Raising Young Knights: An Interview with Knights in Training Author Heather Haupt
*Note: I thought that this book was so compelling that I purchased it myself and did not receive a free copy from the author or publisher in exchange for my review. I have, however, included an affiliate link to purchase the book I mention in this post.
Dads, tell me if this sounds familiar.
You are raising kids, especially boys, and are concerned by the messages and images that permeate popular culture about boys, men, and fathers. You might even be seeking out a system of values, a code of thinking and behaving, something steeped in lore and history that challenges you and your boys to live as men of noble hearts and heroic actions. Are you worried that some of what our society has come to accept, seems to be at odds with what you know about what is best for boys and young men’s healthy development?
Since becoming a father, these kinds of thoughts have been tumbling over themselves in my mind about parenting in general, and specifically about being an #epic dad for my son. As a part of my quest to learn as much as possible about different positive approaches to parenting, I am excited to have recently come across a new book, by author Heather Haupt, which challenged me to consider the past for examples to help me raise my son and daughter in the present.
The book Knights in Training: Ten Principles for Raising Honourable, Courageous, and Compassionate Boys is a call to action for parents to utilize ten principles from the medieval Knights’ Code of Chivalry as a systematic framework for raising their sons. In her book, Heather Haupt begins with an explanation of how by connecting our kids with the heroes, stories, and values exemplifying the best of the medieval knightly heritage we can ground abstract values such as honor, courage, loyalty, and compassion in a concrete and visceral example that our boys can intuitively grasp and grow into.
Heather brings to light some concepts and questions that I have been asking myself while raising my son such as:
- How to reconcile, harness, and direct my boy’s innate need to “do battle”;
- How to advocate for and understand my boy’s need to move to learn;
- How to champion and direct my boy’s drive to protect and defend his loved ones;
- How to articulate a code of values that my boy can aspire to uphold and live by in a way that he can understand now and as he matures;
- How to challenge myself to become and act as a “master father” helping my “apprenticing” young man as he learns about family, faith, courage, honour, service, and compassion.
I had the distinct pleasure recently to connect with and interview Heather about her book Knights in Training. She graciously took time to answer the following questions to help me, and other #epic dads, understand the ideas and themes which serve as through lines in her book Knights in Training.
My Interview with Heather Haupt
Q1. If you could sum up the “why” behind the writing of Knights in Training, what would that be?
There are three big ideas behind the writing of my book:
- I wanted to cast a vision for both parents and sons to embrace the season of childhood and recognize the purpose in it. Living this journey out in my home over the last 6 years, has given my family a sense of purpose amidst the chaos of daily life and temporary failures of the moment. It allows us to step back and see the big picture about our roles as parents and provides us with a framework for raising our boys to become honorable, courageous, and compassionate young men.
- I also wanted to highlight how boys are different and celebrate this. Let’s work with this nature and how boys are wired as opposed to against it to avoid squashing their innate nobility and natural inclinations for adventures and seeking the heroic. As parents, it’s our job to help them civilize who they are as young men so that they can be the very best examples of themselves they can be.
- Embrace and celebrate the seasons of manhood and help parents understand that we have a critical role in shaping our boys’ experiences and help them see and seize appropriate opportunities to act heroically, seek adventure, triumph and learn from battles, and develop into noble young men.
Q2. In your book, you talk about many of the challenges that face parents today as they navigate raising young men of honorable, courageous, and compassionate character. If you had to identify the two biggest challenges to this mission, what might they be?
On the one hand, we have unfair expectations that we place on our boys. We are often fighting against how they are wired. Another challenge we need to overcome as parents is that we crave easy. I think this is why we place these unfair expectations on our boys to sit still, don’t move, don’t battle, don’t be loud.
In our pursuit of the easy we have allowed our boys to become lazy. We have excused some of their bad behavior, such as when they make derogatory comments about women and fall into a habit of using foul language. During these times, we have excused them and have said “boys will be boys” when really we need to challenge them to do and be better young men.
As parents, we need to be mindful that this is a balancing act. Boys thrive when we have high expectations and set them a realistic challenge to meet. We just need to make sure our expectations are realistic and in line with how boys are wired.
We also crave safe. One of the by products of living in our culture that is almost pathologically concerned with safety is that we squash the appropriate risk-taking nature in boys. This dampens their ability to step outside of their comfort zone to grow. We shut boys down over and over in this regard and then we wonder why our young men won’t step into a place of leadership or a place of heroism.
Buy Knights In Training Here!
Q3. Share your thoughts about a dad’s role in the process of raising modern day knights. What’s your advice or challenge for the dads who read your book?
Your role as a dad is essential. Men and women approach parenting very differently. Our boys need men to provide direction and model what it means to care for other people, what does it mean to live a life of purpose, and what does it mean to use your strength for good?
Our boys need to see their fathers stepping up and “adulting” being faithful in the mundane and stepping up and acting heroically when the opportunities, even ordinary ones, present themselves. From this they learn that there is greater purpose to living life.
We live in a society that has feminized many things. Because of that it’s easy to tell ourselves that we don’t know how men think and act. Fathers can play a key role in helping mothers, grandmothers, and other women in their lives to understand a man’s perspective on life, raising kids, the world.
Q4. In your book you talk about harnessing a boy’s innate attraction to “battle”. How do you respond to critics of this idea who might say we shouldn’t be encouraging this element of a boy’s life?
I encourage people to step back and ask the question, why are boys doing this? When I see my boys engaging in mock battles they are working out in their minds if they have what it takes to step in and be the hero. They’re exploring the question and working out for themselves, “do I have what it takes to defend someone I love, an ideal, someone who needs my help?” They are also testing their physical and moral strength and solidifying their moral imagination while solidifying character. Boys are action oriented and want to do something about the injustices they see or have imagined through story. They are working out what they would do if faced with similar situations in these mock battles.
If we are sharing good stories with our kids then they will be living out and trying to emulate good heroes in these mock battles. This is one of the reasons it’s important we consider what kinds of stories and media we are consuming as a family.
Q5. Why should dads seeking to have an epic influence in their son’s life consider implementing the Code and the Knights in Training approach in their families?
It gives vision and a sense of purpose for both boys and fathers. It can also give direction about what to work on in terms of development for our boys. My husband and I constantly refer to the Code when we need to challenge our boys and correct them. It provides us all with a vision for what we should be working towards and expecting from them as noble young men.
That’s really the reason this Knight’s Code existed in the first place historically. It provided a center from which the grizzled old Knights of Old could pass on what was expected of them to the next generation of young men.
Q6. What advice might you have for dads who might say the following:
“But Heather, I don’t feel like a Knight myself … can you give me some advice about how to start this journey then with my sons?”
Part of it is taking time to sit and think about the Knights’ Code of Chivalry and think about what does this mean for me? One of the biggest things we can offer to our children is to be honest with them, own when we have failed because they see it and they know. We need to be able to be honest with our kids and tell them, dad or mom blew it, this isn’t the way that we should be living and then change direction. Our kids need to see us realign and change our course and our direction in life.
That’s what I love about the Knight’s Code of Chivalry. It paints a picture of an ideal. It’s not as though all of the Knights lived up to this ideal but these ideals were always there, serving as a guide for living as a true and virtuous noble man. It gave them a vision for what they could and should be.
The book, Raising Young Knights has certainly left me with a wide array of thoughts to consider and digest for myself and my son. I look forward to working with the Knight’s Code and other ideas Heather helped shine a light on as I guide my young squire through his apprenticeship as a noble young soul developing into a brave, courageous, and compassionate young man. Guiding him is a daunting challenge but one I willingly step into, everyday.
Readers wanting to learn more about Heather, her book, and her other resources and writing about parenting can connect with her by visiting her blog at http://www.heatherhaupt.com.