Get a bunch of teen guys together and what happens? Nonstop competition. The more extreme, the better — right?

Case in point: During a wilderness trip a few years back, boys in my youth group claimed they wanted a God-centred wilderness experience, yet they seemed more intent on proving who was the toughest on the mountain. The guys launched impromptu “he-man” competitions with log throwing, power push-ups and wrestling.

In addition to being an editor, I led teen boys on summer backpacking excursions near Yosemite National Park, as well as father-son canoe trips in Colorado. Wired for risk? Teen boys want to flex their muscles, make their mark and show the world they exist. A sense of danger gets their hearts pumping — like when they experience a big drop on a roller coaster. What’s behind that inner force, compelling them to live on the edge? Boys are neurologically wired for risks.

Often, females weigh the consequences and are less likely to plunge ahead if there is any potential for injury. Most guys, on the other hand, often focus on the thrill of the moment, not the big picture. They’d rather impress their friends and prove their manhood than look weak. What’s more, too many guys take the wrong kinds of risks, and some mistakenly believe in their own invincibility. They’ve survived a dangerous risk and think it proves they won’t get hurt. As a parent, you have to help your son discern between a right risk and a wrong one. Here are some ideas:

Redirect your son’s thirst for a thrill; don’t stifle it

Whether you embark on a 10 day backpacking trip or a father-son canoe adventure, give your son a healthy risk-taking environment. Steer him to an activity or event that provides a confidence-building, Christ-centred experience.

Encourage risks for God

Challenge your son to take an eternal risk. Exactly what am I talking about? The possibilities are endless: Invite a non-Christian friend to youth group. Visit people in a nursing home. Help a friend clean his room. Serve the homeless at a local soup kitchen. Take neighbourhood kids to a football game. Go on a summer missions trip.

Give your attention

Despite their frequent groans and rolling eyes, boys need to feel supported by and connected with their families. They need daily affirmation from you: loving touch, along with the words, “I’m so proud of you.” They also need family fun time. Head to an amusement park or have a games night this weekend, go camping, take that dream vacation. Enjoy recreation with your son. Understand this: The voices of the world seek to alienate boys from their families. Do your best to be a proactive parent, giving him opportunities to explore his adventurous side while also letting him know how much you value him.

© 2005 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Published at

Michael Ross

Michael Ross, a former youth pastor, was a popular youth speaker and editor of Breakaway magazine, a publication for teen guys by Focus on the Family, at the time of publication.

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