30 Things I've Learned in 18 Years of Parenting Boys

by Alexandra Rosas
Originally Published: 

I am a mom to all boys. I am thrilled to be their mother and I don’t pretend that I am happy about it while secretly coveting daughters. I would have been happy with all girls, too, or with a mix of girls and boys. I just wanted children, ever since I can remember. Period.

My children are growing up, as children do, no matter how we try to press them down and keep them small by squishing them in tiny beds (like you don’t…). I’ve now entered my 18th year as a mother of all boys, and I’ve kept mental notes along the way of what I’ve learned, the hard way — sometimes the easy way…

1. Teach your boys to respect women and how to treat women. Women on the average are physically smaller and shorter than men, but this is only the physical. Mentally, and person value wise, women are equal to men. It sounds ridiculous to have to teach this, but it’s what we as mothers need to do. I turn off commercials that show women as less than capable or inferior or needy, because actions speak louder than words. I comment on magazine covers or ads that show women feeble and manipulative. I am now the second shortest person in my house, there are three taller than I am, and only the 5th grader has to look up to me when he speaks, but my voice in this house carries weight, because I have never backed down from issues or made myself appear as anything less than physically and mentally able. Is this the first and longest and most run on paragraph in this post? Yes, it is, because this one is the most important of what boys need from their mothers.

2. Some boys will not want to talk as much as you do. Very possibly true. You may feel the need to ask and jump to the emotional right away, they may not. You know your child, his eyes will tell you if he needs some nudging to open up verbally. Otherwise, if they want to be left alone for awhile, oblige and give them that distance. But keep that one eye open, to their hearts, should they start hanging around you like they want to say something.

3. Say nice things to them. They may roll their eyes, but it still sounds like honey on toast. Drop them off at school with a “Knock ’em dead, handsome,” and a “Whoa! Here’s some sunglasses for those lethal blue eyes!” They’ll think you’re a cornball, but inside, they love to hear someone is that gaga over them.

4. Always always always and always, let them know how glad you are they were born. No matter what. Never say you can’t wait until they’re gone or they move out or leave for college. No matter what the day has been like, NEVER say that.

5. Tell them you love them, and like them. Prescribed dosage is twice a day. For teens, as necessary. Via phone, text, email, notes left on the kitchen table, it all counts.

6. Teach them how to graciously give, and receive, an apology, by modeling it yourself.

7. You are the sentinel at the internet gate. Have your household screens password protected and be the administrator for downloads/uploads on their electronics. Censoring? You bet it is. What they fill their minds with, stays. While you’re in control, plant the seed of a conscience. While you’re censoring, monitor their time on screens with a timer.

8. Remind them that they exist because the world demands their presence in it. Please, take part in your world, children.

9. Be visible in their schools or extra curricular activities. They feel pretty proud when it’s their mom reading in front of the classroom, teaching Sunday school, the one on Friday afternoons teaching JA, the boy scout leader, or the forensics coach. Parents are needed in so many places in and out of school. Don’t let the same ones always be doing the same work, you get on in there. Your boys will beam that it’s you.

10. Find out who their teachers are, the people they eat lunch with, and what they have for homework. Ask them about one of these things, every day.

11. Remind them to wear their seat belt and NEVER to text while driving. Every day, every time they leave. Say, “Please wear your seat belt. Don’t text. It’s safer that way.”

12. Ask them what they’d like more of, from you.

13. Talk to them about drugs, alcohol and sex, even if that’s not your thing. Tell them what drugs do to a young person’s brain and body, tell them what alcohol does to a young person’s brain and body, and tell them what too early sex does to a young person’s heart and soul. Also say, “Just because you’re physically able to do something doesn’t mean you should.”

14. Teach them the difference between assertive and aggressive, by showing them how to ask for things they want. Model the behavior of cooperation seeking, rather than bullying and tell them that asking for something is the best way to get it. Reassure them in their attempts and encourage them to speak up for themselves. You can begin this with their interactions with teachers, and later on when talking for themselves at doctor appointments.

15. Congratulate them on their accomplishments, attempts, grades, projects, events, races, meets, competitions, papers, and debates. Tell them how proud you are, that you see the work they did, and how impressed you are with their dedication and self-direction. Never take the good in them for granted or as a given. Being a kid now is harder than it ever was.

16. Let them know your expectations. Set the bar as one of value, perseverance, effort, and challenge. Share your stories of when you pushed beyond your comfort zone, and how you triumphed, or not. Let them know that it’s in the push that we see the glory. And the glory is in the effort.

17. Teach them what is obvious to you — Do Your Best, Work Your Hardest, and Honor Your Commitments. Then show them.

18. Smile often, and tell them how much you enjoy being their mother. They don’t need to know about the intricacies of your adulthood, and don’t complain to them like they’re your friend out on girls’ night. Just let them know being their mother is the highlight of your life on this planet.

19. Don’t think you don’t matter. OH BOY, you matter. Attend any of their events when you can. When they see your face there, they have to stop themselves from bursting into a full grin. Even if you don’t see it. That’s what I tell myself, “Oh if he could smile that pearly smile right now, he so would.” They’re beaming inside.

20. If they act like they don’t need you, sometimes it’s because they don’t. Not always. Could be. And hard one to call, so take your cue, assess the situation. Look into their eyes and read between the lines of their voices. They’re biologically wired to seek independence and lead, but a well placed, kind, “Just let me know, I’m right here,” is a reassuring encouragement for new endeavors.

21. Boys are the opposite sex of what their moms are. They’re not our carbon copies, remember this when you have times when you can’t understand them. Hormonally and biologically, they’re not female. The hormones testosterone and estrogen have separate purposes.

22. Make your house an emotionally safe, accepting place. Promise them you will always listen, then never break that promise. Whatever they come to you with, zip your lip, and listen. If you want your children to come to you and speak freely and openly, they’ve got to trust you.

23. Make your house a physically safe place. Don’t invite danger in. In all its forms. Watch who you bring into the home, and who you allow into the home. Even if they come with your child.

24. Take a deep breath before reactions. Don’t think parent/child, think human/person to person. This is especially important when they get older. Unless you’re teaching them how to drive and they look like they DON’T EVEN SEE THAT STOP SIGN OMG.

25. Squeeze in the little things they like. Sometimes that means getting up earlier, going to bed later, not finishing that book like you want to, but make the pumpkin bread that he loves in the fall. Fifty minutes of your time, but he smiles when he knows what he sees when he comes home from school. Loving your boys physically, verbally, emotionally, will not make them mama’s boys. It will just make them secure of how they matter in this world.

26. Teach them to value themselves and every bit of themselves. Let them hear you say over and over, “Don’t give yourself away lightly.”

27. Find a common hobby. Bike riding? Walks? Trips to the library? Reading books silently side by side? Looking through cookbooks? Seeing scifi movies together? Watching soccer plays of the week? Tennis at the playground or against the garage door? Community theater? You can find something. Don’t give up.

28. Guide them into independent decision making. Ask them what they think and why. Tell them you trust what they’ll do, and let them own that decision.

29. Teach them to not waste water, use leftover water to water plants, and turn off the shower while you soap up. Give them a conscience about what needs to be treated with wonder and respect.

30. Tell them they can call you anytime, from anywhere, if they find themselves in a place/condition that is not right. You’ll come, no questions asked, you’ll fly there faster than Superman. Stick to that promise.

“Accept your child for who he is, and watch him blossom.” I’ve kept this in my heart, ever since my children were bitty toddlers and I read it in a parenting magazine. I keep those words at the ready, every day, and it’s the filter I speak through.

So much love to all you parents, and all that you do.

Related post: About a Boy

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