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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 September 21, 2020

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

I am a parent of three children aged 8, 6, and 6. Like many parents, I struggle with knowing the right balance of activities for them. I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities to play sports and participate in activities that will enhance their lives and help them grow as individuals. However, I also don’t want them to become overscheduled kids, to the extent that they get worn out and stressed out.

There is a balance in providing activities for our children and overscheduling them. The tendency for the latter is prevalent these days. Our lives — and the lives of our kids — are increasingly overscheduled and overworked. Thus, we need to understand the dangers of having overscheduled kids and how to prevent this from happening in our own families.

What’s Wrong with Overscheduling Your Kids?

1. Overscheduling Can Burn Out Our Kids

When our kids are on the go and scheduled to the max from a young age, their potential to get burned out before reaching high school is quite high. The New York Times reported some research on burnout and found that burnout with kids relates to their workload, along with their parents’ propensity to experience it.[1] This means that overworked children are more likely to get burned out than others. Similarly, overscheduled parents tend to have overscheduled kids more often than not.

Burnout

When a person is burned out, they feel overwhelmed and exhausted by what others expect them to get done daily. Children who are involved in too many activities with little to no downtime have a high chance of experiencing burnout. When parents place too many expectations on their kids, they also have an increased potential to burn out.

If you get the sense that your child is feeling overworked or overwhelmed by their daily activities, you need to know which ones can be cut back. If they have too many activities outside of school work, for instance, then that is one area that likely needs to be downsized.

An overworked child will present various symptoms like moodiness, irritability, crankiness, despondency, anger, stomach aches, headaches, rebellion, etc. Cutting back their activities will help to relieve their stress and reduce the said burnout signs. If your kid has severe burnout symptoms, though, then professional help from a pediatrician or therapist for children should be sought.

Downtime

Downtime is key to helping relieve burnout. If children don’t have free time during the day to have any rest, they are more likely to become burned out than others. Downtime means unorganized free time to do what they enjoy or relax. Cut back your kids’ extra-curricular activities if they don’t have downtime in their schedule.

Here are more tips on creating downtime for the children: How to Create Downtime for Kids.

2. Overscheduling Kills Playtime and Creativity

Kids need time to be kids. When their schedules are filled every day with activities like organized ballet, soccer, and music lessons, and they only take a break for dinner and bedtime, then they are overscheduled. They need to have free time after school to relax and play. When they don’t have that and proceed from one scheduled activity to the next, they are missing out on playtime.

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Playtime is crucial to child development. If they cannot get enough time to play, then their ability to develop their creativity decreases. The Genius of Play explains that there are six major developmental benefits that children get from playtime:[2]

  • Creativity
  • Social skill development
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
  • Communication skills
  • Emotional development

If children don’t have time to play because they are always on-the-go, then they are missing out on the developmental benefits of play.

Children need downtime after school so that they can unwind, play, and decompress. Research from the Journal of Early Childhood Development and Care showed that kids need to play to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry.[3] Playtime provides an outlet for them to manage these emotions in a healthy manner and helps with the development of their creativity.

Children need free time to play every day. Fifteen minutes at recess is not enough. They need time for it after school, at home, outside of the constraints of scheduled activities.

Solution

Ensure that your child has time to play after school. This is especially important for young children who greatly benefit from playing. Limit organized activities so that your child is not scheduled every day and can play after school. If they have an activity every hour, then it doesn’t allow for playtime.

3. Overscheduling Causes Stress and Pressure

When kids are overscheduled because their parents are so intent on having high-performing children, then they will feel stressed. Parental pressure upon a child to do well in academics, music, multiple sports, and religious studies is a reality for many kids. The children scheduled in all of these activities can often feel stress and pressure, especially when they are expected to succeed in all of them.

It is hard enough for kids to be good or succeed at a single activity. For a parent to overschedule their child and expect superior performance in various activities, that is a recipe for a stressed-out child.

Solution

Parents should not schedule kids in multiple activities with the expectation of superior performance in all. They should also consider the child’s interests. If the child is not interested in one activity, then they are likely to feel stressed and pressured to do it.

For example, if Suzy has been taking piano lessons for four years, and she no longer enjoys learning the instrument, then perhaps it is time to take a break. If Suzy is forced to continue with the lessons and daily practices, then she may feel pressured to continue performing simply because her mom wants her to do so. This can lead Suzy to resent her mother for forcing her to keep on doing something that she doesn’t like anymore.

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Let your child help in selecting the activities that they get involved in. Also, put a cap on the number of activities they are doing. If they have a different activity every weekday, then they are likely overscheduled.

Kids need downtime and time to play, too. If they need to do a new activity every day, that downtime is diminished, considering the time at home or outside of the scheduled activities is limited. This limited time is then filled with homework, mealtime, and bedtime prep. Eliminating activities several days a week will allow the child to have some time to play freely. The younger the kid is, the more time they need playtime. As they get older, they can take on more activities; however, under the age of 13, playing daily is a must for children.

4. Healthy Eating Falls by the Wayside

Any parent who’s busy chauffeuring multiple kids to different activities after school knows how tempting fast food can become. Fast food, however, leads to less healthy food choices. French fries and hamburgers — the staple combo in most fast-food joints — cannot help your child thrive nutritionally.

When families are overscheduled, they tend to go for easy and quick meals. When rushed, many of us make poor food choices because we aren’t taking the time to think about a meal’s nutritional value and a balanced diet for our children.

5. Family Mealtimes Become a Thing of the Past

When we are taking our kids to sports and other extra-curricular activities that fall during dinnertime, the family often misses out on sharing a meal at home.

This is true in our own home. There are certain nights of the week that we have practices, and so we either eat together early (if possible) or eat separately, depending on what our schedules allow.

There is so much value in having family dinners. It provides an opportunity for family members to discuss their day, including their work and school activities. It is a time when technology is set aside so that everyone can truly focus on communicating with one another and catching up on what is happening in each other’s lives. When a kid’s activities are scheduled every evening, then that family time at the dining table gets lost. Dinnertime becomes a thing of the past as we overschedule kids and ourselves.

Try learning more about family time here: How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately.

Solution

Assess our schedule during the week to ensure that there’s always time for dinner with the family. Make it a point to establish a dinnertime schedule for the evenings that you do not have prior engagements scheduled. Remember: the time that you have with your kids under your roof is fleeting. Before long, they will be grownups and start living on their own. You need not dismiss or minimize the opportunity to bond with your children over meals.

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Having family mealtimes also allows you to make excellent food choices. This way, parents can create balanced and healthy meals and teach their children about the importance of eating good food for their bodies.

How to Turn Things Around?

1. Fix the Displaced Ambitions

Parents with overscheduled kids often mean well. They want their children to succeed, so they give them every chance to make it happen. They sign them up for various lessons, sports, and activities that may help the kids find success in life.

In other cases, the parent probably didn’t get such opportunities when they were young and felt that they missed out on many things. Hence, they provide those missed opportunities to their kids during their own childhood.

Carla is an example of such a parent. Carla always wanted to take dance and ballet classes as a child. She heard her friends talk about dance classes and performances, and they would even bring recital photos to school, showing their beautiful, detailed costumes. Carla wanted to be in those dance classes and learn ballet and have the opportunity to perform in a beautiful costume in front of an audience. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to give her that opportunity.

When Carla gave birth to a baby girl, she had visions of her little one growing big enough to take dance, ballet, and even tap classes someday. She was looking forward to dressing her daughter in dance costumes and watching her take lessons and eventually performing in recitals. When Carla’s daughter Anna was old enough to enroll at a dance class at four years old, she was thrilled. However, after a few months, it became clear that Anna was not enjoying these classes. She would cry before every lesson, begging Carla to let her stay home and not go to class. Her daughter had no interest in learning to dance.

In truth, it happens to many parents. They would enroll their kid in an activity that they wanted to do as a child but never got to try. Unfortunately, a parent’s interest is not always the same as that of their kids’. The child may humor mom or dad for some time and do the activity out of compliance. But if the child does not enjoy it anymore, they will eventually make things clear to their parents.

Parents should listen to their children. If the activity is something that they do not enjoy doing, ask the children what they think they would like to do, and then eliminate activities that they are not into. Similarly, teach them commitment by finishing a program, but don’t enroll them again in the same class if they absolutely do not want to do it.

Let the kids try different activities at a young age. Sometimes they don’t know if they like something until they try it out.

2. Try Clinics of Camps Before Committing

Don’t enroll your child in three sports at the same time to see which one they like or excel at. Doing so will make your kid overscheduled. Instead, you can use the summer break or preseason camps or clinics to try a variety of activities they are interested in.

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As an example, all three of my children said that they wanted to do lacrosse. We had already tried soccer, and it was not successful for two out of three of them. They would rather chase butterflies down the field or play tag than actually participate in their games. Therefore, before committing to lacrosse and spending a great deal of money on their gear, I signed them up for a sample clinic. It was a one-day program that intended to expose children to the sport and see if they would perhaps enjoy playing it. I was surprised to find that the three kids enjoyed lacrosse, so we signed up for the season. It was nice to be able to see them try out the sport in a clinic before committing to an entire season.

Most towns and cities have parks and recreation department. This is often a good place to check for clinics and camps for various activities. Our local department even offers art and dance classes. Most of them meet between two and four times total, so the children can get some exposure to the activity before signing them up at a private facility for a more long-term commitment.

3. Take an Inventory of Your Weekly Activities

Often, we do an activity without reflecting on how much we are already committed to doing each week. Before we commit to any more activities, we must be willing to look at everything that each family member does. Every child’s commitment is another responsibility for the parent as well. Parents must take children to and from each practice, so you need to consider the drive time for any activity.

For instance, if each of my three kids signed up for three different activities each week, I would be running myself ragged. Three activities for three kids means taking them to nine activities during the week. That doesn’t include the games that will likely be scheduled on the weekends. Three activities for every child, therefore, is too much for our family.

If some practices overlap on the schedule, then you need two parents or responsible adults to transport the children to different locations. Before you sign them up for multiple activities, you need to factor downtime, stress levels, and your ability to take them to each activity in the equation.

Consider the following before your kids can commit to various activities:

  • What is the time commitment for the child each week? Do they have enough energy and stamina for the activities? Do they get enough downtime daily to prevent burnout?
  • Is practice time required outside of their scheduled team practices and games?
  • How long is the travel time for you as a parent, along with wait time during practices? Do you have time allowances for these activities in your own schedule?
  • Does the activity time conflict with other activities on the schedule? Will it eliminate family dinners on a regular basis?
  • Does the child really want to do the activity?
  • What is the motivation for signing up for the activity?
  • Is this activity or commitment going to cause a great deal of stress on the child or other family members?

Check out these time-management tips for parents: 10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know.

Get The Kids Active and Involved!

Despite everything, it does not mean that you shouldn’t sign your child up for different activities like sports, music, dance, karate, etc. They are all great activities that can help children develop a variety of valuable life skills. The goal is to enroll them in things that they genuinely enjoy and avoid overscheduling kids by not letting them sign up for too many activities at a time.

More Tips for Scheduling Kids’ Activities

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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