A single mom raising a son can feel like a chef working in someone else’s kitchen. You know what you’re doing, but everything feels a little foreign and out of place. A single mom with a daughter can find some comfort and confidence in the familiar (although there’s some terror in it, too). But after my divorce, when I thought about the way boys play, their bodies and all the parts, teaching them how to be good young men… I worried they would get shorted because even though they spend half their time with their dad, I’m not a man.
But a single mom raising a son is fully capable of doing an amazing job. It just takes some intentional words and actions. Here are 7 things to do if you want to bring up an awesome boy as a single mom.
Simplify your parenting strategy by focusing on two things: being supportive and being warm. Studies have shown that kids whose mothers showed these qualities are not only more successful, but they’re also happier. So, give your boys lots of hugs, cheer the loudest at games, listen when he talks, pray for him, and give plenty of praise. Our free printable 10 Compliments for Your Son is a great resource to help you come up with the words that will mean the most to him.
2. Talk kindly about his dad and help their relationship grow.
Imagine this: After your son’s father backs out of an outing (again), you vent about how unreliable he is. An hour later when your son does something clever, it reminds you of how his dad is good at problem-solving and you remark, “You’re just like your dad.” Which trait will he believe makes him just like his dad? Both. So tell your son which of his dad’s good traits he possesses, but keep your lips closed about the bad. And even if his dad is unreliable, your son needs time with him. A little flexibility in the schedule goes a long way.
3. Find a physical activity you both enjoy.
Boys need to use their bodies and physical activity is a great way to bond with your son. But if you’re tired (and you probably are), that might not be at the top of your list. If you’re not keen on the idea of throwing a football, what about bike rides, a push-up competition, kayaking, or golf?
4. Don’t make him the man of the house.
It’s hard for our sons to be awesome boys if they’re forced to be men at a young age. Yes, parents should help their kids grow in responsibility, but if your son has to take on the emotional burden of being the man of the house, it will lead to a delay in development. This is called emotional parentification. Kids should be able to lean on their parents. If a mom is leaning back on her son, the child can’t find emotional rest because he’s bearing weight he shouldn’t have to bear.
It’s hard for our sons to be awesome boys if they’re forced to be men at a young age.
5. Learn what makes boys tick.
Boys process and express emotions differently than girls do. They show affection and bond differently, too. My 8-year-old doesn’t kiss me anymore, but I don’t take it personally (even though I died a little on the inside the first time it happened). If you expect your son to respond the way you did as a child, one of you will become very frustrated very quickly. iMOM has a ton of great resources on boys that can help you parent your son as the unique young man he is.
6. Be willing to leave your comfort zone.
I would be way more comfortable being a cheer coach than a den leader for scouts. I’d rather teach a girl to shave her legs than a boy to trim back stubble. But being there for your son, even if you’re the only woman in a sea of dads or you have to fake knowing what you’re doing, will show him that you’re willing to sacrifice and stretch because you love him.
7. Look for good male role models.
You can find good men in movies, books, and scripture, so be sure to point out to your son when a man does something that shows character. But don’t underestimate the value of a guy who is willing to be present in your son’s life and model healthy masculinity. A neighbor with a basketball hoop, an uncle who can chat while changing a tire, a scout leader who talks about integrity—all of these guys can help your son grow into a healthy well-rounded young man.
These aren’t the only ways single moms raise awesome boys. What would you add to the list?