Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book review: Raising A Modern-Day Knight

A few out there may be aware, but a few weeks ago we (as in my wife and I) started to have some behavior problems with our son.  Nothing nearly as bad or dramatic as what some people have to deal with.  But, still troubling to us.

In an effort to address his behavior and actions and try to get him back on a good path, I did some searching for some materials that I could use to improve my own parenting skills and pick up some ideas on how to deal with the situation.  One thing I was hoping to find was something that was, if not Biblically based, somewhat connected to our faith.  One of the books I picked up was Raising A Modern-Day Knight: A Father's Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood by Robert Lewis.  I suppose the premise is figuring out a way to move a son from childhood to manhood as expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:11 -
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

The book starts out with a couple chapters on some of the challenges that sons face in our world.  Especially in terms  of fathers who are not there for them whether through the challenges of a family that has split up for some reason or just because the father is focused on other activities (e.g. a workaholic) or has his own problems (e.g. alcoholism).

In response to this, Lewis proposes that we could tap a model from the past - the Knight - as a way to get our sons (and perhaps ourselves as fathers) back on track.  As he explains it, a knight had a code of conduct that could be summarized (as was done by Tennyson) as:
Live pure;

Speak true;

Right wrong;

Follow the King.

Hopefully readers can see how that can pretty easily be grafted onto and supported by principles and concepts in the Bible and in what Jesus taught us.

Lewis goes on to lay some groundwork for what it means to be a Knight.  This includes having a Vision for Manhood, a Code of Conduct, and a Transcendent Cause.  In all of the chapters explaining this, I think Lewis does a good job of connecting the ideas and concepts to points in the Bible.

The second half of the book starts to get into how to translate this into action.  The "how to" focuses on ceremonies as a boy moves through different stages.  Using the knight paradigm, Lewis has noted that knights became knights first by becoming a page, then a squire, and finally a knight.  During each of these stages, the knight-to-be focused on learning different things and upon achieving success, was promoted to the next level.

Overall, I liked the book.  I thought it presented some good concepts and a nice framework for a path to manhood.  One thing I really liked about it were the numerous connections to the Bible and the path Jesus has set before us.  It does get weak in the second half with the how-to portion.  Lewis does a good job of describing the framework, but I would have preferred some more practical application information.  Maybe that is in the six-part DVD series?

Bottom line on the book, I'd recommend it.

Now, translating all that into helping my son has been another story.  The first challenge is the fact that he is not into knights.  So I've been struggling to find an alternate model, preferably one that my son helps select as I think he will be more invested in it that way.  I know he really likes Walker, Texas Ranger, so I've thought about maybe using Texas Rangers as a model for manhood.  He is also into all things military, so perhaps some elite special forces model?  Another interest of his is hunting and outdoors type activities, so I've been trying to think of some group along the lines of Danial Boone or possibly some of the survivor guys with shows on TV.  Interestingly, other than Chuck Norris, another person who cropped up in my son's opinion as a "man" was Arnold Schwarzenegger.  I'm not sure what to do with that.  It has been enlightening (and perhaps a bit discouraging realizing how far he needs to go) to watch him struggle with some of the questions I've posed to him on what it means to be a man.  I think one good thing though is that he himself has also realized that maybe he didn't know everything like he thought he did.

I have worked with him on examining and trying to identify what a definition of manhood would be (this is part of the vision of manhood).  We've worked through some Bible passages on the Biblical ideals of manhood which start to lay the groundwork for a code of conduct, including:
Loyalty (Hosea 6:6)

Servant-Leadership (Matthew 20:26-27)

Kindness (Proverbs 19:22)

Humility (Philippians 2:3)

Purity (1 Timothy 4:12)

Honesty (Ephesians 4:25)

Self-discipline (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Excellence (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Integrity (Proverbs 10:9)

Perseverance (Galatians 6:9)

At this point we are still early in the process and trying to do some basic defining.  I did pick up a few tips from the book on some little things to do to help my son understand that I love him and will help him with this journey.  I think I've already seen some change in him.

If you are struggling with some behavior issues in a son (or even if not and would just like to get a little better idea of some Biblically based manhood concepts), I recommend Raising A Modern-Day Knight.

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