5 Ways to Help Boys Become Men
When I was a little girl, I never put much thought into my future children. As most young girls do, I played dolls and Barbie’s, but I never actually remember thinking about what my kids would be like. I remember my first ultrasound with my first baby. Besides perhaps my wedding day, I had never anticipated something so much. My husband and I excitedly brought our blank tape to record the ultrasound, and our excitement over those black and white fuzzy images was palpable.
When we finally got to the determination of the gender, the technician pointed her little arrow and beamed with pleasure as she announced it was a boy. I was so proud. I felt an odd, almost primitive feeling of pride, a satisfaction like a queen of olden days- I had produced a male heir, someone to carry on the family name!
This news traveled as fast as our fingers could text and call, and later our family was overjoyed to welcome the first grandchild on both sides, almost three weeks earlier than expected.
Little did I know, I would have a similar experience three more times, and welcome a total of four baby boys into this world. It has been beautiful every time, and I am so very grateful to have boys.
During my pregnancies, I often had people say to me, “Are you hoping for a girl this time?” Even after my first boy, this was always a question. By the fourth, everyone thought I was just pining away, hoping for a girl.
But the truth is, I wasn’t.
Maybe because after the first, I was so comfortable with it, I didn’t want a change. Girls brought new challenges, and I was used to boy things. I felt almost guilty about the pleasure I got when I found out each time that I was having a boy.
I always watched little girls around me with their pink glitter dresses and time-consuming hairdo’s and thought to myself, “I am so glad I have boys, they’re so much easier.”
But as the years go by and my boys grow older, I have realized that every child brings their own set of challenges and that boys aren’t any easier than girls.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to teach my boys as they grow into men. My oldest will be turning 11 in a few months, and it has suddenly hit me how precious little time I have left with him under my roof.
When I think of all the things I want my boys to know, it can seem overwhelming, so last month I wrote down five things that were important to me. I love a visual list as a reminder, so I wrote them down and put them in a place I would see often because while I am visual, I am also admittedly forgetful. Here are my 5 ways:
#1 Teach them to Serve:
I’m sure you have heard this before, but the best way to change your mood or to lift your spirits is to serve someone else. We forget ourselves and we focus on others. When we say our prayers in the morning before school, I always pray that my boys will find opportunities to serve others. I think hearing these words from my mouth reminds them that they should think of others and actually seek out those who are in need.
Sometimes this tendency comes naturally, as it does for my oldest child. He is forever helping someone who has dropped something or patting someone on the back telling them they’ve done a good job. This habit does not come as quickly to my second born, so I have tried to point out when someone needs help, not making him go, but saying something as simple as “Her hands are full, maybe she’d like some help.” There is always someone in need, and everyone likes a little help.
Ideas on how:
- Serve together as a family
- Encourage them to open the door for others
- Encourage them to ask others if others need help
#2 Teaching them to have manners:
Manners were a big deal in my house growing up. If I went on a date and the guy had bad table manners, I had a hard time with it, and I would never dream of taking him home to my parents.
Teaching my kids to have good manners has been harder than I expected. Sometimes I feel like all I do is tell them to put their napkins on their laps and to say please and thank you and to not lick their fingers.
But I do feel like it’s important, and not just table manners. Looking someone in the face when you apologize, or a sincere thank you means so much. Knowing the curfew of your date and taking her home when that time comes. Offering to help when you are a guest of someone else. These are very simple acts that make a huge impact on those around us.
Ideas on how:
- Take them out to eat and practice manners
- Encourage them to host a party
- Role play conversations and social skills such as shaking hands
#3 Teaching them Respect:
- Model respect by listening and having compassion towards others
- Encourage them to make a new friend
- Visit an elderly grandparent or friend
#4 Teaching them to enjoy learning:
I graduated from college with a huge sigh of relief, but in a few short months when fall semester started back up again, I felt homesick for that academic environment. I used to think that campus was where the learning happened and I was sad to miss out. It took me a little while to realize that I was in charge of my education, and that I was responsible to continue learning every day.
I want my boys to hunger for knowledge like a beggar for food. I want them to learn in every aspect of the word- books, people, experiences, and everything else. I want to encourage them to take all those little nuggets of knowledge and put them in a safe place in their marvelous brains.
I also want them to know that learning doesn’t have to happen in a classroom and that intelligent people don’t always have a college degree or even a high school education, and a certificate doesn’t make you better or smarter than someone else.
Ideas on how:
- Visits your library
- Research their interests together online
- Encourage them to try new things
#5 Teaching them to Love:
This is what it all comes down to, and the reason I love Weeds to Wishes and the focus on love. So many people get caught up in “You don’t believe in this” and pointing the finger of guilt and shame, and we so easily forget that we’re all just people trying to make it in this world. All the other things I want my boys to know are encompassed by this one word- love. Service, good manners, respect, and learning are all encompassed by love. We simply cannot do any of these if we don’t put love as our first motive.
Ideas on how:
- Say I love you to them often
- Encourage them to write a note to a friend or family member
- Learn about their individual love language
So, while raising boys in this world can be completely terrifying, we can’t move to the mountains and keep them safe inside.
We have to let them become men in this place, and we must try to give them the tools to be happy.
Good luck friends, I’ll be over here with ma boys.
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