna die in this car accident.” I didn’t even see it comin’ and I only had one other thought goin’ through my mind is that, “Who’s gonna raise my boys?”
Jim: Yeah, isn’t that interesting at that moment?
Jonathan: Yeah, the – I wasn’t worried about my wife. She is street smart and sassy and beautiful. There’s gonna be a long line up at my memorial service of guys asking her out on a date. But my boys, who’s – who would raise my boys to be good men?
Jim: What did that motivate you to do after the accident?
Jonathan: Well I stood on the side of the road with nothin’ more than a bruise on my hip and a totaled rental car. And I said, “I’m gonna go home and I’m a decent dad. I’m gonna go home and be a purposeful parent.”
Jonathan: So we started doing something at our house and we played off our last name, Cather-MAN is the last name. We started a Cather-MAN Missions. We started the talk this afternoon here with uh, what are those rites of passage? And in our culture we don’t have these defined rites of passage. So in our Cather-MAN missions, they’re all build-up rites of passage. We don’t just beat our chest and go fishing or hunting and get muddy. A Cather-MAN mission could be running errands and pumping gas. Or goin’ to the grocery store and getting the shopping done, just the guys. You know, they need to know how to budget for burger over steak, as much as they need to know how to change a tire. And so, all the Cather-MAN missions are little incremental rites of passage.
Jonathan: Better to learn how to change a tire in your driveway then to practice first on the side of a freeway. So let’s jack up the car and have some fun on a Saturday afternoon, even though the tire’s not flat. These are all little rites of passage.
Jim: Huh, those are good, good little things to be doing. Talk to that single mom. I mean, this is part of our culture today where dads are not involved for whatever reason in their kids and in their sons’ lives. Talk to that mom who is desperate for a man to be a mentor to her boy. What can she do to a certain point? And then what can she not do to help that boy become a man?
Jonathan: First thing, mom, thank you very much ‘cause you’re doin’ double duty. You’re doin’ the role of mom and the role of dad. And it can be hard for your son to come to you and say, “Hey, I you know, I’ve got this peach fuzz on my face. What am I supposed to do with it? And you know, teaching your son to shave can be an awkward thing or other topics. I mean, that’s just one of the simple ones. One of things, though, mom, you can do is just look for ways to support him. Don’t push them toward something. Get involved in a church group that has got some great men who are willing to mentor your sons, as well. It’s a biblical instruction for men to mentor, in the context as, “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.”
Jonathan: It’s a great place for – in a youth group or in a men’s group. We’re supposed to raise up, you know, when you raise that child up in the ways of the Lord, he will not depart from it when he grows old. Mom, that’s your responsibility, but young men need to see that from a positive male role model, as well.
Jim: Jonathan, when you look at the culture today, you know, there’s a real lack of chivalry and some women, young women particularly, are put off by it because they’ve been told by feminists and others that, you know, “Men shouldn’t do anything for you. You’re capable.” And they are offended by it. You know, but sometimes when I’ve opened a door for a woman going into a business or something, most times to be fair, you get a courtesy “Thank you.” But sometimes you’ll get a woman saying, “I don’t need you to do that for me.” I’ve actually had…
Jim: …women say that to me and I’m like, “Oh, my goodness!” What should we teaching our young boys about how to treat women in a culture that doesn’t seem to understand how to treat women?
Jonathan: What’s the difference between openin’ the door for a woman walking through and opening the door like you did for me walking here into the studio today? This is common courtesy. It’s “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” And of course, you can’t be all things to all people and you can’t guarantee that they are going to accept and – or reject what it is you’re offering. My wife did the same thing. When we were dating in high school, I opened a door for her and she looked at me. I think – and I’d opened many doors for her, but this time she crossed her arms and gave me the head bob and the hip way out and she goes, “I can open my own door, thank you very much.” I’m thinkin’, “Where did that come from?” And it really was this context of she appreciated the chivalry; at the same time, she’s perfectly capable. And I – I said, “Well, wait a minute. Time out. I’m not doing this for you because I don’t think you can. See that man walkin’ up, that little old man walkin’ up here and I opened the door for him, too, so I’m not tryin’ to date him.”
“I’m just trying to be polite to others and this is one of the ways that we can demonstrate that I value others, not just myself.” I’ve seen a lot of people go through the door, valuing themselves. They open the door for themselves, walk right through and it swings closed on the person right behind ‘em.
Jonathan: Moms, dads, teach your boys how to be – open doors, to be chivalrous, to do for others and they want to be done for them.
Jim: Yeah and that’s the point. You’re teaching a higher spiritual value there. You’re not trying to be a downer for people at all.
Jim: And I think that’s a great – a great value to teach. Jonathan, one of the most important things we need to pass on to our boys is our faith. I mean that’s like job 1. And describe how you’ve done this with your sons.
Jonathan: A long time ago, a very wise woman gave me instruction on how to speak to my boys. My boys were little at the time, and Reed was – had a thermonuclear meltdown in a candy store…
Jonathan: …total temper tantrum.
Jim: Never happened to me.
Jonathan: Never happened to anybody else, only me, I’m sure.
Jonathan: Everybody’s watchin’ us and this woman who owned the candy store, she corrected me because I said to my son, “You’re embarrassing. Get up. Look; everybody’s watching you. You’re embarrassing yourself.” Translated, “You’re really embarrassing me.”
Jonathan: “You’re in trouble; get up; we’re goin’ home. You’re gonna be in timeout.” And she said, “Stop right now.”
Jonathan: And she turned me around and she said, “Put him right back down where you got him.” So down he went again, back into the temper tantrum and she flipped the script. She went back down. She got down onto his level and said, “Reed, will you repeat after me?” And in a series of repeats, he went from layin’ on the floor, throwin’ a temper tantrum to sitting up, standing up, to marching around her candy store, pumping his fists in the air saying, “I’m strong; I am brave and I’m of great courage.”
Jonathan: And I looked at her and I said, “How did you do that? What are you, the child whisperer?” And she got her finger in my face and said, “No, you have to speak it so, Jonathan. You gave him no other options. You told him he was embarrassing, in trouble, going home to be in timeout. What else did you say to him?” I said, “I didn’t say anything.” She goes, “Every day you need to tell him to be strong, to be brave and to be of great courage.”
Well, that plays over in the context of passing on our faith before our sons, as well. They need to hear me speak of my faith. They need to see me living it out authentically. They need to know that the man that Christ has created, who is in right relationship with his mother, who loves his sons, as a father first and also wants to be friends with them. Who is honoring God and honoring others, this is the ethos of who he is. It’s a part of who he is. It’s not a Sunday weekend experience. I’ve got to speak it so and live it so.
Ask my sons, if you were to ask them today, “Who are you,” they would look at you in the eye and say, “Hi, my name is Reed Catherman.” “My name is Cole Catherman.” They’d shake your hand real well and then they’d say, “I’m strong, brave and of great courage.” And they’re men, I call them “men in the making,” of great faith, because they’ve personalized the instruction they saw, because I was not hypocritical in living it out.
Jim: Wow, that is good parenting advice right there. Jonathan Catherman, author of the book, Manual to Manhood: How to Cook the Perfect Steak – I gotta read that section, by the way –