Being a single parent is not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination, but it does come with its just rewards. After all, you get to say that you did everything on your own. What your boys eventually become will ultimately be your exclusive parental bragging rights; that is, if you raise your sons correctly. Even well-meaning parents make some mistakes; nobody is perfect. Still, you can avoid some of those common pitfalls if you pay close attention and keep your mind and heart focused on the task at hand. When the smoke clears, nobody can debate the fact that it is easier to raise good boys now than it is to fix bad boys later.
Be Firm yet Gentle
Ok single moms, it’s time for you to play the role of mother and father at the same time. Well, that is the case at least when it comes to discipline. What that means is, you have to practice a little finesse. In order to be simultaneously firm yet gentle you need to first set some workable boundaries that everyone can understand. Just make sure that what you’re asking of your boys is fair and for their own good. Once the limits are set don’t allow yourself to budge on them at all.
Kids in general like to see what they can get away with; but in my opinion little boys are especially keen to this trick. If you tell them not to do one thing they will likely just find something new to get into. You have to be clear about your expectations of them and let them know why you feel the way you do about their actions. As little logical beings, a brief explanation might help your young men understand why it is you yell so loudly when they jump from their top bunk.
Get Proactively Messy
As a single mother of boys you are going to have to get used to seeing a bit of a mess in your house. Allowing boys to be boys does not mean that you can’t still teach them how to clean up after themselves though. Let your kids play but also teach them about responsibility and self-awareness by giving them rules for when they romp. We like to sing a “Cleanup Time” song in my house; it gets everyone rallied together so that mom doesn’t lose her mind when she sees the condition of the living room.
Remember that boys typically need detailed instructions when they are asked to do something. Saying “Go clean your room” may get them moving in the right direction but their personal spaces will not look any better, at least not to you. Little boys usually look around and think that their things are just fine where they are – right there in the middle of the room where they can find it. So until your boys get the hang of how you like things done around the house you should be on constant standby, because their idea of clean will definitely not be the same as yours.
Give them Space
Your sons are going to need plenty of room in order to wrestle around, play with their toys, throw balls, and be boys. As nature dictates, most males like to spar with siblings and friends from time to time whether women like it or not. In response to this harsh lesson learned, I gave my sons their own space in our home to go balls-to-the-wall so that nothing and nobody got broken. There are still some accidents, as there always will be with small children, but at least now things are contained in a more manageable way.
My sons and I like to call that area “Base” in our home. The boys know that it’s not a place of no holds barred activities and mischief, but instead that it is a place where they can feel free to explore their childhood wonders, get a little rowdy, and keep mom from losing her cool (or her good china). As a mother of three little boys I grew to understand that I could not stop my sons from being rambunctious, so I compromised and gave them a safe space to let it all out. I suspect that their teenage years will require something close to the same thing.
Explain the World
As if it ever worked, you can no longer simply say, “Because I told you so” like your parents may have and expect that to suffice a curious or mischievous child. Today’s world is a complicated, competitive, and often confusing place. You definitely don’t want to send your boys out in the world as weak men who simply take orders without asking questions. Modern parenting requires that you sit down with your sons (and daughters) to explain the real world in a way they can understand.
My father, who was a single parent as well, used to draw me diagrams on a dry-erase board – literally sketching visual illustrations of the consequences of my decisions. I happen to be better with words so I have long talks with my boys when I find it necessary. I make it a point to look them directly in the eye when I speak, and I try not to talk to them like they’re babies (even though they always will be to me). I find that doing so gives them the tools they need to make good decisions on their own when I’m not around.
No Gender Stereotyping
The last thing you want to do is to lock your sons into stereotypical gender roles. They already have a lacking father figure, you don’t want to throw fuel on the fire by creating men who have no respect for women. Let your boys explore their feminine side without fearing it is doing damage to their manliness, because in fact it is strengthening it. Everything is a process and a cycle, and you will find that your sons eventually discover that thing that makes their masculinity tick.
My four year old loves to watch “My Little Pony” and nobody in the house has a problem with it. On the same token, my ten year old used to watch “Strawberry Shortcake,” though he’ll probably never admit it. Still, the youngest is obsessed with basketball and they both think they’re Power Rangers. I just knew then, like I still know today, that letting my boys explore what the world had to offer would one day allow them to become more well-rounded men.
Food is Fundamental
I let, nay I make my sons help me cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner (most of the time). The way I see it, I am not the only one who has to eat to survive so I shouldn’t be the only one who knows how to prepare a meal. I want my boys to know how to make food for themselves, and I don’t tolerate anyone in my house subscribing to the whole “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” mumbo jumbo.
Instead, I explain the importance of the cooking skills to my boys and I try to make it fun for them. We play like our meals are science experiments that we all get to eat. This gets my sons excited about cooking, it makes them more willing to learn, and it definitely makes them want to clear their plates. You haven’t seen a boy eat so good until you’ve witnessed a child eat his own creation. Their future wives will thank you.
Insist on Manners
Just because you are raising rambunctious boys does not mean that they cannot end up having some manners. Yes males are stinky creatures who are known to burp and fart regularly, but they need to know how to function without grossing everyone out. As a mother of boys you are going to have to accept these facts while trying to maintain your composure. At the same time, your sons are going to have to accept the fact that you require some manners when they “do what they do.”
From an early age my boys learned the value of a good “excuse me” in the presence of other people, especially the ladies. They were reminded of its importance time and time again and they were thanked each time they did it. I taught them to belch inside their mouths, so as to not project it across the room. I also showed them how to politely excuse themselves from the area when they just couldn’t hold it in. I insisted on my sons having manners regardless of their impulses and now I have three little gentlemen I can brag about.
As a single mother of boys you are probably no stranger to hard times and stress. Your sons shouldn’t be sheltered from the realities of life, but they shouldn’t have to live steeped in mental or emotional troubles either. Take some time every now and then to be silly with your boys or else you might end up raising men who take themselves too seriously.
Sure, your boys need structure and guidance, but they also need to know that it’s safe for them to let go and be carefree around you. Not only is it entertaining to be silly with your kids, but it also helps them build confidence, character, and trust. You might even be surprised at how funny and creative your boys can be if you give them a safe outlet to do so.
Stay the Mom
Never allow your duties as a single mother to take away from your feminine essence. It’s going to be hard, but your boys need a mom just as much as they need a dad. While you’re worried about them not having the proper father figure in their lives, try not to take away their mother figure. Their future wives will thank you for that as well.