One of the questions I'm continually asked by single moms is, "What simple advice can you give me to help raise my boy to become a good man?"
The following are a set of small action steps every single mom can take while raising boys. I encourage you to modify these suggestions and combine them with your own ideas to develop a plan that works best for you and your family.
The most important action you can take on your son's behalf is to pray for him on a daily basis. Prayer is the most powerful tool in the universe. Pray for your son's physical, spiritual, and emotional health. Pray for God's blessings to be poured abundantly over your son. Pray that his heart will be turned towards God. Pray for him to have wisdom and discernment. And pray that God brings good friends into his life who will lift him up, encourage him, and hold him accountable. Pray for his sexual purity. Pray for his future spouse's sexual purity and for her parents to have Godly wisdom in raising her. And pray for God to give you the wisdom to be the kind of parent He would have you be, and to make you worthy of raising the child He has entrusted to your care.
It has been my observation over a long period of time that goals and accomplishments don't just happen--they require planning. Think about which values and character traits you want your son to demonstrate. Then design a program to help teach him those values. Be pro-active not reactive. Consider what techniques have worked best in communicating with your son and which types of disciplinary actions have been most effective. Monitor his responses and the effectiveness of different approaches you've tried and remember them for future reference.
Next, write your plan down on paper. A goal that is not written down tends to never come to fruition. Try separating your strategy into different categories. For instance, one category might be character traits you want to instill in your son. Another might be inserting positive male role models in his life. Still another will be teaching him to work and so on.
Your plan will then need to be re-visited and adjusted periodically, perhaps once a year or more. Remember that as your son grows, your responses and the way you deal with him will need to change. What works when he is seven years old will likely not work when he is seventeen.
Look For Examples
Continually look for positive male examples for your son. Search them out in books, movies, and in real life. Once you become sensitized to observing positive (and negative) character traits in men, you will start noticing examples that you may have previously ignored. Point these examples out to your son as they occur. Have some fun with it! Have him look for poor character traits that men act out in books and movies. Keep a list of both the positive and negative characteristics that men exhibit, and then make up a composite man with the character traits of each and see what they look like. Just by making him cognizant of these traits you are teaching him to be consciously aware of their importance.
Involve Male Role Models
Boys who have never had healthy masculinity modeled for them face an extremely difficult, if not impossible, task--becoming a good man. Since healthy masculinity is rarely modeled in the movies, on television, or in our cultural heroes, he will never understand how to think, act, and behave like a man, without the presence of a real man in his life. Short of God's grace actively and directly intervening in his life, your son will need to find positive male role models in order to help him understand and fulfill his destiny as a man. The earlier in life he encounters these role models, the easier the road will be to travel. If his father is not available to provide a model of healthy masculinity, you MUST find role models for him. Besides prayer, this should be the number one action point of your plan.
Ideally, your son's father is actively involved in his life. If not, you must find positive male role models to fill that role in your son's life. It's not easy, but with some work, you can find men that will help mentor your son. The Boy Scouts of America leaders, Little League and soccer coaches, and male teachers may all provide good male role modeling and mentoring. Grandfathers, uncles, neighbors, and your son's friends' fathers are also good candidates.
Ask your male neighbor, "The next time you take your son to the ball game, will you ask my son to come?" or "The next time you mow the lawn, can my son help?" Also, contact the men's pastor at your local church. Churches are filled with men who would love to help a fatherless lad. Helping widows and orphans is a Biblical mandate. Though he may not technically qualify, your son is an orphan for all practical purposes in so far as his father's presence or absence is concerned.
Find activities to attend in which men are involved. One single mom I know brings her young boy to our men's basketball games each week. We've unofficially adopted him as our team mascot. He sits on the bench during the game and runs around during warm-ups, playing with each guy in turn. This way he's exposed to a variety of different types of men, and able to see how they react in a wide range of situations. He also gets to see us at our best and worst--in a stressful, competitive environment.
Lastly, look for good boys to be your son's friends. It's important for a parent to take an active interest in directing their children into friendships that will be healthy and nurturing. It's equally important that the families of your son's friends have the same vision and values that you do. That requires you to meet and know the parents of your son's friends.
Develop a Vision for Your Son
Develop a vision for your son. Always hold him to the higher standard. Yes, the narrow path is harder to walk down, and most people take the easy path through life. But easy is not always best. Your son needs to have a vision of what a man should be (hopefully modeled by his father). He needs high standards to strive towards and goals and dreams to motivate him. Then make sure you share that vision with him.
Lastly, make sure he understands that critics are everywhere in life. But critics shouldn't stop him from doing what he wants. Teach him not to be discouraged by others' pessimism. Teach your boy not to let others stop him from achieving his dreams and goals.
One last thing I'd like you to remember--boys are fun to raise! If you understand the differences between males and females, you will enjoy raising your son beyond measure. Just remember--expect boys to be a little louder and more physically active than girls. Try not to be too over-protective of them, and keep your sense of humor. I promise you will find no greater satisfaction in life than raising your son from a helpless baby and then seeing him exhibit strength of character beyond your wildest expectations as he enters into manhood.
Let me conclude by giving you some encouragement. God loves you and He loves your son. God has wonderful things in store for your son. He purposely chose you to be your son's mother out of all the women in the world. God knew the struggles and challenges you would face. He knew all your faults and failures as a mother, and yet still chose you as the right person to raise His child--because He also knew all your strengths and skills. Truly, you are worthy to be your son's mother; an awesome woman.
So spend time with your son. Let him know that you love him so much you would be willing to die for him--in the same way as Christ did for all of us. Love like that covers a multitude of mistakes.
Finally, actively seek out God's will for your son. Help him become the man of destiny that God designed him to be before time began. Good parenting and God bless you.
Bestselling author and speaker Rick Johnson is the founder of Better Dads, a fathering skills program designed to inspire and equip men to be more engaged in the lives of their children. He develops and delivers inspirational father training workshops for organizations including businesses, churches, civic groups, social service agencies, hospitals, prisons, and schools. At the request of a local school district, Rick also developed a seminar for single and other mothers entitled "Courageous Moms - Raising Boys to Become Good Men." He presents these popular seminars throughout the United States.That's My Son - How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character, by Revell Publishing. To find out more about his books or Better Dads go to www.betterdads.net.
This article has been adapted from Rick's book, That's My Son - How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character, by Revell Publishing. To find out more about his books or Better Dads go to www.betterdads.net.