5 Ways Single Moms Can Instill Character in Their Sons


character building for kids

My boys stump me daily. I think like a woman, reason like a woman, and react like a woman. And I’m regularly reminded that my boys don’t think, process, or react like me.

As a single mom raising five boys, I’ve felt the disadvantage of not having their dad in the home. Especially because character building for kids often feels more natural coming from the parent of the same gender. And while they have male influences through family, coaches, and mentors at church, I still worry about how being raised by a single mom will affect them. How can I help them become strong men, husbands, and leaders? Today, we’re looking at 5 ways single moms can instill character in their sons.

Help him develop integrity.

Integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles,” according to Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. Integrity means doing the right thing regardless of whether anyone is looking. A recent study reports that 64 percent of high school students admitted to cheating on tests and a whopping 95 percent admitted either to cheating on a test, copying homework, or plagiarizing a paper.

In a world where dishonesty is rampant, our boys need to develop integrity more than ever. First, we need to model it by eliminating “white lies” from our conversation, by always telling our kids the truth, and by being honest in our finances. We can encourage our sons to follow through on commitments, to report income on taxes, and to walk away from opportunities to cheat. And we need to point it out when we see it in others—in employers, in family members, and in coaches or mentors.

Help him develop respect for others.

Boys who feel respected are more likely to respect others. Boys have a deep need for respect and when that need is met, we can teach them to show respect to others. As we teach our boys to respect their single moms, we also can teach them to respect girls by never joining in off-color talk or demeaning behavior. They should respect the elderly by offering to help when needed, giving up their seats, and listening well in conversation. Manners and courtesy are part of showing respect. And one important lesson that needs to be taught: just because you disagree with a person doesn’t mean you can disrespect him or her.

Help him develop a good work ethic.

Kids who have a good work ethic become adults who can reach their full potential, says iMOM founder Susan Merrill. Chores are a great way for boys to develop a work ethic. I’ve delegated areas to each son, like taking care of the pool, the garbage, or the front lawn, so they learn to be in charge. Perseverance in sports, extracurriculars, and schoolwork also can help them develop a solid work ethic. Don’t be afraid to challenge your sons with tough jobs and cheer them on when they work hard.

Help him develop courage.

Boys need courage to do hard things. Praise them. They need to know you believe in them. Let them know it’s OK to fail as they try new things and set bigger goals. Family stories and historical biographies are great ways to model courage. A few years ago, I realized my son needed outside classes that would challenge him. We’d been in a home school co-op and this son did not like change. Each time he said he didn’t want to change, I told him he needed to try it before making a decision. On the first day, I watched him walk up to the front door, inhale deeply, and walk in. Within two weeks, he loved it. He’d made new friends and something new wasn’t so scary after all.

Help him develop self-control and self-discipline.

Boys need self-control, which keeps them from doing the wrong things, as well as self-discipline, which helps them do the right things. When it comes to opportunities for character building for kids, sports is gold. I noticed my boys had more self-control when they got their testosterone out during basketball and on the golf course. I also taught my sons that the more they self-governed, the more autonomy they would have.

What part of your son’s character are you most proud of and what part needs improvement? 

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