Single moms raising boys can definitely expect their fair share of trials. After my now 17-year-old son was born, I spent the next 6 years of my life in a constant state of confusion about whether or not I was raising him right. All of these years, and two more sons later, and I have learned some real lessons about the difference between raising girls and raising boys.
As the oldest child of three children (all of whom were girls) I came into my motherhood journey without even the slightest idea of what it would take to raise a man who is capable, well-rounded and a kind, genuine person. But, I’ve grown leaps and bounds since then and now I’ve home-schooled my oldest son through 11th grade and am still homeschooling my 9 and 10-year-old boys. Through all of the ups and downs of single motherhood, co-parenting and now being a part of a blended family, I’ve learned some tried and true lessons about raising boys. Here are 10 things single moms should know about raising boys.
Boys Need a Tribe Too
Whether your boys are part of a gaming community, a group of kids at the skate park, cousins and brothers or even just friends at school, boys live and die by the kids they hang out with. Let me tell you something Mama, it is perfectly okay to tell your son he cannot play with those kids. One of the things I learned early on, through a book I read called Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax , is that unlike girls, boys learn through their peers. Girls have an innate inclination toward wanting to be women, so many times they we will mimic what older women do just to appear more mature. Boys are the exact opposite! It is not uncommon to hear a boys say, “I don’t ever want to grow up”. Boys are more inclined to mature and change when their peers are having similar experiences. Early on it will be important to help your son define what good and bad friendship is. His life depends on it.
Boys Need Competition, Even in Learning
If I tell my boys it’s time to read a chapter in their reading book, they will take 2 hours to do it. If I put a timer on and say whoever reads the chapter and answers the questions correctly in 30 minutes gets a candy bar, it’s done in 25 minutes, neatly. Boys thrive on competition. We’ve made everything from cleaning to learning to tie their shoes a competition and it works wonders. Boys like to win, and even more, once they get used to winning they HATE to lose.
Let His Dad Be His Superhero
I know all about deadbeat dads. I know how they break your heart and your kid’s heart. I know that they can be tough to talk to, reason with and have any type of compromise with. But, what I know for sure, is that unless you tell him otherwise, your son’s father is his superhero. Sis, the time will come for your son to know the truth, but what you need to know right now is that, in his childlike mind, your son’s self-worth and value is so tied up in how he sees and feels about his father. Don’t be the mom who destroys his superhero, and simultaneously, her son. Let him believe that his dad is the best dad in the world. At the end of the day, real recognizes real. If you do your job of making him into a real man (the best way you know how) he WILL see the truth for what it is, good or bad. In the meantime, let his dad be.
Boys are Socially Different from Girls
Men are simple and so are boys. I learned very quickly in my male-dominant household that boys need time to chill. They don’t mind going out on weekends and will even tolerate a trip to the museum some days, but they need down time. Boys are less concerned with who is going to be there and are more concerned with what they can accomplish by being there. They tend to be more practical in their social interest and goals. Even if my boys know one of their tribe members will be at an event or function they still evaluate its practicality and what they will do when they get there. Keeping it simple, boys need a reason to do what they are doing. Check out this list of things my boys love to do.
Boys Need Independence
Once boys have mastered a task they really don’t need a lot of hand holding. Now that my boys are all middle-aged sometimes I feel like they’ve almost aged out of parenting. Of course, we still ensure that our boys do the things they need to do to ensure they are capable human beings. (We are homeschoolers so we literally are charged with educating them about everything) But, in terms of the mundane task of everyday life, our boys like a lot of independence. They wake themselves up in the morning, they make their own lunches (we ensure they have a stocked fridge) and they make decisions about what activities they’ll do every semester and how they want to utilize their time outside of schooling. I think it’s important that boys be allowed to experience independence early in life. After all, we will want them to act as head-of-household in some capacity as adults. Single moms raising boys would do well to allow their sons to flex their independence muscle now.
Stinking is Normal for Boys in Puberty
I have two boys in my house right now that stink, really bad. One is soon to be 11 and the other is 17. While the 17-year-old is getting better, the 9-year-old is coming up the rear and there is seemingly no end in sight for the horrific smells that emanate from the 11-year-old’s room. Having gone through this for 6 years with the oldest, I’m used to it. Invest in some plugins from Glade or Bath N’ Body. It’s worth it.
Boys Need to Be Able to Be Assertive
Boys like to do. It’s no wonder that schools are experiencing such hardship teaching boys, especially Black boys. When I first began homeschooling my sons, I finally understood why the teachers were always calling. All three of my boys were constantly dropping their pencils, getting out of there seats or joking with one another. I learned very quickly that boys learn best by doing. They don’t want to do worksheets, or write about how they feel. They want to apply math by measuring all the chairs in the house, or they want to experience what it feels like to roll down a hill. Putting it simple, boys don’t care what you say. They want to do it.
Boys Need A Disciplined Lifestyle
Do you get up at the same time everyday? Do your boys know what to expect as part of their daily schedule? Do your boys have chores? (They should have at least 2-3 chores they are expected to do daily) I always tell parents that discipline is not something that one should start at the point of an infraction. Discipline is a verb, not a noun. Discipline should be ingrained in your child’s everyday lifestyle, it should not be something that is done when your child steps outside of boundaries. Work on ensuring that your expectations of your son are clearly laid out, not by rules, but by how you engage with him on a daily basis.
Boys Need to Be Challenged Just as Much as Girls
Chores, chess and more chores. That’s our motto for our sons. Single moms raising boys should not shy away from challenging their sons. I don’t agree with overloading your son with tons of homework on inundating his life with chores, but challenge him to think and do more by:
- giving him projects around the house
- asking him to help neighbors my cutting grass or cleaning the curb
- having him assist with cooking dinner or gardening
Boys need to understand that everything will not be easy, this is especially true for single moms raising Black boys. For our Black sons, life will be an uphill battle. You are only hurting him by allowing him to develop undisciplined, lazy habits. Ensure that you are being soft enough with him that he values the nurturing nature of women, but don’t let him get over on you. If he does it to you, he will do it to other women.
Boys Need to Be Taught that Being a Husband is Honorable
In my humble opinion, single moms raising boys are the single determining factor in whether or not their sons will go on to be husbands, or somebody else’s burden. One of the best things we can do for the next generation of Brown Mamas is to make sure that, at the very least, our sons leave our homes understanding how important marriage and being a good co-parent are. Sis, you need to realize that as a single mom raising a boy YOU ARE POWERFUL! You will be the main figure in this child’s life for the next 18 years. Through your words, actions and conversations with your son you can either ensure that he makes a house a home, or tears one down. Just as hard as we work to raise CEOs and entrepreneurs, let us make it our mission to raise good husbands too.
I hope this helps Mamas! What principles are you instilling in your boys?