5 Stages of a Boy’s Development (Part 2) – RTC 36
Laurie Christine
Laurie Christine
December 8, 2021
boy's development

In our last episode of Redeeming the Chaos, we talked about the first two stages of a boy’s development: The Explorer and The Lover.


Today we are going to continue our discussion of the book Wild Things by Stephen James and David Thomas. (Affiliate link to Amazon). We will discuss the final 3 stages of a boy’s development into manhood: The Individual, The Wanderer and The Warrior.

Be sure to listen to next week’s episode where I have the privilege of interviewing the author of Wild Things, David Thomas!

What are the 5 Stages of a Boy’s Development?

Just to review from last week, the 5 stages of a boy’s development are:

1). The Explorer (ages 2-4)

2). The Lover (ages 5-8)

3). The Individual (ages 9-12)

4). The Wanderer (ages 13-17)

5). The Warrior (ages 18-22)

As we talk about each stage, we are going to discuss “who boys are” and “what they need.”


THE INDIVIDUAL (ages 9-12)

stages of a boy's development

At this stage of a boy’s development, he is beginning the transition from boyhood to adolescence. Physical and emotional changes begin to take place in his body. He starts to buck the system just a bit, but he still needs physical affection, and emotional and spiritual guidance.


1). The Individual is Searching 

  • He is trying to figure out what it means to be a man.
  • He is searching for masculinity.
  • He’s asking the question: “What does it mean to be a man?”
  • Emotional isolation is common during this stage of a boy’s development. 
  • Feelings like sadness, hurt, fear and loneliness are all expressed as anger.
  • He often wants more alone time.
  • He starts to withdraw from mom.
  • He is trying to figure out where he fits in.

2). The Individual is Evolving

  • His emotions are changing.
  • Bodily changes begin during this stage of a boy’s development, but not too much that is visible outwardly at this point
    • —Changes are more hormonal, emotional, and psychological.
    • —Surges of testosterone are 10-20x greater than girls at this age.
    • —It’s important to educate our boys about upcoming body changes.

3). The Individual is Experimenting

  • He wants to stand out from peers and begins to separate out from parents
  • May experiment with smoking, alcohol, drugs, lying, masturbation, pornography, sexual identity, profane langauge, breaking the rules.
  • It’s important for boys to receive firm consequences with this type of experimentation – as parents we need to communicate that this behavior will not be tolerated and will only lead to negative results in life.
  • Boys are much more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol than girls are before the age of 12.

4). The Individual is Criticizing

  • He is often critical of himself, parents, siblings and peers.
  • Often criticized BY peers.


1). The Individual Needs Supervision

  • Parents must increase observation of grades, hobbies, friends, and moods.
    • —Pay attention for a drop in grades, loss of interest in hobbies, etc.
    • —Don’t hesitate to offer help if you see any warning signs of trouble.
  • Boys at this stage often can’t communicate what’s wrong, or are unwilling to. 
  • He needs to know the rules and learn to live within healthy boundaries.
  • You definitely should be snooping and spying: 
    • —Look through his backpack and bedroom.
    • —Monitor emails, texts, social media, web access (Or delay access to these as long as possible!)
    • —Check in with parents of his friends to make sure there is supervision at friends’ houses.
    • —Let him know the rules ahead of time and warn him that you will be checking up on him. 
    • —The book recommends that you do NOT read his journal, if he has one. 

2). The Individual Needs Information

  • He wants accurate information, not sugar-coated.
  • Be sincere with encouragement. Don’t just try to boost his self-esteem.
  • He needs to be educated about physical and emotional changes he will be facing.
  • He needs to be educated about his sexuality. 
    • —This should be an ongoing, open discussion – not just one conversation about the birds and the bees.
    • —It’s important to stay ahead of the game.

3). The Individual Needs Involvement 

  • Parents are still the primary authority in a boy’s life at this age, even if he acts like he doesn’t need you. 
  • He needs strong parental involvement and supervision.
  • Family nights are important.
  • Spend more intentional time with Dad.
  • Make sure you have a connection and clear communication with his friends’ parents.
    • —Most boys have their first exposure to pornography at this stage and it often happens at a friend’s house. 

4). The Individual Needs Outlets

  • He needs outlets for testing his identity.
  • Get him involved in sports, extra-curricular activities, boy scouts, etc.
  • He needs to be outside in wide open spaces.
  • He needs to be involved in family activities.
    • —Paintball, flag football, frisbee, white-water rafting, ropes courses, rock climbing
  • Get him outside.
    • —The outdoors has a certain spiritual quality
    • —Humility comes from learning the laws of nature
    • —Sailing, hunting, fishing, canoeing, 
    • —“Spend time contemplating the bigness and awe-inspiring power of creation.” 
    • —Nature helps our boys to understand the greatness of God.
  • Get involved in outreach or service 
    • —This helps boys develop a sense of self
    • —Helps them to think outside themselves
    • —Give them new responsibilities and chores at this age


1). Be intentional with summers.

—Send him to camps or take him camping

—Give them opportunities to take risks: physically, emotionally, and spiritually

2). Keep the dialogue going.

—Have open discussions about sex, drugs, pornography and alcohol.

3). Engage with him. 

—Plan a father-son retreat day.

—Plan regular mom-son dates.

4). Don’t follow the crowd.

—You don’t have to give your son a cell phone just because “everyone else has one.”  

5). Keep him active.

—Don’t’ let him become obsessed with media.

—Don’t spend more time watching sports than playing sports.

—Don’t spend more time on social media than with real life friends.

—Don’t spend more time on video games than playing outside.


boy's development

You will need three things to get you through this stage: Prayer, Chocolate, and the Ability to laugh.

Your son becomes the worst version of himself during these years.

“It’s the invasion of the body snatchers stage – in which the tender, funny, resilient, happy-go-lucky little guy you once knew is stolen in the night and replaced with an angry, argumentative, sullen, contemptuous, grumpy clone.” (Wild Things)


The Wanderer is characterized by willful independence and self-centeredness. He goes back and forth between wanting parents to be involved versus wanting parents to leave him alone. During this stage of a boy’s development, he is asking two questions:

1). Am I loved?  2). Can I get my own way?

1). The Wanderer is Experiencing Physiological Chaos

“ Chemical reactions in his body are like a fireworks stand on fire.” 

  • He experiences surges of testosterone and other chemicals and hormones
  • He experiences acne, mood swings, hair growth, and voice changes.
  • He is fidgety and impulsive (caused by the need for release of testosterone in his brain).
  • Boys start to masturbate a lot during this stage of a boy’s development. It’s important for fathers to talk with their sons about this.
  • Masturbation often goes along with pornography.
    • —Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and educate yourself. 
    • —It’s our responsibility as parents to monitor and control what comes into our households.
  • Parents need to have many ongoing discussions about sex during this stage of life. 
    • —If it feels awkward to you, get some educational books on how to teach your kids about sex. 
    • —Have courage to talk to your kids.
    • —Get counseling to deal with your own issues in this area, if needed. 


Here are a few resources that may be helpful when talking to your son about changes in his body and his god-given sexuality.

(Disclaimer… I have not read the entirety of all these books, nor do I claim to support every view point addressed in these books. Please use your own discretion in deciding what is best for your family).

  • The Boy’s Body Book (affiliate link) – mainly focuses on physical and emotional changes and social pressures. (not necessarily from a Christian viewpoint, but not anti-biblical either).
  • God’s Design for Sex (affiliate link) – a 5 book series to read with your boys at different stages of development

2). The Wanderer is Arrogant

  • His attitude is a mixture of arrogance, bravado, and cluelessness. 
  • Boys border on narcissism during this stage
  • “They appear confident, cocky and full of themselves, but deep down they are often confused, fearful and insecure.”  (Wild Things)
  • He appears to be a walking contradiction. He wants parents to be close, yet he pushes them away as soon as they get close.

3). The Wanderer is Defined by Individuation

  • He wants to form his own identity apart from his parents.
  • He needs autonomy, responsibility and opportunities to figure out who he is.
  • He is working to become his own man.
  • He is trying to piece together his own masculinity.
  • He is trying to find his own identity.
  • Sometimes he will “try on” different identities by conforming to peer groups.
  • Peers are now the primary influence is a boy’s life at this stage while parents begin to take on a supporting role. 
  • Help your kids choose friends wisely when they are young! Get involved with youth group and scout troops, where they can build healthy, godly relationships. 
  • “The wanderer’s separation from his parents is inevitable and the parents’ response is crucial.”  (Wild Things)
  • “If he has not had consistent discipline before entering this stage, it’s really difficult for his parents to support that structure now.” (Wild Things)
  • Household rules and expectations must be clear: 

Suggested Rules for the Wanderer: 

  • He should have significant responsibilities and chores.
  • He must call to tell parents where is his and where he is going.
  • He must speak respectfully to parents and others.
  • He must have a curfew that is enforced.

4). The Wanderer is Argumentative

  • Arguing is a way of separating out from parents.
  • Boys believe that differing ideas will give them a distinct personality.
  • Sometimes they will argue just for the sake of arguing.
  • Be aware: arguing is often a natural part of a boy’s development.
  • Coach your son in the art of negotiation and delivery – teach your boys how to communicate without the attitude.


1). The Wanderer Needs Other voices

  • It’s crucial to have other adult input besides parents.
    • —Think youth leaders, coaches, scout masters, teachers, counselors, grandfathers, uncles, etc.
    • —Youth group attendance should NOT be optional

2). The Wanderer Needs Outlets

  • Physical activity is imperative, but not necessarily competitive activity.
  • Sports can be a good outlet for release of energy, but should not be the only outlet. 
  • “The competitive nature of sports can actually make things worse, because testosterone levels are elevated during intense competition. If competitive sports are a boy’s only outlet for the release of pent-up energy, he’s actually just pouring gasoline on the fire.”  (Wild Things)
  • Ideas for other oulets:  woodworking, playing in a rock band, kayaking, weight lifting, rock climbing, biking, martial arts, etc.

3). The Wanderer Needs Understanding

  • He simultaneously wants to wander away and come home.
  • Adults need to act like adults.
    • —Don’t take things personally.
    • —Laugh off some of his intensity  (but don’t laugh AT him). 
    • —If you mess up, be the first to ask for forgiveness. 
  • He needs love, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, patience, compassion and grace.
  • He needs us to pray for him.
  • Try to be intentional about delighting in your son.
  • Show interest in who they are becoming – get to know their interests.
  • Our boys need us to understand how confusing and complicated life is for them. 
  • They need us to respect them.
    • —Engage in his world
    • —Respect his interests
    • —Watch stupid movies with him
    • —Validate his opinions
    • —Empower him to come up with his own solutions to problems
    • —Don’t always give advice
    • —Have faith that he is able to work his way out of tough situations

4). The Wanderer Needs Boundaries

  • Boys at this stage of a boy’s development crave structure and despise it all at the same time.
  • They need boundaries, even if they push against them.
  • Boys need a steady, consistent, non-emotional response from parents.
  • Keep restating the boundary whenever he pushes against it.


1). Enter his world.

  • Involve yourself in his outlets and interests, but don’t cling, nag or pester him for affection or attention.

2). Commiserate with him.

  • Let him know you understand the mess he’s in.
  • Show that you know how difficult and painful teenage years can be.
  • Show compassion and understanding.

3). Don’t panic.

  • Don’t freak out if he starts to question his faith during this stage – struggling through tough questions can actually strengthen his faith.

4). Affirm him. 

  • Look for and create opportunities to tell him what you love and respect about him.

5). Feed him.

  • Connect over food! 
  • Take him out to eat, just to hang out, not to lecture.

6). Make him get a job (after school, weekends, summer).

7). Go on regular dates with him.

  • Do something fun together!

8). Talk to him about dating and romantic relationships.

  • Now is the time for increased diligence and wisdom.
  • “Almost half of all boys will lose their virginity by the time they’re 18.”  (Wild Things)
  • Teach them a biblical view of sex and marriage: How does God want them to treat women and what is God’s purpose for sex and marriage.

THE WARRIOR (ages 18-22)

boy's development
  • It’s time to send him out into the world. 
  • “If we’ve done our job, he’s ready to be sent out.”  (Wild Things)
  • We can’t go to battle for them — they need to fight on their own.
  • We call them warriors because we are sending our boys into the battlefield of adulthood. 
  • Warriors are full of promise, purpose, innocence and insight. 


1). The Warrior is Finishing

  • Adolescence ends around age 23-24 for boys (which is much later than girls).
  • Physical development is mostly complete.
  • The biological tsunami is winding down.
  • He is becoming more reasonable, analytical and focused on his goals.
  • He wants to become a man. He is focusing on manhood.
  • He still has room for emotional, psychological and spiritual growth.

2). The Warrior is Reflective

  • He now realizes the world is not black and white.
  • He has the ability to think abstractly.
  • He thinks more about family, politics, culture, faith and romance.
  • He asks deep questions about identity and core values.
  • He craves masculinity.
  • He reflects on his purpose in life.

3). The Warrior is Searching 

  • He is searching for the next steps in life.
  • He feels an urgency about being a man.
  • He’s ambitious.
  • H is searching for context to express his passion and pursue his interests.
  • He’s searching for a mentor, leader or guide who is NOT his father.
  • He’s asking questions:
    • —What does it mean for me to be a man? 
    • —What do I want to do with my life? 
    • —What is life all about? 
    • —Do I have what it takes? 
  • There’s a lot at stake during this stage of development: 
    • —If he can’t succeed as a warrior (if his questions aren’t answered), he will stumble and suffer consequences for many years. He will go into adulthood feeling lost, unfulfilled or bored. He will feel incompetent and disconnected.

4). The Warrior is Romantic

  • He is beginning his search for a wife.
  • He is becoming involved in romantic relationships.
  • Some young men even fall in love and get married during this stage of a boy’s development.
  • He decides whether women are to be loved or consumed.
  • He learns the importance of love and self-sacrifice.

5). The Warrior is Ambivalent

  • He has contrasting emotions: joy and sadness, fear and excitement, uncertainty and confidence.
  • He feels grief about leaving home, yet excitement for the future.
  • His strength and bravado are contrasted with loneliness and longing.


1). The Warrior Needs A training ground

  • Given more responsibilities and experiences, in an environment that is still safe for him to fail.

2). The Warrior Needs Freedom

  • He needs freedom to leave.
  • He needs our confidence that he is ready to go out into the world.
  • He needs to be celebrated.
  • Parents should reduce physical, emotional and financial support in order to prepare him to enter adulthood.
  • Many parents try to “cram” all the things they think they forgot to teach their sons into these last few years before adulthood. “Unfortunately, for most boys, if they don’t have it by now, it’s too late for their parents to give it to them.”  (Wild Things)
  • As parents, we need to be careful not to hover over our kids their entire lives. We need to allow our kids to fail when they are younger. “If parents haven’t let their son fail by the time he’s a Warrior, they’re going to have to let him fail now.” (Wild Things)
  • At this stage of a boy’s development, he should be washing his own clothes, cooking his own meals, scheduling doctor’s appointments, going grocery shopping and managing his finances. 

3). The Warrior Needs Blessing

4). The Warrior Needs Patience

  • Don’t rush the process of growing up – be patient through the last leg of the journey.
  • Understand that he is grieving losses as he transitions into manhood.
  • Give him space to ask questions.
  • Listen to him! Less advice and more empowerment is key at this stage of a boy’s development.
  • There are still boundaries during this time – if he’s living at home and not going to school, he needs to pay rent and get a full time job. 

5). The Warrior Needs Transitional Parents

  • He needs mentors who serve as transitional parents.
  • Parents, don’t be jealous when your boy relies more on the influence of other trusted advisors than he does on you. These mentors play a crucial role in helping your son transition into manhood.


1). Don’t squash his dreams—even if they seem impractical to you.

  • He has more ambition than experience at this stage of life. It is more helpful to blow wind into his sails than to clip his wings.

2). Let him overload —Don’t rescue him when he takes on too much responsibility; let him learn from his own mistakes.

3). Review family rules, but allow him to give feedback and negotiate why those rules may need to change.

4). Welcome his girlfriend with open arms—don’t freak out, don’t judge her.

  • “Your acceptance of her is also acceptance of him. Likewise, don’t be overly enthusiastic. You don’t want to start making wedding plans.”  (Wild Things)

5). Do your homework—find out what movies or books are important to him and discuss them with him.

6). Initiate him into manhood—plan a series of manhood ceremonies and rites of passage.

7). Get him off the sofa—If he’s too lazy to get off the sofa and out of the house, perhaps you have made life too easy and convenient for him. 

8). Keep the door open—be a safe person for him to talk with about controversial topics like sex and drugs. If you are judgmental or over-controlling in this area, he won’t want to come home or talk with you about it. 

And that brings us to the end our our discussion of the 5 stages of a boy’s development, from childhood to manhood.

Be sure to check out the book Wild Things by Stephen James and David Thomas. (affiliate link)



Just a reminder to join us for an upcoming episode of Redeeming the Chaos, where I interview David Thomas and we talk specifically about what boys need from their moms at each stage of development. 

Hey, momma, real quick before you go… I need your help to spread the word about my podcast and blog. I want as many boy moms as possible to benefit from the information in this podcast. Can you think of two friends or family members who would benefit from this post? Will you share a link with them?  It would really help out the show and I would be super grateful. 


The Night the Angels Got Lost

The Night the Angels Got Lost, Laurie Christine

The Night the Angels Got Lost is a captivating, three-part family Christmas devotional for kids ages 6-10. 

The Night the Angels Got Lost retells a familiar story through the first-hand experience of a young shepherdess. Connect with your kids on a deeper level this Christmas as you join young Abigail on the hills outside of Bethlehem. Enjoy a cup of cocoa and snuggle by the fireplace, using this resource to inspire imagination and encourage thoughtful discussion as a family. 

Capture your children’s attention and connect with their hearts as together you celebrate the arrival of the Promised Child.



Part 1Part 2Part 3

1 Comment

  1. Barnabas Samuel

    Great stuff right here… blessed I read through this…even as I continue walking with boys and men in my ministry. Amazing analogy. Very insightful

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A New Devotional for Preteen Boys


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Book One of the Dragon Slayer Bible Stories

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