Moms Raising Sons to Be Men: You Are Not Alone

Rhonda StoppeBy Rhonda Stoppe13 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Moms Raising Sons to Be Men: Guiding Them Toward Their Purpose and Passion by Rhonda Stoppe


Chapter 1
You Are Not Alone
On Mission with God

Luke was 13 years old and had become quite a good tennis player. One day he was playing in a tennis tournament. As he watched the match preceding his, he became convinced that he would have no problem winning against his next opponent. However, during the match, he became inconsistent and was not doing his best.

Luke got very angry with himself. He threw down his racket and chastised himself for making a mistake. Amid his temper tantrum, he looked up into the audience in time to see his mother, Helen, get up and leave the stands. Luke lost his match that day, and Helen never returned to the event.

Later, Helen met Luke at the car. Driving home, she explained to him why she had walked out: “I will not witness my son showing such disrespect. Your actions today did not display a man who was emulating Christ.”

Luke Smallbone is one of seven children raised by Helen and her husband, David. Helen’s oldest daughter is Rebecca St. James, a well-known Christian singer. Luke and his brother, Joel, also make their living as Christian musicians with their popular band for KING & COUNTRY. Luke says all his siblings have grown up to serve the Lord, and he attributes that to how his parents raised them to surrender their talents to God. “Keep your hands open. Be willing to take a risk,” Helen often told her children.

Luke says, “My mother always made it a point to have the hard conversations with me and my siblings. My parents taught me to think. They were good at answering my questions. By taking the time to walk my thought process through the answers, they helped me learn to weigh out the possible consequences of my actions. My mother always cherished us, with the perfect balance of love and a discipline that said, ‘I am for you. I believe in you. I see who the real Luke is. I know God has something in store for you.’”

When I asked Luke to describe his mother’s influence upon the man he has become, he said, “My mother is strong, compassionate, and caring, all mixed into one. She raised me with incredible care and honesty. I probably owe all that I am and have achieved to my mom because when a man is loved by his mother, he can end up doing great things…I am grateful to have a mother who selflessly loved me.”

In her memoir, Behind the Lights, Helen Smallbone says, “Deep down, I believe every mum is an unsung hero.”¹ Helen’s life and legacy certainly attests to the influence a mom can have upon her children and the culture in which they live. How did Helen raise all seven of her children—five boys and two girls—to love and serve the Lord? What can we learn from her? And to what can we attribute her success?

Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker, says, “The world defines success in terms of what a person possesses, controls, or accomplishes. God defines success in terms of faithful obedience to His will. The world asks, ‘What results have you achieved?’ God asks, ‘Were you faithful to my ways?’ … He asks for only one thing—obedience to His revealed will.”²

Your success as a mother does not depend upon what your son chooses to do with his life. Rather, according to Scripture, success lies in your obedience to God—in what you choose to do with your life.

If you get nothing else out of this book, get his: God has called you to the ministry of motherhood. And with that calling He has provided the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you in your journey. By being committed to know God through His Word, you will grow to love Him more each day, and when you love God properly, you will love your son correctly. The Lord has provided tools for you to do well in your calling. By daily communing with Him through the Bible, prayer, worship, and fellowship with the church, you will be fully equipped for this incredible privilege of bringing up your son, because God will work through you to raise your son for His glory.

To be the mother of a son is not for the faint of heart. I remember when my son Brandon was born. Looking into his little face, the feelings within me were somehow different from four years earlier when I had given birth to my daughter. I felt so inadequate as I weighed the responsibility of molding this baby into a man. Up to this point, raising a girl had not been a difficult challenge. It was clear that she was like me, with all the love for being a girl that she could express. She loved shoes and colorful bows for her hair. She was extremely social and adored her friends. And her daddy? Oh, she loved her daddy. Yes, relating to her had been no problem at all.

Yet now in my arms I was holding a helpless baby boy who would grow into a man. In her book Strong Mothers, Strong Sons, Dr. Meg Meeker explains: “The mother-son dyad is complicated by the opposition of gender. Neither mother nor son can fully understand what it is like to be the other half of the equation.”³ My biggest concern was that I would mess up as a mom, and my failure would lead to his rebellion. Maybe you have had similar concerns.

When you gave birth to your son, did you find yourself imagining what kind of man he might become? When it came to my son, I did not want to raise a momma’s boy, yet I wanted to be his protector. I did not want him to be rough and reckless, but I did want him to be strong. I wanted him to become a wonderful, godly man like his father. After I took the little guy home and began to raise him, I found my parenting overshadowed by a fear of doing it wrong. I gradually developed a sort of reactionary mode—he acted, and I reacted. Rather than following a clear path toward shaping his life, the fear of what I did not want my son to be became my standard. I was merely putting out fires rather than kindling the flames of my son’s character.

My husband and I had always wanted our home to be a place of peace, yet I found it becoming a chaotic environment ruled by my emotions. Because I did not want to disappoint my husband, I did not let him know how much I was struggling. The day my daughter said to me, “I know you can’t wait until we are grown up so you can do whatever you want,” was the day I knew I needed to get some help. It broke my heart that I had given her that notion. I loved being a mother; it was what I wanted to do. Yet in my harried frustration, that was not at all the impression I had given my sweet little girl.

Feeling even more inadequate and alone, I began to read books about parenting, from which I compiled a sort of how-to list. I soon discovered that the list did not have the power to change me. It became a burdensome reminder of the standard I was unable to meet. I lacked fortitude for this new adventure. I knew I needed to become a kind, courageous, and confident mother if I was ever going to raise kind, courageous, confident children. I desired to be a godly mother who raised godly children. But where would I find the direction I so desperately longed for?

I Need Help, Lord!

Reading books had given me some basic ground rules for this new playing field, but I also wanted to learn from the women around me. My mother-in-law, who had raised two wonderful sons, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and was no longer the vibrant help she had been when my daughter was born. The young mothers I knew seemed no more prepared for raising a son than I was. I felt alone and desperate for answers, and I had no idea how to ask God for what I needed. I’ve since learned that one of God’s favorite prayers is that of a simple cry for help flowing from a humble and desperate heart. I was both humbled and desperate as I uttered the plea, “I need help, Lord.”

God graciously answered my prayer by bringing several older, godly women into my life. These women were not scholars or trained in child development. But as mothers of sons, they had traveled down this path ahead of me. They had insights and understanding into what I was experiencing. Their lives had not been perfect or free from trials. They were genuine, precious, and vulnerable as they taught me what God had taught them. When I shared my struggles, I did not feel judged; rather, I felt loved.

Titus 2:4 instructs older women to admonish younger women how to love their husbands and their children, and this group of women wholeheartedly obeyed that command. Of all the friendships I have had, the relationships that developed with these women have by far been the most pivotal in my life. They taught me not only how to parent, but also how to become the mother God wanted me to become. In writing this book, my heart’s desire is to be an older woman God can use to pour courage and confidence into you, just as those women did for me.

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