This article lists 15 Lessons I learned so far in raising three primary school-age boys. Each grey hair on my head is a remembrance for the lessons I gathered.
- Do not promise anything that you cannot do.
I remembered I promised my son that we will go bowling when winter comes. The winter here in Australia is June to August. It was too cold to go to the beach or the parks so my son kept asking me WHEN ARE WE GOING?
It was a promise I kept postponing because we had school activities, sports events, a family member got sick, just plain tired and wanted to stay home. The last straw was when my son said: ” Mum, YOU PROMISED.”
My integrity was at stake. If I wouldn’t do this, my son will have TRUST ISSUES with me. It was the last day of winter 31st of August and we finally went and had a wonderful time bowling.
From then on, I seldom make promises. I realized boys have a strong memory when you give your word you will do it. They will GRILL you if you don’t deliver.
Photo by Chaiyaporn Atakampeewong
- Whatever you do to the eldest, do it as well with the other sons.
No matter what you say, it is what you do that they focus on. Example, I bought candies for my three sons. It should always be DIVIDED BY THREE. All of them looked at me opening the packet and I distributed the candies equally. The package has 12 candy packs so there was no issue. There was one that had 10. Each had 3 so who gets the last one? They were waiting who will I give it to. I told them no one. That packet is for dad and mum.
Hugs and kisses should also be given similarly. I thought that the two elder boys were not already into the hug and kiss mum thing. However, my assumption changed when my middle son told me, “You always hug and kiss our youngest brother.” I learned that when I give a hug or kiss to one of them, I should also do it to the other brothers too. No more complaints after that.
If you give them a chore to do, it should always be at the same time. If they play with their gadgets Saturday morning then by the afternoon all of them should be doing their chores like vacuuming the house or folding the clothes. No one should be having a free time while the other one is doing a chore. You don’t want to hear the complaint ” Why is my brother watching TV while I am folding clothes?”
Photo by Tim Gouw
- When you say NO, mean it.
When the decision is a NO, strong resistance will come up. Asserting your parental authority is vital to show to your sons that no matter how many complaints they come up with, your decision will not change.
Saying NO was put to the test when my youngest son had a temper tantrum at the mall. We watched the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles perform on stage. He saw a child in the audience wearing a TMNT costume and I know the price of that was $25. He wanted to have that costume too and I said NO. People around us had curious stares or even judgmental looks why my child was crying so loud. I reasoned out to him we do not need it. It was a luxury for us during that time to buy that costume. No matter what I said, he kept crying. It was one of those days.
We walked all the way to the car park and his cry filled the entire shopping center. When I put his seat belt on, there was still a few tears then came silence. I looked at him and he was fast asleep. When he woke up at home, he already forgot about the costume and hugged me like nothing happened.
Photo by Liam Welch
- Be careful what you say in front of them.
Curse words. Driving can make you say swear words especially when the other driver on the road feels he/she owns the entire highway. There was one driver that cut me off on the road and I said ” Oh sh*t!” My son said ” Oh sh*t!” too when he was playing with me.
I didn’t like what I heard. From then one, I tried to control my words even when I was annoyed with other drivers who were tailgating or cutting me off the road.
Words said out of anger. My sons have a nickname for me when I am furious – HULK MUM. I told them, don’t create an opportunity for me to scream at you. They did. After I calmed down, I felt guilty because they don’t deserve that word ever. I couldn’t take it back. I said sorry after that and I explained to them why I was upset. Even at the height of my annoyance, it is not an excuse to say offensive words.
Self-confidence. Primary school children are in the process of developing their self-esteem. They will ask questions if they can do this or they can do that. It is a big deal for my sons when they made a mistake. They take it personally. With the help of their school teacher, my husband and I advise them that we make mistakes too but we learn from them and move on. Love and support the boys.
Photo by Dakota Corbin
- The presence of the father or father-figure is important.
The presence of the father in their life is necessary because they are learning to become a man. There is something about the company of dads that is so COOL.
Outdoor activities. ” Son, this is how you kick the ball.”
” This is how you hold the basketball.”
” Hold the bat this way.”
” Son, let’s go fishing.”
” Let’s enjoy the outdoors and go hiking and camping!”
” Son, this is the anime we watched when we were young, DRAGON BALL Z.” ( They discussed the characters on and on.)
Son: ” Dad, I can beat you in this video game!”
Dad: ” No, you won’t.”
As mums, we try to be the best that we can be. Still, we cannot teach what we don’t know. We cannot give what we don’t have. Sometimes, conversations are better handled by dads especially when it comes to personal development: physical changes and attraction towards the opposite sex.
Photo by Filios Sazeides
- Spend time with them. Your presence is more important than the toy.
Even if you bought them a toy, they still want your presence. One time, I was exhausted with all the household chores. My son kept telling me to come and sit with him and play with the train set. I told him I need to lie down for 10 minutes then I can play with him.
He took the kitchen timer and timed me for 10 minutes! While I was lying down in bed, he kept reminding me at the door that I still have 8 minutes to rest. Then, he came again and told me I had still 5 minutes. I wasn’t able to rest because I had reminders by the minute!!!
My boys may not have the most expensive toy but we played board games and ball games that we laughed together, got annoyed with each other (especially Monopoly) but still part of treasured memories looking back.
Photo by Michael Bergmann
- There is no one perfect strategy for raising boys.
One strategy for disciplining a child may be effective with the eldest son but may not be suitable for the middle child or the youngest one. It is up to the mum to CUSTOMIZE.
Strategy 1: Be brutally frank about it. No holds barred. The truth will wake him up.
Strategy 2: Explain it to the tiniest detail with as much time as possible. Use normal voice. Be patient when answering queries.
Strategy 3: Compromise. If you do this, then you will get that.
Listen to the boys and to older mums because it is a part of learning.
- Quotes from the boys
The boys come home from school telling me stories of what happened that day. My eldest told me, ” Mum, I heard someone said, Do not ASSUME because you are making an ASS of U and ME.”
(Second son ) Mum, you are stress-eating again. Why are you eating ice cream again?!
(Youngest son) Mum, I have a joke. ” How did the egg cross the road?”
- Older mums than you
Older mums inform me that I have to enjoy my boys while they are still young and while they still prefer my company. There will come a time when they will have their own set of schedules, prefer the company of friends and outdoors than stay home with mum and dad.
- They are smarter than you think and can immediately feel that something is not right.
It is better to tell the truth. Explain it to them using age-appropriate words. When they saw me crying, I told them that mum just feels homesick. At least, they wouldn’t think of other out of this world reasons why mum is weeping.
- Do not be too hard on yourself.
There will be regrets along the way stabbing yourself with the question “WHY DID I DO THAT?” Sometimes, I have sleepless nights thinking, am I doing the right thing? I have a big responsibility raising young men.
My mother advised me to pray for it. “Yes Shirin, it is challenging raising children. You know now what I felt when I was raising you. Pray for wisdom and strength.”
Photo by Olivia Snow
- READ more to learn more.
I recommend the book RAISING BOYS by Steve Biddulph. The part of the book that got stuck in my head is the topic: words we say to our children. If the mum keep saying to her child ” YOU NAUGHTY BOY!”, the child might think ” Yeah, my mum is right. I am a naughty boy.” It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that he is a naughty boy and therefore create more circumstances of proving he is definitely a BAD BOY.
- Ask for advice.
As a mum, it is impossible to have the answers all the time. It is better to seek help from a trustworthy family, friend or even a psychologist when the issue is too personal.
- Teamwork is necessary between mum and dad.
If you said NO to your sons but their dad answered YES, it creates confusion with whom to follow and believe. PARENTAL AUTHORITY IS CHALLENGED. When the question of the child is a major decision like starting a sports activity or joining a club, dad and mum should have the same answer.
Once, I heard my husband tell the boys, “Your mum will get angry at you.” I didn’t like it because I felt that I was the VILLAIN of the house and he is their best friend forever. Therefore, I told my husband about it. From then on, whenever we discipline the boys, he now says, ” Your mother and I are upset with… ” or ” We didn’t like what you did because…”
Moreover, there are times when one parent should stay cool when the other parent is becoming too emotional: mad, worried, stressed out. The cool parent should be the one talking or listening to the child when the other parent tries to calm down.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo
- No favoritism.
Encountering the questions: ” Mum, who is the most handsome?
Am I the coolest?
Isn’t it I am the BEST in playing ________ (fill in the blank)
Questions like these made me feel I was answering a MISS UNIVERSE FINAL QUESTION.
I always tell them ” I do not want to compare. All of you have your own strengths and weaknesses. Remember, Dad and I love all of you.”
Sibling rivalry is real. Having a favorite makes it even worse.
- Be specific with your instructions.
If you say ” CLEAN YOUR ROOM.” you will just be disappointed. Give the boys specific instructions because based on my experience, it is more effective. Consulting them and meeting halfway works. The tasks should be:
SMART : Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Time-bound
- Fix your bed.
- Arrange the books on the bedside table.
- Hang your clothes.
- Fold the clothes and put them in the drawers.
- Put the dirty clothes in the hamper.
The tasks can be done for one hour either Saturday or Sunday depending upon the final negotiations between parent and child.
The reason why I was able to make them help me with the chores is that I told them the TRUTH.
” Boys, I am not getting any younger. I need help with the chores.”
“If you do the chores then you can ( REWARD) ____________ fill in the blank.
Give them options with the rewards so they will do the chore.
I am learning life’s lessons one day at a time as a parent. It will be a new ball game for me when my sons will all be teenagers or young adults. As of this moment, I am sharing with you what I found effective with raising primary school-age boys. My three sons make my life interesting and meaningful. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Photo by Matthew Sleeper