The Telling Ten Years

It is well known that very few of the young men who perpetrate unspeakable brutality and hideous destruction on the streets of America were raised by one mother and one father married to each other.  It is rare for such an outlaw to have grown up with both a mother and a father dedicated to one another and devoted to raising their children with a coherent set of values. It is a formidable task for even an ideally married couple to raise a boy into successful manhood.  The path the boy is on is usually quite clear by the time he reaches sixteen.

William Shakespeare made the same point a lot more eloquently. “I would there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting” (The Winter’s Tale, act III scene 3)  In real life it is a little more complicated but he is making the more than valid point that boys heading for maturity have a predisposition for girls, disrespecting social convention, getting stuff for free and violence.  

If all that masculine energy is modulated and channeled correctly, society benefits from strong, courageous, and ambitious men.  If not, well you already know what that looks like.

I have discovered that if I know how a male spends the ten years of his life between the ages of 13 and 23, I can paint a startlingly accurate picture of what the rest of his life will look like.  And in reverse, when meeting a man, I can equally reliably sense how he spent those ten years of his life so long ago. (Fortunately, God created people with the ability to work hard and direct our own destiny so this isn’t etched in stone.)

What should you be doing with your son from the age of thirteen onwards?  Let’s take a lesson from Jacob in the Bible.  Out of fear for his brother Esau, Jacob fled from Be’er-Sheva and went to his mother’s brother who lived in Haran. (Genesis 28:10)  For the privilege of marrying Lavan’s two daughters, Leah and Rachel, Jacob worked for Lavan, his father-in-law, for 14 years.  After that, Jacob wishes to start building his own asset base and notifies Lavan that if he is to remain, it will be under a different operating agreement.  (Genesis 30:30)  After negotiating his salary, Jacob remains with Lavan for a further 6 years whereupon he and his large family return back to the land of his fathers. 

When he departed from his parents’ home, Jacob was alone and broke.  He even spent his first night on the road sleeping outdoors.  When he returned home 20 years later he was a man of substance with vast possessions, four wives and 11 sons and one daughter.  We see from the Bible text that Jacob spent his first 14 years with Lavan focused on building his family.  Then he spent the next 6 years building his fortune.  

At the beginning of the first 14 years, Lavan asks his nephew what his wages should be. (Genesis 29:15) Because Jacob is focused on building his family, he asks for his wives.

At the start of the next 6 years, Lavan again asks what wages should he pay Jacob.  (Genesis 30:28)  Now, focused on his fortune, Jacob specifies material pay.

Scripture describes the results of those 14 years that were devoted to family—four wives and many children. (Genesis 29:20–30:25)

Scripture also describes the results of those subsequent 6 years that had been devoted to fortune,  “And the man increased exceedingly and had much cattle and maidservants and menservants and camels and asses.” (Genesis 30:43 page 91)

The results of the first 14 years are described by careful naming of everyone in the family including referring to Jacob himself 7 times.

However, in the section detailing the results of the 6 later years, no names are mentioned and even Jacob is referred to as ‘the man’. The emphasis is entirely upon Jacob’s fortune. 

During the first 14 years, Lavan tricked Jacob by cheating him out of the wife he thought he was marrying.  “And it came to pass in the morning and behold it was Leah and he said to Lavan, what is this you’ve done to me?  Didn’t I work for you for Rachel?  Why have you cheated me?”  (Genesis 29:25)

During the next 6 years Lavan tricked Jacob financially.  “And your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times but God did not allow him to hurt me.”  (Genesis 31:7)

We see that Jacob recognized that he needed to  build both a family and his finances.  When your son reaches the age of 13, it is an excellent time to start educating him about family and finances.  Of course the basics of family start with male/female relationships. The basics of finance include helping your son arrive at what skills will he acquire in order to be able to serve God’s other children.

Needless to say, before he gets to 13, you’ve already been teaching him respect for parents, knowing God and faith, taking responsible care of his body, relating to friends, and building his self-discipline. 

Between the ages of 13 and 23, very little on which a young man spends his time should be outside of the five areas of Friendships, Faith, Family, Finance and Fitness.  This means that allowing your son to waste three of four years from 18 to 22 on a college campus “studying” meaningless and pointless courses like “Racial Marginalization in Medieval French Literature” or “Deconstructing Gender Stereotypes in the World’s Great Religions” is to condemn your son to never reaching his potential.  

You have a son finishing high school?  Great.  Help him get a real job.  If after 3 years of working he still wants to attend college, fine.  Let him. With the experience he’s just had he’ll choose college wisely and apply himself diligently. Additionally he will have a few dollars of his own in his bank account. Finally, he’ll know so much more about how the world really works. And that, after all, is the main thing we have to convey to our sons before they reach the age of 23.

That, along with his understanding of male/female relationships prepares him effectively for marriage,  And the boys he eventually brings into the world and educates will be as much of a benefit and a delight to their community as they will be to you, their proud grandparent.  

What’s your best secret weapon for gaining both money and marriage?
Your mouth.

Make sure your teens (and you) know the power of speech.

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9 thoughts on “The Telling Ten Years”

  1. Tief Gibbs Jensen

    This makes me very sad because I didn’t do any of this with my son and now my dad and step-mother are paying for him to go to college part time and work part time. If it were up to me, he would have to work 16 hours a day to make ends meet. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to tell my dad to stop.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Yes, Tief,
      It really is terribly sad when a person lacks economic influence, it’s that old chestnut: the golden rule is that he who has the gold rules.
      Cordially
      RDL

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Gidon–
      What a good question. The answer is–very different. About as different as boys are from girls. Part of the challenge for parents of girls is do you help them acquire the skills to achieve financial independence because these days, sadly, so many women end up divorced and having to support themselves and often their children? Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Now, what if you discover that paradoxically, acquiring those skills diminishes their likelihood of marriage and increases the likelihood of divorce? And indeed, there is strong reason to believe those things to be true on far more than merely a statistical level. Now we have a problem. What do we do? As we can see, doing a short article on girls’ education is far harder. But I have promised a podcast on the topic.
      Warmest wishes-
      RDL

  2. Such a valuable message. Unfortunately our education system (and current parenting challenges) do not teach young men the work skills required for a job out of High School.

    It’s time to promote the value of skilled-trades career tracks and provide high school education programs with that type of focus.

    In the beginning…God worked. So should we.

    Blessings. MK

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      And what is more, dear Mark,
      God put Adam in the garden “to work it” not to relax in the shade while others tended to the garden.
      We cannot hope for governmental change in public education; we have to recognize that all parents are responsible for far more than putting their offspring on the big yellow bus every morning. If you want sons and daughters, do not count on public education. If, on the other hand, you’re satisfied with ‘offspring’ who’ll become socio-economic cogs in a vast Marxist machine and who’ll retain little relationship with you and your values, well then go ahead and depend on public education.
      Cordially (and dismally)
      RDL

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