Raising boys for my girls

I’m the proud mother of two girls. It’s something I boast about – how easy going they are, how they amuse themselves for hours and can keep quiet when necessary and take care of their own basic hygiene. I know, you mothers of boys will throw it back at me when my girls hit the teenage years, but for now I’m gloating!

The truth is, that having girls makes me more, not less, concerned with the raising of boys. I want my girls one day to find a man who has empathy and kindness and can work out relationship problems with maturity and is in touch with his emotions not bottling them up and then exploding.  How little boys are raised has a lot to do with the kind of men they become. I’d like my girls to grow up into a society of great men.

Here are, then, my tips on what you can do with your boys to help them become suitable suitors for my two beautiful daughters!!

Make sure your boys have good male role models.

Boys need to be exposed to men who are reliable, who treat women well, who are affectionate and playful and can handle and work through emotions and disagreements. This is particularly important if you are a single mom, and it does not need to be their dad. Uncles, grandfathers, godfathers, male friends… any older man who can show them, just by their way of being in the world, what it means to be a man.

Be affectionate with your boys.

All boys, regardless of their age, need hugs, kisses, cuddles and affection. You may need to pick your moments as they get older

Credit: www.popsugar.com

(not in front of their coolest friends perhaps), but everyone needs physical closeness. Boys who have a strong bond with their moms are less likely to be aggressive or defiant. A note on affection: Don’t only give hugs or kisses when they’ve done something right. Keep affection as something in it’s own right and not something you need to deserve. You are loved just because you are.

Assist your boys in learning emotional intelligence.

Girl’s grow up more emotionally intelligent because of the way they are treated, not because of some innate psychological difference. We tend to nurture girls when they’re hurt and ask them more regularly how they are feeling. For some reason parents are less likely to do this with boys and it stilts their emotional development and ability to discuss a range of emotions. We need to go beyond telling our little boys to “man up” if they get hurt. There is absolutely no evidence to show that boys who are cared for when hurt grow up any less masculine, strong or capable than those who are not. In fact, repressing emotions leads to all sorts of complications later on including aggression and depression. Help boys to find ways to express strong emotions without hurting themselves or others, help them to brainstorm solutions to problems, and reassure them that strong emotions do pass. Here again, it helps if they have a strong male role model with emotional intelligence.

Help your boys to learn empathy.

Avoid too much violent television or video games which can numb them to the feelings and effects of violence in the real world. Help them to get into the minds and feelings of others by playing games like “what if I were them?” If you’re watching a movie with your boys point out something that a character is going through and ask, “How do you think you would feel if you were in that situation?” Reading stories to them or encouraging them to read novels themselves can also build emotional intelligence and empathy as they become involved in the internal worlds of the characters in the stories.

Help your boys to maintain a high level of self worth.

Never label your boys – and that goes for good and bad labels. Everyone has two sides and all traits, and a good sense of self worth involves seeing both sides of yourself and loving yourself as a whole person. For that reason, limit the amount of praise you give too. Excessive praise can put unnecessary pressure on a boy to perform in order to feel loved. Self worth means being loved and lovable no matter what you do. Help your boys to figure out what they love and then to follow their dreams. There is nothing quite like pursuing someone else’s dreams to crush your self-esteem. Give your boys responsibilities and challenges. We all grow to our maximum when we have a combination of support and challenge. Help your boys to feel helpful and purposeful by trusting them to take on more challenges. And catch them doing things right. Boys are more often than girls caught doing naughty things or labeled as disruptive. Yes, they have loads of energy, they don’t keep quiet, they don’t sit still and they don’t always listen. This is a natural part of their development and they don’t need to be chastised for being who they are.

Teach your boys to respect themselves and others.

The easiest way to do this is to respect yourself. Don’t let your boys walk all over you or speak to you badly. Help them to see that you have needs and feelings too and that you will not allow others to degrade you. Have rules and follow through with consequences. If you are clear about the rules in your home and stick to them they will learn about other people’s boundaries and how to manage themselves out in the world. If the boundaries are constantly moving or unclear, they will learn to keep pushing.

Help them learn how to make good choices.

Again, following through with consequences is essential. If you’ve given them a choice and they’ve chosen one option, let them stick to that even if they don’t like the outcome. There are very important lessons in making mistakes. A broad guideline for offering choices to your boys that helps them to learn about choice making and the consequences of this without overwhelming them is the following:

–       At a preschool level offer only two options e.g. “Would you like to do soccer or gymnastics this term?

–       At a primary school level you can introduce more options but with guidelines e.g. “You can pick two extra murals this term, but one of them must be a form of exercise.”

–       At a high school level offer many options with suggestions e.g. “You can pick any extra murals to do this term. I would suggest doing a sport so that you can stay healthy.”

Don’t worry if your boys are not ‘acting masculine enough’.

Most boys will at some point in their lives try out playing with dolls, dressing up, dancing, wearing a dress. This does not mean that they are effeminate, gay or in need of therapy. Every one of us has both sides – the masculine and the feminine and it is the expression of both sides that make us whole, healthy, well rounded, confident and able to see our own worth. A healthy man will be able to express both sides when appropriate – he may express strong, aggressive masculine energy in the workplace and softer, nurturing feminine energy when at home with his new baby. Boys need the opportunity to role-play both sides as they grow up if they are to get this balance right in their adult lives.

The future of my girls lies also in your hands. I’m trusting you to bring up awesome, confident, well-rounded men to whom I can entrust my awesome, confident well-rounded women!

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Mia Von Scha

Mia Von Scha

Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life.

23 Responses

  1. Thank sooo much for such insightful information. I believe that our cultural background and the environment that we raise our children is also a contributory factor of their behaviour. the author has changed my mindset as i am now raising a 10 year old boy and there was so much that i did not understand about his attitude only to find that he was bullied at his previous school. I was anxious to give him responsibilities and sympathized or lenient towards his vulnerability. Now its time to move on and involve him especially restoring his emotional intelligence and forgiveness and every area that needs attention. Thank you

    1. Thanks so much Clara! And best of luck in raising your son. Parents who are able to look at themselves and learn from the past are likely to raise children who can also learn from their own mistakes. You’re doing a great job. Keep going!!

    2. I just find your letter completely presumptuous, I also did not once say I was not making any mistakes. Of course I make mistakes! EVERY single parent makes mistakes. Parenting is a learning curve. Each Child is completely different, I would not respect any parent who said they are a perfect parent, because it is simply not true and they are living in a dream world. Parenting changes daily, each child needs different parenting styles. My boys are 7, 6 and 4 and so completely different, I could not possibly parent them the same, obviously my household rules and regulations remain the same for all three, but when it comes to individual personalities, a different approach is required. I am not interested in your “qualifications”. I would possibly respect your post if you were a parent of boys.

      1. Wow…I think there are some overly aggressive people on here. I am a FATHER of both an 8 year old girl and 6 year old boy. I personally enjoyed the advice and found it rather profound. In no way are boys denigrated in this article. In fact its just an opinion on how to raise better men(she agreed to follow up one on girls). In addition the claims of sexism…really? Boys and girls are different. The author just tells us to embrace those differences. I don’t understand when this became a personal attack on anyone’s girls. Mine included.

        ‘Be affectionate with your boys’…’Make sure your boys have good male role models’….”Help your boys be respectful of themselves and others’. Shock, horror. How dare she?

        Look I am probably the wrong demographic for this type of article anyway (Black and male)…my wife forwarded it to me. But thanks for the reminder of why I choose not to be on Facebook, Twitter etc.

  2. Sure. As a mom of boys I am just as concerned with how you, mom of girls, are raising them. Are they little madams who will expect my gentleman boys to do everything for them, or instead, are you raising them to be equals, to understand that relationships are about mutual love and respect? How about we drop criticizing our genders and understand that we are humans, who, regardless of gender, deserve to be treated well?

    1. Hi Loraine

      I totally agree. I am very conscious of raising my girls with all the above criteria that I outlined for boys. I am definitely not one of those women out there advocating things like #menaretrash and I think that everything applies equally the other way around. All children need to be treated with love and respect in order to treat others with love and respect. I’m all for that regardless of gender.

      I also realise that the mothers reading a blog like Jozikids are unlikely to be beating their boys for playing with dolls or telling them to man up when they cry… but on the offchance that someone here is doing that I feel it is worth pointing out. Boys do not grow up to beat their wives by growing up in loving, respectful homes. And… there are more boys being treated in gender specific ways that you would want to believe.

      I know the damage that can be done.

      So well done to you for raising your boys with concern and care. I will do my best to do the same with my girls. And hopefully within this generation we can stamp out these gender biases and have adults who care about each other as human beings.

    2. YES!!! thank you!!! The first thought I had was same to you, raise your girls the way I want my boys treated! I have 3 boys. Also, I KNOW what girls can do to boys emotionally. I am very pleased I have 3 boys and no girls, it is harder to raise girls to be well mannered. Also, if you have 2 girls, WHAT exactly do you know about raising boys??????????? pray tell.

      1. Hi Tarryn

        Thanks for your comment.

        Granted, what I know about raising boys is from my studies in Psychology, Education and Criminology, and not from raising them myself. What I do know is the kind of parenting that leads to delinquent behavior (in both genders).

        And as mentioned in previous comments, I have every intention of raising my girls to treat your boys well. It goes both ways.

        This is not an attack on those of you raising boys in healthy homes. It is simply pointing out some of the common mistakes that are made with raising boys that can lead to problems later on. I’m thrilled to hear that you are not making any of these mistakes – you have three lucky boys!! May you serve as a wonderful role model to those who are not managing quite so well.

        Just found this interview with Professor Kopano Ratele who emphasises the same issues with regards to raising boys – perhaps the information is easier to digest if it comes from a man who is raising boys! https://www.702.co.za/articles/256212/how-families-raise-boy-children-is-key-to-changing-rape-culture

  3. I have been an avid Jozikids follower from the time my son (now 14 years old) was born. However this is the first time I feel so strongly compelled to respond.
    I compare the ‘tips’ offered by the author of ” raising boys for my girls” to a spectator who has never played a game shouting instructions to a player on the field.
    While the article contains a few nuggets of sound advice, the article by Fatima Kazee and the comments offered by Miffy Moodley, Florina Patil and Cathy Heaton are insightful as well.

    I am a mother of 3 children, 2 girls and a boy. Parenting challenges are endless, irrespective of whether you have sons or daughters.

    In grade 7, my son won the Nelson Mandela award for kindness and empathy from all the grades 1 to 7 in a school where the girls outnumbered the boys. My daughter won the award for remaining humble despite being a top achiever.

    We should be raising good human beings independent of gender. Respect is one of the greatest expression of love.

  4. I am the mother of two boys and I agree with what the author has advised in her article, it is the way I raise my sons. As a mother of boys I am always concerned about how girls are raised to treat boys. From the age of 5 or 6 I have seen such nastiness and unkindness displayed by some girls towards my generally gentle, affectionate, kind boys. I absolutely hate it when parents of girls say things like "I will have to buy a shotgun one day!" Excuse me!? You would threaten MY child should he be interested in your daughter? So often it is girls who lead boys astray. All too often it is girls who cause heartbreak and sadness. I challenge mothers of girls to raise kind, gentle , sweet, strong, self-assured, independent girls. As the author worries for her daughters, moms of boys worry for their sons. Let us raise a generation of kind, loving, liberal minded, strong individuals that will treat everyone with respect 🙂

  5. Hi Florina. Thank you so much for your criticism. It is comments like yours that help me to grow into a better parent, writer and a better human being. Much appreciated!

  6. For the first time on Jozi kids I am actually apalled at the level of sexism that this article presents. While I think the writer may have had some underlying good intentions, several "assumptions" about boys have been made. What compounds it is that it is coming from someone who does not raise a boy herself. What makes the author think that majority of the girls do not display several of these characteristics too. Case in point in US "11 year old girl murders baby. " It would have been more useful and less biased had she titled it "Raising good Children".

    1. Thank you for articulating this so well… I am a mother of boys and I doubt my parenting style would have been different if they were girls… I’m aiming at raising good individuals…

  7. Hi Miffy. Thanks so much for your comments and questions. In response… 1. Yes, of course we should be raising boys well for their own sake and not just for the girls. 2. I focus on certain traits in boys that are often ignored, such as being gentle, but in reality boys have all traits – both gentle and rough, respectful and not, just like the rest of us. There are times and places for all traits and I don't think we should raise boys to be only gentle, for instance. If they need to be rough, that should also be allowed and embraced – we're all whole beings with both sides. With regards to "mean girls" I would question why they are experiencing these girls as mean (the girls, too, have both sides) and this would require looking into the family dynamics etc to figure out where the boys are being overprotected in order to bring such balance into their lives. 3. I will definitely look into writing articles on raising girls too – what you have mentioned here probably requires more than one article. I would caution though, that you are suggesting raising girls who are lacking in some human traits. We are all at times jealous and bitter and we all bully in some way in our lives (even if it is bullying ourselves). I never advocate eliminating any trait in any human being – we need to be loved as whole beings with all sides to us. We may need assistance in redirecting some of our traits and behaviours, but we will never eliminate parts of being human. 4. We will see in others what we are denying in ourselves. Love all aspects of yourself and you will raise a balanced daughter who does not need to display certain traits that you are denying in order to bring you to a sense of psychological wholeness. What we resist does have a habit of persisting, so it is best as a parent to look at what bothers you in the world, find out where you are doing this, and learn to love and accept all aspects of yourself and others. There will always be women (and men) who are interested in possessions, for example, but this isn't a problem in and of itself. It is our perception that judges things as good or bad, right or wrong. This is exactly why I work with parents – to help them to come to terms with all aspects of themselves and life so that their kids don't need to express what is repressed in the parents. Thanks for bringing this up – it is definitely worthy of an extended article to address these issues more deeply!

  8. Posting comment on behalf of Miffy Moodley who emailed this to Jozikids:
    Hi there. I thoroughly enjoyed your article on raising boys. I have a 6 year old boy and the challenges are endless. I do have some questions for the author and as there was no contact details for her I am sending these to you.
    1. Should we be focused on raising boys to be good men for women or should we be raising good human beings for good human beings?
    2. U share very sound information for raising boys to be gentle, emotional intelligent, respectful etc, can you share knowledge ,tips and information on how boys should respond to "mean girls"
    3. Would you consider writing an article on raising girls to be kind, respectful, empathetic, lacking in jealousy, bitterness, and bullying?

    I ask these questions because my observation of both adult women and young girls has revealed that there is more interest in possessions (including their men), superficial relationships, and an independence that appears to only exist from "small ing" the males in their lives in order to 'big' themselves. I do have a daughter in case you wondered. Kind regards. Miffy Moodley

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