15 Lessons I learned so far in Raising Boys

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.

  1. 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

cat staring at you
Human, you made a promise to a little boy.
  1. 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

candies
Okay, let’s divide these equally among you.
  1. 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

eye of a boy
Watch out! Tears falling soon.
  1. 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.The best gift is you sign on a wall

Photo by Dakota Corbin

  1. 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!”

  Indoor activities.

” 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

father and son on a surfboard
This is how you do it, son.
  1. 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

train set
PLAY
  1. 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.

  1. Listen to the boys and to older mums because it is a part of learning.

 

  1. 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?”

Answer: Splat!”

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

praying hands
PRAY
  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

couple wallking
Dad: So what do we say to the kids?
Mum: Can’t think straight. Let’s have some ice cream.
  1. 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.

  1. 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

  1. Fix your bed.
  2. Arrange the books on the bedside table.
  3. Hang your clothes.
  4. Fold the clothes and put them in the drawers.
  5. Put the dirty clothes in the hamper.
  6. Vacuum.

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

 

 

Just Dance 2016

guy dancing on the street

The boys excitedly handed out a  second-hand Just Dance 2016 game to me one Sunday afternoon. We tried to play the game out of curiosity. As a mother, here are my ten thoughts about the game.

  1. It is a game that hit me with the reality about the status of my weight.

I love to dance but the moves made me feel my toned fats were too heavy. I was trying to catch my breath after a more than 3-minute song! It was the day I discovered how badly I needed to lose weight. Talking about an in denial mum!

Photo by Carlos Bretón

bear
It is time to take a stand and LOSE THIS BELLY FAT!
  1. It gave me the opportunity to play a game with the boys.

I have driven for years but the boys kept giving me advice on how to drive in a Mario Kart game.

“Keep your hands still mummy.” Of course, I always fall off the cliff in that game!

Just Dance gave me the chance to shine and receive my 3 or 4 or 5 stars just following the dance steps! I no longer hear the bits of wisdom coming from the boys this time.

  1. It is an alternative to gym exercise.

It takes dedication to go to the gym, run on the treadmill and use the gym equipment until the muscles hurt.  I had the option to sweat at the comfort of my home with Just Dance video game. Fit and healthy me soon! Fingers crossed.

  1. Learning the modern dance moves made me feel young.

It really looks cool doing those moves. So this is the kind of dance they are doing now! So what if I am doing it wrong? Dancing with the boys rubbed in me their youthful energy.

  1. I discovered new songs I like to dance to.  

Gibberish by Max

Animals by Martin Garrix

Blame by Calvin Harris featuring John Newman

I can still appreciate songs of today. My playlist is not limited anymore to the songs of my generation.

  1. It is a game that makes the boys move and dance.

I try to limit the video game time of the boys. I just see them sit around staring at the monitor or television. With this game, it is like inserting exercise in their schedule!

  1. I felt good after dancing the playlist.

I could have eaten a brownie or devouring my favorite chips. NO. I used my 30 minutes to dance. It was the right decision.Raising my heartbeat and sweating away my fats felt sensational.

Based on my experience, you must have a dance buddy to push you to dance and exercise or else, excuses will start rolling in.

  1. It is another way to do family bonding time.

Weekends come by so fast. One way of spending quality time indoors is to play this game.  It was fun teasing or challenging the boys to dance a particular song we know the steps are suited for girls. My son remarked “Seriously!” after dancing to Born this Way by Lady Gaga.

Furthermore, you will encounter songs that are easy or difficult to dance with. The good news is if you keep on dancing the same song over and over with family, you will get used to it even if you have two left feet. Watching ourselves and laughing about it is time well spent.

Photo by Simon Noh 

sign: NO MUSIC,NO LIFE.

  1. We could sing while waiting for our turn to dance.

While the song is playing, the lyrics are shown at the bottom left corner of the screen.  When we are not sure what the word we heard was, we just look at the lyrics and sing our hearts out.

  1. The little technophobe in me is gradually slipping away.

Oh sure, just press x or the circle then go up.  Trying to learn how to turn on and off and reading the options was a bit too much for me. Learning how to manipulate technology is one step away from feeling obsolete.

 

My family gave me Just Dance 2017 for my birthday. Hopefully, I could dance away the food I ate during winter time. Spring is here and it is time for new beginnings and new YOU! Are you with me?

 

What are the 10 advantages of having sons?

“Have another child. Maybe it is a girl this time.” This is the top comment I always get from acquaintances and even friends. I am happy and grateful with my three sons so I am enumerating my ten advantages of having them.

  1. Fewer mood swings

During conversations, I often hear mothers complain about their daughter’s mood swings especially during that time of the month. When girls are young, they tend to fight for what they want. As if the mother and daughter are competing to be the queen bee of the house.  I cannot relate to this. With my sons, they also have their moments but not that nasty.

  1. Big help in carrying heavy loads

They are now a great help when we decide some things are better at the dumping site. Move the furniture. Bring the ladder here or there.  Put the luggage in the car. Help mum put the bags of groceries in the trolley. Assist mum in getting the groceries from the car to the house especially the 10 kg bag of rice!

three boys in a photo
The clothes are worth it. My sons don’t care if the clothes aren’t new!
  1. Hand-me-down clothes are the norm for having three boys in the family.

You can also have hand-me-down clothes with daughters too if the clothes are still in fashion. With my boys now, it is just simple fashion: t-shirt, shorts, jeans or pants. These staple items do not go out of style. The clothes could be worn for years.

  1. Bathroom use is a lot faster.

My son told me that when he was in camp, all the boys were ready while the girls were still in the bathrooms. At home, taking a shower and brushing teeth took 12 minutes.

Having sons is also good for the environment. They can pee at the same time.  Only one toilet flush is needed.

  1. Shopping is quick.

The boys are like men. When they go to the store, there must be a purpose why they should be there. If we are in a shopping center, we will buy socks, underwear and jeans.  Those are the goals then go home. We are finished in an hour.

My boys do not want to go shopping with me especially if they know I do not have anything particular to buy. They know by heart that one hour for me is not enough.

  1. Boys can carry on the family name.

I come from a culture where I changed my last name and used the last name of my husband when we got married. I do not know about my sons’ future but if they get married, our last name will go on.

three voys on air at the beach
T-shirts, shorts and good old running shoes.. done! Let’s go!
  1. Fewer expenses for accessories

I do not have to buy makeup, bra, sanitary pads and accessories like necklaces to match the clothes.

  1. Boys don’t get pregnant.

I overheard conversations were the parents stalked their daughter while on a date because of fear the couple might do something irresponsible.  The fear is real and it is more intense with raising girls.

You might tell me that the boys might get someone pregnant. Yes, that is another issue. I am scared out of my wits.

  1. Aside from my husband, I have another male’s point of view three times.

Men and women think differently.  I was telling my sons“ I was just looking at the goods.” They all started giggling. “ Mum, it sounds so wrong. Looking at the goods. Hahaha.”

I was thinking about the store items and the boys were thinking about private parts.

Sometimes it is interesting to learn how boys think because it gives me a fresh perspective about what is going on in their heads.

  1. I have the power to raise loving men.

World news is filled with bad representatives of the male species. I could make a difference to society by trying my very best to raise loving, loyal, respectful, resilient, disciplined and productive male citizens. They will be future dads, husbands, uncles, friends, workers, colleagues, volunteers or possibly even the boss. Who knows? I am not a perfect mum and still learning lessons along the way. Getting all the help I need is what I will do.

mother and three boys in front of a large temple
I hope and pray I am raising them right.. so help me God.

How about you?  What are the benefits of having sons?