It's good to know there are men like yourself in the world. It's unfortunate that not enough men use old fashioned values for raising their sons. And it's made worse when fathers do not support each other.
I have two boys, 13 and 15. Good kids but rowdy as lots of boys are. My primary form of discipline is normally spanking as I have used everything else and find that corporal punishment works the best on all levels if done properly.
I think you do have to be strict and firm with boys but I also think once they are older you can talk to them and explain things. I have taught them that boys not only need discipline but sometimes they actually want it. This helps explain why boys are sometimes getting into trouble for what seems like no reason at all. In truth, I think boys often act out on purpose for the attention. Sometimes this can be solved by simply spending more time with them. But in some cases I think what they want and need is a specific type of attention, and that is discipline.
I've realized that if you communicate you can teach boys to appreciate discipline rather than just forcing it upon them, then they can give you feedback as to how they feel and how you might raise them better. Once they understand that there are good and bad things about punishment, then they start to understand. They have to know that it's ok to want or need it but not ok to try to provoke their father into giving it to them. Meaning, I think men and boys would be much better off if boys could be taught to simply express what they're feeling and admit what they want, rather than getting into trouble on purpose. If a father and son are close enough, the son should be able to express his need for anything, including discipline.
I feel there's little that's more important than strong, loving guidance from a father to his son. In fact, I think you can even be strict with boys if you do it out of love and keep communication open. They want the correction and we want to give it to them. I find that it's not only logical but also very emotional and primal between a man and his son. I know that my sons sometimes want my firm hand, and I'm more than happy to give it to them. I only ask that it be able to happen in a healthy, loving circumstance.
I agree about the need for communication; it helps the boys understand that the punishment is due to breaking rules and not because you have a personal vendetta against them. You are also laying the foundation for when they become parents. They need to know more than that a certain action is wrong. They also need to know why it is wrong and why a particular punishment can be deemed just.
Yes, boys want to know there are limits. There is comfort in knowing that the world is orderly, especially during the years when everything is personally changing. One of the things that you should begin to see is a decrease in the need for punishments as the habits of godly living become set within them. Most of the time, a stern word from me telling the boys what they ought to do is usually enough to get them going in the right direction.
I recently read a book called "Why Do They Act That Way?" by David Walsh. The author is secular and there are sections with which I completely disagree (for example, the sections dealing with sexuality), but he does present some very interesting findings on how the teenage brain develops. I found it interesting enough that I've started gathering notes for another book on dealing with teenagers. I would be interested in your thoughts as well.
The basic premise is that the brain, like the body, develops in spurts and in sections. This causes an imbalance in the way information is handled. For example, research shows that a teenager is unable to accurately read facial expressions. A look of annoyance can easily be read as one of anger. The areas that are the seat of an emotional reaction develop early, but the area that tempers the emotions with reason is developed very late (mid-twenties). Hence, this is the physical reason that teenagers can be emotional powder-kegs. It also explains the impulsiveness of teenage boys to do things without thinking about the consequences -- they literally don't think ahead.