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Published on April 4, 2019

How to Enjoy Parenting Teens and Help Your Kids Thrive

How to Enjoy Parenting Teens and Help Your Kids Thrive

This article is here because my daughter’s friend said “Your mum’s cool. She’s a great parent.” It led to us asking what makes a good parent of teens?

My children are 18 and 15 and I don’t think I get it right all the time. However, having asked on social media, I think I get an easy ride. So from my daughter’s point of view, coaching and mine, here’s how to get the best out of teen years for you and your teenagers.

1. Know How They Wind You up

Teens know how to hit every annoy parent button going. Work out what triggers you and work on yourself before you engage with them.

As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t talk to a colleague at work like it, then don’t speak to your child like it. Your aim is to help them become successful adults and that’s a process that should start from birth – even as young children, you want them to be able to communicate effectively to get what they want, be strong minded, confident and capable in the big wide world.

So you need to be their role model. And that’s not easy when they are hitting your buttons.

Find yours and desensitise yourself to them. (For me, I can internally laugh and think “What must I have sounded like to my Mum at this age?” And that diffuses any frustration.

2. Understand Why They Grunt

Maybe you wonder, “Why do they grunt – they communicated better when they were 7!”

Teens are learning to be who they are (and there’s plenty of adults who still don’t know!) So don’t expect them to behave the same as they did when they were little and cute.

If you get grunts and groans at suggestions of things to do, it’s not them saying “That’s the worse idea ever;” that’s them questioning “Is it okay to be me? To do this? To live like this? To want this?” They are questioning:

  • Where do I fit in the world?
  • What do I want to do?
  • What should I train to be?
  • Will I have to move town?
  • How will I cope?

Many questions that any adult would find daunting, and when you know the science that their brains do not finish growing until they are in their 20’s, you can see why you might have days where you have the equivalent of a Teen Zombie on your hands.

Ask yourself if you could cope with your job, family life, friends, chores and still find the brain space to answer the big life questions.

According to research by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore whose research lab is based at UCL in London,[1]

“The answer is this: the prefrontal cortex, which regulates emotional responses and inhibits risk-taking, is going through physiological changes that make some adolescents act in such seemingly incomprehensible ways.”

When you consider the prefrontal cortex functions in cognitive control (planning, attention, problem solving, error monitoring, decision making, social cognitive and working memory) you can start to see why they forget to empty the dishwasher or behaved as they did. It really is not their fault!

3. Deal with Your Own Feelings

They are growing up and inevitably they are going to leave home. While many cheer there’s still that sinking empty nest feeling that can have many negative connotations:

  • “I wish they would appreciate me.”
  • “They don’t know how easy they’ve got it.” Etc etc.

Ultimately it can lead us to question:

What’s my role? Where will I fit in their future? (Or even – will I?)

Don’t get ahead of yourself and have gratitude for this time – it’s limited.

I got upset at Christmas when my son reminded me this could be his last stocking under the tree. (Yes we still do that – read on for why.) As my son said to me “I’m not gone yet, you’ve got me for another 14 months yet.” I had to hide the sad sigh I nearly let out.

But of course he was right. And if I get this right, I will be a part of his future. It’s hard to admit your role at this age is to become surplice to requirements. But then, you remember there will be a whole new myriad of ways they will want and need support, and of course therefore your jobs not over yet.

4. Respect the Door (And Get It Reinforced – They Will Slam It!)

Things are changing and they need space to work out what that means; just as you want to desperately hold on to the cute child that used to run home from school and want a cuddle and to tell you all about it.

When their door is shut, respect that – knock before you go in. Don’t fear something sinister is happening in there. It showcases you respect their space. These little unsaid things will start to speak in a positive way to your teen.

Likewise, you want them to respect your privacy and quiet time – and my children are far more respectful of me as I’ve given them more respect. Which leads us on to…

5. Relinquish Control – Start Them Young. (8 to 10 Years Old)

Ask yourself:

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How and when will I relinquish control? At what pace? And why is this important to introduce?

From that age, our children had no bedtime. We’d discuss how tired they thought they were, and when did they want to go to bed?

Yes we would have “I feel wide away Mummy” nights where they were clearly exhausted and then the conversation would progress to:

“So what’s the reason you keep yawning do you think?”

“When Mummy yawns, what do you think it means?”

That kind of question is a coaching question that puts the responsibility back on the other person. And it helps them to learn to listen to their body – something critical for the teen years.

You can’t expect an 19 year old to magically get up ready for a day at work or university if you didn’t help them learn to listen to their own bodies years in advance.

6. It’s Okay to Play

I asked my daughter’s friend why she felt I was a great parent. She shared that while I was “scary,” (code for expected high standards) I encourage play.

At 15, a group of girls can feel awkward jumping around in a pool and playing like, well kids – is that allowed as teens? As I pointed out at the time – you’re in a secluded garden – you can squeal with excitement, play volley ball and no one can see you to judge you playing – it is still allowed at 15.

That’s why my children still set up for Santa every year. Don’t be so quick to grow up.

As a coach, it is only when I bring fun to the session can someone really deal with difficult obstacles in their life. Lead by example, let them see fun is not off the agenda just because you grow up – they have incredibly creative minds at this age, so enable and empower that and they could benefit for their whole lives.

7. Know When to Loosen the Leash

Social media and phones in general can be a massive headache for parents.

“You spend your life on that phone,” ask yourself why.

Is it because they hate the real world and it’s more fun?

Or is it more likely because they can hang out virtually with their friends no matter where they are or what “lame” chore they’re doing? It can lighten the load by sharing with a friend. No different to you.

When I was a kid, I was constantly moaned at for having my head in a book; “Get outside” “Don’t you want to go and play with your friends?” I’d hear every weekend and holiday.

I love reading – it’s an escape, a place to learn. A place to calm my thoughts and not have to engage with anyone or anything – that phone does the same for them.

Instead of being so quick to limit their time and control when and where they can use it, have a conversation about how your teen likes to use their phone and how it can be used to navigate the fact you are in a family environment, and you don’t always want to see their face with a metal block in front of it;

“How can I give you your space and time with your friends every day and get to hear about your day too?”

Remember, don’t make it about you and your needs – it’s not that they don’t care; it’s just there’s too much going on for you to be at the top of the importance pile.

8. Teach off Line Time by Getting off Line

Our interconnected worlds are awesome to reduce loneliness, but they also can make us question who we are and reduce confidence and escalate anxiety.

One report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK surveyed 1500 young people, ages 14 – 24, to determine the effects of social media on issues such as anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and body image.[2] They found that YouTube had the most positive impact, while Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat all had negative effects on mental health

9. Ask Yourself “What Did You Hate Your Parents Saying to You?”

I can remember my Dad had an infuriating rule that we weren’t allowed out on a Friday night – “Friday night is family night.”

I’ve always believed in the importance of a meal sat around a table where everyone gets to off load about their day. But my teens can be keen to race their food desperate to get back to homework, gaming or friends online. However we expect a little of their day.

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“In 24 hours, I don’t think it’s a lot to give your Mum and Dad an hour at meal time” I say.

It’s a completely reasonable request (with relapses allowed as you will see below.) But it ensures we stay bonded as a family and the conversations always include laughter and yes, some stroppy antagonising between siblings. But it’s a chance for 4 people to come together and chat with no agenda. Hence no phones, but even that has leniency.

If you want to be a part of your teens’ life, take an interest in their passions. I don’t have a great love for K-pop but I can do a few of Twice’s dance moves and I can sing along to a few BTS songs. It’s about respecting them, their hobbies, passions, interests, etc.

You can’t expect respect if you don’t give it, right? That’s why even the phone rule can get a reprieve.

If they’ve seen a great meme or a funny YouTube, if we’ve finished eating, we will suggest they fetch their phone so they can share it. I’ve also learnt it means they end up sticking around long past the allotted 60 minutes Mum and Dad time to share other videos and share more.

This obviously is something I’m not prepared to relinquish. I feel it’s a life skill I want them to learn now. But it wasn’t just enforced – we talked about the reasons why we felt it was important and how to make it a part of their day they enjoyed rather than endured.

So I listen to the things they hate and even if I’m not keen, I flex and bend:

I will let friend stay in the week.

They have proven that a game or film is age appropriate when I’ve thought differently – and they’ve then listened when I’ve firmly said “Actually sorry but no, not yet.”

I don’t say “Your too young” I’ve asked “What do you think that outfit may suggest?” And usually with a sigh they’ve been able to see the logic – but again they’ve also convinced me otherwise – my daughter convinced me she should have fish night tights (Like many things for me, these were banned as a teen and I was badly bullied for being the only child in 150 students wearing school colours when everyone else had the latest trends! My parents told me it was character building – I know now it took many years to find my confidence and like being me)

So there’s compromise – She can have them if they are under her holey jeans – Daughter Fashionable – Mum Happy.

10. Remember That No Conversation Is off Limits

While that may feel daunting and possibly even a little icky for you, if you aren’t prepared to answer their questions when and how they need them answered they will go online – and 31% of children have shared a fake news story.[3]

My friend said they wouldn’t be talking about sex with their 10 year old because it wasn’t appropriate only for it to come up in a conversation in front of me.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be graphic detail. A simplified answer is usually enough – and if you get an over exuberant questioner, there are lots of books that will help you and them learn the subject without feeling you are losing their childhood before your eyes.

That way they will grow up knowing they can trust you to give them true and honest answers. Treating like young adults.

11. Mom’s and Dad’s Have Needs Too

Teens need to learn that they are not the centre of the universe but in a delicate way – because right now, they feel like they are.

Choose your moments wisely. You can say “I feel like I’ve got a lot on this week, do you feel you can think of any ways to help me get through it all? Are there any chores around the house you could help with?”

One client introduced home rules and was surprised of the knock on impact it had in their professional lives too.

12. Don’t Drop Your Standards

I don’t want to paint a picture of two angelic teenagers – my daughter just now didn’t listen and ended up hoovering all 17 rooms instead of the 4 I asked she hoover – we laughed after I gave her a minute to calm down!

But the fact is if you feel like they aren’t listening, they probably aren’t. They start to wander off when they’ve got their thoughts out of their head….

So choose your time well to discuss things you feel are important and ensure they’ve heard what you’ve said.

I often hear “You didn’t say that.” When you get that answer, It’s no good getting into “Yes I did, you were standing right there when I said it!” because that turns into a she said, he said moment that couldn’t get unpicked it a court of law.

Make sure when you ask them to do something or need to know something, you have a witness – that way either your partner, friend or their sibling can say on your behalf “Did you hear what your Mum said?” Usually you get a vague “er yes.”

Or ask them to repeat it back to you. That way, you know that they know what they’ve been asked to do – so the excuses for why they didn’t do it later won’t happen.

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Just remember if you have standards and you expect things from them. Be prepared to listen to them and understand what they feel is important too.

13. The Bank of Mom and Dad Doesn’t Need to Shut but It Does Need to Come with Terms and Conditions

It won’t be long before they need to go to the bank and ask for a loan to buy a house or set up student loans – get them into the habit of understanding financial conversations and terminology.

Don’t get all high and mighty with “You need to understand the value of money” or “In my day we respected money” they aren’t listening (remember?)

On the other hand, if you say something that relates to what they want in the world – a lift to a party (late at night) the latest K-pop band album that they HAVE to have the day it comes out, you can ask “Okay I’m happy to help you achieve this, how will you be paying for this?”

My children get low pocket money that’s paid into a bank account, and has been since they were young. And yes, only they had the bank card because I wanted them to learn about how to handle money; to save, to understand when it says zero on the balance, you don’t have the funds to see the latest Marvel film or meet your mates. So, what are you going to do about it?

The reason they get low pocket money is not because we are evil but, because when those overpriced K-pop albums are shipped half way around the world to my excited teenager, she is excited and proud:

Yes she saved up. Yes she delivered a thousand newspapers to help pay for it.

And that level of determination and sacrifice of other short-term things she would have loved to own mean I’m happy to make up the difference.

The interesting thing is they never ask for money. So, if it’s given as a surprise, they are always very grateful and appreciate that is not the norm.

I usually ensure after the “Thanks Mum, you’re awesome” has died down, we do have a serious conversation around “Now, you know why I paid the rest right?”

And I then give her the space to think and list of “Yes mum, I helped with the kitchen, I have cleared my washing (I don’t do their washing – if I do their washing at 15 and 18 at what age are they going to learn? Just as they are starting a long houred new job or as they start University and will need their brain space for far more important things.)

We are 4 adults living in this house all with:

  • Goals
  • Ambitions.
  • Friends.
  • Work.
  • Weekend plans.

And because of that we all need to appreciate that every week this house will need:

  • Floors washing.
  • Hoovering.
  • Polishing.
  • Cleaning.
  • Grass cut.
  • Recycling.
  • And various other tasks.

Don’t confront them. Don’t give them ultimatums. Ask questions like:

“I know you’ve got big plans for this weekend, as you can see the house needs to be tidy by Monday, what can you do to help with that?”

Or

“I know you’ve got a lot of homework to do but a little brain space will help you process your thoughts. So in between homework, how can you help with the weekly chores?”

And if they don’t help? The recycling has ended up on my sons bed and I have put dirty cups back in my daughters bedroom with a note saying “Sorry these don’t live on the side.”

14. Don’t Assume What You See Is What You Are Getting

Adults hide their true emotions all the time. I know that sometimes the last thing my kids want is me in their room, but other times they want a chat and someone listening to them.

Don’t go in strong – still be who you’ve always been to them but read the signs:

  • Longer gaming than usual.
  • Sitting in the dark on the phone.
  • Not wanting to eat with you.
  • Getting home and hiding in the room without even saying hello.
  • More short tempered than usual.
  • Eating more or less.

There’re many and you know your child. Trust your gut instinct but don’t go in all guns blazing “Let mummy fix it!” The door will be slammed in your face or you will hear “Ergh, mum you just don’t get it.”

With teens, it’s all about the timing.

15. Be Proud

List their brilliance – it will help you for the day they are hitting your buttons.

16. Don’t Push It

When my son finished his GCSE’s, he was going to be off school for nearly 4 months. I had made it clear that the rest of the family were working, so he wouldn’t spend 4 months gaming. If he didn’t’ find a job, I could find plenty of jobs around the house. (I sound so evil right?)

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I’ve learnt that to push it means they will push back. So when one month passed and still he had no job, he noticed the money dried up. He wanted new shorts (This had holes). Everyone was going to the cinema and“he didn’t have enough in his bank account.

I didn’t argue with him, I just said “A job would probably be useful then” and wouldn’t get dragged into it; as hard as it is I so wanted to just phone my business contacts and find him a job.

I knew that the real reason he hadn’t found a job was because he feared going into restaurants, bars, shops and offices and asking for one. I can remember that fear and I wasn’t going to force his hand. His friends did that for me.

Eventually 2 months later when I still wasn’t opening the doors of the bank of Mom and Dad, he came home proudly to announce he had been offered 5 interviews and had 2 jobs he could immediately start that Saturday.

In one morning!

Wow that was fast? What did I do?

Nothing.

He needed to get there for himself. Eventually the pain of not having the things and experiencing what he wanted was associated with having no money. And so he did something about it despite the fear of talking to strangers or carrying 5 plates at once.

Fear will never stop being an issue in life – trust me as a coach specialising in this, I know!

Wind forward 6 months and the boss of the restaurant stopped me and said “Your son has an awesome work ethic, is great with customers, gets loads of tips and learns quickly.” Now that beats any school report!

If I had forced him this first memories of interviews and getting jobs, it would have been stressful for him.

By not pushing him, he could get there on his own and now knows he can get the job – that’s essential knowledge and experience for life. Interviews are scary enough!

17. Teach Life Skills

Basic life skills such as how to shake someone’s hand, how to greet someone, why eye contact is important and what your body language can say to people – before you get a chance to speak…

These (and many more) help when you aren’t feeling confident to try new things. Don’t expect miracles only 5 years earlier he was still asking me to take him around the local area to find Pokémon!

18. Make Time for Fun

There are few things I put my foot down about. We expect a high standard from our children and don’t get me wrong, they can stomp off and slam a door like Olympic champions if they want to, but they do know we expect:

Film night once a month – we will provide the sweets and popcorn you give us 2 hours of your life.

Meal time every night – with a few naughty treats – do you know how excited a teen gets at the prospect of a pizza in bed all on their own watching what they like?

I think it’s only fair because we all need space and while I’m not keen on the eating in bed thing –give in and let them do a few things they love. Your actions show you care. Even if the bed sheets aren’t so appreciative.

In the school holidays, I expect them to come out for the day with me and yes, take them to any café or restaurant they like. Give and take.

Go to the cinema and see what they want. I could go in a different cinema and watch my choice of film but it’s usually a dead cert that I will be watching Marvel or some off spin CGI film with them instead.

I’ve seen every Disney, Pixar and Marvel film going – I could do with a break and a few films with real humans in, but my theory is you don’t get to keep them for long.

Final Thoughts

And that’s the point isn’t it. If you find yourself seeing red, and struggling, they are at the age that they could be moving out within a few years and that’s it for this stage – it’s all over.

I cherish every half term. Every moan about a teacher. Every in-depth description of “she said, he said” because in a few years time, they will get new people in their lives — girlfriends, boyfriends… And then you really are knocked off their pedestal!

As my mum said to me when my children were very little, teething and sleep was something I’d read about in a fairy tale. But I didn’t believe were real, I’d asked “Mum does it get easier?” and my Mum replied with a smile “It doesn’t get easier, it gets different.”

So I look forward to what the next stage will bring – probably no less worry, no less fun, no less conversations but, possibly more place settings at the table and some exciting times. Another reason to cherish every day now.

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

How to Jump on the Road To Success Today How to Fight Your Irrational Fears And Stay Strong How to Make Positive Changes And Start Living a Fulfilling Life 7 Reminders When You’re Making Life Choices How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve 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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