Raising boys! A topic I’m passionate about, especially as I have three sons! But also, as my husband recently said, a topic we’re still learning about, as we now navigate the teenage years. If you don’t have sons yourself – please read on, so you can better support your friends who do have sons – who may end up being your daughter’s husband one day!!
When speaking about this topic at MOPS groups, my opener is to ask the mums what comes to mind when I say ‘boys’. Messy, smelly, silly and loud, are often the words that are shared! These may all be true – but let’s not also forget words such as energetic, lovable, don’t hold grudges, fun, sensitive, physical, strong, open and honest.
There is a lot that can be said about how to bring up strong, resilient and caring young men (please take the time to look at what is said by Michael Carr-Gregg, Andrew Fuller and Steve Biddulph, to name but a few). Here are six things that I’ve discovered about parenting boys that I’d like to share with you:
1. Boys are often messy and loud. They love dirt and grime, and all things grotty – including farts and loud burps, and chemical experiments. Get used to it! Join in with it! Boys don’t see the point of showering to get mud off knees when they’re going to play footy again tomorrow. You know when they’ve come home as they slam the door behind them! Splash in puddles with them. Let them have clothes that can get grubby!
2. Boys are physically active, from dawn until dusk (and even then sometimes bedtime doesn’t stop them!). Because they are active, we need to ensure that they get their physical exercise – run them ragged! Play ball with them. Teach them to ride a bike. Take them to playgrounds. When it’s wet, go to the indoor playcentre or the shopping mall. Balance their use of technology with outdoor, physical exercise.
3. Be interested in what your boys are interested in. Find out what Minecraft is all about. Learn the rules of cricket. Play Monopoly. Observe ants crawling along the footpath. Watch the TV programs and movies that they watch. Play on the playground equipment with them. Try surfing. Get down on the floor and play trains with them.
4. Teach your boys about feelings. Help them learn to express how they feel in words. Allow them to express how they’re feeling. Tell them it’s OK to cry. Let them get angry. There are lots of good books on feelings that you can read with them. No feeling is off limits!
5. Give your sons reasons and a purpose for what you are asking them to do. Without it – they won’t do it. As toddlers, they sometimes need to be told ‘you have to’ or ‘just do it’ but as they get older, I think it’s important to discuss the reasons behind why you are telling them to do something, or not. Boys like to know why they have to do something. It can be a short and sharp reason, to the point, specific.
6. Above all, love your sons. Always. Unconditionally. No matter what. And show them you love them. In a way that they understand. Spend time with them. Cuddle them. Ruffle their hair. Tickle them. Read to them. Go for a walk with them. Sit and listen to them. Sit in silence with them. Tell them you love them…even when it’s not ‘cool’ to.
I believe we are made to be in relationship with others. People need other people. We can’t truly exist nor thrive on our own. Isn’t that what MOPS is all about? Therefore, our sons (and daughters!) want and need us to be in relationship with them. We can’t expect our kids to just grow up wanting to hang out with us! From when they are little we need to hang out with them, show them we are interested in them, in who they are and what they do. This will pay off great dividends in the future!