6 Mistakes to Avoid When Raising a Son

raising a son

I have two sons and three daughters. They’ve grown into awesome young adults, but there were huge bumps along the way. Now that I’ve come out on the other side of the childhood years, I want to warn you about some of the mistakes I have made and some that I have observed other moms making when raising a son. (I’ll get to the raising daughters mistakes on another day.) Many of these mistakes are actually born of good intentions – in other words, we overparent, overprotect and just over do it.

So if you still have boys at home, it’s not too late to consider what you might tweak in how you’re parenting them. Here are the 6 mistakes to avoid when raising a son.

1. Expecting him to think like you.

Your son might think like you, but he probably won’t. Boys’ minds are wired differently than girls’, so he’ll come at problems from a different angle. {Tweet This} And once he hits early adolescence, he’ll become more guarded about sharing his feelings. So allow your son to take a different approach to life—whether it’s finding a new way to tackle his homework or choosing the sport he wants to play.

2. Setting up too many boundaries.

Boys need boundaries. Let me repeat, boys need boundaries. But boys have an innate desire to push the envelope and we need to let them—within reason, of course. So starting when they’re young, let them explore their physical world as freely as you can. As they get older, allow them to learn skills like cutting the grass or cleaning a fish that might at first seem too risky. The proper place for boundaries is in teaching them how to wisely assess and navigate risk.

3. Letting him get bored.

Boys need activity. If he gets bored, he’s likely going to head for an iPad or the TV. Or, he’s going to get wound up and take out his pent-up energy on his siblings or on the mirror he just broke when he bounced a ball too hard in the house. You don’t have to be an entertainment genie for every one of his waking hours, but try to give him the opportunity to let off steam outside or playing with his friends.

4. Using the “boys will be boys” cop out.

Boys are different than girls, yes. But, that’s not a license for them to act boorish or irresponsibly. Underage drinking, fights, and other misbehaviors aren’t a boy being a boy, they’re a boy acting very unwisely. So keep your standards high for your son, and let him know you expect him to act like a man and a gentleman at that. Remember that “boys will be boys” comes from a misplaced idea of what true manhood is. Find examples of true manhood and point them out to him.

Another area where you don’t want to cut your son any slack in the “boys will be boys” arena is how he handles his anger. Because of their testosterone, boys are more challenged in that area. Dr. Meg Meeker shared some wonderful advice with iMOM readers about How to Teach Your Son to Handle His Emotions.

5. Avoiding the soft stuff.

Just because your son would rather play flag football than visit a museum, you can still make the softer pursuits — music, art, reading — a part of his life. We want our sons to be well-rounded so expose them to a world beyond X-Boxes, WWE, and rap music. I can’t promise anything you expose him to will stick (my boys still hate going to a play or musical), but the experience will help them better relate to others—and possibly, one day, better relate to girls.

6. Doing everything for him.

I don’t know what comes over us moms when it comes to doing things for our sons. I confess that I helped my sons too much with homework, laundry, and other household things like picking up their stuff around the house. I even took the “burden” of cleaning their car or sports equipment off of their shoulders!

The thing is, they will have to learn to take care of themselves one day, so it’s better for that to happen while they’re still at home so that we can guide them. It’s good for boys to take more responsibility. Same goes for letting them work for extras they want. When we do too much for our sons, we remove a very important avenue for their development. So tell us, do you agree that these are mistakes we moms make with our sons?


  • Jennifer

    Well written. Thank you.

  • Valerie LeMaster

    I whole-heartedly agreed with everything written in this article. I have 2 boys and 1 girl. A lot of other moms give me a hard time for giving my boys enough space to figure things out on their own. The world wants me to be a helicopter mom. And the teachers want my boys to sit quietly in class or play tea party on the playground like the girls. We finally moved to Colorado where my boys could spend more time outdoors, get dirty, explore and hang outdoors with other boys (with strong boundaries and expectations of behavior and respect for animals, nature, community and family values). As long they are well-equipped on the inside, they will be well-equipped on the outside.

  • Great post. I have two boys of my own as well as a daughter. I completely agree about not doing everything for them. Your point about not being bored is interesting. We set limits on screen time but sometimes allow our children to be bored (and screenless). We find this forces them to be creative. Of course, we LOVE outside time, too.

  • Pam

    Having a son who prefers things like museums and plays and does not particularly enjoy sports, I have found it is important to make sure he understands that things like that are not what make a man. He can enjoy “softer” things and still be masculine. Assuming all men enjoy sports, outdoors, and rough housing is a message that can deeply hurt boys who don’t fit the stereotypical male idea.

  • Keith

    I’m a stepdad and have a 15 yr old stepson. My wife has had trouble allowing me to fill the “father” role in our home. She basically won’t allow me to discipline but she doesn’t either thus he never is held accountable for his actions. He first blew up my 4 wheeler after sinking it in water after I explicitly told him not to put it in water. He has been in fights, failed school, lied about things constantly, and basically does as he pleases. I got another 4wheeler and forbade him to ride it for awhile but after a long time I gave in with strict instructions on what not to do. Well as of now he has broken the frame, broke most of the plastic, broke the coolant reservoir, broke the foot shifter, broke off a $200 muffler, broke the back rack, robbed my tires and rims to trade for something he wanted so I have different rims and one tire is 6 inches taller than the other. This past weekend it put me down so I took it to the shop only to find all of the damage and find out he’s had it under water. I was livid. I waited to see if my wife would do “anything” at all to him. NADA, so we are throwing down about it. Her attitude is “boys will be boys” and mine now has become “not in my house”. I’m at my ropes end. Not sure if I can do this anymore.