Overview: Want to raise well-behaved sons? Parenting boys shouldn’t be such a STRUGGLE. These small TWEAKS will give you to tools you need for raising well-behaved sons. You can do this!
As a mom with two well-behaved teenage sons, I’m often asked for advice by moms with younger kids. Parenting can be such a joy. But when our children are disrespectful, whiny, and don’t listen to us, it’s extremely frustrating.
We’re doing everything in our power to raise our children in a loving home, to provide them with everything they need to grow into happy and healthy adults. And we’re expending a lot of effort to do so. In fact, we often put so much of our hearts and souls into our parenting that there isn’t anything left for ourselves.
So what’s a parent to do when our kids refuse to mind or have so much energy that we can’t even take them out in public without feeling like we’ve reached the end of our rope?
Here are 10 Tips for Raising Well-Behaved Sons
1 – Boys Need Physical Outlets
It’s normal for our sons to have lots of energy. Be sure your boys have had some sort of exercise or active play time before you want them to sit still in a restaurant or behave in a store. Boys behave much better if they have active outlets. We would never expect a puppy to sit still for hours and hours without first being taken for a vigorous walk. That same concept holds true for our sons.
Let your sons engage in active playtime before expecting them to participate in more sedentary activities. Tire them out! Enroll them in sports. Set up play dates. Get them outside. Of course, we want them to have self-control and to be able to sit still. And it will happen as they get older. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a skill that happens over time.
2 – Have Proper Expectations
Sometimes the problem is that we are expecting more than our boys are capable of delivering. If we are expecting our 3-year-old to sit quietly in a restaurant for 2 hours while we have a lovely conversation with our best friend, we are being delusional. If we want our 10-year-old to not only do his chores but to be cheerful while doing them, that’s probably not going to happen, either.
Whether our child enjoys doing his chores or not, he needs to learn to do them willingly – but cheerfully may be a stretch. Truth be told, I don’t feel very cheerful when I’m doing the dishes or cleaning the toilets and that’s probably true for most of us.
Also, don’t think that if you go shopping during your child’s nap that he’ll be able to behave in the same way as if he were fully rested. Our children aren’t adults. We need to manage the expectations we have for their behavior. We frustrate ourselves and our children when we forget that. Let’s set our kids up for success!
3 – Set a Good Example
Our kids sure do know how to push our buttons, don’t they?!? It’s important that we are kind but firm when speaking to our children. No matter how disrespectful they are being, we need to remember that it isn’t personal. They are learning what is and isn’t acceptable in our homes.
Our job is to train our kids how we would like them to behave, which includes how we want them to speak to us. And that isn’t going to happen if we are constantly losing our tempers or speaking in an unkind tone. This isn’t easy! But it’s vital. And when we mess up, we need to be willing to apologize to our kids.
If we want our children to be helpful, we need to be helpful. If we want them to be industrious and to make good use of their time, we need to do the same. If we want them to limit the amount of time they spend on their devices, we need to limit the amount of time we spend on ours. If we want them to become readers they need to see us reading. Remember that most lessons are caught, not taught.
4 – Give Rewards and Praise
Kids love attention so we are wise if we give them attention for the behavior that we want to reinforce rather than only for their negative behavior. Adults respond positively to praise and children do as well. Of course, some kids are easier to praise than others. But one of the best ways to get our kids to behave the way we would like them to is for us to praise them when they do.
Some experts say we should praise our children 10 times for every 1 critique we offer up. Most of us parents probably do that the other way around, which can be frustrating to our kids. We need to be careful not to frustrate them by focusing too much on their failures and flaws. And remember that making mistakes is a great way for our kids to learn!
Giving rewards can also be useful. If you tell your child you will let him eat a box of animal crackers on the way home if he is quiet and helpful while you’re in the grocery store, that can help motivate him to be well-behaved. Find out what types of rewards will be motivating to your child and create some WIN-WIN situations.
5 – Listen to Him
If we want our kids to listen to us, we need to listen to them. This is another case where we need to model the type of behavior we want to see in our kids. When your son asks you a question, give him good eye contact and really listen. Don’t continue scanning your phone or making a mental list in your mind while he talks. And listen to HEAR rather than listening to RESPOND. This ensures that you really hear what he has to say rather than being distracted by trying to formulate your response while he’s talking.
Our kids deserve our full attention as often as we can give it to them. There will be plenty of times when they need to wait for us to have the time to talk with them. But we show our kids how valuable they are to us when we are willing to give them our time and attention.
6 – Respect Him
Similarly to the last point, if we want our kids to be respectful of us, we need to be respectful of them. Knowing how to honor and respect us isn’t something our children are born knowing how to do. They need to be taught. They learn how to respect others by watching us. Are we constantly interrupting others while they’re talking?
Do we live by the golden rule putting other people’s needs before our own? I love this quote by L. R. Knost, “It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”
7 – Make Sure He Understands Your Expectations
If we want our children to behave a certain way we need to let them know. Rather than just assuming they know that they need to stay next to the cart while in the grocery store, be prepared to tell them before you enter the store. And realize you will need to repeat this information every time you go. It’s easy for us parents to think that kids should understand what we expect from them because we’re already told them umpteen times. But that isn’t always the case.
And be sure you spell out the exact behavior you would like to see from them. Rather than saying, “Please behave while we’re in the store” it’s more effective to say, “I would like you to hold onto the cart, use your inside voice, and stay with me. Don’t beg for anything. If you see something you would like to try, you can ask. But you need to accept my decision as to whether or not we can buy something this time. If you whine, my answer is no.” The more specific you can get, the better.
And you will probably need to give gentle reminders throughout the store as well. Our kids get excited by all of the sights and sounds in stores and restaurants. If your child lets go of the cart and then starts to wander down the aisle, remind him to hang onto the cart. If he whines while asking for something, ask him what your answer will be if he whines. Stay calm as much as possible and view whatever situations arise as teaching moments.
8 – Let Him Know What’s Next
If you are at the park and your child is having a wonderful time playing with other kids, you are setting him up for failure if you simply stand up and say, “We’re leaving” without any kind of warning. It’s much better to let him know that you’ll be leaving in 15 minutes and then again in 5 minutes so that he is prepared for what’s to come.
Think about it. Would you appreciate it if your husband walked in while you were talking with a friend and interrupted your conversation by saying, “We need to leave right now” in a firm voice? Probably not. Our kids are the same way. They do much better if they have a chance to get used to the idea of leaving and to wrap up whatever they’re doing.
This is also helpful when it comes to bedtime. Rather than just yelling out bedtime at a certain time and expecting our children to realize it’s 7:30 at night, let them know in advance that it will be bedtime in half an hour. Or that they’ll have to start picking up their toys in 15 minutes.
This tip is even helpful with older children. In the morning, let your tweens know that you expect them to take a shower that evening. On Mondays, let your teens know that the family will be attending an event that Saturday so if they’re going to make plans with friends, they will need to work around it. Communication is key no matter what age your children happen to be.
8 – Choose Your Battles
No matter how well-behaved our children are, they aren’t always going to act exactly the way we want them to. This is partly because they aren’t us. And it’s partly because they often inherit some of the most annoying traits of ourselves or of our spouses rather than the ones we wish they had.
If our son has 10 habits we’d like him to change, we would do well to choose the 1 thing we want to focus on first and work with him on that rather than trying to train him to modify everything at once. It’s easy for our kids to feel like failures and to give up if we are constantly picking at them.
9 – Be Consistent
This is another hard one, but if we want our children to behave in a certain way, we need to be consistent with our expectations. It’s easy to get tired and to let things slide one day – only to become irritated and to insist on better behavior the next.
This is confusing for our children. If you want your son to sit quietly and use his inside voice while sitting in a restaurant we can’t allow him to run around and holler when we’re feeling too exhausted to correct him. Or when we have an important email we want to answer.
10 – Don’t Let Them Wear You Down With Bad Behavior
The easiest way to calm while training our children is to stay on top of things. If we let our kids beg over and over and finally give in, they will learn to beg and beg until we cave. If they learn that if they run away from us we’ll eventually sit down and stop chasing them, they’ll keep on running. If older kids learn that they can stay out until all hours of the night and there won’t be any consequences, then that’s exactly what they’ll do.
We have a rule in our house that my boys need to text “made it” to us once they arrive at their destination and “on our way” when they’re on the way home. They also keep us posted on if their plans change and where they’re at so that we know they’re safe. They are very consistent about doing this, which helps us to be more willing to give them freedom using the family car.
When they first started driving, however, there were a few times when they forgot to text. They drove to basketball practice and we didn’t know whether they made it or not. This happened a couple of times and my husband decided it was time to nip that in the bud. When we texted them and they didn’t respond, he drove to the gym where they were practicing, marched in, and said something to them in front of their teammates. They were embarrassed and have been very faithful in texting ever since. Every time they leave the house, we still say, “We love you. Remember to text.” We don’t assume they will remember.
Parenting boys can be a struggle at times. Especially for us moms. But it can also be an incredible joy if we remember that it’s our job to train our boys to become well-behaved. Most children aren’t born with the ability to be well-behaved without learning how to do so.
Rather than being frustrated with our kids when they don’t act the way we would like, let’s view these times as teachable moments. Let’s take every opportunity to mold and shape our sons into young men who understand what it means to be well-behaved. When our sons learn these good habits while living in our homes, they will someday grow into men who apply these lessons in families of their own.
How have you been intentional about raising well-behaved sons? Do you have any other tips you can share? Please leave a comment below.