How to Raise a Fine Young Man

Michael and Me tree

Obstacles Can Be Overcome

Single parent families, often, encounter more obstacles than the typical two parent households. Those obstacles, sometimes, include compensating for an absent or under-involved non-custodial parent, overcoming financial difficulties, working out childcare challenges, providing a same sex role model, and developing a proficient combination of nurturer and disciplinarian. For the single mom raising a son, there may be an emotional element presenting sadness or guilt in the inability to be something she is not – a father. However, with an abundance of love, a good plan, and a course of action, single moms have raised many well-rounded sons. What a wonderful sense of accomplishment it is to have neighbors, friends, family, teachers, and others happily attest to your son’s outstanding character while recognizing the role you played in forming the young man he has become. Even more than the sense of accomplishment lies the sense of peace you feel in knowing that his upbringing gave him the skills and tools he’ll need to exercise his core values and beliefs and to learn and grow from his experiences.

Declare Your Objective

Raising a fine young man begins by first declaring this outcome as your goal and treating it as your top priority. The parent has to thoroughly analyze every major decision she makes to be sure that her choices will be the most beneficial to her son. The next step is to determine the qualities and characteristics you hope to instill in him and to live your life as an example of those attributes. For example, when he’s old enough, if you want him to be empathetic to the needs and feelings of others, you might demonstrate to him what that entails by spending one day a week with him volunteering to do something good for someone else. Have conversations with him about those experiences and how they affected him. Some boys have a difficult time talking about their feelings so it’s important to listen carefully to what he does say and to study his facial expressions and body movement to learn his mannerisms and have a clearer idea of what’s going on in his head and heart.

michael with basketball

Infant to Two Years Old – The Cuddle Stage

After your baby’s born, people may advise you to let the baby cry as long as he has been changed and fed. If the screaming causes you anxiety that may be the best advice as babies can sense your anxiety and often cry harder. However, if you feel calm, pick your baby up and hold his ear over your heart so he can listen to your heartbeat. Your son may become dependent on you picking him up right away; but, more importantly, this will instill a sense of safety and security in him that will grow stronger every time this need is met. After he has calmed down and rested comfortably on your chest for five minutes or so, you can try laying him in his crib and talking to him while playing with his toys. If he cries again, pick him back up and hold him until he calms down again. More than likely, one of his toys will eventually grab his attention and instead of wanting to be picked up, he will be happy playing for a while. These are the years you build your child’s sense of love, safety, and security. Cherish the time he lets you hold him because before you know it, you will be chasing him around the house trying to get a hug.

Two Years Old to Four Years Old – The Inquisitive Stage

In the words of Ricky Ricardo, “You’ve got some splaining to do.” These are the years where most kids ask, “Why?” a million and one times in a day. Your child is finding his voice. This is the perfect opportunity for you to build on his foundation of love, safety, and security by teaching him respect. Show him that his voice matters by answering all his ‘whys’ to the best of your ability. This will make him feel respected. It will also build his self-esteem. Encourage his thinking skills by showing him how to find some answers under your supervision on his own whether it be through books, experiments, the internet, or some other means. His inquisitive mind can also put him in dangerous situations; therefore, point out things that could be harmful to him and explain why he needs to steer clear from them. Don’t take for granted that he will heed your warnings. His curiosity may get the better of him so make sure dangerous items are not accessible to him. This is also the stage where many kids throw temper tantrums. They try to manipulate their parents to get something they want. If your son throws a temper tantrum, ignore him as long as he’s not endangering himself. If you give him what he wants, he will continue to use this tactic whenever he wants something that he can’t have. Think about what it was he wanted and why it might have been so important to him. Most temper tantrums have no substance; however, some tantrums indicate a deeper need or fear that should be addressed. For example, maybe he threw a tantrum because you were going out without him. He may have been feeling insecure and fearful that you wouldn’t come back. Maybe, this is his way of letting you know that his babysitter mistreats him. The important thing is that you work on getting to the bottom of it.

Four Years Old to Eight Years Old – The Socializing Stage

Ideally, you would have stayed home with your child up until this time as opposed to relying on someone else to help steer his behaviors and attitudes. However, for most people, especially single parents, that is not an option. While your child may have already started friendships in daycare, these are the years that their friendships and interactions with others begin to take on a deeper level of meaning. In the past, when other children or adults hurt their feelings in seemingly trivial ways, they not only forgot about it shortly afterward but it also left no negative effects on their psyche. In this stage, however, hurtful things may still be quickly forgotten on the surface but if not properly addressed, the residue from what hurt them has the potential to build up like plaque on the psyche. For example, if your child wears glasses and another child calls him ‘four eyes’ or teases him in some way, his self-esteem gets nicked. The next day he may play with that child all day and not even recall that anything was said about his glasses; however, he may feel a little less happy or enthusiastic about wearing them without associating why he feels that way. When you become aware that he doesn’t want to wear his glasses anymore, you can address it by showing him pictures of other people who wear glasses and sharing positive stories about those people. Your response will help restore his self-esteem.

Spend Time Demonstrating the Desired Qualities

With the foundation laid, you can begin building up the walls while admiring your son’s individual characteristics that make him who he is. The best way to influence your son’s behavior is to be an example of the person you hope to see in him. When my son was young, I went without a phone and cable and eliminated other things I didn’t absolutely need so that I could work part-time and spend more time with him. I moved him to a rural area when he entered first grade and because I liked his friends, the school, and the area for him, I stayed there to build on his stability and security. I played baseball with him and his friends. I helped them with their homework and their projects.Whenever he left the house without me, I reminded him to make good choices and to be a good citizen. In addition, I encouraged him to talk to me about what was happening in his life and paid close attention everything he had to say. As a result, he became the wonderful person he is today.

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