Saturday, August 05, 2006

Review of a Favorite Book: Preparing Sons

I recently finished reading an EXCELLENT book by Steven Maxwell: Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family. We were blessed to have the Maxwells visit the TEACH homeschooling convention in Connecticut this past June, and I purchased this book at their booth.

Especially written to fathers, this book provides a practical overview of implementing Biblical, principles in training sons. As I read this book, I could identify things in my own life that ideally would have been trained out of me at a young age, and I must say this book not only concerns itself with the training of sons to provide for a single-income family, but training them for life itself!

I strongly recommend this book to every Christian father of sons!

(On a side note, I must say I hold nothing against my parents at all for the way they raised me. God rescued them from some depressing family behavior patterns that they grew up with in unsaved and broken families. By His grace, I was raised according to the light and wisdom given to them. Now I have a charge entrusted to me to raise my children even better. My parents grew up with no personal knowledge of God. As they were raising me and my brother, they were learning more and more about the Lord and His Word, and they taught these things to us. Whenever Ken and I may start families in the future, we are starting from a point with more understanding of the Lord than our parents did, so we can pour this into the next generation, and even more as we learn more about the Lord. Each generation ought to become more godly with the Lord's help!)

Earning Potential
In this book, Mr. Maxwell first discusses typical factors that affect a son's earning potential—vocation, education, and skill level—but introduces the idea that there are more foundational preparations to be made. He provides some alternative factors: view of work, character, eagerness to learn, God's blessing, and God's discipline. Each of these are illustrated with real-life examples, to bring the ideas down to earth.

Next, he discusses things that affect what determines "making ends meet":
  • Living according to needs
    versus wants; you can't live a life of luxury on a small income.
  • Size of family and residence location
    Some states have higher costs of living than others, and that cost is also affected by the number of blessings from the Lord you receive!
  • Character
    Laziness, faintheartedness, procrastination, faithlessness, and impatience will all negatively affect spending habits.
  • Bad appetites
    May be as simple as a hobby that takes too much time or money, or something like alcohol. More on this later.
  • God's hand of discipline
    For example, extra expenses may increase because he may not be giving money to the Lord's work.
  • Spouse
    Not to put undue blame on the wife, but if the wife has shortcomings of desiring to spend too much money, it will hamper their ability to make ends meet.
Parents must influence these things long before they become problems in their son's life.

Parental Influence
Mr. Maxwell delves deeper into the parents', and especially the father's, responsibility with the three pillars of training sons: the father's training, example, and prayer. As fathers know better than I, sons will imitate their fathers (that reminds me of this cute post). That's why it's important to watch your own behavior for anything that could negatively impact your children. I am very encouraged also by the repetitive emphasis Mr. Maxwell places on prayer. It is the most effective tool in bringing up godly sons.

Some necessary foundations are then enumerated, first of all, salvation. There is little to be gained in training a son to provide effectively for his family if he loses his own soul (like Matthew 16:26). Secondly, a personal quiet time with the Lord every day is essential. How else but through study of the Bible and prayer will the son ever know what is God's will for his life? And Jesus said "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:31). Further, Mr. Maxwell points out the greatest hindrance to a quality, daily quiet time is pride. He also stresses the importance of memorizing and meditating on scripture, making it your delight all the day long. Such treasures in the Word can be so discovered!

He then goes on to talk in more detail about the practicalities and impact of proper stewardship, godly character, and a son's view of work.

Next, the convicting chapter "Appetites." The first heading within the chapter is "What could be wrong with that?" A challenging question, indeed. This will make any father find something that he could change about his life so as not to negatively influence his son, as well as a keener sense of how innocent-looking activities can be a detriment to a godly son. This is not done in a legalistic way, however, and it is so refreshing! Always the emphasis is on seeking God's direction so as to be pleasing and glorifying to Him, with the goal that your son will do the same.

Some issues addressed in a non-legalistic and loving way are entertainment and recreation, movies and TV, watching sports and playing organized sports, hunting and fishing, recreational vehicles, eating, and any sin. Many of these "harmless" activities certainly become harmful when too much time or money is invested in them. "There is nothing inherently wrong with these types of outdoor sports—unless they take a dad away from his family. If they do, I think a man would have a hard time justifying such activities Scripturally...However, like anything, seeking the Lord's direction and self-control are necessary" (p.97).

After this list, he presents some postitive examples of appetites: evangelism, seeking a closer walk with the Lord, studying the Bible, serving the needs of others, desire to be a man of God, always pleasing Him.

The next four chapters cover ages 3-6, 7-12, 13-graduation, and post high school, regarding what things would be good to train your sons in and where their attitudes should be in the following areas: spiritual life, serving, work, school, play, computers, character, leadership, gaining useful work experience, higher education. There is so much wisdom in these chapters—not only "know-how" but "do-how," as Mr. Maxwell has sought to implement these same things in his own family, and uses examples from his experience. One thing that amazes me is when their son Joseph was ten, he began learning computer programming! Talk about useful computer time instead of video games...!

All along, he stresses the importance of prayer and seeking God's leading in your sons' lives. You really have to read this book!

The final chapter gives final encouragement to the parents who can't train sons on their own, but only with the help of the Heavenly Father!

It was a wonderful, inspiring read for me, looking forward to someday when God may bless me with sons, but there also are some things I know I want to work on in my life, with God's power, that I may be a more prepared father in the future.

I encourage the parents of every boy to get this book!