They come in all shapes and sizes.
Some are neat and deep-thinking, or clumsy, loud and messy. Some are seemingly clueless to the world around them, while others appear fully aware.
My boy stands well over six feet tall, towers over me, is skinny to the point I feel like I could wrap my arms around him twice, has long blonde hair past his shoulders and loved donuts! He is blessed with looks that seem older then his years. Yet he is only 12! So this is both a curse and blessing to his world.
He is the youngest following behind two sisters – one just a year older and the other six years older. He has recently come out of their shadows both figuratively and literally to realized he is a guy’s guy and that while his own sisters are okay, these other girls that aren’t a part of his family aren’t so terrible either. He is trying new things and finding his way and somewhat of a mystery as he can fly under the radar for days on end or be a wild child, much like his name “Finn” implies.
He’s also incredibly loving, kind, generous, insightful, funny, smart, generally gentlemanly, hard-working around the house…and still a BOY…and yet not? I am beginning to see fleeting images of the man he is becoming as he finds his way.
As he nears the world of 13…and as his mother, I have come to realize that for however close we are, I am still sometimes lost to what goes on in his mind. Yet I often find him coming up for quick hugs and seeking quiet moments where he seems to be looking for an unspoken reassurance that all is well in his world.
So as my son grows, so does my realization of his ever changing emotional and physical needs are equally important yet appear equally as confusing to him as they can be to me.
Parenting can be challenging, messy and hard but mostly it is rewarding, fun and delightful to know you are raising these decent human beings. Yes, I am privileged to be the mom of two girls, and this mini man child. Yet it seems to me our girls have certain things they need to hear that may differ from our boys. Although boys are typically less emotional and dramatic than our girls, they do have deep emotions and need to know it is just as okay for them to vocalize their emotions as it is the female gender.
While moments of cuddle time with your “little” boy may be fewer and further between and an increasing thing of the past as they develop their independence and you may feel saddened to recognize they hug a little more quickly and a little less frequently then previous years. However, it doesn’t mean they don’t still need powerful affirmations and lessons.
So, what can you say to them?
What do they need to hear from us?
Although they may not show it, boys need to hear positive words as much as (or maybe more than) girls.
Here are 3 Powerful Things Every Boy Needs to Hear & Learn!
1) “You are LOVED!”
We love you, PERIOD! We love you as a person, as an individual, as a HUMAN, as our CHILD, as the adolescent and the Man you are to become.
It doesn’t matter what you do or what you don’t do. Yes, we may need to help guide you and encourage you to see the world through an ever changing lenses as your reality changes yet we love you as you are, and nothing can change that!
Sometimes as parents, we get caught up in the whole “raising a man” mentality. Of course we want to raise a responsible human being, that’s the end goal…but BOYS aren’t MEN yet…so putting to much on them, brow beating, criticizing and demeaning or even enabling our sons isn’t the way. As it is with most things in life, we have to find a balance!
Let me give an example…
This year my son went through a phase where he wasn’t taking his academics very seriously. Despite my two ever increasing desires to either: 1. kick his butt (after-all, I’m a southern momma and he is a boy – he can handle it – right?) or 2. stick my head in the sand with hopes his academic concentration would improve.
Neither of those were a choice.
This took due diligence on his father and I to literally sit down with him almost every evening, review his grades, discuss expectations, model conversations he could and should have with his teachers to resolve case by case scenarios, have him take responsibility for what he needed to do, set time-lines and follow up conversations, consequences if he didn’t follow through, emailing teachers, hire a tutor and eventually have a parent/teacher conference so my son could see his parents and teachers were a united front and he was going to have to STEP UP and face this.
No matter how hard my son tried to wiggle through one angle or another, he saw unconditional support, while being held accountable and understood on every level. This was surely frustrating for him at times, however he came to understand how much he was loved and accepted even during this personal struggle. Will he have more learning experiences like this? You betcha! But will he know he is loved and supported through it? You betcha!
At the end of the day, our boys need to hear often that they are loved and accepted unconditionally and that no matter how much they may try to push us off, we are still here. As they learn they are loved, through the thick and thin, they will LEARN to SHOW unconditional love too.
2) “You are GOOD at _______.”
(Fill in the blank with at least one thing that your boy does well).
Boys need to be encouraged in their skills and abilities; they need to be verbally told that they are good at least one thing.
Feeling “significant” is huge for our boys.
Let me illustrate…
For many years of my career I had the privilege of teaching emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth in a high school setting. This was my area of “expertise” (if there is such a thing) and what I held a degree and teaching certification in. This resulted in working with predominantly teen age boys. They had struggles in so many areas of life and as a result I spent many hours everyday training, instructing, goal setting, counseling, mentoring, helping, developing relationships and equipping young men. Mostly I was successful and sometimes not…it was the “sometimes not” that hurt.
Yet way before I ever had my own son, I remember one of the very first lessons I learned about boys – they respond very well to sincere praise, compliments and high expectations!
When I would offer a good word, praise or encouragement to one of my male students, I would watch their shoulders lift and they would sit up a little straighter. There might be no other reaction, but that happened every time with every boy that I reinforced with praised. Eventually after time, a smile would appear and a face would light up, then usually success would follow. But it always started with a shoulder lift.
Boys need to have their “shoulders lifted” regularly!
So, what are you saying to the boy in your world that will lift his shoulders? How are you sincerely complimenting his hard work? What are the positive skills, talents, and abilities you are encouraging?
For example, my son is extremely witty in a very subtle manner. You have to pay attention because it’s so quick, it can fly right past you but is he ever funny! He is also very social and generally outgoing and a huge team player! Furthermore he is showing growth in all types of ways with his willingness to try new things.
We compliment his skills often and for most of his life, we have encouraged him in the direction he seems to show a strength or interest. This is a huge shoulder lift for him because he knows we are sincere and paying attention.
What about your boy? What is he good at?
Whatever his skills and interests may be, I encourage you to tell your son how good he is at these things.
Remind them about their skills, whatever they may be and watch for the shoulder lift. This will become something they INTERNALIZE and in turn help LIFT others in years to come.
3. Life will have many CHALLENGES!”
We need to teach our boys that life will have its hard days, bad days and really difficult moments.
We do not need to remove every obstacle from their lives or rescue them from everything hard. Our boys need to understand what it is like to work hard, face troubles and deal with adversity.
Of course, we can support them, encourage them and even pray for them; but we must let them FACE real life.
As moms especially, we must not coddle them and hover over them like giant helicopters. If they fail from time to time, it’s okay. It won’t be the end of their world. Let them try new things and step out of their comfort zones! It’s amazing how much a boy can develop into a young man when you allow them to spread their wings a little, or a lot!
Let me explain…
This past school year my son came home talking about taking a dance class. I was surprised but excited for him. He has always loved dancing, so this wasn’t something I wanted to discourage despite my concern that he might get picked on by his peers, especially once I learned it was a partner’s dance class. It was a free after school dance program a local dance company was offering and as it turned out, my son was the only boy to show up for this partner’s dance class out of the entire middle school. I thought for sure he would quit. To my surprise he stuck it out for an entire nine weeks, rarely missed and really enjoyed it! Once the program was over, my son didn’t have any interest in continuing to take dance classes despite us offering to sign him up if he wanted. I didn’t mind, it was his choice. I think his mindset was, “I was curious, I tried it and now I’m ready to move on.” Either way, I was just proud of him for trying something completely new that most young men weren’t willing to try.
After almost eight months, he doesn’t remember a whole lot of the dance moves he learned but he learned so much more from that experience! He learned spatial body awareness which was huge for a kid growing at a speedy rate, a love for “My Girl” and to confidently break out of his shell even in the face of what others may deem “uncool”! This translated to him having the confidence to try cross country running and then finally spreading his wings into the realm of basketball. Something he had wanted to try but hadn’t previously felt comfortable knowing he was starting later then most boys his age.
Young men especially can “lose their way” and they need to hear us speak these truths to them, that there is a plan and a special purpose for their lives. Explain to your boys that they are strong and meant to try new things for a reason. To experience the challenge and overcome it.
After all, they will eventually become a partner that helps lead their homes and families. Teach them the importance of challenges, hard work, and stepping out of their comfort zone. This will be one of their BIGGEST lessons, especially as they develop in to the men they are to become.
Some people may think this is instinctive for young men, but it’s a skill that is taught, encouraged, hopefully modeled and learned. Yes, some seem more instinctive at it then others but I’ve seen a generation of very lazy, carefree young men and this is not what we need for our future nor are we doing our sons any favors when we allow them to behave as such.
Please teach your boys now, so they will eventually be strong leaders, good providers and care takers of their families and communities!
Their future partners will thank you, and your sons will appreciate it too.
So regardless of their emotional and physical independence they need to hear positive and affirming words and deep down – THEY ARE LISTENING and LEARNING!
What are some of YOUR thoughts on raising boys?
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As always…Go in love,