Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Guide for Moms of Boys

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Bringing up 2 boys as a single mom was a bit challenging. I knew I could keep them fed and clothed but my job was bigger than that. My job was to raise men. To remind myself of my job, I always called my boys MITs (Men in Training).

As future men, I had to look at what I wanted them to look like as adults. My overall goal for them was to become productive members of society. This seemed simple enough, get good grades, go to college and get a good job.

As they grew and developed their own personalities, this goal still remained the same but I had to look at my boys differently. They weren't always too keen on my way of helping them to become productive members of society. 

I wasn't just raising boys I was raising someone's future husband. I was raising my grandchildren's father. Being a productive member of society wasn't enough. I needed to raise men that would be God fearing, loving husbands, good providers, and great dads!

Society has a belief that girls need to be strong and men need to be gentle. I filter everything society says through the word of God. This belief is not how God designed man and woman to be. It's not to say that men shouldn't have a gentle side and women shouldn't have a strong side but that shouldn't be what they are known for.

God gave Adam the exhortation to be the provider and he gave Eve the task to bear children, thus making her the nurturer.

My husband always says "God made man and man made society." Based on this, who's truth should we listen to?

Raising boys to men is no easy task for moms but here are some things I learned.

1. Read the Bible with them

If you do nothing else, this is the most important thing you can do. The Bible is full of stories of men of valor, men of faith and unfortunately men of foolishness.
"When we read together, we’re seeing through the same lens, hooking arms on an adventure. We’re experiencing something  bigger than ourselves, and we’re doing it side-by-side." Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival
By reading the word of God aloud to them you will have great discussions about the people and see God's grace in action. 

Don't let fear of not knowing it all stop you from doing this. Be transparent, tell them you're learning right along with them. Transparency in parenthood will always get you farther. 

If you're not sure where to start, look at Hebrews 11. This is referred to by many as the "Hall of Faith". It is a list of people from the Bible that were known for their faith. From this list choose a person, and read about them together. The accounts are full of wisdom and some shame. Some of the people's stories have some uncomfortable parts in them. Depending on the age of your son, maybe start reading about them in a kid's Bible. Then, on your own, read about them in your Bible and you can discuss what you learned. 

Here are some kid's Bibles that I think are amazing.

This is truly the first and most important step to raising strong Godly men.

On a side note, check out the post on daily devotions as a place to start for yourself also.

2. Let Them Go
Somewhere around 7 or 8 years old boys start to figure things out and want to start spreading their wings. However, they are too little to be independent but they are too big to be babied. I would dare to say that the beginnings of male hormones are kicking in.

They still need you to be their mommy but they need you to teach them the beginnings of being a man more. As a mom focus more on raising the man that you want your son to become instead of the little boy that you wanted him to stay. Unfortunately you can't do this to the full extent that your son needs it. This is the part when you let them go. Their dad has the credentials to take care of this.

The toughest thing to do is to let their dad be their leader. You'll see their dad talking to them and treating them in a way that will not make you happy. You'll actually get a little mad and want to jump in. DON'T! There was something about your husband that attracted you to him. Some type of masculinity that you appreciated and even found sexy. Let your husband teach that to your son.

Letting go is a natural order of life. If you've seen the movie 300, they took the boys at 7 years old and taught them to be warriors. Even in Little House on the Prairie days, young boys were expected to do men's work. If you look back to Bible times, David was a shepherd and killed lions and bears. He was only about 13 when he killed Goliath.

If you're a single mom, it's on you! It's not an easy job and it may take some stretching on your part, but you can do it!  You can teach them to be men by having them join in with yard work. Let them work with power tools and do some HARD work. They can do more than you think they can. If there is a boys' group at your church, get them involved and let them go camping. Yes they'll come home dirty but the bonding time between males is necessary for them to develop into men. Also martial arts, football, baseball, basically any type of physical activity is great for boys. Yes it makes mommas nervous but they need to be strong and these are the type of activities that will help them to develop this.

3. Treat them with Respect

In the book Love and Respect, ideas are given explaining why men act the way they do. Dr. Eggerichs explains that the need for respect is innate in men. They were created with this need.

The respect that I'm suggesting you offer them is not respect as you would offer to your husband or to your son's father. It's sincerely wholeheartedly recognizing that they are getting older and aren't little boys anymore.  Giving them more freedoms and responsibilities is a type of respect you can offer to your boys. If you can recognize this at a young age it will make their transition to adulthood easier.

Respect looks different at different ages and for different families.

At the pre-teen years (8-12) it might look like knocking on the bedroom or bathroom door before you walk in if they're changing. Maybe they get a later bedtime or maybe they get to watch a certain movie that's been off limits. Letting them use power tools, with supervision of course, is a HUGE thing for boys at this age. They will feel so grown up and stand up a little taller. When they make a mistake and cut the power cord (speaking from experience), shake it off and move on, power chords can be mended. Basically you're acknowledging that they are getting older and are not a little boy any more.

In the teen years (13-18) respect may look like letting them go to the movies with their friends or hanging out at their friend's house. It may look like having their friends over and cooking enough food for a troop, but being invisible all at the same time. Respect, by my definition, means they are in charge of the yard. It doesn't mean you don't go out and weed or maybe trim with them but you definitely let them take the lead. If you wouldn't correct your husband, then don't correct them. It will only lead to discouragement and totally negate your goal. Besides if you don't have to do it, then at least it's getting done.

Respect may also look like letting them be in charge of their room. I'm sure I'll get kick back on this one, but in all honesty is it really worth the fight? Yes it's your house and you paid for it but it's their house too. Honestly by the time they get to this age, they're only 5 years away from college, what do you want their last 5 years to look like? Maybe set can be messy but on Friday you have to clean it, negotiating always gets you further than domination.

I always told my boys that with freedom comes responsibility and if they couldn't handle the freedom then they'd lose it. It only takes one time of them losing their freedom to learn the lesson.

4. Build their confidence

This is a huge one and really not all that difficult. The main thing is to help them see they are able to do things. To help them have the confidence to be a leader.

In order to do this, you can offer compliments when they do something. Even if it's not done to your standard, at least find 1 nice thing to say. Offer praise, men truly enjoy being praised for their works. They like to be recognized for their efforts also. Tell them a sincere thank you.

Give them tasks to accomplish that are a little difficult but will stretch them. Offer assistance if needed, don't set them up for failure. But the goal is for them to see they can do it!

Confidence is a mental thing and an ego thing. It's not an innate personality trait it's a learned trait. As the nurturer you have the power to help build this trait in him which will help him throughout his life.

5. Offer them friendship

This doesn't mean you're BFFs and go shopping together. But it does mean that you take an interest in whatever it is that they are into at the moment. It means acting like you know what they are talking about and knowing just enough buzz words to be able to ask a question every once in a while. And if you get it wrong then you both have a good laugh.

Listen when they talk, just like you would a girl friend. Look them in the eye and let them talk. Don't ask too many questions. No one likes to feel like they are going through an interrogation. Besides if you let them talk, they'll probably give you all of the information you need.

As they get older, in the car, turn off the music and don't talk on your phone. This is the best time for conversations. When they start driving you'll miss this time with them.

Building a friendship when they are little is truly the foundation to having a great relationship throughout the teen years and into adulthood.

Through these conversations you can offer friendly advice that will help them to become the man that their future wife needs.

6. Model being the wife/woman you want him to marry

The greatest compliment a son can give a mother is to say that they are looking for a wife that is just like them. 

I hope this means that they are looking for a strong, independent, respectful, tactful, God fearing woman.

Being a strong woman doesn't mean you railroad over people. Strong can also mean using tact and finesse to achieve your goals. It takes a truly strong person to bite your tongue when you want to tell someone off. 

My dad always said "You catch more flies with honey." Using gentle words to attain goals will get you more respect and help them to listen. 

When looking towards the future, do you want to cringe when a woman speaks to your son or would you like to smile? Whatever you model for them is what they'll accept in a relationship. 

Remember Proverbs 14:1 says the wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Let this sink in for a moment. The way you act goes further than any words you'll ever say.

My boys are grown now, they are 23 and 19. One works at Publix in the warehouse and the other is at college as a Middle School Math Major. We talk often and laugh at the childhood memories that we have of them growing up. It truly amazes me the things they say to me. I grew up wanting to be a mom that had a close relationship with her children. So far so good! 

Just be cool! Take a breath and pause before you speak. Kind words are like honey--sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24)

Remember they are future men!

I'm praying for you!

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