25 Ideas for Moms Raising Sons

Tabitha Studer knows how important it is for parents to raise boys conscientiously, and so she complied a list of 25 ideas for mothers of sons.

Originally appeared at Tabitha Studer’s blog, Team Studer. Reprinted with permission by the author.

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Inspired by a Pin I’ve recently seen about “rules for dads with daughters,” I went searching for a similar list for moms with sons.  This search was mostly fruitless, so I was inspired to write my own ideas for Moms with Sons. Granted, my list will not be conclusive and may not be entirely uncontroversial. Agree, or disagree—or take with a grain of salt—but I hope to inspire other moms who are loving, and struggling, and tired, and proud, and eager to support the boys in their lives. You are the most important woman in his life, his first teacher, and the one he will look to for permission for the rest of his life. From “Can I go play with them?” to “Should I ask her to marry me?”  It’s a big job we’re up for it.

25 Rules for Moms with Sons

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1. Teach him the words for how he feels.
Your son will scream out of frustration and hide out of embarrassment. He’ll cry from fear and bite out of excitement. Let his body move by the emotion, but also explain to him what the emotion is and the appropriate response to that emotion for future reference. Point out other people who are feeling the same thing and compare how they are showing that emotion. Talk him through your emotions so that someday when he is grown, he will know the difference between angry and embarrassed; between disappointment and grief.

2. Be a cheerleader for his life
There is no doubt that you are the loudest person in the stands at his t-ball games. There is no doubt that he will tell you to “stop, mom” when you sing along to his garage band’s lyrics. There is no doubt that he will get red-faced when you show his prom date his pictures from boy scouts. There is no doubt that he is not telling his prom date about your blog where you’ve been bragging about his life from his first time on the potty to the citizenship award he won in ninth grade.  He will tell you to stop.  He will say he’s embarrassed. But he will know that there is at least one person that is always rooting for him.

3. Teach him how to do laundry
..and load the dishwasher, and iron a shirt.  He may not always choose to do it. He may not ever have to do it. But someday, someone will thank you. Maybe even him.

4. Read to him and read with him.
Emilie Buchwald said, “Children become readers on the laps of their parents.” Offer your son the opportunity to learn new things, believe in pretend places, and imagine bigger possibilities through books. Let him see you reading…reading the paper, reading novels, reading magazine articles. Help him understand that writing words down is a way to be present forever.  Writers are the transcribers of history and memories. They keep a record of how we lived at that time; what we thought was interesting; how we spoke to each other; what was important. And Readers help preserve and pass along those memories.

5. Encourage him to dance.
Dance, rhythm, and music are cultural universals. No matter where you go, no matter who you meet—they have some form of the three. It doesn’t have to be good. Just encourage your son that when he feels it, it’s perfectly fine to go ahead and bust a move.

6. Make sure he has examples of good men who are powerful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.
The examples of men with big muscles and a uniform (like Batman and LaMarr Woodley) will surround your son from birth.  But make sure he also knows about men who kick a$s because of their brains (Albert Einstein), and their pen (Mark Twain), and their words (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), and their determination (Team Hoyt), and their ideas (The Wright Brothers), and their integrity (Officer Frank Shankwitz), and fearlessness (Neil Armstrong), and their ability to keep their mouths closed when everyone else is screaming (Jackie Robinson).

7. Make sure he has examples of women who are beautiful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.
The examples of traditionally beautiful women (like Daphne Blake, Princess Jasmine, and Britney Spears) will surround your son from birth. But make sure he knows about women who are beautiful from the inside out because of their brains (Madame Marie Curie), and their pen (Harper Lee), and their words (Eleanor Roosevelt), and their determination (Anne Sullivan), and their ideas (Oprah Winfrey), and their integrity (Miep Gies), and fearlessness (Ameila Earhart), and their ability to open their mouths and take a stand when everyone else is silent (Aung San Suu Kyi).

8. Be an example of a beautiful woman with brains, determination, and integrity.
You already are all of those things. If you ever fear that you are somehow incapable of doing anything—remember this:  If you have done any of the following:  a) grew life b) impossibly and inconceivably got it out of your body c) taken care of a newborn d) made a pain go away with a kiss e) taught someone to read f) taught a toddler to eat with a utensil g) cleaned up diarrhea without gagging h) loved a child enough to be willing to give your life for them (regardless if they are your own) or i) found a way to be strong when that child is suffering…you are a superhero. Do not doubt yourself for one second. Seriously.

9. Teach him to have manners because it’s nice. And it will make the world a little better of a place.

10. Give him something to believe in
Because someday he will be afraid, or nervous, or heartbroken, or lost, or just need you, and you won’t be able to be there.  Give him something to turn to when it feels like he is alone, so that he knows that he will never be alone; never, never, never.

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11. Teach him that there are times when you need to be gentle
like with babies, and flowers, and animals, and other people’s feelings.

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12. Let him ruin his clothes
Resolve to be cool about dirty and ruined clothes. You’ll be fighting a losing battle if you get upset every time he ruins another piece of clothing. Don’t waste your energy being angry about something inevitable. Boys often tend to learn by destroying, jumping, spilling, falling, and making impossible messes. Dirty, ruined clothes are just par for the course.

13. Learn how to throw a football
or how to use a hockey stick, or read music, or draw panda bears (or in my case alpacas), or the names of different train engines, or learn to speak Elvish, or recognize the difference between Gryffindor and Slytherin, or the lyrics to his favorite song.  Be in his life, not as an observer but as an active participant.

14. Go outside with him
turn off the television, unplug the video games, put your cellphone on the charger, even put your camera away.  Just go outside and follow him around. Watch his face, explore his world, and let him ask questions. It’s like magic.

15. Let him lose
Losing sucks. Everybody isn’t always a winner. Even if you want to say, “You’re a winner because you tried,” don’t. He doesn’t feel like a winner, he feels sad and crappy and disappointed. And that’s a good thing, because sometimes life also sucks, no matter how hard (as moms) we try to make it not suck for our kids. This practice will do him good later when he loses again (and again, and again, and again, and again…..) Instead make sure he understands that—sometimes you win—sometimes you lose.  But that doesn’t mean you ever give up.

16. Give him opportunities to help others
There is a big difference in giving someone the opportunity to help and forcing someone to help. Giving the opportunity lights a flame in the heart and once the help is done the flame shines brighter and asks for more opportunities. Be an example of helping others in your own actions and the way your family helps each other and helps others together.

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17. Remind him that practice makes perfect.
This doesn’t just apply to performance-based activities (like sports and music) but also applies to everything in life.  You become a better writer by writing.  You become a better listener by listening.  You become better speaker by speaking.  Show your son this when he is just young enough to understand (that means from birth, folks – they are making sense of the world as soon as they arrive), practice trick-or-treating at your own front door before the real thing.  Practice how you will walk through airport security before a trip.  Practice how you order your own food from the fast food cashier.  Practice, practice, practice.

18. Answer him when he asks, “Why?”
Answer him, or search for the answer together. Show him the places to look for the answers (like his dad, or grandparents, or his aunts/uncles, or his books, or valid internet searches). Pose the question to him so he can begin thinking about answers himself.  Someday, when he needs to ask questions he’s too embarrassed to ask you—he’ll know where to go to find the right answers.

19. Always carry band-aids and wipes on you.
especially the wipes.

20. Let his dad teach him how to do things
…without interrupting about how to do it the ‘right way.’  If you let his dad show and teach and discover with your son while he is growing up, some day down the road (after a short period of your son believing his dad knows nothing), he will come to the realization that his dad knows everything. You will always be his mother, but in his grown-up man heart and mind, his dad will know the answers. And this will be how, when your son is too busy with life to call and chat with his mom,  you will stay connected to what is happening in his life. Because he will call his dad for answers, and his dad will secretly come and ask you.

21. Give him something to release his energy
drums, a pen, a punching bag, wide open space, water, a dog. Give him something to go crazy with—or he will use your stuff.  And then you’ll be sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22. Build him forts
Forts have the ability to make everyday normal stuff into magic.  Throw the couch cushions, a couple blankets, and some clothespins and you can transform your living room into the cave of wonders.  For the rest of his life, he’ll be grateful to know that everyday normal stuff has the potential to be magical.

23. Take him to new places
Because it will make his brain and his heart open up wider, and the ideas and questions and memories will rush in.

24. Kiss him
Any mother of sons will tell you that little boys are so loving and sweet. They can be harsh and wild and destructive during most of the day.  But there are these moments when they are so kind and sensitive and tender. So much so that it can cause you to look around at the inward, reserved grown men in your life and think, ‘what happens in between that made you lose that?’ Let’s try to stop the cycle by kissing them when they’re loving and kissing them even more when they’re wild. Kissing them when they’re 2 months and kissing them when they’re 16 years old.  You’re the mom—you can go ahead and kiss him no matter how big he gets —and make sure he knows it. p.s. (this one is just as important for dad’s too).

25. Be home base
You are home to him. When he learns to walk, he will wobble a few feet away from you and then come back, then wobble away a little farther and then come back. When he tries something new, he will look for your proud smile. When he learns to read, he will repeat the same book to you twenty times in a row, because you’re the only one who will listen that many times.  When he plays his sport, he will search for your face in the stands. When he is sick, he will call you.  When he really messes up, he will call you. When he is grown and strong and tough and big and he feels like crying, he will come to you; because a man can cry in front of his mother without feeling self-conscious. Even when he grows up and has a new woman in his life and gets a new home, you are still his mother; home base, the ever constant, like the sun. Know that in your heart and everything else will fall into place.

 

If you enjoyed this you might enjoy Tabitha Studer’s newest post: 

Five Reasons my Children are Lucky to Have an Outdoorsman for a Father

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For more from Tabitha Studer, visit her blog, Team Studer.

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Lead photo courtesy of Dave Goodman

About Tabitha Studer

Tabitha is a 30-something wife and mum from western Pennsylvania. Technically she's a 'stay at home mom' to two kids, two dogs and two cats, but has recently been navigating the world of publishing as co-founder of The Hunting Daddies. All the while, she attempts photography and writes for her family blog Team Studer. She likes reading, volunteering, and that first sip of coffee in the morning before everyone else wakes up. She believes there is nothing more important than being kind.

Comments

  1. Michellell says:

    Love this! In our house though, we say that practice makes better.

  2. As a mother of three sons I have to say this was brilliantly written. My boys are all grown up and left home now. One has a family of his own, one has a family on the way (twins – due November) and one has just come home to Mum for help with his health, because Mum will always be MUM.
    I wrote my own view of mothering sons here http://cgrace4wellbeing.blogspot.co.nz/2012/10/raising-gorgeous-boys.html. I wrote this a while ago.

  3. First of all, the future instructor must be well versed in all
    of the essential Zumba dance movements.

  4. Wow! I just love your article and the rules you’ve set! Especially number 12. I have two boys and sometimes i let their wild and destroying behavior ruin my mood, get upset or angry with them. Thank you for your words and the love that shows from them.

    Esmée ( The Netherlands)

  5. Thanks for sharing. All these points are interesting and true, but in fact these are just as important for fathers and daughters as for mums and sons. Please give our daughters the same attention and let them build forts as well!

  6. I really appreciated what you wrote here, and find nothing at all to squawk about like some of the other commenters. I have three young sons. I have been practicing many of these concepts and they’re turning out to be AWESOME boys. I adore them, I adore being a mother to a team of boys, and I adore people who help me to be a better mother. THANK YOU!

  7. One thing i would add (and as a mom of grownups i know a little) – Embrace his friends: they are as important to him as his family and especially be kind (not competitive) with the special girl in his life.

  8. Before I read this, I was ready to bet my life that you would mention a woman’s need to be appreciated for being something other than sexually beautiful. but nothing about a male’s need to be appreciated as sexually beautiful. In other words, teach your son to appreciate women as whole people, but no need to teach your son to feel sexually beautiful about hhimself -just teach him to properly appreciate female beauty. Most of this is about teaching your son to be a better partner to his future wife. You wrote this to benefit her – not your son.

    • JustPaula says:

      Wow. MAYBE I can see #3,7, and 8 serving the purpose of being good to a “future wife”, but on the whole, this list is how to teach your son to be a good HUMAN. And how to be confident. And that even though he is a male, it is okay to dance and express feelings and be comfortable with helping and nurturing others (like maybe his future CHILDREN). Since when does letting a boy run loose to expel energy, or being okay with him ruining his clothes, or teaching him how to throw a football or encouraging him to respect men like Mark Twain or Martin Luther King as much as he does comic book superheros, add up to a “list of things that will turn your son into a good husband?’

    • I think you see exactly what you expected BECAUSE you expected it; you were so set on it… The whole way through this article, I was wondering why it was about moms and sons instead of parents and children in general. I only see one point 2 points about appreciating the beauty of women, and they came right after equivalent points about men. Perhaps powerful wasn’t the right adjective to use, but that’s not really the important part of that point, is it?

  9. Tora Spigner RN says:

    Also don’t forget, don’t cut your son’s penis, let him grow up with the human right to a whole body and normal and natural future sexual life. As an RN and a mother, I am always educating people about the human rights of little boys to keep the genitals they were born with. Every person on this planet has the right to keep the normal and natural genitals they were born with, in the normal and natural state they are in. That follows that no parent, for religious, community or cultural reasons, has the right to circumcise their son. They will always have to grow up harmed by that decision. Cutting anyone’s genitals to make them as adults want them to be is wrong and will always be wrong, no matter how you color it.

    • From a perspective of Intersexed babies, I would agree with your comment about “keeping the genitals they are born with”. However, male circumcision is NOT a bad thing; whether from a cultural or religious perspective, that’s a part of their heritage.

      As an RN, you should know that circumcision has medical benefits; uncircumcised men are 4x more likely to catch HIV as well as increased chances of other STD’s. The “foreskin” removed can be used for burn victims; it is resilient and stretchy enough to cover many times its surface area effectively.

      There is not a single thing medically speaking where a male will be “harmed” by a normal circumcision. The only “problems” they might have with it would be with insipidly picky lovers who prefer uncircumcised men over circumcised ones. You clearly are espousing your own beliefs, not those of the medical world; I repeat–there are NO lasting physical or psychological benefits of circumcisising a male child.

      Circumcision is ONLY wrong for women, regardless of the reason; there is NO benefit to female circumcision, only detriment.

  10. This is a good list. I recently had a son and he and my daughter are 12 years apart. I never knew I could love a little person so much but my heart has quadrupled in size to accomodate the love I have for that little guy. My husband kisses him every night before he goes to bed and every morning before we leave for work and baby school. He’s barely two but this list has me thinking about what happens when he is grown and out in the world and I pray that I do a GREAT job so he will contribute great things to the world! Great read!

  11. Those of you complaining at 6 &7, if you stopped judging by the headlines and paid more attention to the content you’d see you have nothing to complain about. The point is that they will be surrounded by the stereotypes of strong men and beautiful women. The sentiment is that being a man isn’t about physicality, and neither is being a beautiful woman.
    Your lesson for life is to stop leaping to outrage and blame. To read between the lines and applaud those who try to do good, rather than live life as an oversensitive critic.

    • Honestly, my problems with this article are the fact that–in the opening paragraph–she reasserts the title’s prominence in saying “but I hope to inspire other moms who are loving, and struggling, and tired, and proud, and eager to support the boys in their lives”. This sets up the entire piece by saying a few things:

      1. you’re a momma and therefore a woman so boys are a mystery
      2. These are things you specifically need to teach boys (which implies you DON’T need to teach girls these lessons).

      I understand you are trying to say “learn the positive and stop being judgemental!” However, an article like this that reinforces the status quo of gender binaries needs to be called out ESPECIALLY on a site that’s supposedly dedicated to eradicating those very things.

  12. Katherine says:

    I would add, teach him how to cook!

  13. Pat Parrish says:

    Great article!

  14. You lost me at 6 and 7.
    Even if you did everything else but unwittingly teach your sons that men can aspire to be powerful and women to be beautiful, you’re still setting us back 50 years.

    Thanks. :/

  15. I have to say this post was ridiculously gender stereotyped. ALL of these rules should apply to any child.

    • I don’t think so at all. As a mother of ONLY boys, this article caught my eye…. However, never once did I think through the article that if I had a girl would I not teach her these things. Maybe in a slightly different way, but maybe not. It depends on what her personality is. Maybe I won’t have to teach her to dance, because she will be the type that just does it. Maybe I won’t have to teach her to be gentle, because like myself, she will be a gentle person from the day she arrives on this Earth. However, there are so many times that I read articles like this and find myself thinking of the future and almost always imagine doing the exact same things that I read with my boys, but the daughter, that I hope to have one day, as well. You just won’t convince me that this woman wrote the article with the thought process of “this is for boys only and mothers with girls shouldn’t or can’t follow these same guidelines.”

  16. Speaking as an man, I totally agree with the tone and intent of this list, and most of the content. I would add, as at least one commenter already did, that learning how to let go is extremely important. Don’t expect your son to kiss you forever. Also, it’s not always okay to embarrass your son in front of his peers, or in front of anybody. Sometimes it can be really hurtful. Yes, your son needs a cheerleader. He needs emotional support. But he needs so much more than that. He needs someone who will be the biggest enabler of his life. He needs someone who will recognize his interests, and fuel them as much as possible, whether that means buying supplies, giving him lessons, taking him places and leaving him there.

    Father doesn’t always know best. Mother doesn’t either. The best mothers understand this. Sometimes you have to listen to your child, because nobody knows him better than he does.

    • Debra Ricci says:

      I DO expect my sons to kiss me till the day I die. What Mom wouldn’t?

    • Thank you! I agree. I am a new mom and one of my most important beliefs is that we have to let our children (whatever gender) be free. I have seen the ill effects of wanting a son or daughter to stay tied to a parent at any age.

      At some point, I believe it’s best to let go – with love. Parents will always be there but, for example, if a man chooses to marry, ideally he’ll be open and honest enough w/his spouse so that he doesn’t need to run to his mother.

  17. Krishnabrodhi says:

    Its an interesting social commentary all by itself when you see just these two things…

    6. Make sure he has examples of good men who are powerful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.

    7. Make sure he has examples of women who are beautiful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.

    Boys = blue and powerful
    Girls = pink and beautiful

    I thought the phrase was “girl power” not “girl beauty”

    • Smargolius says:

      How about: “Know that others are treated differently in society based on whether they are male or female, or what race and religion they belong to. All people are equal. Model that behaviour in your dealings with people everyday, and make sure your son understands the consequences of discrimination.”

      Scrap #6 and 7 and make ALL people equal. That’s the way it should be.

      • In which way are all people equal Smargoulis? I find men different to women & individuals different to each other. Not everyone is equally worthy of respect & the reasons they might be, vary from person to person.

        • But there is a baseline level of respect in accord with human decency. This baseline level of respect is unchanged by gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, intelligence, accomplishments, etc. Ed Snowden and Ed Gein may have wildly different levels of worth to you, but they both deserve equality in certain basic things, like a fair trial.

    • I think the reason ‘beautiful’ was chosen rather than powerful was because of the context. The paragraph said your son will be bombarded with images of ‘beautiful women’ but asks that you teach your son not to judge women for their looks but rather that ‘beautiful’ can also mean smart, has integrity, etc.. I think the author was pointing out that media sources seek to stamp the word ‘beautiful’ as a key indicator of a woman’s value and the article asks parents to change the definition; ideally showing power rather than beauty. The same goes for the men. The media will show your son that great men in the world are ‘powerful’; the author asks that you teach your son that while being powerful can be good, that there is more to a man than the value of ‘powerful’; again, changing the definition of power.

      • I agree with Michela. I’m surprised at the overwhelmingly negative connotation that people are reading into the word beautiful. I’m guy & I constantly see images of beautiful women in the media – and I like them too, for what they are. Doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate (& consider beautiful) the following people: a Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi or Margaret Thatcher, a Marion Bartolli as much as a Maria Sharpova or Nadia Comeneci or any of the women listed in the article. We misintrepreted the word “Beautiful” long enough, why can’t we start re-interpreting properly instead of disparaging it. Change doesn’t always have to mean starting from scratch.

    • I saw this as well and totally agree. Each time a woman figurehead was mentioned, it had the word “beauty” attached.

  18. Good list,thank you..and thee most important that was missing…Never ,ever spank !!!.
    Please do the research how detrimental that is to him,you and the rest of the world.Never circumcise him,he can choose after he researches the information if he likes…I would also add, teach him critical thinking,and ask him how you can be a better parent..,also negotiation skills.

  19. Adam Blanch says:

    Nice list, but go easy on the kissing. I often see boys struggling to get away form their mother’s affection, and they have the right to their personal space and to determine their own boundaries.

  20. I think there are some great gems here. And I don’t think she is hovering or smothering or whatever. She loves her kids and tried to enumerate some good ideas to let boys know they are loved and also how to love back. Basically, she is involved in her kids life, which is great. I cannot understand all the harping about the list “rubbing people the wrong way”. I honestly can’t find one thing on this list that seems like a bad idea. No where does it say on the list “If you don’t accomplish all these things you have failed.” This is just a very good list of guidelines that you can add to your own parenting style. Some people take themselves and their personal parenting experience WAY too seriously. This woman should be lauded for trying to help, not vilified because you might think she votes the wrong way. Just love your sons and try to teach them good things early and often.

    Shane, father of sons 16, 13, and 9

  21. I think I would add ‘learn how to let go’. One of the most important issues of mother’s is to let go – if not boys can never become men no matter how old they are.

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  23. Heidi Johnson-Sandall says:

    Think this article is a great view point from a parent who has small children. Very positive, which I love! My oldest son is 24 and our relationship has been in turmoil since he was about 19. I really thought I did a good job raising him and did most of the things listed in this article. I taught him to respect his elders & woman, taught him the meaning of working hard, kept him in church, cheered for him on the sidelines of every..and I mean every game he ever played, had meaningful conversations all throughout his life. The list goes on and on….. Now he has turned into this young man I do not know. Acting like someone I did not raise. Don’t get me wrong, he is a good person, a hardworking individual, a loving Dad to his own son, but he is not the boy who loved his mother for all those years. These past 4-5 years have been the hardest years of my life….. Did not know when I looked at my beautiful baby boy when he arrived on this earth that one day it could be like this. I know one day he will remember that I was and am his number one biggest fan and how deeply I care for and love him. In the meantime all I can do is pray and hope the son I raised eventually grows up into the man I know he will be.

  24. Great list! My boys are 38 & 40 now, and from my experience, you have covered the mom side of the equation. Some can add and others subtract from the list; however, the core values are all there and your son(s) will benefit in so many ways. In my oldest son’s first two weeks in college he called to tell me how much money he made teaching students how to wash their clothes, and what a chick magnet it was when he removed his hat when asking a girl to dance. My boys were 27 & 29 when his dad and I divorced; they let me know that home would always be where I lived. Our future carries no certainties, so we do the best we can to let them be a man and give them a foundation for good character.

  25. Christopher says:

    Two things I think are vital parents of boys and young men today. Education and sex ed.

    For whatever reason, boys are having very real problems in school today. I was so glad you mentioned reading, that gap seems to widening. Both boys and girls self-report “school is for girls” and “teachers like girls better”. Make sure he gets the message that school is for everybody, and doing well in school is not a “girl thing” but a “child thing”.

    Until a male pill comes along or mens reproductive rights expands beyond abstinence, we must teach boys to use condoms. We have to stress this is not just to protect the woman, but to protect himself. My daughter is 19 and one of her closest friends got pregnant …on purpose. Of course the guy doesn’t have a clue. We must make sure boys know that contraception is not just for girls. Nobody likes condoms, especially young men, but explain just what 18 years of support really means. That being a father when you are too young and ill-prepared can ruin an otherwise bright future and is doing a disservice to the child.

    Otherwise a great list.

    • Maybe what you say can be rephrased: instead of “boys are having trouble in school”, we should be saying “schools are having trouble teaching boys.” This way, it’s not a question of your child having a so called learning disability (after all, how many people do you know who can’t learn?) but a question of your school having a very real teaching disability.

      I don’t think it’s necessarily wise for mothers to try to make their sons into good students. You can’t change him. Yes, you can teach him to read, and give him lots of books. And you should. But what your son needs is to be reassured that success in school isn’t everything, are in his corner, and will go to bat for him, even if that means fighting the school.

  26. Im a mom to a beautuful 4 month old boy. YOUR WORDS ARE INSPIRING. Though life may not turn out as perfect as this list it gives us something to strive for. Very sweet and although i have not yet seen the attitude or raging hormones of a teenage boy and doubt very seriously he will give me a kiss every time i want one i still tear up at getting to be his home base, motherhood is a wonderful blessing God has given us:) loved reading this!

  27. Teach him to read. Make sure he can read well and then give him books to read that are fun teach manhood without pushing it as some sort of Pop-Psych experiment in creating the “new” man. Some examples of what I mean would be books of chivalry, honor, and bravery. Specifics:

    Lorna Doone
    Much of Edgar Rice Burroughs work. They are exciting fanciful enjoyable tales of adventure and teach manhood as it should be, and as many men strive for. “The Outlaw of Torn” is a good one, “The Mad King”, and all of the Mars books, particularly 1-5.
    Robin Hood
    “Leatherstocking Tails” by James Fennimore Cooper
    All of the “Three Musketeers” books by Alexandre Dumas – “The Three Musketeers”, “The Man In The Iron Mask”, and others. Most are available as free downloads at Project Gutenberg. (Also good for teaching tolerance and respect for others. Not commonly known by most but this great French Writer was also the first Great Black Writer.)
    H. Rider Haggard – Bold adventurous books that teach decency and honor.
    Jules Verne – “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”, and others.
    Charles Dickens – “Great Expectations” would be good choice.

    True adventures are also good.

    A. Henry Savage Landor (Available on Project Gutenberg) was quite an explorer and wrote several worthwhile books of his adventures. Although he would need to be a mature reader before tackling these.

    I could, with little doubt, compile a much longer list of great books for leading a boy to manhood, but those are a good start.

    As a boy who was fatherless from early teens on these writers provided models, without my knowing it, of good manly behavior – and mannerly behavior.

    Also older movies of adventure – “Mutiny on The Bounty”, “The Swiss Family Robinson”, and the Indiana Jones movies hearken back to a more refined ethic.

    And of course there is “The Boy Scouts” when he older.

    “On my honor …”

    There are many things a woman can do in raising a son she can be proud of. Mine, bless her, was dilligent as you are seeking to be but there simply some things a woman finds difficult to teach because, although it is not PC to say it, she is not a man, but she taught me to read early and well. That, by the way, is not a criticism simply that it is a different set of viewpoints and priorities. Men and women often hold the same, or similar, views but there are some things which are distinctively female, and distinctively male. (Viva La Differance!) If you have, as someone else suggested, a brother or father who can help in this regard by all means make use of the resource. If not, books alone are a magical thing. They expand horizons and the teaching is not so preachy. 🙂 The earlier you teach him to read, the better. And get a good set of basic kid’s dictionaries.

  28. I have 2 grown sons ages 27 and 20 and I agree with everything you wrote.
    Our boys are masculine, hardworking and compassionate. Ok not perfect though…
    We didn’t quite get teach them enough about handling money or being organized…but they
    Are learning because we don’t enable them. Probably the best advice I could give is
    Don’t baby your teen sons…some moms do this to meet their own needs to control
    Or keep their sons dependent on them.

  29. Veronica says:

    I’ve taught my teen sons that labor built this country and to respect the labor that men do. That we depend on both blue and white collar labor equally and one is not better than the other. Tip well, don’t be cheap.
    Character counts, be a man remembered for the commitments and promises you make.

    When my son graduated hs, overcoming his disability, I wrote the following for him:
    I will never forget that day
    They told me…so many things
    I dreamed of this moment
    I believed in your potential

    Be proud and be confident
    Give more than you take
    Laugh often and own you mistakes
    But most of all be happy
    And never forget your way home

  30. This is wonderful!

    I had to laugh at your photo of the little boy dancing barefoot at a wedding. He looks JUST like my oldest son, who danced at about that same age, at my sister’s wedding. We have a video of him on the dance floor during the bride-groom dance, clutching a blankie and a stuffed ducky, and spinning under the spotlight. I tried to fetch him, but my sister wouldn’t let me.This list makes me cry — my boys are 25, 23 and 9 and everything you have said is true… be blessed!

  31. I have two boys (7 and 2) and I have to admit I hadn’t thought about some of these things. Overall though, this brought me to tears (good tears) and I applaud your list. I will incorporate the things I am not doing for sure!
    Good job!!!

  32. Your words brought me to tears. My baby boy is 4 1/2 months old and the love of my life. I plan on reminding him of that each and every day of his. Thank you!

  33. Great list! I agree with the commenter that observes this list is for smaller boys.

    I’d add–be sure your son learns about sexuality from a healthy and appropriate role model instead of letting him learn on the playground and locker room. Make sure he respects himself and his future enough to protect himself and prevent pregnancy. Let him know that you will love him no matter whom he loves. Make sure he understands that sex can be beautiful and loving, if it is fully consensual. The world around him will teach him he deserves to “get some” and teach him tricks, manipulation, and force to do just that. (See Stubenville…) Help him realize that the relationships he might get this way are no where near as beautiful and powerful and those relationships that are grounded in consent and respect.

    And it’s been said, but I’ll say it again. You do not know if your son is straight or not. He may grow up and marry a man. (Then who’ll cook dinner?) Make sure he knows the basic skills not only of the traditionally male jobs of home repair and not just laundry and ironing his own shirt, but he should know how to clean a bathroom, vacuum a floor, and cook some basic meals. In this day and age, even if he’s straight, his wife may well expect full equality and equal distribution of the basic tasks of life.

    • I’d also add to the teaching about sexuality:
      Make sure your son knows that pornography is not real. The women they see are not “real” and their enthusiasm for the camera is not real. Real women look like the next door neighbor, their grandmother, and the woman driving the car in the next lane. This is the first generation of young men who have access to pornography on the internet: we have no idea what, if any, the social consequences will be.
      Make sure he knows how to use a condom and expects to use it so you don’t end up with a grandchild too soon– and teach him not to be embarrassed about being a responsible sexual partner.

      • Here, here Evin and Isabella. So important. Teach EARLY, before it becomes an issue. Easier to discuss at age 8 & 10 than at age 16 & 18! Discuss early and often and continue the conversation. Gets easier along the way if you start early. Robbie Harris has some great books that you can start with by age 4.

  34. I LOVED this post, I clicked upon the second I noticed the title itself. I’ve always felt like my grandmother (dad’s mom) served as the true mom of my life, so I’m forever curious to see if I am wrong for the belief, as my mom says I am. Coincidentally, much of everything expressed in the article came at the nurturing hands of my grandmother and not mom.

    I feel vindicated.

  35. Luis Armando Armendariz M says:

    Gracias, me hiciste recordar el refrán que dice: Para que un hombre trate a una mujer como a una Princesa, debe haber sido educado por una Reina. Saludos desde la Ciudad de México.

  36. Tabitha, I am first time mom of a 1 year old boy and your words have touched my heart. It’s describes everything I could ever want or my son. THANK YOU for sharing!

  37. There is one thing one here that won’t work. My future son has no dad. He walked out a few weeks after we found out. I just don’t know what to do. His first male example walked out and I don’t want my boy to do the same.

    • uncles, grandfathers, close family friends can fill these roles. Expect that he will grow in to a kind loving man teach him best you can and loving strong men in your life to fill the strong male roles. I know many examples of boys that grew up without fathers or with crappy fathers and turned in to good men. Hang in there

    • And mentors!

  38. Tabitha is young, and though she may be a mother of sons I doubt that they are very old yet. Her list is good, but speaks to her probably conservative background. Some criticisms here are in themselves overly judgmental. She clarifies it at the outset by saying that she could not find such a list, so wrote her own. I applaud her endeavor, and actually agree with most of it. She is not a guru, and is sharing what she has learned – so far. I have daughters her age, and I think her mother would be proud of her.

    • When I first read this, I don’t know why it rubbed me the wrong way..then I saw how young her kids were. I have a 19, 17 and 15 year old. Mothers of small children always seem to think there is a “right” way to raise kids..and if we do it with intentionality and love and perfection OUR children will avoid the pitfalls of adolesence and turn into superhuman sensitive wonder father men. Seriously, only parents who have survived the teens and twenties should give advice in my opinion. Don’t expect perfection out of your parenting or your kids or you will be disappointed. The most rebellious teens I have seen have come from conservative families that have these ridiculous girlified controlling moms, moms who want to ordain everything like the list above, moms with rules for EVERYTHING. Let your kids be kids, love them, and don’t freak out when they burp or use bad words…or they will just do that and FAR more behind your back as teens. Seen it. Let go a little…

      • And seriously- give the kids some space–My son didn’t let me kiss him or hug him goodbye from the ages of 5 to 17. He just started letting me do it again- I didn’t freak- it is his body- his space- he KNOWS I love him and he has me rub his back at night almost every night…he gives me scoop in his time…and he is about as emotionally healthy as you can get–but holy cow—mom guilt might set in here real quick with your rules when they dont work for your son as he grows into an independent boy/man 🙂

        • Your son didn’t LET you kiss him or hug him good bye? Really? Sounds like you just gave up because it was easy. Why don’t you check your own parenting premise before you bash someone else?

          A mom is a precious thing, one a boy or man will fight to defend…and even if he SAYS he doesn’t want to be hugged or kissed, don’t buy it. He is just trying to be defiant or a “big boy”. Sounds to me like you took the easy way out.

          • Emily Geske says:

            Excuse me?

            What’s wrong with letting a kid – boy or girl – have a say in how they are touched? Just because you’re bigger, that means you can do whatever you want to them?
            If he says no, it’s *respectful* to stop, not giving up. If he really does want to be kissed, then he can be when he admits to it.

            And you know what? I’ve heard the exact same reasoning for rape.
            “Oh, she says she doesn’t want it, but don’t pay any attention to that. She’s just playing hard to get, of course she wants it. Anyone who backs down after hearing “no” is just a pussy.”

            • Thank you.

            • Yes, this is called “trust your tummy.” NEVER make them engage in touching (except a legit medical procedure by a medical professional, like getting a shot) that they do not want. This confuses them and makes them vulnerable to sexual abuse.

        • Kacie – you might check yourself. Sounds like you have a few prejudices. You obviously have issues with ‘conservative’ and anything that might lean that way.
          I am done raising my babies – now I am enjoying grandbabies – this list is very good because it causes one to think and consider how a mom can impact her children with purpose and intent rather than just going through the motions.
          When my boy hit high school he did not want to kiss me good-bye anymore. I encouraged him to think about whether he wanted to be THAT person – the person who modifies their behavior to go along with the crowd, the person who lets the crowd determine his life. He was over it in less than a week. We are still very close and he is married with two kids of his own.
          Why would you ridicule someone’s personal work of encouragement for others? Honestly, who does that? Maybe your critical spirit is what kept your boy from you for a dozen years. Perhaps now, he is able to see it for what it is and he can forgive you. Check yourself.

          • This is one of those situations where criticism just doesn’t make any sense. Different families have different values. It would be a huge mistake if either of you had been asked to raise one of the other one’s sons.

            Kacie never said that anything kept her boy son from her. Your criticism of her seems much more harsh than her criticism of the original post. You’re judging her, and as a man myself, I think you’re judging her unfairly.

            I personally agree with and value the addition that Kacie made to this article. Most parents need to chill out.

            All kinds of lists can have the effect of making people feel insecure about their lives. That’s why sites like these thrive. Keeps you coming back for more.

            And as far as kissing your teenaged son: It’s not necessarily about going along with the crowd. It’s about growing up, and becoming a more independent human than you were before. It’s an extremely selfish point of view to think you can “keep” your son. I know this division can be hard for mothers, my own included. But it’s normal. Don’t fight it.

      • What is your problem? You seem so bitter and a know it all. She’s just trying to give some advice to mothers of all different kinds of ages of boys. Don’t be so rude!

      • Yikes, it sounds like parenthood was not good to you or for you. I don’t think this list is conservative or in anyway hovering. It’s the stuff good moms do for their boys and girls. No list is going to create the perfect child or parent but I don’t think that’s what the author had in mind.

      • yes. it rubbed me the wrong way too. Especially the part about dad being the one your son will call. Every family is different and this just seems so sexist to me.

    • Tabitha's Mumma says:

      Thank you. I am Tabitha’s Mumma and am so very very proud of the daughter, mother, and exceptional writer that she has become 🙂

    • I really liked the list. I have done everything but 5 and 20 didn’t happen but he did learn things from his Dad. My son is 32 and I still hug and kiss him when he gets home. He has turned out to be everything I would want a man to be and we have remained close even though he lives on the other side of the US.
      The most important advice is to be there for him, love him and spend time with him growing up. I also have a daughter I am just as proud of. I love the strong woman she has become and we are friends more than mother and daughter now. If you’re firm, loving and fair in the teenage years, you will be very happy when they are adults.

  39. Rule # 1: Don’t circumcise him.

    • and why is this?

      • Christopher says:

        I think the answer the person would give is because he didn’t consent to it.

      • And because it’s a completely unnecessary genital mutilation. It changes the body which was just fine the way it was before, thanks very much. circumcision reduces sexual pleasure. The clitoris has a hood, and its purpose is to protect those nerves. The foreskin serves the exact same purpose for the male counterpart, the glans.

    • Google a video of a circumcision, and watch the whole thing. The whole thing. With the sound on.

      It’s twisted, and provides no benefits for people who know how to wash themselves.

  40. This should be called 25 Rules for Moms with Straight Sons. Did it occur to the author even once that not all men grow up to marry, let alone marry women? While I applaud much of what’s written, what a narrow world you seem to live in, to not acknowledge queer identities in our sons. As someone with a mom who encouraged my sexuality and expression, I am saddened that over 25 “rules”, you couldn’t find one that mentioned diversity in sexuality and/or gender identity.

    • Lex Moran-Solero says:

      I’m glad someone else (besides me) said it. I had the same reaction when I saw, “his wife will thank you” (see older comments). This is why kids sometimes can’t come out to parents if necessary – when they hear their parents say stuff like this all their lives, they don’t expect to be accepted. No assumptions and no restrictions, please. Your kids will let you know who they are when they’re ready and if you’ve raised them with an open mind, they will not be hurt in the process.

  41. I completely disagree with number 10. I think it needs to go as a list on parenting advice, saying that one needs to give a child “something to believe in” is ridiculous. Aside from that one gripe, bloody good list.

    • So you think children should be released into the world, completely untouched by any opinions, values, or guiding principles? That to teach a child to believe in, say, ‘keeping your promises’ or ‘not letting fear make your choices for you’ is, to use your word, “ridiculous”? or are you assuming that “belief” in anything automatically means religion, just because the picture happened to be of kids praying? Teaching children to believe in a set of principles serves the same purpose, of giving them something to turn to with their troubles or hard decisions when you’re not available.

  42. I’m still a little misty eyed! I loved this list, it brought back memories of all the things my son and I did when he was younger.

    • Hunter @Green Detective says:

      Give him good role models. Divorce @ 55% tests a family’s security to the limit.

      • Giving good role models may not equate with staying married. Staying married can mean staying in an abusive relationship, which is a very poor role model to give any child. I would say that even if you divorce maintain some kind of relationship with their father if at all possible. Keep the door open to discussion even if you believe that the father (or mother, for another list) is scum! Remember that half of that child came from his father – and don’t be surprised by similarities when they arise.

  43. I am the mom of three boys, the oldest is almost 10. I love the ideas of letting boys be boys, getting their clothes dirty, playing street hockey with them, and giving them lots of opportunities to get their energy out. I carry bandaids in my bag and give kisses and hugs often to fix the injuries of life.

    But I was caught off guard by the statement, “Make sure he has examples of women who are beautiful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.” Why are the men described as powerful and the women as beautiful for the exact same thing? The only word change is the main descriptor.

    • Jen you make a valid point. I would substitute the word “successful” for both powerful and beautiful. Does anyone else have a single descriptive word that could be used?

    • I understand reading it that way, personally I might just use powerful for both. But I think “powerful” for men and “beautiful” for women was used intentionally, to show the one-dimensional societal expectation of physical strength from men, and beauty from women, needs to be subverted and broadened to include a full spectrum of strengths and talents in both genders.

      • Andee, if it was intentional that makes more sense and when I reread the “beautiful” women models the writer suggests I am sure that she wants her boys to see that woman are more than just their “beauty.”

  44. Duck Changs says:

    This woman is 28! aka she hasn’t raised kids and therefore is a horrible person to be giving advice. ludicrous

  45. Duck Changs says:

    lol batman is a bad example because he lacks brains, integrity, and determination? i’m glad you arent’ my mom.

  46. absolutely beautiful. I almost cried. I am so looking forward to being a mother to my lil boy when he gets here in three months.

  47. Wow! Words to go with feelings? Man, did I ever miss the boat!

  48. Great job! As a mother of 2 boys i think your list is spot on. i couldn’t have written it better myself.

  49. I would add one: realize that he will change you as you guide him.

  50. 26. Acknowledge that the societal pendulum has swung, and tell him every day that there’s nothing wrong with being a boy, and, someday, a man. He doesn’t ever have to think his desires and feelings are wrong, and he certainly should never feel like he needs to sacrifice his life for society simply because he’ll become a man.

    Ironically, I think the above message, if it came from more mothers, would really change many of the ailments that our male youth face.

    • I totally agree. These lists seem to encourage boys to be somehow restrained and girls to do anything they want. The culture of emasculation is ripe in the air.

      • I believe it is a culture of equality and peace that is evolving, it has nothing to do with emasculation; instead, open-minded parents everywhere are trying to teach their child to be accepting of everyone and realize that gender does not determine dreams and goals. These children are kind and patient, finding solutions with words rather than aggression. Taking the stereotypical aggressive responses from boys does not promote emasculation, it teaches boys strength through intelligent resolve – it makes them better friends, husbands, and fathers. Girls are growing up with more choices and freedoms than their mothers and grandmothers, and, as a result, boys are able to follow their own dreams instead of shouldering the former burden of an image of stoic bread-winner and protector of family tied down by archaic expectations that were relevant when we lived in caves and needed muscle to protect from actual predators. Gender equality promotes choices and freedoms that generations before were denied, if accepted by more people the world would be higher to the ‘God’ every culture is seeking to emulate.

        • I couldn’t have said it better. That’s the goal, isn’t it? That none of our children (of any gender) should have to feel that they are limited in what roles they can play in society just because of it. That they can all be balanced individuals who can interact with others and form relationships that are mature.

  51. Amanda Garcia says:

    Thank you so much for this. There are things that I do now with my son who is 9 1/2 months old that many people don’t understand – like teaching him words to go with his feelings. This article validated what I live and believe and I will share it with others. Thank you!

  52. Really insightful, I’d recommend this for anyone 🙂

  53. RealityBites says:

    This list is misnamed…it should be 25 rules for parents and their children. It has nothing to do with the gender of the child and everything to do with raising a respectful child.

    • I so agree with your comment!
      I loved this list, but disagree that they are rules for moms with sons. They are just as true for moms with daughters, or fathers with sons, or fathers with daughters.

      I was also a little taken aback with number 10 on the list, but agreed with all the other items.

      • Why taken aback? Do you feel she should have specifically mentioned WHAT he should believe in? in which case you may agree with Sheila above. Or do you mean the opposite – that he should NOT be taught to believe in anything? in which case you are disagreeing with many mental health professionals who say that people without a belief system live less than happy lives. I taught my son about the underpinnings of most religious thought, and that many people believe in many things. I encouraged him to go to Sunday School when he wanted to, and I encouraged his questions about other religions. He believes in the teachings of Christ, and of Buddha (which are quite similar) but is neither a practicing Christian nor a Buddhist. He has a sister who is a Pentecostalist, and one who is an agnostic, and respects both; such are families.

  54. Right On! I am so emotional today and that just made me cry!

  55. Wonderful! I have 2 grown sons, and I did all those things and more!

  56. Almost all of this is great! The one exception I saw for a huge red flag for me was Oprah Winfrey. I wouldn’t want my child to have her values – values that say Jesus is NOT the only way for eternal salvation, because He is. But I applaud you for the wonderful things mothers should definitely teach their sons – and also their daughters! So many girls don’t know some of these things today. So – thanks!

    • i appreciate that the author allows for the option of spiritual diversity and acknowledges that good men can be raised by families who don’t all share the same belief systems. i, for one, am raising our son to respect diversity and differences and to appreciate – and be responsible for – the freedom to choose what one wishes to believe and value. i would be so disappointed in him were he to condemn or criticize someone simply for not holding the same spiritual or religious views that he -or his family – value.

      • Chantelle says:

        Lisa,
        Thank you for responding to Sheila’s comment so appropriately.

        • If by “inappropriate” you mean narrow-minded and judgemental, possibly even self-righteous, then yep, I would say Sheila was inappropriate. My response, probably not very appropriate, but the truth hurts.

    • To say that Lisa “responded to Sheila’s comment appropriately” seems to imply that there was something inherently inappropriate about Sheila’s comment in the first place
      Having said that, other than OW, I agree with all the women listed. Aung San Suu Kyi is an inspiration of mine as an adult, much as Lech Walesa was as a teenager/young man.

      • The ‘inherently inappropriate’ comment from Sheila was her narrow-minded comment that Oprah is wrong to accept that there is views in the world beyond Sheila’s staunch stance that Jesus will save us all. From that perspective, she is saying that all mothers should teach their children to disrespect the beliefs and opinions of others, thereby passing on a tradition of narrow-mindness to yet another generation which lays a foundation for hate, a principle that Jesus himself does not condone (if I’m not mistaken).

        Personally, I have taught my child that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and she must respect the right of others to have an opinion – whether or not she agrees with it. Therefore, while I respect Sheila’s right to her opinion, it does not mean I agree with her. I have also taught my daughter that she is entitled to voice her disagreement with other’s opinions, as I have just done with Sheila. I am not disrespecting Sheila’s right to believe in Jesus or his salvation, but I will disagree with her ignorance to the points-of-views that seven billion people may have on our Earth that differ from her’s.

        Food for thought: Knowledge, education and acceptance create Peace on Earth!

  57. Was totally prepared not to like your list and ended up loving it …I agree with everything except OPRAH !

  58. John Anderson says:

    In taekwondo class we were taught to turn anger into spirit. I would say to teach him to harness and focus his natural aggression into constructive endeavors.

  59. thank you for this … i needed it today. as a mama to a 6-year-old, these words are so uplifting. i would suggest, though, that #7 and #8 should read, “powerful and beautiful” … i think many people still mitigate the power that women hold (especially in relation to their sons) because the masculine-affinity that the word “power” generally holds in our society. there is also a part of me that shirks from the inclusion of “beautiful”, implying that “beauty” is more relevant for women in our sons’ lives than “power” is … ahh well, who am i kidding, our boys will find beauty appealing …

  60. I think you are an exceptionally thoughtful mother and writer. I was divorced when my son was 3 and I was unprepared to raise a boy. We did the best that we could, struggling to learn most of these lessons the hard way on our own and I am proud of my son. I believe it’s never too late and I see that there are places were I can still grow and become a better mother. If I were a young mother I would print out your article and pin it up inside my kitchen cabinet where I could see if often and profit from your good advice!

  61. wellokaythen says:

    I really did like most of the list. I am enthusiastically in favor of the ones that support your son’s individual expression and giving him room for his feelings and allowing room for more than one way to do something. I like the idea of promoting a wide range of role models and letting him play in the ways that he likes. I also have a soft spot for lists that remind us that boys are not monsters, and they are not failed attempts at being girls.

    I think my main problems with the list boil down to the fact that this is not really written with men as an audience, so my response is as an outside observer. As a childfree man and former son, I am basically eavesdropping on a rally that I was not invited to.

    This is a list to give emotional support to mothers who may feel like they’re struggling, so of course the humor at the expense of men makes some sense. If they’re struggling, they may feel better about the situation if they are told they have a lot of control and they have the best job in the world and that no one else can do the job like they can. (However many doubts you have about being a mom, at least you’re not as clueless as his dad, right?) The nature of the article is to be mother-centric, so of course the language will be mother-centric and may come across as a pretty self-congratulatory to someone not in the target audience.

  62. wellokaythen says:

    Great stuff and terrible stuff here. I’m not a parent, but I was a boy. My reaction is of course through the lens of my own personal experience. I can best sum up my take on this with a more comprehensive rule:

    Rule #26: Get over yourself. You are not actually a Mother Goddess.

    Approach parenthood with some humility. You will never have complete control over the way that he grows up. He will become what he becomes because of you and despite you. Your son is still a distinct human being with his own personality and will ultimately be in charge of his own fate. The good news is that you don’t have to put all the blame on yourself when he turns out differently than what you wanted.

    Do not try to become his hero, and do not ever imagine that you are the center of his entire universe. Don’t let your own ego dictate what you want him feel about you. Do not assume that your imagination of his future is his actual future. Trying to be his bestest friend ever is a fool’s errand, and it is ultimately incompatible with being his parent while he’s growing up. Friendship is for peers, not for your children.

    Be careful and clear about the assumptions that you are bringing into his life. You do not know for sure if your son WILL ever get married, and if he does you can’t assume he will be marrying a woman, and you should not assume that he will be a parent when he grows up. Don’t assume that because you teach him your values that therefore he will have your values when he grows up.

  63. VolitionSpark says:

    With the exception of the disgusting pig toads (my apologies to real toads and pigs – you are just lovely) without any morality (John Edwards, the Secret Service branch in Colombia) and the extremely arrogant (everyday men I see), most men are quite wonderful. A lot of mothers failed…like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s or John Edwards’ or Herman Cain’s. If those were my sons I would be sad everyday at how badly I failed.

    • wellokaythen says:

      As I suggest below, I don’t think mothers automatically deserve the blame when their sons do something wrong. I don’t think parents automatically deserve all the blame when anyone does something wrong, especially when the men are in their 50’s!

      I’m calling an arbitrary statute of limitations on blaming the mom for a man’s misdeeds. After you reach the age of 50, no more blaming your parents for anything. I’ll take my parents to task for my being seriously messed up when I was 18. Now that I’m in my 40’s, I’m starting to think I might be the one to blame for the problems in my life…..

    • Why are the mothers to blame? What about the fathers?

  64. This is a really great list but I take issue with # 6. Make sure he has examples of good men who are powerful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.

    Specifically:

    “The examples of men with big muscles and a uniform (like Batman and LaMarr Woodley) will surround your son from birth.”

    Just no. Superman or a professional athlete is no substitute for a physically strong, present, male role-model. Not even a comparison.

  65. Anything that will help produce a well respected man from any home is what’s important. There are many coming from broken homes, gay, straight, single, married, religious, non religious etc.. no agenda, no angle – just esteem building for young boys to grow into solid young man…

  66. Can I begin again? I’d like to think I did all this, but would dearly like another go. In the midst of the battles of everyday life, so much of the ideal slips away in the mud. And then there is the personality factor–in which a boy may choose to embrace or reject what has been lovingly taught. But then that is the part of being mother the she keeps silent in her heart.

    Thank you for this. It is beautiful nonetheless.

    Christine London
    author

  67. I laughes at #3, and got a little water-eyed at #25. But the best was “Because he will call his dad for answers, and his dad will secretly come and ask you.”

  68. I enjoyed reading this, actually i cried a bit

  69. Thanks for posting this. My son is 15 and this makes me feel like I didn’t screw up. 🙂

  70. This is lovely—and I’d say the same would go for raising daughters. As someone without kids thus far, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is to find the right balance between protecting your child and letting them explore, learn, and sometimes even fail on their own.

    I especially love the bit about teaching your child to be gentle, and introducing your child to men and women whose contributions soar far above much of what any of us see in popular media.

    Lots of love, cuts and scrapes, muddy boots & clothes, teaching life lessons and history (and by extension learning along with your child), accepting defeat, celebrating success—all good things. I hope someday I get to share all these experiences with my own kids.

  71. I really liked this article! I have a very busy two- year old little boy. I love how the article mentions to let them get dirty, put away the cell phones and watch them play, and helps me feel like I am not the only one with a boy that has no fear. Thanks for writing it and sharing your ideas!

  72. Beautiful. Thank you for giving credit for your picture sources. The picture for #24, kiss him is our niece Anne and her son :).

  73. CHERYL FISCH says:

    HI, I LOVE YOUR THOUGHTS AND 25 RULES FOR RAISING BOYS!! YOU ARE A KIND PERSON AND RECOGNIZE WHAT IS GOOD TO PASS IT ALONG TO OTHERS!! KEEP SMILING AND YOUR SONS WILL THANK-YOU SOME DAY!!

  74. Good article! One small point that is really a sidetrack. Batman is mentioned for his muscles but I always liked him because he was the one superhero with NO superpowers. He used his brain and self discipline to win. Like the Boy Scouts he always had a plan!

  75. It’s funny, because I just posted, basically, a complaint post about my boys. And then, when I was done, I went around on my blogroll, came to A Design So Vast, and linked up to this. I needed this. Thanks.

  76. As a mother of two adult sons, respecting their “home base” is with their wife or significant other is essential to their continual growth. I just stand back and smile.

  77. Jane Taylor says:

    Very wise for a 28 year old mom! My son sent this to me with a thank you, which, of course, made me a bit weepy when I read it.

  78. Man, people come with agendas, don’t they?

    • As someone who really liked this article, I still don’t think that the criticisms against it have quite been agenda-pushing, for the most part. It’s just people reading what is a very personal, and somewhat prescriptive, article and thinking about it through their own personal lens.

      • Lex Moran-Solero says:

        Well said, Heather.

        • Thanks. And I’ve been thinking about our other exchange quite a bit. I’m curious, if the title were changed to “25 Rules for Straight Moms with Sons,” would that solve the problem for you? To me that would sort it out, without having to change anything in the actual article. It’s an acknowledgement that the list conforms to heteronormativity, and an acknowledgement that a list of suggestions for non-straight parents would be different.

          • Lex Moran-Solero says:

            No, of course not. Why should straight moms have different rules from gay or non-straight moms (or dads, for that matter)? It’s not like straight parents have straight kids and non-straight parents have non-straight kids – it doesn’t work that way. I just think parents shouldn’t assume that their children will have the same orientation they do, so for a mom to say, “his wife will thank you” is a big assumption. It would be just as big an assumption for a non-straight parent to say of a son, “his husband will thank you”. Savvy?

            • Perhaps I should have explained…when I said different rules, I meant more than the rules would be phrased differently, but essentially contain the same thing. I was thinking more about rule number 20, when I said that…and about how it implied that a man and a woman were raising the kid. So then a title change could sort of clear it up…by saying – hey, we recognize this is directed at straight people.

              I’d clean forgotten about the “his wife will thank you,” bit. A whole day passed…I can’t be expected to remember things a day later (lol). Yeah obviously a title change doesn’t address that.

            • Maybe we should just use a general term like, they’re partner will thank you. lol

  79. You forgot #26) Teach him how to cook when he reaches the appropriate age, even if he hates it. My mom tried with me and I threw such a fit she gave up4. Huge mistake, totally on my part. I’d love to be able to cook more than something that comes in a box with instructions on the side and/or something that can be microwaved/grilled.

  80. This article could easily be called “25 Rules for Parents with Children” and would have been just as effective.

  81. Lex Moran-Solero says:

    I see the problems with #7 and #8 also but those have been addressed, so here’s another: as a gay man, my main objection is to #3 – specifically to “someday his wife will thank you”. So unnecessary, so presumptive. How about, “perhaps someday, your son will thank you”?

    • Eh, it’s directed at mothers, specifically. And yeah, it’s pretty obviously directed at heterosexual couples…but it wasn’t offensive about it. It’d be nice if everything were more inclusive, but unfortunately we still live in a heteronormative world. Often when people are addressing what they think is the ‘average’ person, it ends up being directed at straight people.

      I mean, I’m a lesbian (and a pretty vocal and politically motivated one, at that)…but I could get over #20, for example.

      • Lex Moran-Solero says:

        Heather, I understand why it’s directed at mothers, but I don’t understand why it’s directed at hetero couples and, as a lesbian yourself, I’m surprised you’d follow the group thinking on this.

        • Gotta pick your battles, is why. Is this article saying that hetero homes are better than same-sex families? No. She is supporting a boy having both positive male and female role models, but nowhere in there does she suggest that those role models have to be the biological mother and father. As much as I’d like everyone to be aware of heteronormativity, and actively do what they can to challenge it, I also understand that sometimes people just don’t recognize it. Sometimes that’s worth pointing out, and sometimes it isn’t.

          This is a very positive article with a positive message. It supports letting a boy be themselves, and even manages to include some discussion about how parents need to support their boys when they’re interested in less traditionally masculine hobbies. To point out “hey lesbians and gay men make great parents too,” is to be nitpicky and a bit derailing…because nowhere in here did the author suggest otherwise. Now, if Tabitha (the author) were to reply to our discussion and say something along the lines of “I think hetero families are better than same-sex families,” then I would get more nitpicky and confrontational.

  82. 1. Let them make and clean up their own messes.

    2. Give them some land all their own. The backyard is for the boys and the dogs to do with as they wish. I dont remeber where I read this quote but it resonates in my heart. “I’m raising boys not grass”.

    3. Have a space in the house where their stuff is sacred. For my kids it is their rooms. If they dont want anything destroyed or accidently thrown away, it needs to be in their room. Otherwise it is free game.

    • (For some reason the first part of my comment was lost.)

      Great article as a mom of two boys I wanted to add to the list of 25.

  83. Great article – except for the bit on the punching bag. Not sure we should be teaching them to punch to let out their frustrations?

    • I would suggest you study up on the chemical effects of testosterone. You don’t have to ‘teach’ a male to express his frustrations physically – if you shoot a woman up with it, she’ll act the same way. You have to teach men to express their frustrations physically in a healthy way.

      It would probably be best to remember that, just as a man doesn’t know what it feels like to be a woman, a woman has no idea what it feels like to be a man.

    • better a punching bag than a person.

  84. This list is fairly awesome and I’m in agreement with 99+% of it… the only thing I have (fairly mild) objections to are some of the word choices in #20 I don’t like the way it was phrased as “*let* the father do…” because one of the problems I have with the way parenthood is portrayed is that the mother is the “real” parent and dad is just her junior helper. In that same vein I didn’t like the way she stated “…and his dad will secretly come ask you.” I understand she was probably just trying to be humorous, especially since the target audience is other mothers… but still.

  85. Awesome list. Add stand up for yourself. Don’t hit a girl and always know when to put up your dukes. Being able to put a name to the feeling and admitting it is a huge issue with men today. Finding a good man these days is hard. My son just became an adult. I raised my son, who has so much growing up to do; and, at twenty, he still acts like he’s fifteen.. with a license. But, I’m so glad to see I did everything on that list and my son turned out to be a loving, confident, intelligent man-child who is finding out what it is to be a young man. Now, it’s about learning how to be financially responsible and taking on the responsibility of being a young adult. Do you have a list for cutting the apron strings?

    • “Add stand up for yourself. Don’t hit a girl and always know when to put up your dukes.”

      Well now…seeing as I’m here and I’ve seen the comment…isn’t that a little bit problematic? Sometimes a boy’s got to “put up his dukes” to protect himself from a girl. When I was like 10 or so, I used to goad boys to take a swing at me. Not because I wanted to be hit, and not because I was trying to get them in trouble. I just thought the ‘don’t hit a girl’ thing was so stupid that I tried to force boys to break out of it. It never worked, which either says something about my goading skills or their self control…but the point is that a blanket ‘don’t hit girls’ rule doesn’t really benefit anyone. Childish girls might take advantage of it (even with the best intentions), and bullied boys can become victims because of it.

      • I agree with HeatherN. We need to put a stop to the “Don’t hit girls” rule because it allows certain types of girls to take advantage of this rule and torment a boy physically or violate his boundaries physically without so much as a consequence.

      • “I just thought the ‘don’t hit a girl’ thing was so stupid that I tried to force boys to break out of it. ”

        I have to ask, why? Not, “why did you think it was stupid” but what made you decide to try and break boys out of it?

        I’m just curious. It’s not really a mindset i can easily picture a ten year old having.

        And I’m not really surprised you were never successful. “Don’t hit girls” is pretty heavily embeded in the psyche of the average boy. If a girl beats you up, you might get razzed for it for a few days, but if you beat a girl up, you’ll pretty much have to fight your way through the entire male roster.

        • I just wanted them to do what I wanted them to do. I had a problem thinking I could force people to agree with me when I was a kid. Maybe I was 11, I just remember it was still elementary school.

  86. “10. Give him something to believe in” The picture depicts kids praying; what would an atheist mother teach her kid in lieu of that?

    • Transhuman says:

      @Agemaki , belief in something doesn’t have to be God, the image is simply easily recognisable and transfers an idea. An atheist mother can teach her son to believe in himself, to have confidence to make the right choices and accept the consequences of his decisions.

  87. I love the list.

    But I’d include:

    “Teach him to stand up for himself and his gender when others deride it.”

    “There will come a time when he will encounter people with certain prejeduces towards his gender. Make sure that when that happens to tell him it’s perfectly okay to speak out against it. Also, let him know it’s okay to assert boundaries, especially if they’re being violated by girls. Teach him that girls have no right to use physical violence against him and get away with it.”

    • See now, I actually think there’s no need to teach a kid, specifically, that there is prejudice in the world. He’ll encounter it. Give him the tools to combat it, teach him to be self-assured and yes, to know that it’s okay to speak out if he’s being harmed (by anyone). I don’t think there’s a need to teach a boy that girls have no right to use physical violence against him, specifically….but rather teach your boys that no one has a right to use physical violence against him.

      • HeatherN: “See now, I actually think there’s no need to teach a kid, specifically, that there is prejudice in the world. He’ll encounter it.”

        Which is why I qualified it beginning with “There will come a time…” He may or may not, but when he does that’s when the tools will come in handy.

        HeatherN: “I don’t think there’s a need to teach a boy that girls have no right to use physical violence against him, specifically….but rather teach your boys that no one has a right to use physical violence against him.”

        Yes, I would change that to teaching boys that no one has a right to use physical violence against him.

        But I still will say “Including Girls” because they don’t feel they can speak out against it since people still believe “Girls can’t harm boys”.

        • “He may or may not, but when he does that’s when the tools will come in handy.”

          Right but I was sort of saying…those tools can be taught without having to bring up gender or discrimination. Self-esteem, confidence, awareness of one’s boundaries, knowledge that they can speak up when in trouble – all of these things are good tools to give your kids, regardless of whether they face discrimination or not.

          The only reason I bring this up is because I know people who’ve been raised with the mentality – you will be discriminated against (because of race, gender, whatever), and here’s how to deal with it. Most of the time, though, the bit that sticks is the – you will be discriminated against, part. And then that person ends up going through some complicated and mixed emotions of shame, anger and isolation…because of the expectation that people will discriminate. And there’s one acquaintance of mine I can think of who has just become extremely over-sensitive to it. Real discrimination exists in this world, but she will see it even when it’s not there…because she’s grown up expecting to see it.

          I think it’s important to make sure they know they can come to you (whether you’re a mother or a father) if/when they do come up against prejudice, and then maybe talk to them about the discrimination they may face (because of their race, gender, etc).

          • Oh I see it what you’re saying, HeatherN. Have balance.

            Yes. I agree. I’m trying to overcome the over-sensitive part myself.

  88. I enjoyed this list, especially since I have four boys who are wild, extreme, smart, and passionate in all they do.
    I have did all of theses things except for the laundry (they’re too young) and there is much more that could be added to it because that is the joy of parenting. It never really ends.

    I have always encouraged my sons to have an open mind when in their play zone. They have played with doll houses, paper dolls, and enjoy looking at the little furniture that goes in the antique doll houses. Does this make them less as boys? No, it teaches them to learn how to a well rounded person. Trust me, they can get out there and get dirty, destroy things, and build it up again, like any other young man.

  89. Liked it and wish my mother had read it.

    I do think there’s room for one more that I can think of:

    Teach him it’s important to know how to fight; the world is a mean place sometimes.
    but…
    teach him to know when and for what reason; people who LIKE fighting are the reason the world is mean.

  90. Very, very nice.

  91. Perhaps this is obvious and goes without saying, but “Love him unconditionally and show it” should be on the list in my opinion. Nothing is more important than that.

  92. I’ll keep this cordial, but I am in disagreement, for the most part.

    There’s nothing wrong with teaching your son to read, of course, and for the most part, there’s nothing terribly wrong with the list. It’s just – terribly incomplete. I’ll concede these are the things a mother should be teaching.

    But I must ask a question. Look at the keywords from the beginning of the list. Feelings? Cheerleader? Laundry? Dance? Exactly what are you trying to accomplish here? As laudatory and inviting as these goals might appear, none of these are about the man that the boy might become.

    Indeed “Learn to throw a football” is good advice – for the mother! She should.

    A good father will teach other things in addition – not to panic when you skin your knee, not to give up when something is broken. A father will let you know it’s all right to climb a tree (“Go ahead – take a risk!”) and it’s all right to fail sometimes (because it’s the only way to win, eventually).

    A good father teaches that deferring gratification is a good strategy and that a little independence is not a bad thing.

    A good mother should have your list in mind, but I wouldn’t think for a minute that it’s complete.

    • Well first, the author doesn’t say it’s a complete list. You can’t make a complete list of 25 things to teach your child…heck you can’t make a complete list of 50 or 100 things to teach a kid.

      “Feelings? Cheerleader? Laundry? Dance? Exactly what are you trying to accomplish here?”

      What about expressing feelings, being a cheerleader, doing laundry and being a dancer is counter to being a man? All those things could very well be about the man that the boy might become.

    • I”m truly curious as to why you say this? “Feelings? Cheerleader? Laundry? Dance?As laudatory and inviting as these goals might appear, none of these are about the man that the boy might become.” Do men not need to know about their feelings? Do men not need to understand how laundry works? Is dancing something that a man not need to access (dates etc)?

      I love the list, though I feel that all these things (and indeed the points you mentioned about not panicking, keeping on when things are hard, failing, deferring gratification etc) are things any good loving parent (no matter the gender or sexual orientation or race) might teach. Certainly some women might need to learn to get over dirty clothes, roughhousing, etc and learn to meet their boy children where they are in life.

      I just don’t understand, honestly, why those things listed wouldn’t be something the boy might need as he becomes a man?

      No snark, just curiousity.

      I’m a mother of two boys and I found this list valuable.

    • Julie Gillis said this: “I”m truly curious as to why you say this? “Feelings? Cheerleader? Laundry? Dance?As laudatory and inviting as these goals might appear, none of these are about the man that the boy might become.” Do men not need to know about their feelings? Do men not need to understand how laundry works? Is dancing something that a man not need to access (dates etc)?”

      I’m reluntant to add more, because I’m sure this will be interpreted as “trollish”. But I’ve been invited by several, so I will.

      Of course, men need to know about their feelings, understand laundry and maybe even to dance (especially if their name is Bobby Burgess). All that and all the rest is the reason I said that the list could be considered laudable. But it is still so dreadfully incomplete that it comes across as part of an agenda.

      Which is why I asked about the author’s intent.

      And those last words show *my* agenda, which forces me to defend myself in more detail.

      What I *think* the author was trying to do was help women do a better job of raising sons, especially without the presence of a father. If so, I insist, her list either intentionall or unintentionally omits exactly those things a father would teach.

      That’s not surprising. In fact, its normal and healthy for a mother to think along the lines she detailed in the article. But she should not think that this is anywhere sufficient to replace a father.

      And if the author is actually trying to encourge fatherless childraising (“Hey look! This is easy! All you have to do is follow these 25 suggestions…”), then I really object. I don’t think that’s her intention, though.

      This is supposed to be “The Good Man Project”. Like it or not, “The Single Motherhood Project” is inimicable to that effort.

      • Um mate, where the heck did you get the idea that this list is meant to “replace a father?” She specifically mentions fathers in number 20…and mentions how important they are. This is very clearly an article directed to heterosexual mothers with a male partner (possibly married).

        You seem to be looking at the specific activities mentioned (i.e. cheerleading, laundry, etc) and missing the message behind the different points she’s making. In other words, look at the forest, not the trees. “Learn how to throw a football,” for example wasn’t about football, but was about making sure you take an active role in your child’s life and hobbies.

      • I saw nothing in her post to indicate she encourages anything other than helping to raise good children. She mentions fathers, and offers what she, as a woman and mother would add. I don’t think the list is to help women replace fathers.

        I would go so far as to say that lists like this are a little bit silly, because most (perhaps not all) things mothers and fathers teach (or should in my opinion) are pretty similar. To be kind, loyal, honest, hard working, attentive to their own feelings and others, dedicated to the work even in the face of difficulty.

        Parents can act as positive mirrors to reflect the innate goodness of the child and candles to guide them towards strong values.

        But I don’t think that means one parent isn’t needed necessarily. Sometimes a parent dies or there is a divorce. Some parents are gay or lesbian. This particular example appeared to me to be a model of a hetero couple.

  93. By the way. #22 may be the most important. (Now that I think about it.)

  94. Wonderful work. Thanks for the part about letting Dad’s teach things in their own way. It’s so important to let your child see there is ALWAYS more than one way of doing things. It teaches your child to hold the both/and.

  95. Tom Matlack says:

    I love this list just like I like my two boys. Thanks for adding the mom’s view to my dad’s list for moms.

  96. While I completely agree that boys (and girls) need positive male AND female gendered role models, I do have a minor quibble over language. In #6 the author writes “Make sure he has examples of good men who are powerful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity,” and for #7 a similar sentiment is expressed as “Make sure he has examples of women who are beautiful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.” Good male role models are characterized as “powerful,” while good female role models are characterized as “beautiful” for the same reasons. Now, I absolutely believe that the author had the best of intentions while writing this, and the emphasis on women’s beauty not being wholly derived from looks is great (as is the emphasis on men’s power not being solely based on physical strength), but shouldn’t we be teaching our children that women can also be powerful and that men can also be beautiful because of their brains, determination, and integrity?

    • Copyleft says:

      Interesting point, A.S. I missed that.

    • I did see that and I thought it was a minor blip. It should have been the same term for both. Or it would have been interesting to reverse them.

    • Alright I can be nitpicky to the nth degree, and I am all about gender equality, but I had no problem with it, and here’s why. The next sentences in each of those points highlighted the way men (and women) are usually portrayed in the media in society. The points that the author made was to go beyond those typical images. In essence it is saying – your son will see images of conventionally powerful men and conventionally beautiful women and that power and beauty will be based on superficial traits. Teach your child to see beyond the surface.

    • Nobody can be ‘beautiful’ because of their brains. They can be ‘attractive’ because of their brains, but never ‘beautiful’. Words have meanings, and ‘beauty’ is a aesthetic trait. And really, we shouldn’t be trying to confuse children. We shouldn’t teach them that it’s ‘wrong’ to prefer people they find attractive, because that’s exactly what they’ll do no matter what you teach them. We shouldn’t be teaching kids to be ashamed about who they’re attracted to at all.

      In general, we’d be better off teaching kids that people can be good despite these other traits. A small man can be a good man. An ugly woman can be a good woman. An unintelligent person can still be a good one.

  97. Anthony Zarat says:

    You are going to take a lot of flack for every gender assymetry on your list. Sorry, but that is just the way the world works.

    For what it is worth, I admire your honesty and your courage. I think you hit a bulls-eye with 90% of your words, and 100% of your intent. If you had been my mother, I would have grown into a much better man than I am.

    • Right well, I don’t see any problematic gender-based generalizations in this piece. I thought it was absolutely lovely.

      • Anthony Zarat says:

        I did not see any problem either. I also thought it was lovely.

        I was not clear 🙁

        My intent was to appologize in advance for any negative comments that the author might receive. It may be an arrogant thing for me to do. It is because I have seen people getting torn to pieces on this blog. Sometimes by me.

      • There aren’t any – that’s one of the beauties of this list. the other is that every rule is really imprtant and valid, not one false step.

        • Really? I think perhaps you are too steeped in it to see it.

          Calling men “powerful” and women “beautiful” (#’s 6, 7, and 8), and setting this up as the ideal, is a clear gender asymmetry. I do wish we could escape these language differences in characterizing what is great about men vs. women. Why can’t men and women both be powerful, or both beautiful? Or some other single word? Why must we use different language? I would love more beautiful men, and powerful women in this world. Wouldn’t you?

          I actually like this list overall, but yes, it is also asymmetrical.

          • The reality is: men and women are simply different, not totally “symmetrical” in characteristics and qualities.

            As a consequence, men are seldom referred to as “beautiful” nor does that fact hurt our feelings. Very few boys or men are the least bit bothered by not being called beautiful, but they (we) do like feeling strong/powerful, more so than women and girls. On the other hand, we do like beautiful girls/women. Likewise, most women prefer that SHE be the beautiful one of the couple, and he be the more physically powerful/strong one.

            Nonetheless, parents are free to raise their children however they see fit. But, I, for one, feel this list is reasonable, and have no plans on convincing my son(s) that they all that “beautiful.”

  98. Copyleft says:

    These are pretty good, but #20 is especially important. I’d go further and say “In situations where you and his father disagree, default to the dad. Because he knows what growing up male in our society means, and you do not.”

    (Single mothers may have to substitute another appropriate male role-model or father figure as needed.)

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