How to raise strong boys by breaking these 12 rules:
After school drop offs and the day’s first load of laundry, Jonah and I walk to the playground. Every day it’s the same, he hops from one activity to the next – always in this order: See-saw, spinning chair, little slide, big slide then the swings as the grand finale.
The playground is normally empty during the early morning hours, but no such luck this Thursday morning. Jonah barely notices the little girl playing on the big slide. But I sure notice the woman hovering over the blonde cherub. I don’t know if she is the little girl’s mom or nanny. The only thing I know with certainty, she is fluent in the language of “passive aggressiveness.”
Jonah runs happily over to the smallest slide, when I hear her shrill voice cut through the quiet blissful morning. “Morgan! Do NOT climb UP the slide. Slides are only for sliding down!”
Morgan, with her blonde pigtails, pastel blue dress and light-up Peppa Pig shoes looks deflated. “But… that little boy just climbed UP his slide!!”
The beady-eyed woman with her bedazzled sneakers doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t lower her voice and doesn’t even try to be discreet. She seems to enjoy this opportunity to be aggressively passive aggressive.
“Morgan! That little boy shouldn’t break the rules. He should NOT walk up the slide like that!”
I shoot her one of my coldest glares and without skipping a beat I say louder than I mean to: “Jonah, you are doing SUCH a great job climbing the slide! I am proud of your effort and how strong you have become. Keep climbing honey, as long as no one wants to go down the slide!”
See, I can be equally as passive aggressive as the crankiest middle-aged woman wearing bedazzled sneakers!
Rules-shmules, seriously. Of course our kids shouldn’t be raised to think the world revolves around them and that they aren’t expected to follow rules and laws. However, there are a certain set of “rules” I DO wish for my kids to break, if not completely shatter – and the whole “don’t go UP a slide” is just one of them.
(Fellow boy mom, there are also 10 things you need to know about raising boys… as a mother of four boys, I hope you agree with me!)
Raise strong boys – break these 12 rules:
1. Only go DOWN a slide.
People much smarter than I, have written great articles about the importance of getting our kids outside to play and developing gross motor skills. Climbing, running and enjoying unstructured play are some of the many ways kids develop socially and physically. They don’t need us hovering over them all the time.
2. Don’t sleep in your parent’s bed.
Several years ago, I wrote about why I didn’t want our baby sleeping through the night. I feel so blessed to have four kids who rarely slept through the night or in their own cribs. The closeness we shared, especially while they were babies and I worked full time during the day, is one I will always cherish.
3. Clean your plate.
Thank goodness, “the clean plate club” is a thing of the past in most households. Encouraging kids to try new foods, explore textures and tastes in a non-threatening environment sets them up for a lifetime of healthy relationships with food and mealtime.
4. Hug and kiss every relative or stranger who asks for it.
We have all read and understand why this isn’t a good idea, right? It sends a mixed message about personal space and respecting your body. Additionally, shy and introverted kids climb further into their shells when forced out of their comfort zone.
5. Boys don’t cry.
Of course boys cry – as they should! We need to encourage our boys to express their feelings and emotions. Raising little emotionally-stunted robots is not in anyone’s best interest, especially not the women they will marry one day.
6. Boys don’t play with dolls.
Our boys DO play with dolls and they have become better brothers because of it. One of the best tips I give my pregnant friends when they prepare a child for a new sibling, is to buy a baby doll for the older child, regardless of their gender.
7. Color inside the lines.
The greatest works of art were not created by staying within the lines or completing a “paint-by-number” picture. Venturing outside the lines and breaking barriers is exactly what every child should be encouraged to do – that’s when real growth and artistic talent happens.
8. Lights off at 9pm.
Shhhh, don’t tell my kids, but I look the other way when I notice their lights are on past bedtime, IF (and only if) they are caught reading a book. Our tween has become a bookworm over the past eight months and this mom couldn’t be more proud. After he finished Harry Potter, he promptly started reading these captivating books by Rick Riordan – and he doesn’t put them down until they are done.
9. Wear clothes that match.
“NO” to this… always. Most days, our kids look like they dressed themselves, because they did. Do they always match? Rarely! I talk to them about which colors look nice together, but when it comes time to pick out their outfits, they have no regard for my color-matching opinion – and that’s exactly how it should be. Matching colors is boring, standing out is the new black.
10. Boys will be boys.
As the mother of four boys, nothing irks me more than those four words uttered as an excuse for a male child or adult’s poor behavior. First and foremost, I don’t want my kids to use their gender as an excuse for anything negative. Let’s raise our boys to be held to a much higher standard. The “boys” referred to in this archaic saying are the predecessors to the Neanderthals. I picture a group of adolescent cavemen wrestling and beating each other over the head with wooden clubs when they don’t get their way.
Let’s teach our sons today to raise each other up with respect, instead of beat each other down with violence and nasty words. Let’s raise our young men right, so “boys” no longer is considered a “four letter word,” but rather a way to describe a kind, loving, nurturing and respectful human being.
11. Succeed at everything.
Failure is inevitable in life, regardless of how big of a bubble we build around our kids.
Instead of hovering over and shielding the next generation from falling flat on their face, let’s teach them that success never comes without failure of some sort. Modeling the behavior we wish to see in our kids is the most powerful way to parent.
Our kids look to us for guidance on how to handle everyday life situations. When WE (the adults) are faced with adversity and trials, how we act and react teach our kids more about grit and resilience than endless hours of lectures.
Show your kids how to learn from their mistakes instead of protecting them from making mistakes. This GROWTH MINDSET sets them up for a life time of self-confidence and a positive outlook no one can take away.
12. Boys should pee standing up!
We may have four boys with the worst aim, or perhaps there’s an entire population of boy moms who truly feel my pain (- the radiating pain in my knees and back from scrubbing the toilet, walls and floors, only to have them urine-soaked again within hours.)
Just because men/ boys “THINK” they can aim, doesn’t mean they actually remember to do it while they are in the bathroom.
Besides, it’s way easier to teach a young child to potty train while sitting ON the potty. Trust me, when they have to poop… WHILE they are peeing, the poop takes priority and your whole bathroom gets sprayed as they take a seat. For the love of God, boys… please just sit down to pee.
I can only hope that this generation of boys shatters the implied rules “forced” upon them by past generations. May our sons stand tall and confidently by their partner’s side as they raise their children to be equally as sensitive and emotionally mindful.
(The only time I will ask my boys NOT to stand tall, is in the bathroom.)
Fellow mom of boys, did you read the 10 things you need to know about raising boys?