Single Mothers Raising Sons: Shaping His Character Part I

“To educate a person in intelligence but not in character is a crime to the human spirit.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

The crisis facing our boys today is the subject of much debate. Since a large number of them are being raised by single mothers, this crisis is close to a single mother’s heart.  I have faced many single mothers of sons and the same frustrated sentiment seems to echo – I don’t know what’s wrong with him!  The same boys that were such loving creatures what seems like just yesterday are now getting into trouble at school, failing or at risk of academic failure, disrespecting their mothers and showing no signs of the lovable little boys they once were. While their mothers are at a loss, answers must still be found.

In his novel The Good Son, Michael Gurian states that boys depend on discipline and moral training. “Once we truly look inside the male mind, we discover that we must as individual family members and as a caregiving culture, spend a lot more time providing love, discipline and moral training to our boys.” As Martin Luther King, Jr. states in the quote above, to fail to educate your son’s character is a crime.

The challenge is not so much in the “how” a single mother builds her son’s character but in the commitment to make the necessary sacrifices and see the job through to completion which can sometimes seem an overwhelming task.

The idea of sacrifice is not foreign to motherhood, most especially not single motherhood. From the moment of conception, mothers sacrifice their bodies, personal comfort, habits, time, energy and more to ensure the safe and healthy development of their child.  It is no surprise that this sacrifice must continue on through their sons’ life as he develops into an adult. 

One of the best ways to teach your son healthy character development is to model appropriate behavior.  Boys are visual creatures and watch what goes on in their surroundings. By modeling behavior you would like to see in your son, he will pick up on some of these habits without you having to say anything to him.  Some of this modeling will come at a sacrifice. There are times when we would love to take the easy road or simply indulge in some “me” time without having to think of how it will affect anyone else. That is where the sacrifice comes in – remembering that our actions do affect someone else. Our sons are watching not only what we say and do, but how we live. The example we set has a lasting impression on them.

Other habits will need to be verbalized. When boys are small, we remind them to speak quietly, not to run in the house, show respect, tell the truth and other character building activities. When boys reach a certain age, we expect them to have internalized these values so that we no longer have to teach them. These values, however, will need to be reinforced well into the teen years as they will reappear in various forms throughout their development.

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Single Mothers Raising Sons: Shaping His Character Part I