Thursday, May 9, 2013

Raising Boys: 10 Loving Lessons Just For Moms

With Mother's Day being just a few short days away, I am writing this post honor of all of the moms who have ever raised, or who are raising boys.  What a gift is this special opportunity that we have been given to love such precious ones!!  I share in the admiration that you have for your own sons, as well as your joys and your struggles in striving to raise them well!!
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If someone would have told me 13 years ago that I would someday be the mother of 5 boys, I'm not sure if I would have laughed or ran screaming in the opposite direction!!  Raising our sons has offered me greater challenges and deeper joys than I could have ever imagined.  And, while, I would dearly love to have a daughter, I wouldn't change a chapter of this story for anything!

When our first son, Ben, was born, I had read so many books on motherhood that I thought for sure I had it all down, and that it would be just that - textbook, predictable, planned.  Go ahead and laugh, because I am!! Good golly, I even tried to apply the "textbook" method to Ben's labor and delivery, and (of course) it went NOTHING like I imagined it was supposed to. Life has a terrific way of humbling us, doesn't it??

Nearly 13 years and 5 sons later, I have learned a great deal from many incredible parents, grandparents and numerous experts a wealth of essential tips and truths on raising healthy, happy boys.  Without any girls to identify with, I'll readily admit that, at times, I have felt overwhelmed and confused, to say the least. Some of the lessons have been difficult, and yet others have come surprisingly natural to me (I account those to grace alone.).  And, I'm still learning - every day, I'm learning.  Thankfully, I have an amazing husband by my side to help me understand the (sometimes) maddening mysteries of manhood! 

I often hear parents say, "We raise all of our children the same, none are ever treated differently....it's only fair, really."  Pardon me, while I respectfully disagree with that for a moment.  While I applaud any parents' aspirations to be fair and just, what we must realize is that fair doesn't always mean "same" or "exactly alike." Every child deserves to be raised as an individual, as they each have different needs, different personalities, and different gifts.  And, I know this is going to be a shocker, but boys and girls should not be raised the same.  Loved equally, yes, absolutely.  Raised identically, no. I hope that as you read on, you will find sincerity as well as objectivity in my explanations. 
Are you still here?? Great!! I'd love to share with you some of the lessons that I have learned about raising, nurturing and understanding the heart of a boy, lessons that may seem obvious to a dad, but ones that perhaps a mom might appreciate hearing from the heart of another mom.  In the end, I hope you come away from this post feeling encouraged and supported in your very important, irreplaceable role as a mother.

1.  This may be an obvious one, but boys need to have the freedom to wrestle and climb, to roar and grunt and karate chop your house plants. They do not have ADD, they have energy, and they need an generous amount of time and space to run free.  Don't freak out when they act a little wild, a little fearless. Don't take them to the doctor, don't Google symptoms of hyperactivity, and don't suffocate them by constantly telling them to calm down, sit down and be quiet.  No, I don't mean let them behave destructively or disrespectfully (more about that in #2), but do not stifle their enthusiasm.  If you do, they will rebel and probably find a way to channel their energy into something else, something unhealthy.  I see many young boys engaging in video games, because they truly feel as though they have nothing else to do. This is a travesty. Trust me, it is very, very difficult to mend a boy's broken spirit.  Let them play!  You will have to repaint your walls, reinforce their bunk beds with scrap iron, and patch holes in their jeans.  Accept that, and then let them be off on their next adventure.

2.  As a natural response to #1, please know that I am speaking in terms of balance, not extremes.  That being said, boys do need to be taught self-control, prudence, the value of being polite, having manners and demonstrating proper etiquette.   Don't make excuses for them when they are thoughtless, rude or sloppy, by saying, "Oh, he's just being a boy!"  If you patiently teach them that times and situations call for a particular type of behavior and attitude, they will not only become natural leaders, but they will also gain self-confidence as well as the respect of others. Moms, it is proper for us to expect good manners at the supper table, "please" and "thank you" in daily interactions and please, never, ever allow your son(s) to speak disrespectfully to you (your husband should always be at your side in these situations). Knights were once required to learn proper etiquette/manners before they could wield a sword. It was the beginning stage of proving their worth as knights. Why? Self-control and discipline in the small things opens the door to strength and wisdom in the bigger battles of life.

3.  This lesson was inspired by Dr. Dobson's Bringing Up Boys, and I'm sharing it with you, because we've heeded it with every single one of our boys, and hold fast to it's importance. As moms we hold our baby boys close with all of our motherly love and attentiveness, as we should, but when our sons turn 2, it is very important for us to use those arms to toss them towards daddy! Step back a bit.  Allow more father-son time to take place, one-on-one.  This will help foster the natural masculinity of your son, because he will be able to identify more assuredly with his father.  You don't need to be gone for long periods of time, just an hour or two each week.  Consider going for an evening walk a couple of times a week, meeting up with friends, shopping for groceries or encouraging your "men" to go outside and play together or work on a project while you make supper.  Your son won't love you less - in fact, he will love and appreciate you even more! Let him go out and be a "big boy" with his papa.  He needs this from you.   In addition, I have seen many moms over the years who have an excessive (controlling) closeness with their sons, sons who are young men or even adults.  Cut. The. Cord.  Your main man should be your husband, he is first in priority of your love and attentiveness, not your son.  Your son should know his place in the family, without question.....and so should you.

4.  You didn't think I would forget to add how horribly and horrifyingly gross boys can be to this list did you?? If your boys should ever get lost in a forest and are near starvation, they will not hunt for berries or edible plants.  They will eat their boogers and then yell, "MOM!!!" until they loose their voices.  The whole booger issue totally mystifies me, and I find them everywhere, I mean everywhere!!  And, then there's the poop saga.  I have literally gone into my sons' bathroom 3 days in a row and seen no toilet paper on the ring.  Seriously??  Then, I get to the laundry and I see the damage that 3 days of no toilet paper can do. Uuuggghhhh!!! (I KNOW you can relate!!)  "Stop picking, please wipe, don't forget to flush and, for the love of Pete, wash your hands!!" will be on repeat for all of us moms until our boys flee the nest.  The only real way to deal with this unfortunate circumstance is with wine.  Lots and lots of wine.

5.  Cook for your sons.  They will never forget how beautifully you loved them in this sacrificial way. I know it seems small or old-fashioned, but some of our best family conversations have taken place around the supper table. And, I get the BEST hugs after a killer meal!  Food can also be used to achieve particular goals.  Are you followin' me here??  If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so too be a boys!  Hold a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies above their heads and their rooms will be cleaned faster than you can say dust bunnies.

6.   Chill out a bit with the toy weapons.  I once had a neighbor who would not let her child play with my boys, because we allowed them to have wooden rifles.  However, she thought that swords were just fine - you know, a more civilized way of engaging in warfare.  Oh, I get it!! No, I don't, I'm lying right now. {Sigh.} Like it or not, here's the facts: If you keep every plastic pistol or pirate sword out of a boy's grip, they will find a way to fashion some type of weapon out of tree branches, tinker-toys or chop-sticks.  Your boys are not violent, they are not killers or haters, and letting them play with toy weapons isn't going to turn them into monsters.  Boys are born to be protectors, and if their instincts are nurtured in the proper way, someday they will protect your freshly sprouting garden from pests and more importantly, they will protect a lady from a predator - without hesitation.  Your sons are in more serious danger of developing a violent nature when they engage in violent video games, television and movies than they are if allowed to participate in innocent, imaginative play with friends. Just ask your father or grandfather - those "great" generations - about this.

7.  The world is pretty good at telling boys that they aren't as good as girls or really any different than girls, so they shouldn't act different or be different.  This is a terrible lie.  Don't buy into it.  Boys absolutely need to be boys and feel no shame or make no apologies for that. Praise and admire their masculine strengths!  Our sons natural talents should not be minimized because they are faster or stronger than their female peers, and they shouldn't be punished for it either.  As men and women, we're made to be complimentary not competitive, unique, not uniform.  It is our very complimentarity that brings beauty, strength and individuality to the world.  When you embrace your authentic femininity as a mother, you actually help your son grow to become an authentic man. 

8.  If you were ever a cheerleader back in the day, now is the time to practice those chants.  Boys don't need us to tell them how to throw the ball or tackle the opponent (even though many of us are awesome at sports and could easily coach our sons!), they need us to cheer for them, to encourage them, and then to let them know that we'll be their most loyal supporter, win or lose, whether it be on the football field or in the classroom.  Don't be a boss.  I've been to countless athletic events where the mom is  screaming red-faced at her son while the dad stands by texting on his phone. Those aren't tough-love moms, they're misguided moms.  And Dads, oh, dads, (slap-slap) wake up.  As parents we are here to guide, not take over the coach's job, and not make our sons feel as though their very lives depend on a touch-down pass.  Rah-rah, that's your job.  Now do it.  Do it proudly, moms!

9.  This one is closely related to #8.  A boy's (and a man's) biggest fear is failure.  So many mom's out there want to raise "good" boys who are virtuous and successful in life.  But, I know from experience, that when I'm on them all of the time with everything (school work, chores, fighting with siblings etc.) they can easily lose confidence in themselves.  They are already putting enough pressure on themselves in every aspect of life, they don't really need us to drop a few hundred extra pounds on their shoulders.  There are times when I've gone to bed at night and felt contrite for being too nit-picky with my young boys, for being too hard on them, for taking discipline too far, for lecturing too long. Let things go once in a while....it's okay.  Sometimes they need a hug and a pass more than they need a lecture or a punishment. (Isn't that true for us as well??)

10.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I must confess that one of the most difficult aspects of living in a house full of boys is dealing with my own sensitive nature.  As women, we are more easily hurt, offended and slighted than men are.  It doesn't mean that boys are insensitive or cold, they just aren't wired the same way that we are, and as moms, we need to show them how to be more tender without belittling their personhood or being overly dramatic.  One thing that has helped me when I'm tempted to fall into loneliness or self-pity after being slighted by a son is this: Whenever one of my sons draws me a picture or writes me a note of any kind, I save it in a special place.  And, when one has hurt my feelings or is struggling with a particular discipline issue that is difficult for me to handle, I go back to the pictures/notes and remember the love that my boys have for me, and the love that I have for them.  It truly does mend a broken heart.
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, MY FRIENDS!! YOU ARE LOVED!!

40 comments:

  1. As a mom of boys (2), this post touched me deeply!! Parts of it made me laugh - and, I'm right there with you on the wine - and the last really hit home. Every day I try to build my boys up and on the days where I fail I regret it!
    Thank you for this amazing post!!
    BTW - I live in Kansas, too.

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    1. Happy Mother's Day, Kim!! Your boys are so blessed to be able to call you "Mom!" I hope that they cover you in love on Sunday. Glad to know you're a fellow Sunflower Stater as well! :)

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  2. Happy Mother's Day to you!
    You are a wise, wise mother of sons. Your adorable boys will one day be wonderful men.

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    1. Thank you, thank you!! I can only imagine how covered in love you are going to be this Sunday!! You are one mom that I truly admire and look up to....I know you share in all of these "lessons" with great understanding!!

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  3. Gosh , it's true that boys are never easy to handle. You're great!
    Happy mother's day :)

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  4. I "only" have 2 boys, and they follow my 2 girly girls. I truly love these tips. I'll be coming back here for reference as they get older (and grosser, which hardly seems possibly some days :))

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  5. Susan, I LOVED reading this! As a fellow mom of five boys (well, they're grown men now--but still, they were boys once), I felt like I was reading my life story. You are absolutely right on every point above. It's not ADD, it's normal boy energy! They need to roughhouse and learn to be like their dads! They need dads who will make sure that they always treat their mothers with respect (my husband was a real stickler on that one)! They're going to make their own weapons anyway (all they need is an index finger to do it, after all), so don't freak out about the toy guns! (We started out saying we'd never let our kids have them, and that lasted about a minute.) The cooking--so true! The way to a man's heart IS through his stomach! (And nothing gave me a better feeling than when they said I made the best cookies out of all the other moms!) They need you as their loyal cheerleader in all they do! You nailed being the mother of boys. Nailed it.

    Your #10 is very sweet. It's true, they aren't wired like we are. As they get older, they stop climbing into your lap and don't hug and kiss you as often. But when your boys become men, if they've been raised right and have a great dad to model themselves after, they treat you like gold. They are mamma's boys in the best sense (not in any weird way). I get choked up just thinking of how tender and sweet and thoughtful mine are. It makes those early years when I was surrounded by what seemed like a litter of over-energetic little puppy dogs all worth it!

    I feel such a connection to you! And I hope you have the happiest Mother's Day ever!

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    1. Thank you, Laura!! Your words are filled with so much kindness!! I would love to have YOU come and guest blog about boys, now that yours are raised. I know there's a lot of moms out there who could use your encouragement!!

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    2. Guest blog? Gulp! It's so nice of you to suggest that, but I won't hold you to it!

      I just thoroughly enjoy reading about another family of five boys! :)

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  6. Happy Mother's Day.

    God bless you and your family.

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  7. Happy Mother's Day.

    God bless you and your family.

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  8. Love this post Susan!! I had to laugh at the booger part . . . I find them everywhere too!!

    Happy Mother's Day!

    And, I will take you up on the offer to help with the Little Flowers Run. We will need to touch base soon.

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    1. Let's talk soon - I'm looking forward to it!! :)

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  9. Thank you for this post!!! As a mom of 2 boys, I sometimes get a little "lost" in how to deal with the boy stuff of life. I am slowly learning to let go--letting them play rough, be dirty, etc. I know it's needed. I will be coming back to this one again and again.

    Happy Mother's Day!

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    1. You can do it, Anne!! Enjoy the journey with your sons, this precious time with them will pass us by before we know it!

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  10. YES!!!! and Thank you!!!!!!! :)

    We've got 3 boys, and I wonder how many more God may bring into my life, including those who gather at our home at intervals throughout the day, for years to come. :) I will keep these words close to my heart- they sing out with truth and love! I can't tell you how many times the same thoughts have occurred to me, and I have read enough parenting books to author one myself. It can be so difficult to be an advocate for boys, especially in the beginning when you don't understand why your son insists on shouting and pounding and wielding weapons when other kids are content coloring. (no one wants to color in my house anymore except me, unless it's with explosive paint).

    Loved your insights on the video game culture. I can't stand the sedation of their minds. Long live the wall dents and the mud-streaked floors! :) #6 cracked me up. Reminds me of when Lightning McQueen is taking advice from Doc and says "Thank you. Or should I say...NO thank you!" I grew up in as 1 of 4 siblings (3 girls and 1 boy) and am sad to admit I used to be very anti-weapon and quite helicopterish about it. I'm still anti-intentionally harmful violence (but gladly overlook the karate/wrestling that goes on in the trampoline). I cringe to think of what I may have done to my eldest in the early days.

    I have felt called to be more vocal about the needs and gifts of boys in my writing and blogging, and I deeply appreciate the wisdom and encouragement you have shared here today! Many happy blessings to you from one "boy"sterous home to another! :)



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    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment, Julia!! You are so blessed to have 3 boys, and they are lucky to have you for their mama!!

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    2. Susan, thanks for contacting me over at Bookish Catholics! My good friend Lauren Gulde is the author of that blog, but my main blog is at www.mama-jules.blogspot.com I would LOVE to keep in touch with you, I'm planning on making frequent stops here! :) Have a blessed day!

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  11. Thank you for this!! As a new-ish mom to a 3 year-old boy, everything you mention is reassuring. Every single point is something I've noticed, but especially the NEED to move. I worry about ADD, but maybe I should relax a bit and give the kiddo more of what he wants- fresh air and space!

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    1. So glad you came by!! Enjoy your little guy!!

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  12. I just love being a mom to boys! This list is awesome - especially about letting them get some guy time with Dad - I think we naturally do that, but I should focus on it more.

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    1. Thanks, Colleen!! Yes, sometimes it's hard to let the boys just be alone with dad, but they really do need that time without mom hanging around.

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  13. Susan, great post! Thanks for sharing what all of us boy moms deal with (although some are mainly in my future as my boys are small...lol). And, as always thanks for linking up at Thriving Thursday!

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  14. Hi Susan. I just found this post and love it. I'm a mother of two boys. My oldest (almost three) seems to have boundless energy. So glad to know that you have experienced the same thing. I enjoy his energy most of the time but one thing that has been difficult for us is getting him to sit still when needed (i.e. church, dinner out with friends, etc.). Do you have any recommendations for that?

    I agree about the weapons. I always expected to be really opposed to it but when the moment came I was surprised to find that I was actually ok with it. Thanks for the reassurance that I was not wrong in believing it was ok for him to express himself this way.

    I love point #9 as well. I've actually been learning with my husband that sometimes I need to back off, and it makes perfect sense that the same is true with my boys.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Jennifer @ Little Silly Goose

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  15. I REALLY needed to read this and enjoyed it so much - THANK YOU! I'm a mother to 2 boys (2 years old and 7 months old, so I'm totally clueless). I needed to hear #1, to know that that's okay for them to act crazy and to LET them do it.

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  16. I would write more but I think my older one is swinging a broomstick at the little one, thanks for such a great post!! :)

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  17. I am the opposite. I have three girls then my son, my baby. I love my girls to pieces but my son...nothing prepares you for the feelings a mother will have for her son. Nothing! That said, he does do some pretty gross stuff! I read your post and loved it. You hit every point exactly and the added humor made it that much more enjoyable to read.

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  18. Refreshing :) I have a son and I've read a few of these "everything a mom needs to know about raising a son" lists. Most are pretty repetitive and full of things I feel we all should already know. Take your son on dates, give him good role models, etc.
    This was actually relatable and REAL :) Thank you!

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  19. Loved your post. I have three sons (and 3 daughters and a great husband) and spent 12 years as a Cub Scout Den leader. I really like boys a lot. That being said, some boys really do have medical issues that manifest as bad behavior. In twelve years, I only saw 3 and one of them was mine. I was actually able to deal better with the other two boys (different years) because of the experiences I'd had with my own son.

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  20. Hi Susan,
    I just finally got around to reading some of your blog (wanting to for a while...) and especially loved this one, seeing as we have at least one boy so far - even if he's only 5.5 months...
    I'll definitely save this as advice for the future...
    Barbara

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  21. Loved reading this post! I too have 5 boys(although 1 is a foster son) and my oldest is also called Ben(Benny)! Its really refreshing to know that the way my husband and I try to parent our children is not unique after all. We want to train them up to be mighty men of God, with a heart of love and a gentle spirit. Thank you so very much, you have made my day
    God bless you
    Sarah Seeds
    Leicester
    England

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  22. Loved reading your post.

    Happy mother's day to you and god bless your family!

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  23. When I was pregnant with my twins, we kept the gender a surprise. I already had two girls, and I PRAYED for boys .....
    God knew exactly what I needed. My boys love me fiercely, and have encouraged me to embrace the loud, the messy and the beautiful aspects of these sweet young men in my care.

    I love this post, Susan.

    My goal for my sons is encouragement ..... we live in a culture that doesn't appreciate the value and dignity of men and fatherhood, so I want to make sure I'm giving them a firm, solid foundation.

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  24. I am a mom to 3 boys and just found out today that my expectant twins are 2 more boys... I need a heart to relate to. I'm glad I found your blog. I'll be reading.

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    1. Oh, bless your heart. I know deeply the longing you must have for a girl. And, yet, somehow just as we allow ourselves moments of disappointment in not having a girl, we must at the same time exercise a great faith in God's plan for our family. Why the Lord wants me to have only boys will always be a mystery, but one I trust is fulfilling a great, unseen plan :). Hang in there, you can do it!!

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  25. I just came across this post on pinterest, I think God may have done some intervening here. I am a mom of 4 boys and pregnant with #5 which we just found out that it's another boy. oh and I'm also from Kansas, Must be something in this Kansas water. My boys are 12, 9, 4, and 1 1/2. I know all will work out because it is what God has planned for me but I am also doing a lot of praying . I look forward to reading more of how you embrace and find the joy in 5 boys.

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  26. Just found your post, love it! I have 2 boys 5 & 7 and they are the most energetic and loving little men! I have to remember to step back sometimes and let their creative and active ideas fly.

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