7 Words of Advice for Raising a Son

There are several versions but I love this poem:

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That’s what little girls are made of

I am male and raised a son. I have 3 grandsons. As a school principal I led initiatives to have the library, reading curriculum and some school policies more boy friendly. I enjoy addressing issues specifically for boys in an effort to bring better understanding between mom and boys. I am presently developing a website to help boys read more. I would say I am “into” the boy movement!

Part of my effort to get parents and boys to work well together is to help parents understand a few general differences between boys and girls. Moms (and Dads) who honor those differences and even delight in them will enjoy their sons more.

Raising A Son

Here is some quick advice for moms raising boys.

1. Give them loads of affection.


When it comes to affection – love on them just as much as any girl. Some boys will want to cuddle, some will love being tickled and hung upside down. Some boys love to bump and bang and wrestle with dad, but they all need hugs and kisses! If anyone tries to tell you boys do not need loads of affection run from their advice.

2. Delight in Investigating Anything and Everything.

Most boys love to explore and investigate. Let them. Of course all children like this, but boys typically delight in the pursuit of discovery. So discover together! Moms who recognize this quickly will easily be able to keep their sons engaged and an engaged son typically makes a happy mom.

3. Remember dirt washes off.

Some boys love to get dirty, others do not. If you have one that loves to get dirty, let him, but give him rules. When I was 10 I used to go outside and play in a muddy river. I loved it. My mom who was VERY NEAT and not in love with my adventures understood boys. My brother and I had to take our clothes off in the laundry room which was right inside our house, next to the garage and “run” through the house in our underwear, to the disgust of my two older sisters. (Being boys, this did not bother us in the least and we used to play “underwear man” where we dressed up with a cape and ran around the house in our underwear.) My mom did not love our getting dirty but she accommodated it and came up with a way we could get dirty and she did not have mud all through the house.

4. Make Conquests and its Cousin Competition Your Friend.

DSC_1484Most boys love a challenge and many love competition. I coached both girls and boys tennis. One of the realities of coaching a sport – you have to do drills. That is the way you get better. The girls would do the drills willingly. But with the boys drills were like pulling teeth. They hated drills. So myself and the other coach decided we would make games out of the drills. Would you believe the boys would beg us to do the drill games? They just loved the competition. Keep your son challenged and allow him to compete. This does not necessarily mean organized sports. Some kids enjoy sports, others do not. But boys generally love competition because it is something they can conquer and all boys love a conquest. I know boys who hated sports but who spent hours playing video games where they filled their “conquest” desires. If you want to, you can even come up with fun games to get routine tasks done without a fight (or if you like call them conquests.) Like timing how long it takes him to get ready to leave for church. Get your watch out, say “on your mark, get set, go!” and tell him you will stop the time when he is by the door, dressed and ready to go. Then write the time down and see if he can better the score next time. Delight in his conquests.

5. Keep Bodily Function Discussions Out of the Public.

For whatever reason many boys are fascinated with bodily functions. Teach him that part of being a man is not discussing this stuff around you or other women! Seriously, if you don’t want to listen to them make fake fart noises, don’t! Let them know that is not allowed in your presence. Also, teach them that if they are going to do naughty things when it comes to bodily functions they will get in trouble. As a school principal I had more than one group of first grade boys with gloves on cleaning up the bathroom floor because they had a “pee off” seeing who could pee the farthest. Today’s media – TV and movies, seem to delight in the fascination with boys and bodily function. While it starts with peeing and farting, it becomes sexual and very inappropriate. Teach you son that a real man is not disgusting. (Of course discuss their curiosity and desire to understand bodily functions, but don’t let them get disgusting.)

6. Focus Early on Being a Godly Man, Not a Macho Man.

DSC_0137Start early on to teach him what it means to be a godly man. Mom, if you go out together on a date with just the two of you, have his Dad teach him how to treat you. Come up with some little gestures he can do as “the man.” You may be surprised how delighted he will be to take on this roll. This is especially true around 9 o 10, but even younger boys like this. Talk about the roll of a man. There are some great materials out there and you may want to read some of them. Recently I wrote a letter to a young man on his 13th birthday. The letter appears on my blog and outlines what it means to be a man of valor. (Read it here: Becoming a Man.)

Don’t force your son to do certain things because our society defines it as “manly.” Separate being a man from being macho. He does not have to kill the spiders if he is afraid. He does not have to play football. But he does have to act properly, be a man of honesty and integrity. Make sure he knows that you will respect him as a man for those qualities.

7. Respect, Respect, Respect.

And speaking of respect, boys love respect. Don’t flatter them, but when you see things you appreciate let him know in a way that gives him respect. For instance, lets say he treats a younger child kindly when the child was annoying him. When my daughters did something kind like that I could smile at them, whisper “thanks” into their ear and give them a long, strong hug and they were delighted. But my son, instead of just saying “thanks” I would tell him “wow, I saw what you just did, that took real patience and kindness to be nice to that boy who was bothering you. But you knew that as an older boy, your responsibility was to be kind to him. I really appreciate that and I am so amazed at how you are getting more and more mature. I am so proud of you!” Then watch him beam. Respect, respect, respect.

Ministering to the heart of a boy should not be difficult. Moms and Dads who take into consideration the unique characteristics of boys will find their job a bit easier.

May God bless you in raising a boy. I pray you will learn to delight in his “boyness” that God blessed him with and that through God’s grace you are able to help him to grow into a godly man.


Published by

Mark Strohm

Mark is a devoted Christ follower. He is husband to Ellen, father to a son and three daughters, and grandfather to 9. He holds a Masters of Education in school leadership and has been a teacher and school principal. He has served on Church staffs working with parents and children. His ministry spans over 30 years.

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