A Mother of Boys

June 4, 2014

I have written before about man’s need for respect but this week I would like to discuss how to respect your boys as you raise them. 

I have noticed certain ‘stages’ in a boys’ development that cause a ‘breaking away’ from mothers. For lack of a better word, I will call these stages ‘independence.’ James Dobson, in his book Bringing Up Boys, tells of sons breaking their mother’s heart a little at a time so she will let him go when he needs to leave. This process has some distinct age markers.

Between ten and twelve years of age, I’ve seen my boys test the waters and question to find purpose. Their internal development makes them challenge me until I step back and realize their need for more independence from me. Another time zone of questioning and breaking away is the adolescent years, where I don’t try to change their behavior, I just try get them through it. (You won’t make them perfect for the world.)

My role as mom changes as I allow my son to grow. Chores like washing dishes and cleaning bathrooms still be done, but he also needs man jobs. How do you do that? The sooner that he can use man tools the better. (Of course with your supervision.) Give a six or seven year old a hammer and show him where to put the nail in the wood for his dog house and you have given him respect.

I purchased bird house kits for the boys when they were small. I had the parts laid in front of each boy. I turned around to find Jonathan (age 2) hammering at his board. He nailed his boards to the bench before I could say a word. Sometimes respect is given not for what they didn’t do, but for what they did do.

The boys have all weed-whacked at a young age. Mowing yards gives them ‘man’ tools. We supervise and provide safety guidelines for every tool. “These are tools, not toys.”

Instead of doing things for them, I watch and cheer them. We work through a project, say a chicken house for a hen with her chicks. I draw it with their suggestions and make our materials list. In the process of making it, they hold the wood, hammer the nails, measure the board, if old enough saw the wood... I am not a patient person especially in the midst of a project and things don’t turn out perfectly but I let them do all that they can do. I am the facilitator and the cheerleader. When their attitude becomes defeated or dejected, we get a snack, take a break and come back, but we do not quit---remember cheerleaders cheer until it’s finished. So it didn’t turn out exactly as we pictured it…but does it work? Great, it serves its purpose. I do not re-do what they have done. If it will work, it is good. If it won’t work, then he redoes it or I show how to do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just functional.

Most of our cement work was a trial-by-error experiment (some boys would say more a trial, others would say it was all error)—but they learned. They appreciate cement work done the right way and realize it is a lot harder than it looks.

As we’ve had more boys, my ability to function has lessened. My husband reminds me that it’s good for the boys to help me. When my husband was deployed for a year, our seventh son was born. Three weeks after the birth, I had another surgery that required me to be in a bed for four months. My husband reminded me that ‘it was good for the boys to help me.’ I had to allow them to help me ( that’s hard for a mother). They learned to look for ways to help.

When they see me carrying something heavy, they are quick to come to my aid. They unload the groceries---even though it packs out my Excursion every month. My ten year old just helped me load 500 pounds of chalk for baseball at Lowes. He loaded it into the truck in the parking lot. Did I want to help? Yes, I held the cart so it wouldn’t move when he lifted it. I opened the truck’s doors. I gave him encouragement as he loaded the 50 pound bags. He was doing a man’s job.

My brother-in-law has spent his life coaching boys baseball. Recently he started coaching girls softball. He found that he couldn’t get the girls motivated the same way that he could motivate boys. Boys are motivated by doing good. Their performance motivates them. Girls are motivated by feeling good. In order to make them perform well, the girls had to feel good, but the boys had to do something to make them feel good. An interesting difference--that goes back to ‘give them a man job.’ 

Boys must be trained to be men. They are taught by example. That example must come from fathers, uncles, grandfathers…male role models. They learn by example. 

My boys thank me for every meal. I didn’t teach them that. Their dad did. Do you know how that makes me feel? That makes me want to make meals they like. My husband has never lied and told me he loves this vegetable when he could barely choke it down, but he finds something to praise. He has taught the boys by example and reminder to thank me. It’s only a small little sentence, but it makes a difference, every time. 

My husband has designated a special chair for me, initially because I was nursing someone, but now, the boys still give me that chair, even if that’s the only one available…training and example by their dad. 

I’ve already mentioned how they carry heavy things for me. Many times I must ask them to open my water, or open a can, I’ve had to allow myself to receive help. They are willing to give it. That is because of their father’s example.

These aren't overt ways to show ‘respect’, but respect for their manhood comes in the minute, daily things that remind them that they are important and needed and that they are protecting the women in their lives.

How do you show respect to the men/sons in your life?

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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