The other day my super six year old was at our church's weekly kids program where he made a snack out of pretzels and mini marshmallows. He came home with two baggies of this snack, one for himself, and one for two little girls, a set of twins, at his school. Now, little girls have been crushing on my cutie pie for years now, but he has never really seemed to notice this before. Now, it seems, he has caught on. So now it begins.
I want my boys to be happy. I want them to make those around them happy. I want them to be good friends to their friends, and then good significant others. Since the addition of our second son I have been thinking about how to raise boys into men a lot more than I used to. With our first son I just sort of figured it would all work out. And it probably would have. But with our youngest son I know that might not be the case. I think about his future and how I want him to be happy in his own skin. I want both my boys to be happy with themselves, and to be confident and strong. I know the training for this starts young, and I know I need to:
Teach him to say "hello"... I feel as though I am constantly telling my super six year old to say "hello", or to acknowledge, in some way, that someone is speaking to him. Talking to someone and not getting a reply drives me crazy. I want my boys to understand that respect starts with listening and then responding- showing that you are listening.
Date him... My super six year old loves his "matthew and mommy time", so convincing him to put on a sweater and nice pants and go out to dinner with me shouldn't be too hard. My husband and I were just talking the other day about how it is time now, he is old enough, for me to start showing my oldest son just what it means to spend time with a friend. We have been having our "matthew and mommy time", and our "alex and mommy time", for some time now, but it has always been on their level. Now my oldest is old enough to push this into other learning opportunities.
Teach him to appreciate a friend's brain and talents... we are more than the size of our bodies or the clothes we wear. "Your friend Spencer is a really good artist", I might say to my oldest son. "Look how good your Daddy is at putting that puzzle together." And don't only appreciate it, but
Speak up and share his good thoughts. "Maggie is really good at running races. She is almost as fast as me!", my super six year shared the other day. "Did you tell her that?" "No." I know my sons are not going to learn to compliment others on their talents unless I show them. I compliment them all the time, but do they hear me tell others my good thoughts?
Teach him to be kind... I can tease my husband or my sister, sure. But I also need to show kindness to others. Embarrassing others is not the way to make friends, even if it does sometimes make everyone laugh. Everyone except the one being teased, of course.
Teach him compassion... This is especially important for me, because I have a little one who may have a hard time with this as he ages. Not only do I need to show compassion for my boys, but I need to show it towards others, especially strangers, as well. I need to help my boys connect their feelings to words, and help them understand that everyone has these feelings. My boys and I talk a lot about others and how they are feeling, as well as about how each of them are feeling too.
Teach him to be a gentleman... My super six year old will often hold the door for someone as we leave a building. He will occasionally pick up something I have dropped. His helpfulness comes and goes, of course, as I would expect at his age. Boys need to learn to hold doors open. They need to learn to say "please" and "thank you". Especially "thank you". They need to learn to ask an older adult "How are you today?", and to give up their seat to an older person, if seats are scarce. I don't care if you are a friend, a mother, a girlfriend or a teacher of a boy; everyone appreciates boys who are taught to act like gentlemen. Right now we are working on "walking like a gentleman", something I seem to say every day as my boys tumble out of daycare every evening. The good news? My super six year old will usually hold the door open for that mom carrying the baby carrier and trying to hold the hands of two other children. We are getting there...
This is what we feel is important around here. Raising up our boys to be spiritual, compassionate gentlemen, while still allowing them to be all boy. If they want to wrestle with each other in the backyard more power to them. If they want to be killer fast on the football field, great. If my summer vacation revolves around monster truck shows and a NASCAR race, so be it. But while we are on that vacation, while we are at that race or truck show, I expect my boys to be respectful and gentlemanly. After all, didn't they used to say "Gentlemen, start your engines?" It's all a balancing act, this raising boys into men.