Back in 2008, I was a young mom of 2 little boys, trying to figure out how to best wrangle these cute little things (or at least they were little back then!) and instill some order and calm in our lives without breaking their spirits. It was a challenge but I embraced the role of “boy mom” and really enjoyed that stage. (Unfortunately Finn didn’t make it into these pictures but these days I’m trying to remember all my preschool-boy parenting tricks for that little one! It’s been a while…)
Fast forward 9 years and we now have almost double the amount of girls as boys. The dynamics of our household have certainly changed, but I’m still learning the intricacies of parenting these amazing male creatures. I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years and how best to approach discipline, love and learning with young boys.
- It’s so important for us to realize that the biggest hurdle to being a mother to boys is that we are different genders (and if you’re a dad reading this, then you’ve got a head start to understanding your little men!). I firmly believe that there are some real gender-specific characteristics that each child is born with and can become a challenge for a parent of the opposite sex to comprehend. For example, Luke cannot seem to grasp why Juliet just needs to cry about nothing sometimes (I get you, girlfriend), and I can’t seem to figure out Finn’s need to headbutt me alllll day long. It’s important to recognize these mental, physical and emotional differences between the sexes and adjust our expectations.
- Most boys are PHYSICAL: they run, jump, kick, spin, head butt and punch more than girls. I don’t know why this is, but in my experience it’s a pretty constant fact of boy-life. Chalk it up to their primal need to protect women and children and fight wars, I don’t know, but it can be a difficult thing for a mom to deal with. Be sure to give your boys lots of outlets for their physical energy and aggression (outdoor time every day, bike rides, trees to climb, a punching bag, a wrestling mat) and remember that this can also change how boys show their love towards others. After reading The 5 Love Languages of Children years ago, I realized that several of my children communicated their love through touch, including my young boy who loved to punch, head butt and bump up against me incessantly. It used to drive me BONKERS, but once I understood that need, I was able to respond to his aggression with a hug, tickle or smile (instead of an irritated scolding) and his request for love was satisfied.
3. Some power struggles may arise between boys and their mom as they begin the transition to teenagers. I’m just beginning to experience this but my mom has attested that it happened to her boys when they reached the teens. Many boys begin to exert a type of alpha-male dominance and try to boss Mom around.
It’s important for these maturing boys to have their opinions validated and appreciated, to exert power in some area of their life (special responsibilities or assignments unique to them) and to have a strong adult male role model. Ideally this would be their dad who supports and respects Mom and shows the boys how to do the same. If Dad isn’t around, a Scout or church leader, neighbor, grandpa or other male friend could also fill this role. I’m a firm believer that each child (no matter the gender) needs to be raised with both strong male and female role models!
4. Don’t be afraid to show your boys mushy mom love, even if they resist. I have a certain boy (who shall remain nameless) who never initiates physical contact with me. But at bedtime, I make it a point to give him a hug and a kiss and I can tell how much he loves it. Boys might be pressured by society to seem tough and untouchable, but as their moms, we need to be on alert for when they need extra love and care. You might be the only human being in the world they’d go to for comfort, so be sure you’re ready to give it!
5. Boys are just as capable as girls of being tender, loving, kind and merciful. Hollywood might always depict men as mean, ruthless and crass or make it seem like all fathers are bumbling idiots but we know that’s far from the truth. Let’s teach our boys that every man should be respectful and sensitive; let’s show them how to use their physical strength and abilities to protect those who are weaker or less fortunate. Let’s give the world more men of character and integrity!
READ THIS if you also have worries about your girl parenting skills as well!