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Raising Boys By Design: E Is For Enterprise [BOOK EXCERPT]

The starship Enterprise in Star Trek was aptly named — it boldly went where no human had gone before. It housed heroes, males and females, who explored the universe in search of important work, purpose, and enterprise. In your son’s life, similar heroic enterprise will involve both everyday doing — chores, homework, building things in the basement — and undertakings that are difficult, complicated, risky, and serve the needs of others.

Building on a boy’s natural sense of enterprise is our way as parents and community members to help him succeed later in life as a heroic man. As we help a son find and focus on important jobs and opportunities for exploration, he learns, among other things:

  • new skills
  • how to meet new challenges with enterprising energy and acumen
  • self-motivation and self-direction in pursuit of invention and innovation
  • how to follow leaders and become a leader
  • what his own talent set, design, and “superpowers” are

Indeed, these five elements can become a short checklist for your family and community. If your son is not learning these things through his present activities (or inactivity), it is time for a change!

Through the activities of enterprise — wielding a hammer to build things from wood, mixing chemicals to discover new colors or combinations, drawing pictures or writing, creating computer code, talking with others about what they are feeling — a boy’s assets are revealed and honed. Much of the time, undirected action will be needed — the boy will not need us to tell him how to develop enterprise.

Hopefully, after infancy, boys will tend to want to independently tackle more and more of their tasks. This is natural and important to encourage. If we discourage this, a boy can become overly dependent on others for success, which is generally a recipe for underachievement and, ultimately, failure.

How Is Your Son Spending His Time?

Constant action is crucial to a hero’s developing sense of enterprise and personal motivation.

As you study your son, look at whether he spends a lot of time either doing nothing (little or no honorable and challenging enterprise) or only doing entertainment, which doesn’t develop much of a hero.

Different boys, of course, respond to different challenges, but every boy needs to develop a sense of enterprise by focusing on tasks that are purposeful and needed by the world, himself, and his family. If a boy gets to age sixteen and has never held ever a part-time summer job, you might want to at least have him volunteer with a charitable organization or start working for you or an extended family member.

Through the doing of enterprise, boys learn to care for the world. They become more aware of the needs, expectations, and feelings of others through hands-on experiences of work, mission, relationship, and service. In scriptural terms, they discover that each person has been gifted by God with certain abilities that God uses to build up the body of Christ.

Does Your Son Know He Has a Choice?

As we all together help a boy consider how he can positively impact the world, we can underscore the role God plays in his abilities.

Every boy has a choice to make: he can use his gifts for the benefit of himself alone, or he can fulfill his divine purpose by caring for the world. James 2:14-17 speaks to this idea:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

This passage makes a distinction between empathy and compassion in a boy’s development of independent enterprise. Empathy says, “I understand how you feel to be naked and starving.” Compassion says, “I can see you are naked and starving. I will help you find something to wear and something to eat.” This is another subtle yet deep lesson of true, heroic enterprise.

The doing is not just about acquiring money or things. Heroes do in order to express the compassion their community needs.

The above is excerpted from Raising Boys By Design: What the Bible and Brain Science Reveal About What Your Son Needs To Thrive by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, and Michael Gurian.

Are are struggling in a parent-child relationship with your son (or daughter)? A Place of Hope can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch soon.

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