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12 Tips for Parenting the Strong Willed Child in a Compassionate Way

12 Tips for Parenting the Strong Willed Child in a Compassionate Way

How do you know if you have a strong willed child? You just know. Nobody had to tell you and you didn’t have to analyze your child to determine if they were strong willed.

Their personality is so strong that there is no guessing that they have a strong will. This type of personality is especially challenging to parents because it is difficult to parent someone who already has their mind made up about just about everything in life.

If channeled in the right direction and you don’t break your child’s spirit along the way, you can have a kid who is destined for epic things in life. Strong willed children are often highly self-motivated, so they are go-getters from a young age.

Help your child become the best person they can be by parenting your strong willed child appropriately, so their spirit is not broken.

Below are tips on parenting the strong willed child:

1. Don’t make yourself the enemy

Don’t make yourself the enemy by making it your way or the highway. Being a dictator as a parent will only drive your child away from you and make you the enemy.

Some parents want their strong willed child to listen and obey above all else, so they become forcefully strict in their parenting. They think that they need to act dominating and forceful in order to gain obedience from their child.

This is not helpful for the strong willed child. This will make you out to be the enemy because the perception is that you want your way and you are against their way.

It becomes a battle of wills; yours versus theirs. This obviously isn’t your goal as a parent; which is why you need to practice authoritative parenting methods.

Authoritarian vs. Authoritative Parenting

Parents should try to be authoritative parents of their strong willed child.

Authoritarian parenting methods should be avoided, as this type of parenting is a dictatorship with parents trying to exert their will over their children. Authoritarian parenting is especially not helpful with strong willed children.

Conversely, authoritative parenting methods are very effective with strong willed children. Parents who utilize authoritative methods have clear rules, are loving, consistent, while also placing value on their child’s bests interests.

At the end of the day, their goal is to do what is in the best interest of their child. Rules for one child are not the same for another within an authoritative home.

They see each child as an individual. They have rules, but rather than always seeing everything as black and white, which would be the case with an authoritative parent, they are willing to listen to their child regarding the situation at hand and determine the course of action in each case.

The rules are not there to simply be enforced. Rather, the authoritative parent sees the rules as guidelines to the end goal of raising healthy, happy, morally sound individuals.

Seeing the rules as guidelines provides some flexibility.

For example, if you have a rule that your child’s bedtime is at 8:00 PM bedtime and your strong willed child wants to stay up until 9:00 PM because they want to watch the Miss America Pageant, then you take the time to listen their reasons and a discussion takes place.

Your child explains that they want to watch the talent portion of the competition because they have a goal to someday be in this pageant and they want to see what kind of talent is needed to get to the Miss America level.

Rather than being an enforcer of the rules, for the sake of the rules, you begin to understand that they are wanting to watch because they have a goal and dream that they want to pursue.

You allow a one hour flexibility in this case, but make an agreement that anything beyond that hour will have to be recorded. You also include in the agreement that if there is any complaining or arguing when the hour is up, then the show will not be recorded at all.

Creating clear boundaries, but also taking into consideration their desires, dreams, and goals (within reason) will help you make better decisions that aren’t black and white all of the time.

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The example above helps to create responsibility for the child with expectations, allowing them to not simply “have their way”, but to create an environment where they are treated with love and consideration.

Their hopes and dreams should not be squashed or minimalized. Your strong willed child may have great dreams and you don’t want to send the message that their dreams don’t matter because the 8:00 bedtime is more important.

2. They need to make choices: Offer them options

Love and Logic parenting methods can work quite well with strong willed children. This parenting method emphasizes offering options to children.

How it works is that from even the youngest of age, a child will be offered two choices for most daily decisions. This allows the strong willed child to be the decision maker for themselves.

Strong willed children want to feel in control of their decisions and will. Allowing for decisions throughout the day, even on the most basic level, puts the decision making in the hands of the child.

This is obviously within reason though. Parents provide the options, so they should be options that are win-win for the situation.

For example, at lunch time you can offer your child a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or macaroni and cheese. These are both options that you don’t mind making, yet it leaves a decision for the child. This helps the child feel empowered, because they are in control of decision making.

What if you went to a restaurant every day and there was only one option and no choice to be made? That could make it feel like prison day in and day out.

Your child’s home environment can feel the same way to them. Are they being told what to do all day long or are they being allowed to make decisions on what they want throughout the day?

Making it a point to allow decisions, with two options (that are both win-win options), you are helping your strong willed child to not only feel empowered, but you are also helping to develop a positive relationships with them.

You don’t want your child to feel like they are being raised in a prison, so allow them to make decisions daily.

You will have a better relationship with your child when you allow them to make these daily decisions because you are sending the message that their thoughts and opinions matter.

3. Instill morals: Don’t force your views

Strong willed children become determined adult. If you want your children to have good morals and character as adults, then you need to help guide them by your example.

You can’t force a strong willed child to believe what you believe. However, if you live a virtuous life, then you are providing a great example.

You are their number one role model as a parent. Their morals are shaped in the home.

If you want your strong willed child to have good morals, then practice what you preach. If you talk about not cheating and stealing and then your child overhears you at the dinner table talking about cheating on your taxes, you are not being a good example.

Teach your strong willed child to live a virtuous life by how you act. Be the example you want them to follow.

Have conversations with your strong willed child about their morals and character. Having these discussions will help them determine what kind of person they want to become.

Allow them to digest the important role that morality and good character play in their future. This will help shape their behavior because you are shaping their mind.

4. Keep in mind that they learn from experience

One reason that strong willed children appear to not listen to their parents is because they learn primarily through personal experience.

They learn from their first hand experience, rather than taking someone’s word on it, and therefore they test limits and boundaries.

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A parent can say repeatedly “don’t touch the stove because it is hot”. The strong willed child will inevitably touch the stove for a millisecond to see for themselves that it is hot.

They learn from their experiences and tend to test parental advice rather than just listen to the advice provided.

They are listening though. They will likely challenge parental advice by seeing for themselves whether the advice has substance.

Because strong willed children learn from experience, safety is of utmost importance when they are young. These children can be highly determined to do things on their own.

You don’t want them falling down stairs or touching hot stoves, so protect them when they are young and don’t know any better. As they grow, they become smarter about their safety.

A strong willed child needs extra safety measures when they are young because of their determined spirit.

5. Listen to their reasons

Strong willed children usually have a reason behind their behavior. Allow the opportunity for them to explain themselves before you disagree with their decisions at face value.

Ask them “why” when things don’t make sense to you. Kids are not always logical, but the strong willed child usually has a reason behind their decisions and it is not just to defy you as the parent.

Allow them the opportunity to explain themselves, so you can better understand them and their decisions.

For example, your strong willed child may be refusing to wear the outfit that you laid out for them to wear to school. You lay out their outfit to make the morning routine go more smoothly and quickly. Their obstinance is not a welcomed part of the routine.

Rather than get angry and order them to put the outfit on, ask them why they don’t want to wear it.

To your surprise, there may be a logical explanation such as it is gym day and they need to wear clothing and shoes that are fitting for the activities.

Get to the bottom of the reason, so you can better understand their logic. Don’t assume that their refusal to follow the rules or routine is out of sheer disobedience.

Let their voice be heard, so they know that you are listening and you want to understand their reasons.

6. They need to know why

Strong willed children need to know the reasons behind a request. If you are asking them to stop jumping on the bed, your request for their obedience needs to be explained.

They have a strong will, which also means a strong need to understand the “why” behind things.

Explain to your child jumping on the bed that you don’t want them to get hurt or break a bone, like you did when you are kid.

Let them know that you are concerned about their safety and whatever other reasons you have behind the rule, so that they can understand your logic.

They don’t take rules at face value. They need to know the “why”, so be prepared to explain your reasons for your rules. The consequences should also be clearly explained.

That way, they know the logical reasons behind the rules and the consequences if the rules are not followed.

7. Use empathy and compassion

Strong willed kids need empathy, compassion, and respect. This can be difficult because strong willed children can appear obstinate and disobedient.

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Parents have to understand that their child is not doing things for the sake of disobedience, rather the child has a strong will and determined spirit.

They have reasons behind what they do and why they do it. It takes extra compassion and empathy to seek understanding the child and why they do what they do.

For example, on a morning when you are already running late and your child is refusing to put on their shoes and you yell at them to put on their shoes now or you are leaving without them is lacking in compassion.

They may not want to wear those specific shoes because they are too tight. If you don’t take the time to ask them “why”, then compassion is lacking.

Take the time to talk to your child empathetically. This means a true desire to listen to them and their reasons. If they are not feeling listened to, then they will feel that you don’t care.

Listen with your full attention. This means stopping what you are doing and set electronics to the side while you communicate with your child.

Also, try to use a calm and loving tone when asking them their “why” and listen to their response. If you don’t listen to them, then who will?

If the child feels that they are not being heard or are being treated unfairly, their emotions will likely turn into behavioral issues.

Allow them to express themselves verbally, so that they don’t resort to physical expressions of their emotions, such as meltdowns, hitting others, or throwing things.

8. Repeated bad behavior is often a message

Strong willed children will often repeat themselves until they feel heard. This can also true with their bad behavior. They are often trying to communicate something to you because they are not feeling heard.

For example, that melt down in the store because you are ignoring their demands? Is it because they think that the melt down will get what they want or is it because they aren’t feeling heard?

When they ask a question, answer them and provide your reasons why. Don’t ignore them and hope they will stop asking. The strong willed child will not stop. They will escalate to the next level until they feel that they are being heard.

It doesn’t mean that they always get what they want. Instead, your goal should be to communicate that they have been heard and they are respectfully answered.

Yelling at them “no, because I am the Mom” is not a good approach when parenting a strong willed child. Instead answering with “no, we haven’t had lunch yet, but you can have a dessert after dinner if you a well behaved today”, will more likely result in good behavior.

The child feels that you listened to them and furthermore, you understood that their desire was for something sweet. Explaining that they can have something sweet later, as a result of their good behavior, puts the ball back in their court.

They now have the decision to be well behaved to get what they want later, or they can have a melt down which will result in the consequence of no dessert after dinner.

Children who are strong willed require more time because you need to listen more, explain more, discuss more, and respect more. It is a not an easy road.

However, the strong willed child can be a great success in life when their energies are channeled appropriately because things are clearly communicated. This communication is a two way street.

Don’t ignore their words until it escalates to bad behavior. If the behavior is seemingly out of control, then you need to help them verbalize their desires.

They are communicating something through their behavior. You need to help channel the behavior back into meaningful verbalization in order to figure out what they want and determine how to resolve the situation.

10. Weather the storm

It is not easy parenting a strong willed child. You will likely endure many storms while parenting your child.

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Keep doing what is in the best interest of your child, keep listening to them, and keep loving them.

Don’t be defeated by the storms which can come as temper tantrums, bad behavior, and rebellion. Know that they will pass.

Know that you are not alone. There are parents out there also dealing with strong willed children.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, then its time to reach out for help. A counselor or therapist can help both you and the child. You can also find support groups on Facebook. Use the search term “strong willed child”.

Don’t go at it alone. Find support now so you can weather the next storm even better.

11. Embrace their strong will — It can make them successful

Strong willed children are determined individuals. If their spirit is not squashed, they can use that determination to become successful people as adults.

Parents obviously need to protect their children from harm, but the smaller issues should be let go.

Learn to differentiate between issues that matter and those that really don’t matter in the long run. Does it really matter if they wear mismatched socks to school? No, if that is what they want, then let it be.

Allow them to make some decisions, especially about their own body, without making an issue out of it.

You don’t want to break their spirit because someday that spirit is what will make them stand out in the world. They are their own person, with unique ideas, and a determined spirit that will help them become successful in life.

They are more likely to persevere through difficulties because of their determined spirit. Don’t break this spirit at a young age by demanding obedience for the sake of obedience.

Take the time to understand your child, their reasons, and allow them to make choices along the way.

12. Motivate them!

Strong willed children tend to be highly self motivated. This means that when they decide, they want to do something they really go for it.

Provide motivation for your child by providing incentives. Strong willed children can be motivated with the use of a reward system.

The use of the “CHART method”[1] I developed can be especially helpful in parenting strong willed children. I have a strong willed six year old and this system is working great for her! Here is the article I wrote on the CHART method, so other parents can use this system as well.

Final thoughts

Having a strong willed child can be very challenging for a parent. If parents take the time to parent their strong willed child the right way, then this child can become a great success in life.

Strong willed children are not acting the way they do out of disobedience. It is their inner determined spirit that makes them want to do thing their own way.

They are highly motivated individuals and when that energy is channeled correctly, with their will in mind, then they can accomplish just about anything!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

How to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome and Be Happy Again How to Raise a Boy Right (Backed by Psychology) How to Help Your Child with Behavior Problems How to Be a Good Parent and Raise Successful Kids 15 Ways to Practice Positive Self-Talk for Success

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Published on November 15, 2019

How to Raise a Boy Right (Backed by Psychology)

How to Raise a Boy Right (Backed by Psychology)

An old proverb says,

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Teach your son the right way to live life when he is young, so that when he is older, he will know the right way to live and conduct himself, as he was taught consistently throughout childhood.

Raising sons is not easy. It is hard to know exactly the “right way” to do things, as our children didn’t come with a manual. I am concerned about this myself, being a mom of twin boys and a daughter. I do know that psychological and behavioral research can provide us with some great direction on how to raise a boy right.

We may not always get things “right” as parents, but we can keep trying every day to do what what is best for them based on what we know and learn.

1. Know Your Good Values

Your values impact how you raise your son. Think of your values as the overarching umbrella, under which all parenting practices are dispensed.

Our values impact our parenting in every area. Knowing our values is therefore highly important. For example, if you value treating others as you would also want to be treated, then this will impact how you teach your child to treat others. However, if you place value on self first and everyone else is secondary, then this will also affect how you teach your child to treat others.

A child who is taught to treat others as they would treat themselves will be more willing to share their toys with their siblings, because they understand that they would want to have the toys shared with them in such a situation. A child who is taught to think of self first will be less likely to share because they have learned that wanting the toy is more important than sharing the toy, since they are more important than others.

Know your values and your heart, because that is what you are essentially teaching to your child. The following tips are only useful if you are teaching your child to be a good and decent human being with good values. A good values system and sense of morality will guide their behavior. This is the foundation upon which all other skills are built.

2. Be Present

Children want to be with their parents. They desire quality time and quantity time with both mom and dad.

There are situations where this is not feasible, especially considering the increasing rates of single motherhood. Research has shown that boys being raised by single mothers do well if they have a positive male role model in their life. If the father cannot be in the picture, then the next best thing is a good man, who can be a positive influence in the boy’s life. If you are a single mom and your son doesn’t have a strong positive male role model, then one place to find help is the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. This is a mentor-based program where children are paired with an individual who wants to be a mentor and is willing to dedicate time spent with the child long term. They are not parental replacements. However, they can be a good influence, role model, mentor, and emotional support to your child. This is especially important for boys.

The rate of single motherhood in the United States is approximately 40% according to The National Economics Editorial.[1] As cited in the research, children of single mothers statistically have lower cognitive test scores and are more aggressive compared to children from traditional homes where the children are being raised by both a mother and father.

All hope is not lost though for boys of single mothers. Research discussed by Our Everyday Life showed that having a father or father-like figure in a boy’s life can help the child perform better in school.[2] They become less likely to become incarcerated, less likely to develop substance abuse, and will be more likely to develop confidence and a positive self-esteem. These are huge benefits to young men. They should not be taken lightly. Our sons need strong male role models, a father in their life if possible, to help them develop to be as successful as they can possibly become.

If a father is not in the picture, then a grandfather, uncle, or close friend of the family can fill that gap. Positive role models are imperative because they model how life should be conducted. Boys need a father, or a positive male role model, to spend time with them, for the purpose of modeling, mentoring, and teaching them to become good men.

3. Encourage Dreams

Children need to have dreams. A life without dreams is a life without hope. Don’t squelch their dreams by defeating them before they even begin pursing them.

For example, your child may want to be a professional football player as an adult. That is their hope and dream. They are 14 years old and this is their current life ambition. Many parents chose to squelch such dreams because they aren’t realistic. The odds of become a pro athlete such as a football player, may be slim, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try. They will discover in time, through their own participation in the sport whether they are actually good enough to make the cut to the next level.,

That is why it is important to help your child be well-rounded. They shouldn’t put all of their eggs in one basket, as the old saying goes. Instead, they should be taught the importance of other interests and to try hard in school because you never know when an injury can take you out from a sport permanently.

When a child goes after their dreams, even if it seems like a one in a million shot, they are learning valuable life lessons. They are learning to work hard and they are finding out what it takes to be the best at whatever they are dreaming of becoming.

Addicted 2 Success[3] outlines 16 benefits of dreaming, including the development of courage. Chasing your dreams will develop your courage. Courage is your fuel to achieve amazing success in life, follow your dreams and exercise courage. In sure enough time, you will be unstoppable.

Nothing good in life comes easy. If it is their dream, then let them pursue it (within reason- don’t sell your home so that you can fund their rocket building project). Let them earn the money to make the rocket. That way they can see what it takes to get there.

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If they don’t reach their end goal, that is okay too. The lessons that they learned along the way are important. For example, as a football player, they learned about team work, physical fitness, strategy, and commitment. It was not all for nothing. They may never become a pro football player, but they can discover the reality of the situation over time.

A parent doesn’t need to shatter dreams with reality. Allow children to hope and dream, because it is what will make them try the hardest and put their best effort into whatever it is they are doing.

The lessons of trying hard, along with failing, are good life lessons to learn. Don’t stop them from going after a dream because you fear for their own failure. Failure, and being able to pick themselves up after a loss is part of making them into strong men.

4. Teach Recovery After Failure by Praising Effort

Failure is a part of life. How a man handles failure will impact his ability to be successful in the long run. If a man acts defeated after a failure and is unable to pick himself up and try again, then he will never become truly successful. Men learn how to recover from failure when they are taught in childhood to pick themselves up and try again.

Teaching your son to try again following failure is a valuable lesson. You can do this by emphasizing the effort and not the outcome.

For example, if you are teaching your son to ride a bike, they are going to likely fall many times before they master the skill. You encourage them to get up and try again and again. Don’t emphasize the outcome, which is riding on a two-wheel bike on their own. Instead, praise them for trying hard and for getting up after falling and trying again. Eventually, after enough trying, they will learn to ride the bike successfully. You can obviously praise them when they master the skill, but once again, be sure that you are emphasizing their hard work and perseverance because that is what got them to the successful outcome.

It takes time, effort, and grit to succeed. Praising effort over the outcome is the best way to help your son develop an attitude that breeds success.

If they are focused on the outcome, such as winning a game, then they will feel defeated when they have a loss.

If they can walk away from the game and recognize their hard work and the good effort they put into it, then they are more willing to look at where they could possibly improve. It will help them to get back up and try again, because they don’t feel like a complete failure. They will see the value in the good effort they put into the game, with a mindset that is willing to try again while also being open to improvements.

The book Grit (a New York Times bestseller) by Angela Duckworth details her research on what makes individuals successful. Her results showed that grit, which is the combination of passion and perseverance, is a better predictor of success than talent or IQ. This means that teaching our sons to follow their passions and persevere through failure by praising their effort over results is imperative in their path to success.

5. Teach Him to Be a Good Sport

Being a good sport is an important skill to develop. We can’t always win in life. Everyone loses eventually. This is harder for some to handle. Parents should teach this skill to their children from a young age.

For example, when they play a board game and their brother wins, they need to congratulate their brother, rather than sulk. Have them verbally say “congratulations, good game” after they have lost. It is a good practice to start young. It will make it easier for them to be a good sport as a teen or adult if they have practiced the skill of congratulating other winners along the way. Stanford Children’s Health defined good sportsmanship as the following:[4]

Good sportsmanship may seem hard to define, but its hallmarks include being able to win without gloating, respecting one’s opponents, and being able to lose gracefully.

One way that I try to teach this to my own children is by asking them, “how do you feel when people congratulate you after you win something?” They always answer that it feels good. Then I ask “how would you feel if nobody congratulated you?” They always answer that it wouldn’t feel very good at all. I then remind them that if they want others to congratulate them when they win, then they better congratulate others when the others win.

6. Teach Appropriate Affection by Example

Boys need affection just as girls do. Affection comes in the form of praise and also physical affection. Our boys need to be hugged.

There are some that think that hugging or affection can make a boy weak. This is simply not true. Teaching them to hug and to say “I love you” are behaviors that will make them good boyfriends, husbands, fathers, and role models as adults. It also provides them with great benefits including physical wellness, reduced fears, better communication with others, increased happiness, and reduced stress according to Health Line.[5] The research article by Health Line cited that although some therapist recommend at least 12 hugs a day for growth, other studies recommend as many hugs as we can get and give on a daily basis for best results.

The research applies to boys and girls. Everyone needs physical affection and touch. Hugging is a primary way that we provide that physical affection to our children in a healthy, positive manner on a daily basis. The more hugs you can give your son daily, the better, according Health Line.

Our sons will learn to become affectionate based on their home life experiences. If they grow up in a household where no hugs are ever given, then they will likely find hugging as adults to be awkward. Make it a practice to hug your son often and tell him “I love you.” Teach him that hugging is good and let him reap the benefits of those hugs everyday. You will find the benefits apply to you as well.

7. Instill a Good Work Ethic

Don’t do it all for them! Teach your boys to have a good work ethic by having them work. They won’t learn to make their bed if mom is making it for them everyday. They learn responsibility and a good work ethic by doing chores on a daily basis.

This should start at an early age. By the age of three, a child can help with simple household chores such as putting away garbage, picking up toys, feeding pets, and putting away dirty laundry. They may not do the best job when they first begin, but that is why you begin teaching them when they young.

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Teach them basic life and household skills through practice on a regular basis. This will help them develop a good work ethic. They will grow up learning to recognize that the garbage should be taken out when it is full because they have practiced this many years before they reach adulthood. If you are wondering what type of chores your son can be doing around the house at their age, there are chores listed by age in this infographic by Funifi.

Do not get hedged into the view that some household duties are for boys and some are for girls. Teach both boys and girls all the skills by assigning them as chores. Sons need to be taught to cook, clean, and do laundry. If they leave your home and go off to college or their first job, who is going to do it for them? They need to learn these skills so that they can do them for themselves.

It also makes them a better, more desirable boyfriend and potential husband. No woman wants to marry a man who is completely incapable of doing household work. They can blame their parents for not teaching them, but it won’t help them get a great spouse if they don’t know how to contribute to household duties.

Being a good roommate, boyfriend, and spouse entails the ability to do chores such as cleaning, doing the dishes. laundry, cooking, and everything involved in running a household. Expecting others to do it for them because their mom did if for them growing up is not a good way to prepare them for living on their own or preparing them to partner into any relationship in the future.

If they ever want to live on their own, outside of your home, then teach them to have a good work ethic, this starts with household chores and duties.

8. Teach Good Communication Skills

Communication skills are important for any boy to become successful in their relationships and career. Communication skills are the foundation for human interaction. If they have difficulty communicating, it is going to make the pursuit of relationships and career ambitions more challenging. Livestrong.com explains that technology is a major reason why many teens grow into adulthood lacking good communication skills.[6] In an era when texting and instant message are prevalent, their face to face interactions suffer. Too much time spent in front of the screen is time away from meaningful face-to-face interactions.

The first step toward teaching good communications skills is limiting access to technology and spending time interacting with your child. Talking with your child daily and making conversation is helpful to modeling good communication skills.

If you have a teen who is already having difficulty developing good communication skills. it is not too late. They can still learn these skills, as we can all develop better communication skills throughout our lifetime. One way to teach teens better communication skills is through games. Livestrong has suggestions for games that you can play that help your teen develop better communication skills.

For those of us with younger boys, good communication skills can be taught through conversation, modeling these skills, and asking open ended questions. I Mom has some great tips on teaching children how to communicate and make friends. They have a free printable on their website that outlines this teachable process. To explain their teaching simply, it includes smiling, complimenting, asking questions, and responding positively. This pattern of verbal and non-verbal communication is a great skill to teach children and it can help them develop friendships now and into the future.

9. Consistently Engage in Lessons about Politeness and Manners

Teaching your son good manners is not a one time lesson. It is an ongoing lesson throughout childhood. Make a practice to use and enforce good manners and politeness every day in your home. This is how you will help your son develop into a polite well mannered man. This means that you teach them from the time they begin sitting at a dinner table how to eat politely.

They should learn at your dinner table to chew with their mouth closed, use the correct silverware, no elbows on the table, and to use please and thank you. If they aren’t learning to put these skills into practice at home, then they are not going to develop the skills through osmosis.

Manners are not only important in relationships, but also on the job front. Study.com explains that having good manners can set you up for job promotions and letters of recommendation.[7] For example, if you teach your son that he should be polite and well-mannered to others, even when they are not especially nice to him, this can help him learn how to navigate working with difficult colleagues in the future. Your son will always have difficult people in his life. Learning to handle them with good manners is important to his success in life.

10. Help Him Develop a Kind Heart and Desire to Help Others

Kindness is something we should all want for our sons. Their kindness toward others can affect the world around them. Not only the relationship with their future spouse, but their future children, their co-workers, and their friends.

Teaching our sons to be kind is helping to make the world a better place. There are some practical ways to teach your son to be kind:

  • Model kindness
  • Teach the philosophy that you treat others as you would want to be treated
  • Get them involved in volunteering and serving others (with a good attitude and kind spirit)
  • Teach them to speak words of praise and genuine compliments to others
  • Teach them to never be a bully and to set the example of kindness in their peer group through their words and actions
  • Teach them to use words of politeness in all situations, such as please, thank you, and excuse me
  • Teach them to be kind to others because it is not only the right way to act, but it feels good
  • Model gratitude
  • Teach them to be grateful for their life and circumstances, as this will help them to feel compassion for those who have less

The Greater Good Science Center UC Barkley examined a research based book on helping our children become less self-centered and more empathetic toward others.[8] It was cited in the book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Borba that helping our children develop empathy toward others along with the development of a moral identity will make them more successful in our changing world. Borba stated the following in her book:

To respond empathically, kids must see themselves as people who care and value others’ thoughts and feeling

Fostering a strong sense of empathy, compassion, moral foundation and belief system in your son from a young age will help him to develop into a good, kind man in adulthood. This is as much about training his heart as it is about training his mind.

11. Instill Peer Resistant Decision Making Skills

Peer pressure is a real thing. It starts when they are young and it doesn’t end in adulthood. We need to teach our sons to make good decisions and to stand up for those decisions even if their peers are trying to pressure them into other decisions.

Skills You Need outlines some ways that we can teach peer resistance in our children.[9] This includes teaching them to first identify the right decision in these peer pressure situations, teaching them to stand up for their decisions and views by valuing their decisions, and finally teaching them how to state their position assertively.

You can role play scenarios with your child to help them practice standing up for themselves and their decisions. For example, you can role play a scenario where your child is offered drugs from friends. Have them practice by first telling you why they make the decision to say no to drugs, as they must believe in the basis for the decision. Then help them find conviction in their belief, so that they have a firm foundation for the reasoning behind their decision.

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If their only reason is because they don’t think you would want them to do it, then that reason may not be enough when it is their best friend promising them with the greatest thing they will ever experience. Help them understand their own convictions and reasons for saying no to drugs, or whatever the scenario you are role playing may be.

Then teach them how to say no in a firm manner. For example, in this instance, it could be that they practice ways to say it in their own words that are comfortable, yet firm, such as “No, I don’t do drugs because I will not risk my ability to get into college by failing a drug test or getting caught doing drugs.” Another example could be “No, I will not ever try drugs of any kind, I have an uncle who has struggled with drug addiction his entire life and I don’t want that life for me.”

Teach your son to resist peer pressure by validating their good decisions. If you know that some of his friends were bullying a disabled child on the playground, but he stood up for that child, then praise your son! Let him know that him doing the right thing and not doing what his friends were doing is great decision making.

In order to be peer resistant, they need to know where they stand on serious issues. This is why the next tip is very important.

12. Teach Them the Importance of Good Life Choices

Your child can’t make good life choices unless they know right from wrong. This teaching starts in the home. If you want your son to become successful, then teach him to make good life choices including saying no to drugs, smoking, underage drinking, and pornography, as all are identified as highly addictive and counteractive to healthy development. These are not the only types of vices parents should be aware of to prevent addiction.

Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent treatment facility that handles addictions.[10] They explain that although drugs and alcohol are the most commonly recognized teen addictions, there are other addictions that cause teens problems such as video gaming, gambling, sex, shopping, and the internet. Anything that is done to excess that interferes with their ability to function normally on a daily basis should be addressed.

There are ways to prevent some of these things, for example, to prevent gaming addiction, do not allow unlimited game time for your sons. Have set time limits on daily game playing and access to technology. Get your son involved in activities outside of gaming so that he isn’t solely focused on his game time each day. He needs interests and hobbies outside of gaming, so help him find those other activities.

Talk to your child about life choices and how decisions that they make now can affect their future. For example, a teen may think that it is no big deal to smoke pot on occasion. They may not be aware that the University that they want to attend has a zero tolerance drug policy, including pot. They may also not be aware of the risks and dangers associated with teens smoking pot. Talk about the big issues and the smaller ones too. Have the tough conversations before they make bad life choices.

A Fine Parent outlines some helpful ways that parents can help their children make good decisions.[11]
One way includes making a clear connection between choice and consequences. Help them to see that their decisions, even little ones, have consequences. For example, your child does not finish their science project. The day of the science fair they are the only child who does not have an exhibit. They chose not to ask for your help. They also chose to procrastinate until the day before it was due to even mention to you that they had a project that needed to be made. Their decisions have consequences and parents need to allow for consequences so that their children learn that their decisions and choices will impact them personally.

If mom feels bad for her son not getting his science project done, so she whips something up for him while he sleeps the night before it is due, then the son is learning that his mom will bail him out when times get tough. He won’t get to experience the disappointment of not having a project to turn in and not being able to participate in the science fair. He won’t have a bad grade because mom fixed things.

This doesn’t help him in the long run. He needs to experience these failures, so that he knows his actions and decisions have consequences. Failure to complete a project results in a failing grade, because he made the decision not do the project in the allotted time period.

13. Instill Honesty

Adult men who lie and deceive are of poor character. If you want your son to become a man of integrity, then they need to learn at a young age that honesty is of utmost importance. Below are some ways that you can teach your child to be honest. You can find even more suggestions in this article from Children’s Center,[12] which has practical tips in greater detail for raising your son to be honest.

  • Model honesty.
  • Don’t tell white lies because children often can’t differentiate between white lies and big lies, so don’t lie at all since you are their primary role model for truth telling.
  • Encourage truthfulness: If they think they are going to be punished for telling the truth, then they will avoid telling you.
  • Give your son the opportunity to tell the truth without forcing him.
  • Do not make a practice of lying to children so that life is easier for you. For example, telling them that the park is closed so you can’t go there today makes you a liar. Don’t lie to your child to make your life easier or to make them more compliant. Be honest. For example, if you don’t have time to take them to the park, then explain that you can’t go to the park because of your appointments today, but two days from now you will take them there and then take them as you promised.
  • Be good on your word. If you promise something, then follow through. If you don’t follow through, that makes you a liar.
  • When you want your child to tell the truth about a situation, then don’t be accusatory. For example, if the lamp in your living room is broken and you suspect your son, then don’t go to him yelling “I know that you broke the lamp, you better tell me what you did right now or else…” You can ask about the lamp without accusing and yelling. Forcing an honest answer out of duress does not teach him to be honest. It only teaches him to get better at hiding the truth when the truth will get him in trouble.
  • If they have admitted to lying, then talk about the people involved and how their lies have hurt relationships and people. Help them to see that lying is harmful to relationships.
  • Praise your son for telling the truth, especially in situations where it may be difficult to tell the truth.

14. Help Him Discover His Passions and Talents

It is hard to be successful if you aren’t passionate about what you are doing. This is the same for our sons. If we want our sons to be successful, then we need to discover what they are passionate about in life.

Finding what they are good at, their talents, and where their passions overlap is the best path for life success and happiness in their activities. Child Development Info explains that many children don’t recognize where they have talent.[13] Parents need to be on the look-out to identify where their sons may have talent and natural abilities. Then, if it is something that your son enjoys doing, give them the opportunity to explore that talent and develop it though an activity. For example, if you see that your son has great hand and eye coordination with a ball and they enjoy kicking the ball around the backyard with you each night, then you can perhaps enroll him in a soccer season. If he develops that skill and enjoys the sport it can develop into a passion.

Learning how to hone a skill through passionate dedication is a great skill to possess and will help them to be more successful in life. If they are never passionate about anything, it is hard to get excited about working hard. Where they find passion, they will find their ability to dig deep and try hard. This will help them develop a good work ethic in the long run. It will also make them happier as adults.

If you can help your son to identify things and activities that make him passionate in life at a young age, then you as a parent can help find avenues and ways for them to develop the skills to make them successful in harnessing this passion for a purpose.

15. Teach Good Grooming Habits

Men with poor grooming habits can have relationship problems and job issues. If they show up to a job interview with a wrinkled outfit, bad breath, and body odor, they are communicating to the interviewer that the job is not important enough to make the effort to look and smell good.

The importance of dressing nice and neat is a skill that should be taught to all boys. They should learn how to use an iron and how to match clothing properly. Boys should also learn from a young age what is involved in good hygiene and grooming habits.

Parents should teach their boys how to properly do their hair, how to clip their fingernails, to wear deodorant, brush their teeth, wear clean clothing, and to shower or bathe on a regular basis. There are many boys who go through phases of resisting good hygiene and care for their body. This is exactly when parents need to intervene and set clear guidelines for hygiene. For example, if your son refuses to shower and your rule is that they must shower every other day and it has now been a week, then they should have consequences, such as losing all social privileges and technology until they shower. If they don’t see their hygiene as important or of value to those closest to them in life, then the likelihood of them practicing good hygiene habits as an adult is not likely.

They learn how to care for their bodies by their parents teaching them. The habits of good hygiene should be a practice that begins as early as they are able to brush their own teeth. They don’t know how to do these things through osmosis. They must be taught and instructed on what good hygiene and personal care looks like.

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Stinky feet, body order, and greasy hair are all problems that can be fixed and in many instances prevented. Teaching sons how to have habits of cleanliness and good hygiene is imperative to raising good men.

16. Instill a Desire for the Pursuit of Knowledge and Learning

Whether your son wants to be a mechanic, a hairdresser, or a neurosurgeon, they need to have an education. Knowledge is power. The day we decide that we no longer need to learn anything else is the day we stop growing. This is why we must instill in our children that we are never finished with learning and education, as it is a lifelong pursuit.

Create a passion and love for knowledge and learning by reading to your son often. Help him to discover that books can assist him in whatever he may want to pursue.

For example, he may want to take up the sport of Lacrosse. He knows nothing about the sport, but watched a game once and wants to try it out and perhaps join a team. If he is willing to learn about the sport, he can prepare himself.

The practice of the sport is very important, but it is also helpful to know the rules, how to properly use the equipment, and what exercises will make him a better player. Checking out a book at the library about Lacrosse can help him learn about the sport before he ever steps onto the field. He needs to have a willingness to learn about the sport in order to be any good at it.

However, learning doesn’t need to come from school and books alone. It comes from life experience and mentoring too. Having a desire to become good at something can only go so far. There must also be a willingness to learn and grow through gained knowledge and experience combined.

17. Teach Respect and Boundaries

Boys will be boys is never a good excuse for bad behavior. The expectation for good behavior starts at home. Boys must be taught to respect others, this especially includes elders and females. If they are taught at home that females are inferior, they will carry this belief with them into their marriages, workplace, and life as adults. Boys learn to respect women when they are taught that females are equal to men.

Does this mean that they have the same abilities? No. Men are still unable to give birth to babies. However, having different abilities does not make us unequal, it just makes us different. Teach men as boys to value the attributes and qualities of women so that they can be respectful to girls and women. It will also teach them to be a better friend, boyfriend, or spouse in the future because they will develop an appreciation for the opposite sex. If they are taught that women are less than men or that women don’t need to be respected, then those thoughts will likely be spoken and acted upon. Our thoughts and beliefs become the driving force of our behaviors. Our behaviors become our life.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are real and prevalent problems in our society. By far, the number of offenders being males far outweighs female offenders. Domestic Shelters is an organization that provides education about domestic violence. They cite that 85% of domestic violence victims are females.[14] Men need to be taught from childhood that violence, especially against women, is never acceptable. They also need to be taught that “no” means “no”. When a woman or girl says no to physical advances, then they must stop.

Violence against women will stop when boys are taught to respect women from a young age and it is taken to heart. Therefore, talking about how to treat women should not be a one time conversation, it should be an ongoing conversation throughout childhood and their teen years.

Having positive models of behavior and relationships is also important. If a husband abuses his wife, this pattern of abuse is being taught and learned by sons who are watching. Don’t tell your sons to never hit a woman, yet you strike his mother in a fit of rage. Your actions will speak louder than your words.

18. Let Them Get Physical Activity Daily

Raising boys is not easy. They can be rough and tumble with lots of energy from the time they are toddlers. I know this personally, as my twins have more daily energy than I know how to contain or control. I realize they need lots of space and opportunity for physical play and exertion, because this is the way that most boys are physiologically. Trying to suppress their energy while expecting them to perform well academically is like starving a child and expecting them to gain weight.

Inc.com provides a great article and research about boys and their need for physical play and exercise, and the article cited that significantly limiting physical play time hurts boys academically.[15]

The research discussed in the article acknowledges that the results from the study did not apply to girls. This is not because it was a sexist study. It is because the results showed that boys require more physical activity to be successful in school. The time periods for playtime at school during recess is not enough. The research indicated that boys need more physical activity than is being provided at recess time. This means running outside, playing sports, and getting their energy out before and after school is crucial. They weren’t made to sit at desks for long periods of time, yet they are expected to do so at school all day. The solution is to get them active after school and before school if they must sit at a desk for long periods of time.

My boys (and daughter) have outdoor playtime before and after school. They ride their bikes and scooters before heading off to school each morning. I have come to realize that this makes a difference in my boys’ ability to sit and focus during school. If they go off to school and have all sorts of pent up energy that they are waiting to expel, they are likely to fidget and not focus during lesson time. I also realized that when they don’t get this energy out, they have anxiousness and tension that builds up and it comes out on the drive to school, making my morning less than stellar.

The research from the Inc.com study shows that my boys are normal. Boys need physical activity and in providing that physical outlet every day, and in good quantities of time, they are better able to focus and perform academically. Not allowing them time to exert their physical energy leads to problems such as lack of focus, lower academic performance, reading difficulties, stress, anxiety, and anger.

Boys need to be allowed to get their physical energy out every day, many times a day.

Final Thoughts

Raising boys isn’t a walk in the park. If you want your son to develop into a good man, then it is going to take time, energy, effort, and lots of love and patience. They don’t come with a manual, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of well-researched resources online and books on the market about raising boys.

Keep pursing knowledge and resources on how to raise your son in the world today, because we all need as much help as we can get. Keep learning, keep trying, and keep loving him daily.

Featured photo credit: Japheth Mast via unsplash.com

Reference

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