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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

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

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

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Published on December 20, 2019

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Kate sits down to the dinner table and is eager to be a good girl and eat her dinner like her Mom and Dad want her to do. She is a sweet girl who wants the approval of her parents very much. It is not always easy though. During dinner, she stands up and starts to leave the table because she has to use the bathroom. Her Dad yells at her to sit back down. He tells her “we don’t just get up from the dinner table, we wait and ask to be excused after everyone is finished eating.” She begins to protest, wanting to explain that she needs to use the bathroom. Her father becomes more upset with her and yells at her that she is now talking back and she is not allowed to say another word at the dinner table until everyone is finished eating and then she can be excused.

Unfortunately for Kate, she can’t hold it, and she has a little accident because she is too fearful to say a word to her Dad. She doesn’t want to get yelled at anymore. She also knows that in her home, kids don’t have a say. What Mom and Dad say is like words carved into stone. They are strict beyond reason and they will not bend their rules. Therefore, Kate felt that she had no choice in the matter and when she could no longer hold it. There was nothing she could do about it.

Kate’s parents are an example of authoritarian parenting. They are strict, they are not emotionally engaged with their children, and they have very high expectations for their children. This type of parenting style leaves children feeling disconnected from their parents.

Kate wanted to communicate to her parents that she had to use the restroom, but she couldn’t even get her words out because her parents have such strict rules and demands of her. They did not care to hear what she had to say, because upholding their rules was more important to them. In their household, a child’s opinions and feelings do not matter.

This kind of strict parenting is not helpful for children. It can damage a child and leave them with low self-esteem, mental health issues, and doing poor academically among other problems cited by research in Parenting Science.[1]

What Does Authoritarian Parenting Look Like?

In the 1960’s, a researcher and theorist by the name of Baumrind established the well known theory of parenting styles. Those four parenting styles, which are well known today, are authoritarian, authoritative, passive, and neglectful. For proactive parents that are trying hard to be good parents, they will usually lean toward either authoritarian or authoritative.

Authoritarian parenting involves strict parenting and high expectations for children. This can sound reasonable and even like good parenting. However, the strict parenting is often characterized by lack of compassion toward the child, little to no flexibility in rules, and complete control sought over the child’s behavior.

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Parents who use this parenting style believe it is their job to control the will and behavior of their children. An article in Psychology Today explains how authoritarian parents operate:[2]

Authoritarian parents believe that children are, by nature, strong-willed and self-indulgent. They value obedience to higher authority as a virtue unto itself. Authoritarian parents see their primary job to be bending the will of the child to that of authority—the parent, the church, the teacher. Willfulness is seen to be the root of unhappiness, bad behavior, and sin. Thus, a loving parent is one who tries to break the will of the child.

For example, Jake has authoritarian parents. He wants to stay out past curfew on a school night because he has an opportunity to play in a jazz ensemble. He has been playing the saxophone for years and his ambition is to play in a college jazz ensemble.

With Jake still being in high school, his parents have a curfew. On school nights, it is 8:00 pm. This rule is instituted because his parents believe they need to ensure that Jake gets his school work done each night and that he needs to be well rested for school the next day. However, they don’t explain the why of their rules to him, they simply tell him that those are their rules. The jazz ensemble is practicing at 8:00 pm on a Thursday night and they have invited Jake to come play with them. It is a well known group and a huge opportunity for Jake.

Unfortunately, his parents say no. Their authoritarian parenting style is unwavering. He wants to discuss the opportunity and its importance, but his parents will not even entertain the conversation. They stop him mid-sentence and go over their rules again. There is no flexibility.

If Jake’s parents had been authoritative, they would have taken the time to hear out his case and would likely have granted him a later curfew for that one instance. They would see that, although they have a curfew, there are some instances when an opportunity is worth bending the rules. They would ask that he has his homework done before going to play with the group, and that he come home as soon as the practice was finished.

Authoritative parents have rules, but they are also flexible based on reasonable requests for exceptions. The authoritative parents are interested in how their children are thinking and feeling. Conversely, authoritarian parents are not likely to be interested in hearing their child’s thoughts and feelings, because they want to control the will of their child, not come to some middle ground.

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Here are some characteristics of authoritarian parenting:

  • They have strict rules that are unyielding and unwavering. This is often called “heavy handed parenting.”
  • They do not want input from the child about rules. They also feel that the child’s opinion does not matter, because they are the parent thus are the supreme authority over the child.
  • There are severe punishments when rules are broken.
  • There is an emotional disconnection between parent and child, because the parent is not interested in what the child thinks or feels. They are more interested in controlling the behavior of the child and having the child be compliant to their rules.
  • Children are expected to listen to their parents and follow the rules, there are no exceptions. A child that voices their objections will likely be punished for doing so.
  • The parents have high expectations, especially when it comes to compliance of their rules.
  • Parents expect that their child will be obedient and they do not need to explain the “why” of their rules and expectations. Compliance is expected out of sheer obedience, not because the child understands the reasons why the rules are set. Parents do not feel the need to explain why they set their rules.
  • There is a failure to have attached relationships between parent and child because of the overly dominant nature of authoritarian parents and their unwillingness to allow their children to have their own voice or free will.

Authoritarian parents are driven by a belief that they need to control their children. This means controlling their children’s behavior to an extreme. They are inflexible and don’t take into account the child’s desires, emotions, or well-being as being as important to enforcing rules to get the desired outcome. Authoritative parents on the other hand, seek to guide and direct their children instead of control. There is a distinction.

The Problems of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting has many negative consequences to children. Children who are raised in homes with extreme authoritarian parenting are more likely to become dependent on drugs and alcohol, have lower academic performance, and increased mental health issues according to Parenting for Brain.[3] Children who are raised with authoritarian parents are also more likely to have lower self esteem, inability to make decisive choices, and have social skills that are lacking.

When a child is raised to be taught day in and day out that their voice does not matter, then that child will likely be ingrained with that belief. They will not value their own opinions because they have been taught that what they think does not matter and is of no value. This leads to poor self-esteem and low self-worth.

If a child doesn’t believe that their thoughts matter, then what they think about themselves overall is going to be affected. They will not think highly of themselves or believe that what they think, say, or do is of value. This will contribute to low self-esteem long term.

Social skills will suffer because a child who comes from an authoritarian home will be trained to believe that nobody wants to hear their opinion and that relationships are based on compliance.

For example, Judy is raised in an authoritarian home. She is now 18 years old and has her first boyfriend. Anytime that he asks something of her, even if she internally disagrees, she feels that she is supposed to comply and do what he says in order for him to like her and continue wanting to be with her.

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He wants to have sex. She does not feel that she is ready, but she will not voice this to her boyfriend because she doesn’t think that her opinion will matter or that he will want to listen to what she is feeling. She goes along with sex in their relationship to be compliant. She doesn’t want to be punished by disagreeing with not having sex. He says that they are ready for that next step in the relationship and she fears that the consequence of saying no would be that he ends the relationship.

Therefore, she doesn’t even voice her thoughts or feelings on the situation because she doesn’t think they have value or will be heard anyway.

She has been taught by her parents that her opinions and feelings don’t matter. She has learned from the past 18 years with her parents that what matters most is that she is compliant. She gets along with her parents best when she is doing exactly what they want her to do. This is why she feels the need to do the same with her boyfriend.

Going along with his decisions, being compliant, and not voicing her feelings will keep the relationship going and avoid conflict or punishment. The ultimate punishment in her mind would be that he ends the relationship.

With her opinions never being valued by those who she has loved the most (her parents), she has learned that she should not voice her opinion if she wants to keep the other person in the relationship happy. In her mind, because of how she has been raised, compliance overrides all else, and her opinion is meaningless.

However, her boyfriend is not her parents. He is understanding and would want to know how she feels. He wants a long term relationship with her and he loves her so much. His true desire is for her to be happy. He would never want her to have sex if she wasn’t feeling the same way that he was feeling. He would gladly wait and would want to hear what she thinks and feels about taking their relationship to the next level.

Authoritarian parenting methods can inflict great harm on a child. The child becomes emotionally damaged because they grow up believing that their opinions, thoughts, and feelings do not matter. Instead they are taught that compliance and being obedient supersedes all else.

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The Solution

The solution is to move from authoritarian parenting methods to authoritative parenting practices.

Authoritative parenting has been deemed as the best parenting method by researchers, according to Psychology Today. Parents who use authoritative parenting methods have rules for their children, but they are not looking for blind compliance. They recognize that having a relationship with their child is of great importance and therefore valuing the child’s voice, opinions, and thoughts is important.

Authoritative parents seek to guide and direct their children, but they do not seek to control the will of their child.

Parenting Coach Plan explains the foundation of authoritative parenting as the following:[4]

Authoritative parenting can be described as a style of parenting that combines firm limits and clear boundaries with fair and consistent discipline. Authoritative parents are also nurturing, highly-involved, and willing to speak openly with their child regarding expectations and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations. Rules are enforced and fair consequences are put in place for when those rules are broken.

Children raised in authoritative homes follow the rules because they understand the “why” of the rules. They are also bonded to their parents because they are able to talk to their parents openly. This bond helps nurture a positive home environment and a two-way relationship that can last a lifetime.

To learn more about how to be an authoritative parent and how to discipline a child using this parenting method, check out my article:

How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

Reference

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