July 9, 2022
As the mom of five boys, I have a lot of experience when it comes to raising sons. I have had a lot of triumphs and, also, experienced a lot of failures. I have parented with a spouse and been a single parent, parenting my five biological sons and three step sons. It is my desire to share some of my experience and knowledge with other parents who may be beginning this journey of parenting boys; or, parents in the throes of the teenage years who are struggling! I want to offer the “real” advice for raising healthy sons learned from my highs and lows. Let me offer you my best advice and tips on the subtle art of raising sons.
Raising a boy is no easy task but it is vital to do it right. Today’s world is full of negative influences and your son needs a positive positive, secure foundation for his life. This guide will help you be his guide and teacher so that you can build a strong relationship with your son that will last a lifetime.
THE 4 PARENTING STYLES
- UNINVOLVED / NEGLECTFUL
CNBC has a great article defining and explaining the four parenting styles, but I want us to focus on The Authoritative Parenting style. This style is associated with the following characteristics:
- Sets well communicated rules and expectations for children while offering flexibility, too
- Communicates on all topics well and regularly.
- Allows consequences to behaviors–both bad and good behavior.
THE HEALTHIEST PARENTING STYLE
Francyne Zeltser wrote for CNBC defining the Authoritative parent as “…nurturing, supportive and often in tune with their children’s needs. They guide their children through open and honest discussions to teach values and reasoning. Kids who have authoritative parents tend to be self-disciplined and can think for themselves”.
I think that it is vital to assess who you want to be as a parent long before you decide to have children. But, if you already find yourself in a house full of children (let alone, boys), it is not too late to take some inventory of your parenting skills and change course if need be.
You will not understand how crucial it is to parent your children with purpose until it is far too late. You may have to wait 14 plus years before you see the fruits of your labor–and that can be too late if you didn’t parent with the end in mind.
I have told my children and friends many times: I am not parenting my children for today; I am parenting them for the future. When they became adults, I wanted them to look back with gratitude that I didn’t parent them to gain their friendship or their approval, but to teach them life skills.
Which of the four parenting styles would you say your own parents were and how does that influence the parent that you are? Oftentimes, we repeat how our parents parented us.
HOME LIFE 101
Today is the perfect time to look at the big picture and make critical changes. Twelve kids came and went through my home. I have been married and I have been divorced. I did not see the effects of those things on the kids lives until they became adults. And, it is too late for me to make corrections. The best thing that I can do is to help you create the very best foundation possible.
And, to start, you really need to evaluate if the relationships around you are healthy relationships.
If I could go back and look at my love relationships less romantically and more as an investment, I could have saved myself and my future children a lot of heartache. But, I chose butterflies and passion and excitement over foundation. And, I ended up with someone who cheated on me and then with someone who abused me.
That was not a good foundational environment for my children to grow up in.
As a co-parent, you will want someone you can count on and who is a good example for your children. Your children will need good role models in their lives. And, those role models start with you–mom and dad!
Model positive behavior; Be the kind of person you want your son to be. If you’re respectful, honest and hardworking, he’ll learn from your example.
Most life lessons will be learned just by watching how the two of you interact with each other and interact with the world in your everyday lives.
It is crucial for children to be provided a safe place to develop mentally and emotionally.
Another good idea is to take an inventory of your family dynamics.
Are you a family who loves to travel? Or, loves to read? Or, loves sports?
Do you have or intend to have a small or very large family?
Do you plan to have your children close together or far apart?
If you are a family who loves to play sports, but have a son who hates sports and is more into reading and engineering, how do you plan to accommodate and celebrate his interests?
Or, you plan to have a huge family, but you have a son who has anxiety and needs his space; how do you plan to accommodate his needs so that he has time away from family members?
Acknowledging that your children will not inherently take on all of your qualities or interests is an important step in building a healthy relationship with your son and establishing a trusting foundation between parent and child.
Spending quality time with your son early on will establish that he is important to his family and that he has an important place or position within the entire family.
There is a reason why companies send their employees off on “team building” excursions. Undeniably, being apart of something bigger than yourself and working together for a common goal builds trust and loyalty between members.
Families are no different.
It is important for families to spend quality time together, working towards common goals. Consequently, it fosters loyalty, community and stability, but it also builds lifelong and life serving social skills.
And, it doesn’t have to be huge. It can be as small as board games after dinner, stacking wood together, writing the grocery list together.
It can be as big or as small as you want.
Surely, it needs to happen sooner than later. Therefore, creating community and “team” while they are young, establishes a normalcy to it.
Sons are pulling away from their families almost from birth. If they have never been taught that they are apart of something bigger, it will be harder to reach them in their teen years.
SET UP YOUR GAME PLAN
It is important to be a unified front for your sons. If you and your partner live together or are married, it is absolutely essential that you have an agreed upon doctrine for how you want to raise your children.
What will your rules be about electronics and social media? Bedtimes?
How will you react to negative behavior?
Do you even agree on what you consider ‘negative behavior’?
Do you believe in corporal punishment? Positive reinforcement?
If you and your partner lack healthy communication skills, how do you intend to transfer that to your children?
When raising boys, you need to be on the same page!
ARE MOMS AND DADS DIFFERENT IN RAISING BOYS?
We all know the stereotypes: moms are super emotional and “crazy” and dads are too aggressive, strict and “mean”.
But, in all fairness (and reality), not every parent fits into those stereotypes.
My children are from two different fathers; one is very permissive while the other is super authoritarian.
Too, I have seen moms who are super permissive and some who are very sheltering and strict.
And, I have seen the damage that both types can do to sons.
I have been a single mom a lot of my children’s lives. So, I have had to be both a mom and a dad.
I have had to have really super thick skin. I couldn’t be the super nurturing momma that I wanted to be because I had to take on the role of raising “men”, sometimes completely alone.
So, thankfully, I learned to balance my parenting styles.
HOW DO MOMS RAISE BOYS?
Oftentimes (especially when a dad is not present), moms will resort to the two following parenting styles.
A mother who is overbearing, overprotective
A mother who makes it her job to eliminate and clear all obstacles from her childs path.
Don’t be one of the above moms.
Helicopter moms raise boys who are fragile, suffer from high anxiety and depression.
An article from the Gottman Institute states “Results showed that higher overall helicopter parenting scores were associated with stronger symptoms of anxiety and depression.
According to that study, helicopter parenting “was also associated with poorer functioning in emotional functioning, decision making, and academic functioning.”
Another article posited that the Helicopter Parent was cause for their sons being emotionally immature, suffering from an under developed brain, low self esteem and more. This same article from International School Parent offers a very insightful bullet point list of characteristics associated with both the Helicopter and Snowplow mom (they call “snowplow”, the “lawnmower” parent, though).
And, clearly, a snowplow mom takes away all opportunities for their sons to learn problem solving skills, consequences and self-regulation.
WHAT DO BOYS NEED FROM THEIR MOTHERS?
In my experience, these are the things that I have found boys to need from their mothers:
- A mother who is very sober; not taken to emotional highs and lows
- They need us to allow them out of our bubbles
- To refrain from public displays of affection past seventh grade (or, in whichever grade your child is affected)
- To be relatable. Study your child, his interests and his friends
- They need us to be present and involved in their extra-curricular lives.
- They need for us to be reliable and consistent (are you on time to pick them up for practice? Or, are you always late?)
- If you are separated from his father, speak neutrally about his father in his presence (even if your ex is a dirtbag). Talk about his father from his perspective. If not, you will turn your child against you
- They want to be spoken to like men. Stop the baby talk past elementary, for sure!
- They want to pull away from us and gain freedom. Allow them to pull away, naturally.
- They need us to allow them to face consequences for their choices and given education on how to prevent the same issue in the future.
- Set clear rules and boundaries. Boys need structure and discipline. And, they function on an honor system. Hold your line. Boys need to respect you. In other words, don’t be a push over or you will lose the battle.
Something that I personally try to do is adventure with my sons often. I do my best to hold my own with them, displaying strength and courage so that I can be more relatable to them.
HOW DO YOU RAISE A PSYCHOLOGICALLY HEALTHY CHILD?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adolescents suffer from a mental illness. This statistic becomes even more staggering when you realize that most mental illnesses go untreated. Mental illness is often seen as a taboo topic, especially among teenagers.
This needs to change.
As a parent, you play a vital role in your child’s mental health. You can help them by teaching them about the signs of mental illness and how to seek help.
You can also model healthy coping mechanisms, promote positive self-esteem and teach techniques for self-regulation.
Here are some tips on how to raise a psychologically healthy child:
Talk to your child about mental health
Mental health should be seen as a normal part of life, just like physical health. Talk to your child about what mental health is and why it’s important to take care of our mental wellbeing.
Teach your child about the signs of mental illness
It’s important that your child knows the signs of mental illness so that they can seek help if they need it. Some common signs of mental illness in adolescents include changes in mood, withdraw from friends and activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits, disappearing into video games, and difficulty concentrating.
Promote positive self-esteem
One of the best things you can do for your child’s mental health is to promote positive self-esteem. Help them to focus on their strengths and unique qualities. Encourage them to set realistic goals and celebrate their accomplishments.
Model healthy coping mechanisms
It’s important for your child to see you coping in a healthy way with the stressors in your life. Show them that it’s okay to ask for help when we’re struggling. Teach them healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, journaling, and relaxation techniques.
Encourage your child to seek help if they need it
If your child is showing signs of mental illness, encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional. Mental health treatment can be extremely effective in helping adolescents to cope with mental illness.
By talking to your child about mental health, teaching them about the signs of mental illness–especially the signs of depression–and promoting positive self-esteem, you can help them to become the healthiest psychological version of themselves.
Let me conclude this section by saying, do not push mental health warnings aside. My stepson completed suicide while he was still just eighteen years old. So, from experience, take all warning signs very seriously!
IS RAISING A BOY HARDER THAN RAISING A GIRL?
I would say, emphatically, NO!
But, I was designed for raising boys.
I can handle broken bones, split heads and crunchy socks far easier than a girl having an emotional melt down or whining.
But, I can tell you this: Girls are nightmares through high school; whereas boys are pretty low drama. However, once the kids are old enough to leave home, girls do indeed become a mommas best friend. Meanwhile, boys leave and want to forge their own path.
And, their mommas are not normally a part of that path.
Eventually, they meet girls who draw them even further from home, too.
All I can offer you is this: enjoy them while they are at home. You will be their sunshine for eighteen years.
Every single second of it.
They won’t be our little boys forever.
IS RAISING BOYS DIFFERENT THAN RAISING GIRLS?
It’s no secret that parenting boys is different than parenting girls.
Boys are typically more active and less verbal than girls, which can make communication a challenge. They also tend to take more risks and get into more trouble. But don’t despair – there are ways to overcome these challenges and help your son thrive.
The first thing you need to know is that communication is key. You need to be able to talk to your son about everything, whether it be school, girls, or his hobbies.
If you can’t communicate with him, you’ll never be able to understand him.
Whereas, girls will talk your legs off and leave you regretting (and forgetting) your original question.
Another important thing to remember is that boys are physical.
They like to run around and rough-house. It’s important to let them release their energy in positive ways, such as sports or playing outside. If they don’t have an outlet for their energy, they’ll likely find negative ways to release it.
It’s also important to teach your son how to deal with failure.
Boys are often raised to believe that they have be perfect and never make any mistakes. However, this is not the case. Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s important to learn from them. If you can teach your son this early on, it will help him greatly in the future.
THE BEST WAY TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR SON
A very important piece of advice to remember is that if you try to force communication with a boy, you are going to get the one-word answers.
I dread the one-word answer.
Having five sons, I get this a lot!
The key to getting a boy to talk is to start an activity with them. Boys are very competitive and need to physically move their bodies.
If you do something that has a little competition to it and gets them moving or their brain engaged, their mouths will follow.
And, then do your best to have meaningful conversations –something with some substance. Teaching your sons have to have substantive conversation will not only pay you dividends, but it will serve him well with other adults, too.
Make communication a priority in your relationship and work to find ways to connect with him on a daily basis.
Become and amazing LISTENER.
Be patient when communicating with your son and be willing to listen to what he has to say.
Ultimately, the best way to communicate with your son is to show him that you love and care about him.
HOW DO I RAISE A GOOD, RESPECTFUL SON?
Boys are a handful. They’re active, mischievous, and sometimes downright destructive.
But they’re also wonderful, charming, and full of life. As a parent of boys, you know that raising them can be both a challenge and a joy.
Encourage positive communication
Teach your son how to express his emotions in a healthy way. Model positive communication yourself and discourage Put-downs, name-calling, or other negative speech.
Set limits and enforce consequences
Boys need boundaries to feel safe and secure. Be consistent with setting limits and enforcing consequences for bad behavior. This will help your son learn self-control and understand what is expected of him.
Treat your son with respect and teach him to treat others with respect as well. Show him how to show empathy and compassion towards others, even if they don’t share the same interests or views.
As mentioned above, boys are typically less verbal than girls. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings or emotions – they just express them differently. Encourage your son to communicate with you by talking about his day, his hobbies or anything else on his mind and ask if you can get involved with something he is doing. Or, invite him to participate in something that you are doing.
IMPORTANT PARENTING SKILLS FOR RAISING BOYS
Here are some tips for raising healthy, happy boys:
Encourage physical activity. Boys are naturally active and need to burn off energy. Encourage them to play sports or get involved in other activities like hiking or biking.
Create structure and routines.
Boys thrive on routine and benefit from having clear expectations set for them.
Create a daily schedule that includes time for homework, chores, and playtime.
Stick to the schedule as much as possible to provide your son with a sense of stability and security.
HOW TO SURVIVE THE TEENAGE YEARS
Boys will be boys, right?
Boys will be boys if you let them – but if you want to raise healthy, happy and successful young men, then it’s up to you to set the tone and guide them in the right direction.
Teach your son to put himself in other people’s shoes. Help him to understand how his actions might affect others. This is an important skill that will help him throughout his life.
It is not impossible to enjoy a very blessed teenage cycle with your son(s).
With the right techniques and strategies, you can survive the teenage years and even come out the other side with a healthy, happy son.
Communicate openly and honestly
This is important for all families, but it’s especially vital when you’re dealing with teenage boys. They need to know that they can come to you with anything, no matter what it is.
Teenage boys can be frustrating, to say the least. But it’s important to remember that they’re going through a lot of changes and they don’t always know how to deal with them. So be patient and try to understand where they’re coming from.
Boys are amazing creatures. They are full of energy and life. As the parent of a son, you know this all too well. You love your boy with all your heart but there are days when you feel like pulling your hair out.
HOW TO DEAL WITH TEENAGE HORMONES
No one said parenting was easy. But when you’re dealing with teenage boys, it can be especially challenging. From mood swings to hormones, there are a lot of things that can make raising boys difficult.
The teenage years can be tough for both parents and teens. Boys’ bodies are going through major changes and they sometimes struggle to cope with the new hormones coursing through their veins.
As a parent, you can help your son by staying calm and understanding. Offer support and encouragement, and most importantly, be there for him when he needs you.
As well, it is best to educate yourself as a parent, prepare and go into the teenage years with appropriate expectations.
With my oldest son, I had no idea what to expect. I was a single mom with teenagers, elementary age kids, and a baby.
I was not prepared.
Not only did my son start to show aggression, but he was starting to show impulsive, rebellious and risky behavior. He was arrogant, belligerent and spoke to me with very little respect. I knew that he was parroting a lot of what he was hearing from his father.
So, I was especially fighting an uphill battle.
But, too, I didn’t know what to expect as normal teenage behavior versus how a child torn between two parents behaved.
Following that experience, I made sure to sit down with each of my subsequent sons to talk about the hormonal changes that they would experience.
I told each one, “you are going to experience new feelings and you will feel angry and aggressive. It is a hormonal shift that you will eventually outgrow. In the meantime, I will try to be more patient with you. And, I expect you to understand your feelings, stay respectful and try to be patient with others, as well”.
It seemed to work!
This is a very hard topic to address with some people, I know. I come from a very religious background and from a family where it was taboo to talk about sex–at all.
So, I had my head in the sand with my first son.
Here’s the reality: boys will start to masturbate once they hit puberty. It’s just a fact.
Your son will want to keep his door closed and locked more. Give him some privacy. There is nothing more traumatic for your son–and, for you–than to catch him in a private moment.
And, don’t punish him, if you do.
If you choose to raise your sons to view masturbation as wrong, for religious reasons, communicate with your son(s) very gingerly. Certainly, The last thing that you want to do is to put rejection on them. Rejection is a far worse beast!
As well, they will be very attracted to the opposite sex. You need to start aggressively teaching your son(s) about healthy sex mindsets, how to treat teenage girls, that no means no…all of that.
My turning point was when I had to go on testosterone for a medical reason. My sex drive quadrupled! And, I learned a lot of compassion for these poor teenage boys.
It is hormonal. They aren’t being bad. Those hormones are relentless.
SKILLS FOR DEALING WITH TEENAGE REBELLION
Sometimes, parenting teen boys is a good mix of wisdom, discipline and good ol’ science.
Understanding hormones is essential; but, also understanding the brain development that is taking place in your child’s brain is also essential.
An Australian website, Raisingchildren.net.au, says this about brain development:
“Because the prefrontal cortex is still developing, teenagers might rely on a part of the brain called the amygdala to make decisions and solve problems more than adults do. The amygdala is associated with emotions, impulses, aggression and instinctive behavior.”
The teenage years can be a challenging time for both parents and teens. During this time, it’s normal for teens to experiment with their independence and push against authority figures in their lives.
This can lead to making bad decisions on both the son and the parent’s parts.
It’s important for parents to have the skills necessary to deal with teenage rebellion in a constructive way.
Boys often feel pressure to conform to what their friends are doing. This can lead to risky behaviors such as drinking, drunk driving, drugs, and sex. As a parent, it’s important to talk to your son about peer pressure and help him learn how to resist it. You can also set rules and boundaries that will protect him from making bad choices.
Some tips for dealing with teenage rebellion include:
- Establishing clear rules and expectations. When teenagers know what is expected of them, they are less likely to rebel.
- Allowing your teen some freedom to make mistakes. It’s important to give your teen room to grow and learn from their mistakes.
- Staying calm when your teen does rebel. It’s important not to overreact when your teen does something you don’t approve of.
- Try to avoid arguments and instead focus on finding common ground.
- Avoiding power struggles. Power struggles will only make the situation worse.
- When you do have disagreements, try to resolve them in a calm and constructive manner.
- Seeking professional help if the situation gets out of hand. If you feel like you’re struggling to deal with your teen’s rebellion, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
- Be positive. It can be easy to focus on the negative when you’re dealing with teenage boys. But it’s important to try to see the positive, too. There are good things about being a teenager, and if you can help your son focus on the positive, it will make things a lot easier for both of you.
- Be consistent. This is another important one for all families, but it’s especially important when you’re dealing with teenage boys. They need to know that you’re going to follow through on your rules and expectations. So if you say you’re going to do something, do it.
Parenting a boy is not always easy–especially if you are doing it as a single-parent. There will be days when you feel like you’re at your wit’s end raising boys. But, the rewards are more than worth it. Your son will grow into a strong, confident man who is ready to take on the world. And, that will be satisfaction enough!