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About the Boys

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

This fifth installment of “In Praise of Men” is about encouraging boys to become the good, strong men we’ve talked about needing.

I’ve hesitated to write this for two reasons.

First, there’s simply so much happening so fast in the world — so much degradation of freedom, common sense, and economic sanity — that I feel pulled to write about that even though focusing on current events can be such a diversion of energies.

Second, who am I to write about raising boys? I’ve never done it. I’m at risk of sounding like the “expert” in Mark Twain’s hilarious short story “How I Once Edited an Agricultural Paper.” Sample:

Concerning the Pumpkin. — This berry is a favorite with the natives of the interior of New England, who prefer it to the gooseberry for the making of fruit cake, and who likewise give it the preference over the raspberry for feeding cows, as being more filling and fully as satisfying. The pumpkin is the only esculent of the orange family that will thrive in the North …



Then I realized I do know a bit: First, we all deserve to be raised to be the best version of the person we were born to be; second, ahead of us lies a time for freedomista resistance and Outlawry (something I’m experienced in). I also know, as a woman who’s lived a long time, what I most respect and value in men and their roles in civilization.

There are a lot of articles online about raising boys. Excluding those written from a woke perspective, it’s funny how alike they can be.

My personal belief is that boys are best raised in fairly traditional ways — self-reliant, with lots of hands-on-learning, boys-only time, independence, and an emphasis on channeling male energies into the classic manly virtues. Oh, and at least being given a good shot at becoming outdoorsy. Nature, even when it’s too damn hot, cold, dirty, dry, wet, and filled with things that will kill you or at least make you really itch, is good for the soul. And for perspective. And skill building.

But I’d also like to see boys learn more modern things — like that women are fellow human beings, not stereotypes; to respect differences; to recognize and resist propaganda; not to fear or reject feelings, even as it still remains a man’s job to rise above feelings when clear heads and bold acts are called for.

I say all this, however, in the context of honoring who each boy is an an individual. I don’t envy the parents, grandparents, or guardians who have to help any boy find his unique best self — or even find a clear path in that direction. Above all, boys can’t be made “more manly” on demand or by edict (even though the Chinese government seems to think they can).

Too many fathers have used violence, ridicule, shaming, or other types of pressure to compel sons to develop in their own image (an image that the father himself very likely can’t live up to). Too many mothers have coddled sons into weakness, dependency, and guilty resentment. Too many “educators” have sent the message to boys that there’s something inherently wrong with them. Too many parents have been so baffled or upset by having an “atypical” boy — an arty type, an extreme introvert, a bookish or science-minded kid — that they’ve ended up twisting and alienating their own child by trying to make him “normal.”

Good parents: You have my admiration and my sympathies. Even in peaceable times your job is tough.

And now we approach times that are going to require special strengths from all of us — most especially boys and men.


In his newest book, Live Not by Lies, Rod Dreher (a voice for Christian separatism and resistance) writes about heroes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union who stood against Communist tyranny. The lessons of those times and that book are instructive, even for we who don’t share Dreher’s religion.

He writes (among others) about the Benda family of what was then Czechoslovakia. The Bendas, even with the paterfamilias in prison for years, raised a multi-generation family of resisters. Even as small children the Benda sons and daughters served as couriers and learned opsec. They grew into a cohesive bunch, and passed their activism and their mutual respect on to a new generation.

Many things held them together including their faith. But one of those cohering elements was reading, and not just individual reading. Their mother read to them as a group, sometimes several hours a day. And this reading included tales of adventure, derring-do, and overcoming terrible odds. The most influential book, the adult children later agreed (and a story that was read to them repeatedly over the years), was The Lord of the Rings.

Why did it fascinate them so, aside from the fact that it’s a grand tale? “We knew Sauron was real,” one of the grown boys told Dreher. Sauron ruled over their country.

And they knew that even the smallest and most obscure of hobbits could prevail against him, in part by their very smallness and invisibility. (And of course by the nobility and resourcefulness of friends like Aragorn — a good, strong man if ever there was one.) The story didn’t merely fascinate them; it taught them how to conduct themselves in the ominous times they lived in.


If I could name 10 hopes I’d like to convey to 21st-century boys I believe they would be:

1. “Resist evil.” No matter how dark times become, never surrender to tyranny. Even if you’re forced to comply, don’t allow evil to own space in your head. Keep your own thoughts. This requires strength and courage. Start young.

2. “Persist.” Failure isn’t a judgment on your character. Nor is it a sign that “you can’t win.” It’s just a chance to re-evaluate, learn, do better, and become better.

3. “Learn history.” Times change. Specifics change. Human nature and the patterns of civilization, not so much. Know how events unfolded in the past and you’ll be better able to understand and cope with what’s happening around you. That knowledge might enable you to be a leader. Or make money. Or simply keep your wits when others around you are losing theirs. But it will benefit you.

4. “Understand that the world will fall on your shoulders.” No matter how much people natter on about equality (or, these days, “equity”), when push comes to shove, most hard, dirty, dangerous jobs fall to men. That may not be fair. But it’s the way nature equipped us and the way thousands of years of conditioning have reinforced natural selection. You can reject or embrace that responsibility, but don’t waste your time and energies kicking against it and resenting it. (The Babylon Bee knows. H/T C^2)

5. “Question authority.” This classic recommendation from the 1960s doesn’t just mean to challenge people or institutions that are trying to control you. It means thinking for yourself. That’s particularly necessary in an era of groupthink, when everyone around you may be following some leader or uncritically citing some “experts.” Governments, institutions, and authoritarian individuals want you to conform and obey without question. To do this, they’ll use lies, distortions, emotional appeals, name-calling, slogans, and memes to replace real thinking. Learn the classic techniques of propaganda. Learn about mob or crowd psychology. Recognize mass hysteria when it’s swirling all around you.

6. “Read.” Reading will help you understand history, recognize propaganda, and draw inspiration from strong men, both historic and fictional. But it’s also a joy in its own right. Reading sparks your imagination, helps you build skills, strengthens your brain, occupies your alone-time, and it can be just plain fun.

7. “Learn to survive — and enjoy doing it.” Get outdoors and challenge yourself to overcome basic problems of life and death. You’ll learn to be flexible, creative, and self-reliant. You’ll learn do-it-yourself skills. You’ll learn you’re more capable than you might have thought. You’ll learn to think outside the box. You’ll learn that while you may need guides and examples, you don’t need distant “experts” to make your decisions for you.

8. “Don’t panic.” In your life there will be times when your first response to a bad situation might be to think, “I can’t do it” or “Nothing can help now” or “We’re doomed” or something similar. Take a deep breath and get past that thought — and on to problem solving. Maybe the situation really is hopeless, but likely it’s not. The real point is that, by thinking productively, you at least have a chance to solve a problem. By allowing helplessness to overtake you, you have no chance.

9. “Don’t hold grudges.” Life is filled with reasons to get angry, to be hurt, to feel you’ve been treated unjustly. Fine. Get angry. Sulk for a while. Feel outrage. But then get on with life. You can use anger or outrage as a motivator to accomplish things. For instance, you can use unfair treatment to motivate you to fight for greater fairness. But if you sink into grudge-holding, resentment, self-pity, or fantasies of revenge you will simply make your own life more miserable. You won’t enjoy yourself and people won’t like you.

10. “Understand and appreciate the distinctions between men and women.” At the moment, we are encouraged, and sometimes forced to accept the belief that there are no important, inborn differences between men and women, boys and girls. This is demonstrably, biologically, and genetically untrue. Certainly, there’s a lot of variety among individuals, and plenty of room for individual choice. But look around with clear eyes and you will see that there are huge general differences between the sexes. You are, in large part, what your biology has made you. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel ashamed or guilty or confused simply because you look, feel, think or act like a male.

Finally, here’s something I wouldn’t say to boys — not because I don’t believe it, but because to say it directly is not only pointless, but can be ludicrously misleading:

“Grow confident.”

You can’t say that because words alone can’t grant true confidence, and unfortunately much confidence is false. Only years of conscientious love, guidance, and experience can instill genuine, realistic confidence in ourselves and our abilities.

Confidence is more a matter of how a person acts than how much inner certainty he feels. You may be quaking in your boots or feeling like a fraud, but you proceed because you know by experience or hope that you’re up to the job ahead. On the other hand, the world is full of people who feel confident — and are absolutely idiotic. (See the Dunning-Kruger effect.)

Testosterone automatically grants boys and men more confidence than most girls and women will ever have. Sometimes too much, perhaps. But real confidence, gained through real testing of body, mind, or soul makes a huge difference, not only to individuals, but to the world.

In his marvelous classic BBC mini-series, Civilization, historian Kenneth Clark returns again and again to what made humanity rise out of dark periods and build remarkable, lasting achievements. Again and again, one key part of the answer is confidence. Individuals and societies achieve their best when they believe something is both worthwhile and achievable.

Faith might be another word here — faith in an ideal and faith in ones own ability to achieve or contribute to the ideal. Faith — confidence — is what built timeless cathedrals when just a few decades earlier there was nothing in the world like them. It’s what enabled the Founders of 1776 not only to break away from England, but to do so with ringing declarations of individual rights, the like of which had never before been used to form a country.

Sure, new technology, new ideas, and other elements like prosperity and inspirational leadership all contribute to these marvelous achievements. But when you look at the broader picture, every one of those things also relies on confidence — confidence in ones abilities, confidence in the goal, confidence that prosperity won’t be stolen away, confidence that society will be or become stable and supportive, confidence that people of the future will benefit from the labor and sacrifices of the present.

Confidence is big. But when it comes to boys, only you brave, bold, capable, loving, disciplined, smart, extraordinary parents and other guiding adults can foster it.

Which of course brings up while final, crucial point:

“Lead by Example.”

All the lectures, all the formal lessons, all the punishments, all the blog posts, all the admonitions, all the books, all the earnest hopes in the world can’t accomplish a thing if our sons or our nephews or our pupils see that we don’t live and exemplify what we preach. Let a kid discover that we don’t really mean what we claim to endorse … and well, good luck.

And boys need good men as role models. Single mothers have always been a fact of life, but once upon a time they existed in the context of extended families and communities. Today, boys too often grow up in almost exclusively female environments. Even the best female parenting or teaching in the world is simply not enough. Boys need good men to show them what they can become.

On the other hand, and fortunately, sometimes exemplary leadership can consist of something as simple as a yearly just-guys camping trip or a weekly reading night or a week of testing survival preps as a family. Perhaps Saturday afternoons spent together in a in a workshop or garage will impart guidance more powerful than we imagine. Or simply being there to understand and be a living example to an adolescent who’s woefully confused by the mixed-up world he sees before him.

The world has always required strong, competent men — and now more than ever when society is in such complete denial of their worth.


That last paragraph hints at the topic for the sixth and probably final episode of “In Praise of Men,” which will come along in its own good time, hopefully not too long from now.

Thank you to -s for the reality check and suggested improvements.


  1. Comrade X
    Comrade X February 11, 2021 9:57 am

    11.) Protect the innocent and weak; if not you who?

  2. Val E. Forge
    Val E. Forge February 11, 2021 9:59 am

    Great post Claire. Am in a hurry now but hope to comment on specifics later.

  3. Claire
    Claire February 11, 2021 10:22 am

    Good one, Comrade X. I hope I covered that decently in Part II, but you can never emphasize it enough. Protectiveness should make another appearance in Part VI.

  4. Simon Templar
    Simon Templar February 11, 2021 1:53 pm

    My favorite: “…learn…to recognize and resist propaganda…”

    When I was a child, in my house all advertising was referred to as “propaganda,” not really in a disparaging, or pointed, or dramatic way, but rather just as a matter of course. It was a subtle reminder to view advertising, among other things, with a critical eye. I continue to try my best to view advertising, news, and political speech in particular (as well as many other things) with this same critical eye.

    While we are continually surrounded by propaganda of all types, I would like to point out one example that I find particularly noxious: politician’s use of an American flag lapel pin. This one small device employs three of the propaganda techniques listed in the Mike Russo article that Claire linked to above:

    3. Transfer
    8. Bandwagon
    9. Either / Or Fallacy (aka false dichotomy)

    Three (out of 11) techniques in a 3/4″ square, without anyone saying or writing a word. Now that’s propaganda!

  5. larryarnold
    larryarnold February 11, 2021 3:55 pm

    view advertising, among other things, with a critical eye

    So I was in sixth or seventh grade, reading a comic book, and ran across an advertisement for a “Scale Model Aircraft Carrier That Actually Launches Fighter Jets.” The ad declared it was “ELEVEN WHOLE INCHES LONG.”

    My father eyed the ad and asked, “And how long is eleven whole inches?”

    I held my hands about two feet apart.

    “Don’t guess,” he said. “Go get a ruler.”

    The order form went in the trash, and ever since then I read ads with a ruler handy. God, I was lucky to have my father.

  6. Toirdhealbheach Beucail
    Toirdhealbheach Beucail February 11, 2021 7:21 pm

    Claire, that is a very sound list. And, as it is sound, it will promptly be ignored by most people, who will look to “the experts” to advise them…

  7. Myself
    Myself February 11, 2021 11:30 pm

    @ Larryarnold,

    I take your Old Man wasn’t conned by the “Rich Corinthian Leather” scam

  8. Jolly
    Jolly February 12, 2021 7:08 am

    Raised / raising two sons. #1 son is an Eagle Scout, and rather obsessive about preps. His bug-out bag is 65lbs. *sigh* Yesterday he informed me that he thinks we should use the pile of backpacks in my office should become individual bug-out-bags.
    I can’t argue with that…
    He was a scout, and in a troop, that REALLY accomplished a lot. He almost didn’t make it. He hated camping. After a query, I learned that he was freezing-cold at night. I loaned him my high-end sleeping bag. He loved camping after that ( and, I never got the sleeping bag back )
    Son #2 couldn’t stand scouts. He was in, briefly. I thought he’d LOVE the “camporee” – which was at the Louden NASCAR track, and had rock bands and other stuff. He hated it.
    Oh well.
    But, he loves reading and history. So there’s hope.
    Daughter child, though – was / is a problem. Thought there was no hope until a NH legislator dissed 2-year RN degrees. She is in last semester of community college. This imbecilic legislator’s video was so awful, that it went viral in the nursing community nationwide. She whines how she is being “harassed” by THOUSANDS of emails she’s getting. But, she won’t admit she was wrong. ( AND – she’s a retired school teacher and adjunct professor to a FOUR YEAR RN program, no conflict-of-interest ).
    Daughter said, “If she’s so wrong about this, what else is she wrong about?”
    So – there’s hope.

  9. Joel
    Joel February 12, 2021 12:07 pm

    I can appreciate this installment because my own upbringing was lacking in nearly all the good things you mention. I grew up terrified of women, just to mention one very significant factor, because I was ruled by women and all the women in my life were terrifying. It’s not a recipe for a happy or prosperous life. Basically I was a poorly-educated and quite screwed-up kid.

    Even so I managed to absorb most of the positive aspects of fifties and early sixties orthodoxy: Be honest and honorable even when it’s painful, never abuse those weaker than you, learn to read really well (that was probably a life-saver and was certainly a source of refuge), never give in completely to despair because no condition, good or bad, is permanent. Sooner or later an ability to shoot well may prove very handy.

    I also absorbed what turned out to be some of the more negative parts of that same orthodoxy – I am still embarrassed by how gullible I was toward authority when young. It took some serious personal and institutional betrayals to shake my built-in faith that those in authority must necessarily be smarter and better-informed than I was. Maybe they were, but I had to learn the hard way that that didn’t mean they were on my side in any way. I could also have used more instruction on the utility of delayed gratification.

    Now that I have found a situation more amiable to a person of my temperament and limitations, I have found a great deal more confidence and serenity than I ever had when I tried to be things I wasn’t and to please people whose pleasure was never going to work to my benefit in any way. And in that condition I can see much more clearly what was always painfully perplexing to me before – basically that I grew up a screwed-up kid not because I myself was inferior in any organic way, but because I was surrounded by screwed-up adults.

  10. E. Garrett Perry
    E. Garrett Perry February 12, 2021 11:47 pm

    ” I grew up a screwed-up kid not because I myself was inferior in any organic way, but because I was surrounded by screwed-up adults.”

    BOOM, RIGHT in the feels!

  11. larryarnold
    larryarnold February 13, 2021 11:26 am

    the “Rich Corinthian Leather” scam

    Nor were we ever shod in “just like real leather” Corfam.

  12. Mary in Texas
    Mary in Texas February 13, 2021 1:40 pm

    Our family has always found great entertainment in poking holes in TV and print advertisements.Very few of them hold up to critical examination.

  13. Myself
    Myself February 14, 2021 9:57 am

    On the other hand, and fortunately, sometimes exemplary leadership can consist of something as simple as a yearly just-guys camping trip or a weekly reading night or a week of testing survival preps as a family. Perhaps Saturday afternoons spent together in a in a workshop or garage will impart guidance more powerful than we imagine. Or simply being there to understand and be a living example to an adolescent who’s woefully confused by the mixed-up world he sees before him.

    I’ve personally always been more of a loner, but in spite of that I have spent more than a few enjoyable hours hanging out with a group of guys, and I know that male only gatherings are important, no matter if they’re in a garage with a cooler full of suds, or in overstuffed chairs sipping 50 year old single malt.

    Also the traditional fraternal organizations, The Clampers, The Elks, The Odd Fellows, what have you also served an important function.

    to recognize and resist propaganda

    This could be a series of it’s own, though I suspect (strongly) that many would be upset, as the verb to “resist propaganda” is a bit irregular isn’t it? (I.E. I’m of a clear mind and my opinions are based on fact, you are a bit gullible, those folks are hopelessly brainwashed idiots)

    Question authority

    Always, starting with your ultimate authority, yourself, accept that you may be wrong, also accept that another persons lived experience will likely, at times, lead them to view the same information as you, and reach a different conclusion than you, that doesn’t make them wrong.

    This series has been really good Claire, thank you for your efforts

  14. Val E. Forge
    Val E. Forge February 14, 2021 12:51 pm

    Yes Claire, THANKS!
    Also – Myself – Great points!

  15. larryarnold
    larryarnold February 14, 2021 2:42 pm

    Question authority

    Particularly “authority” based on a sample. My first statistics prof had a sign in his office:
    “The world is real. If the results of your study conflict with what you observe in the world, it’s not the world that’s flawed.”

  16. Those People
    Those People February 15, 2021 3:49 pm

    Thanks for that important list, and for this breath-of-sane-air series.

    I love that Dreher book. The Benda children also mentioned that their parents screened movies to help them prepare for Christian resistance. “Watching High Noon really formed our way of fighting against evil. Everyone is asking the sheriff to leave so that the town will have no problems from the bad guys. But the sheriff comes back nevertheless, because his virtue and honor can’t allow him to leave. He is looking for assistance, but no one wants to do that. But his wife helps him in the end. In some ways, this was our family’s story. This is what our mother and father did.”
    The power of example!
    By the way, the only able bodied man to try to join the sheriff in High Noon was a 14 year old boy. I can imagine the Benda kids thinking,”I would be that kid.”

  17. John Wilder
    John Wilder February 16, 2021 7:37 pm

    Courage. It’s the best thing a father can give a son.

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