Here are a few hints for single moms to help sons grow into spectacular young men.
Raising sons is an adventure for me, with an uncharted course into unfamiliar territory. My older son gave input into what has worked and was has not with this endeavor.
1. Have clear boundaries, so there is no need to micromanage. When my son went out with buddies, I did not call him. He was expected home at a reasonable hour, so I did not check up on him during the evening.
A few friends had mothers who “burned up their sons’ cell phones” and kept asking where they were at any given time. If my son would have stumbled in drunk, or came home at 4 am, then there would have been consequences. My son said that I trusted him so did not feel the need to rebel.
2. Do not trash talk his father, but do answer any questions. My strategy was not to speak about my sons’ father in any way. I just did not mention him. My younger son did not refer to his father, but sometimes my older one did. He said that I answered the question briefly and to the point, without elaborating or adding emotion. Pretend the question is about a cartoon character and just answer matter-of-factly.
3. Have male role models available, even if they are on good terms with their father. Your sons are not seeing their father every day, so these adults enrich your sons’ lives. My younger one is into chess and has several strong male mentors. My older one used to participate in martial arts, and had male instructors who introduced ethics and discipline into these lessons. Seek out strong male role models in areas such as scouts, fencing, and other pursuits.
4. Let your sons develop their manly skills, such as do-it-yourself (DYI). They learned to do household repairs that have saved me money and boosted their sense of self. Maybe they could learn to grill, varnish your deck, and mow the lawn. Now when my sons see something that needs fixing, they just take care of it.
5. Boys of all ages like to play, whether they are five or fifty-five. Add fun into your schedule with time for physical activities. Have excursions to water parks and amusement areas. When out of town, find a basketball court, playground, skate park and so forth so they can let off steam.
6. Give your sons responsibilities. My sons have certain chores at home that are non-negotiable. I make them responsible for getting from point A to B when traveling. I have sat down in a Paris metro station and said “come get me when you figure which train to take.” Or said, “you get us out of this labyrinth in Sicily.” They have had to read maps in Chinese and signs in French, but managed to get us where we were supposed to be. They are drafted to be my travel guides and excel at it.
7. My sons volunteer to give back to others. Our society can be about instant gratification and greed, so volunteering gets the focus off kids and onto those less fortunate. My sons understand that no matter what crisis they have gone through, the world has many worse off people and animals than them. They do not want the latest gadgets and appreciate experiences over more stuff.
8. Just hang out with your sons doing parallel activities. I am reading a magazine while one son is playing video games and the other reading a gruesome book. Or we go out for lattes, and there is no pressure to talk, but we usually end up doing so.
Having sons has given me different perspectives to view the world in other ways. I like how they get right to the point and have helped me to be less serious and more fun.
X DeRubicon says
This is a pretty good list. I think that #8 is not obvious to moms. Boys are good just hanging out. If you do that with them, you’d be surprised what they will say when they are ready to say it.
The one thing I would add to the list is if Dad is available, then make room for him. Your custody/visitation schedule is there to ensure that the kids get to be with their other parent, not to restrict them. Be sure that you are not standing between him and the kids. If they spend most of their time with you, then don’t fight dad for the field trip slot or take you son to scouts because it is on “your night” (single mom in my cub scout den, I’m talking about you!). If dad can take your son to soccer practice, consider finding a way for that to be their thing (even if it means visiting when it’s not on the schedule).
Wendi Schuller says
I agree with you. Sometimes events come up with a parent during the other one’s shared time and the key word is flexiblity. Certainly if there is a scouting trip or out-of-town relatives, then it benefits the kids to be part of these get-togethers. It is so helpful for kids when co-parenting goes well. In some cases, the children may only be in contact with one parent, so these tips particularly help in those special cases.
I have seen a few dads do a stellar job of raising their daughters when mom was not in the picture.
X DeRubicon says
Your comment reminds me of one other thing. I’m not nitpicking, it just reminded me of what I should have said the first time.
Be kind, respectful, and positive to you your son’s gender. It’s his team you are talking about, and he needs to be a proud of his team. Point out good examples and role model behavior and that you appreciate it (he’s looking to you to judge value). “You boys are really lucky to have Mr. Johnson as Scout Master. I appreciate how hard he works to make to keep the troop going.” “He’s one of the few good ones” … and you lost it. You just said “Men mostly suck”. It’s so easy to do. It’s almost like we say those things thinking that we will have to prove our statement in court and want to make sure we have an out when cross examined just in case there was ever a serial killer who was a Scout Master.
Julie Boyd Cole says
Thanks for this list. I am raising two sons and I loved every one of your tips and I have been living this way for nearly a decade. Just the other day, my 16-year-old was fixing the frig while my 19-yr-old was replacing a light fixture in the ceiling. I was beeming with pride of course. I love raising boys and have really enjoyed all that it brings.
Thank you again for writing,
Wendi Schuller says
Julie, Sounds like you are doing a great job raising your sons and they are turning in to independant young men. Your future daghters-in-law will love you. My sons are less moody than most of their female peers. My sons do better when they don’t have to make a lot of eye contact, so walks are particulary good for meaningful conversations.