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9 Tips for Raising Boys

Being the only female in a family consisting of a husband and five sons taught me a little about males and rearing boys. What I’ve learned over the years can be summarized into one sentence: Boys want to act like grown men, and grown men sometimes want to act like boys. So what’s a mom to do? Try to recognize the “why” behind the behavior, relax, and enjoy them. Though that’s the bare basics, there are some other helpful tips I have come to know and I’d love to share with you.

Lesson #1: Boys are fun

They’re generally competitive, energetic, loud, and they love potty jokes. And they love their mamas. Little boys want their father’s approval, but they want their mama’s admiration. 

Lesson #2: Boys Crave Respect 

They can’t help it; it’s part of their spiritual DNA. I believe the need for respect is one reason boys are so competitive (at least ours were—still are, in fact). From the book, Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, by Stephen James and David Thomas, comes the following statement:

The best way for a mother to nurture the heart of her son

Is to develop a relationship with him from an early age that

Is grounded in mutual respect. This means she must show him 

She respects his individuality, his feelings, his strengths, and

His needs—especially when she doesn’t agree with him.

Lesson #3: Boys Enjoy Competing

When our sons were growing up together, I could get their cooperation with almost anything if there was a competition involved: unloading groceries, for example. 

Back in those days, there was no ordering online or Instacart delivery. It was a weekly trip to the grocery store and three buggies filled with five gallons of milk, innumerable boxes of cereal, loaves of bread, and everything else to feed a small multitude. Unloading all that stuff at home was when the challenge began. 

All I had to do was to tell them not to pick up something that was too heavy for them. That’s when they contested to see who could bring in the biggest load. They’d risk a hernia to outdo one another, and then show me their bulging muscles to prove the effort was worth it.  Humm…does this sound a little bit like work? Absolutely! And these competitive challenges applied to everything they did.

Lesson #4: Boys Thrive on Tasks Accomplished

One of the healthiest things we did for our sons was to give them a chance to work for a goal. Sometimes they were rewarded with cash, but often the satisfaction of doing a job and being praised was sufficient to keep them motivated.

Lesson #5: Boys Like to Manage One Another

Sometimes this works; sometimes not so much! For example, we had a rule that if somebody burped at the table (which they totally enjoyed doing), that person had to do the dishes. Anything worse than that required cleaning the bathroom.  Believe me, everybody was on alert to catch an offender!

Lesson #6: Boys Love Adventure

They love to explore. Because their dad farmed for a living, we were able to rear our tribe in the country, fifteen miles from town. They spent their formative years exploring the woods, the creek, and the fields with their dad and grandfather. When they got a little older, they would pack a snack on Saturday mornings and disappear for several hours.  With that freedom came a level of expectation from them. They knew I trusted them to make good decisions and they didn’t want to disappoint me. 

Lesson #7: Boys Live Up to Expectations We Put on Them

Our trust in our boys was built with many hours of one-on-one time with each son.  For our family, the prime time was at bedtime. Granted, this is when we mothers are most exhausted, but I spent innumerable hours lying beside our boys, “crawling” on their backs, allowing them to share their deepest thoughts and concerns and it opened up an opportunity to bond with them. Establishing this level of trust and expectations paid off in great dividends when they became teenagers. They never let us down because they knew we counted on them.

Lesson #8: Boys Need to Know They Can Trust Us, As Well

Never break their confidence. Nothing shuts down communication quicker and better than for him to find out we’ve repeated or disclosed something he told us in secret.

Lesson #9: Boys Have Tender Hearts

In spite of all the bravado and boisterous behavior, I believe there is a tender heart inside every little boy.   I think every little boy responds positively to one-on-one time with each parent. The relationship between a boy and his dad is special and critical to his development, but the thread that ties a son to his mother’s heart is a beautiful thing. As boys mature, they still need to feel they have a soft emotional place to return to, but they appreciate the release and the freedom to be the men God created them to be.

A note about the author:

Careen Strange is the author of Hello, Young Mothers, an honest and comical look at the realities of day-to-day motherhood. She and her husband, Burt, have been married 50 years, raised five sons, and are now grandparents to 11 grandchildren. To learn more about Careen and her work with young mothers, visit

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