Raising Boys: One Dad’s Advice to Moms

If you’re a regular reader, you may know Tom Matlack from his weekly column, Good Is Good. An article of his recently jumped ship and was published over at parenting blog Babble. The topic? How to raise boys.

Here’s a sneak peak:

Watch his body, not his mouth. Again, like adult men, the clues to how your son is doing will show up first in his body language. Jumping up and down with six-inch vertical leaps is the natural state of being and is good. Slumped shoulders are bad. Yelling is good. Quiet needs attention.

Batman lives forever. Boys, even at a young age, realize the importance of superpowers. They want to be good and believe in the existence of ultimate good in the world. Boys sort out their identities in relation to the mythical characters they hear about.

Pointless physical activity is perfect. My brother and I once convinced his two sons and my older boy, when they were all around the age of 10, that they really needed to build a structure out of rocks. The rocks were on one side of a beach, but the perfect spot where the structure had to be built, according to our sage advice, was on the other side of the beach. Each stone weighed between ten and thirty pounds. The boys started moving the boulders one by one, working together to lift the heaviest ones. My brother and I set up our beach chairs midway from the rock pile to building site. We read the paper most of the morning while the boys tired themselves out moving rocks and then assembling a tremendous cathedral. By lunch they were tired and happy, and my brother and I had enjoyed a peaceful morning.

For more bulleted pearls of wisdom (and some pretty sweet anecdotes), check out the rest of the story on Babble, here.

Image sarahboergersmith/ Flickr


About Lu Fong

Lu Fong was a staff writer and blog editor for the Good Men Project in its formative years. As the requisite woman on staff, her hobbies included cleaning, cooking, knitting, fainting, and childbearing. Follow her on Twitter @lufong.


  1. Raising two boys (essentially without a father) has been a challenge for me as a girlie girl. However, I’ve learned to really really listen to them…their words and their bodies. It makes such a difference in how I react/plan/adjust to make sure that they are okay. Love raising boys!

  2. lilmrs8891 says:

    For a humorous blog about raising boys, check out Nature vs. Nurture on this blog: http://readkt.blogspot.com/. You”ll have a good laugh.

  3. Mostly good advice, and I admit I don’t have children so I can’t judge this advice as a parent, but as a grown-up boy I have to call into question one of the bits of advice, that being quiet is a cause for concern.

    Yes, boys tend to be pretty boisterous, maybe more than girls, but for some boys being quiet and introverted is a perfectly natural part of their personality. It is perfectly valid for a boy to prefer reading books to moving rocks. (I’m biased here because I was one of those, but then again you may have been a boy who moved rocks around a beach.) Of course being suddenly quiet can be a sign of something to ask him about, but it could also be that he’s just being thoughtful. Moreover, I would reassure moms that they are not corrupting the masculinity of their boys by allowing them to be quiet and not assuming they will be rambunctious all the time.

  4. Female Feedback says:

    I love Terence Real’s assessment of the superpower thing. It’s the analogy to the princess in girls and it is thought to be a need to be “one-up” compensating for how kids are smaller than their parents and feel vulnerable and want to try to be on an even plane.

    I am not sure if it is healthy or not. I think some psychologists, including Real, think it is a compensation and if parents are able to give boys (and girls) “narcissistic supply” such as emotional validation, intimacy, recognition of the child’s age-appropriate agency, autonomy, interacting/communicating verbally with him and a general feeling of being “the apple of his parents’ eye” it may be less common.

    There is also the conformity aspect of it, though. If other boys are doing it, they may feel peer pressure.

  5. Fathers definitely have a different perspective on parenting, which is beneficial for both sons and daughters to have a father and mother teaching them about the world in different ways.

    Why only advice on raising boys?

    • Tom Matlack says:

      The piece was commissioned by Babble, a website for moms. The editor specifically thought that it would be interesting for moms to have insight from a dad on boys. Not sure exactly why but that is what he asked me to write about so I did…

    • Denis, there’s a vacuum when it comes to media content that helps boys become healthy men and no shortage of the opposite.

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