10 Tips for Single Mothers Raising Sons – 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts

10 Tips for Single mothers raising sons - 5 Dos and 5 Don'ts

10 Tips for Single mothers raising sons – 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal 10 tips – 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts for single mothers raising sons.

First a quick update:

“Is it ever a good idea to date a friend’s ex?”
HerCampus.com posed the question and you can read my insights here.

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Now, let’s talk about the 10 tips – 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts for single mothers raising sons.

Being a single mother is extraordinarily challenging with tremendous financial, physical, mental, and emotional pressures. Raising a son on your own, is even more difficult.

First, here are the words of caution – the 5 “Don’ts”:

1. Don’t make him your ‘man’
A client was revealing to me that he feels a romantic attachment to his mother. For him, it began when he was 4 years of age and she was being hit by her husband. She turned to her son and asked him for comfort. Soon, she divorced the abusive husband and said to her son, “You are my man.”

It is a common occurrence for single mothers (and even married mothers who feel disconnected from their husbands) to turn to their young son for emotional support. However, this creates enmeshment: the child is unable to form his own identity; he cannot psychologically and emotionally separate himself from his mother, is plagued with guilt, and grows up afraid and angry at the world. The child cannot replace or play the role of an adult male. He cannot process or understand your emotions.

Set physical and emotional boundaries for him and for yourself.

2. Don’t make him ‘the man of the house’
While this behavior seems to be similar to calling him your ‘man’, it is actually an added layer where he feels responsible for the household, for his mother’s wellbeing and even for the financial responsibilities. Some young boys will go and seek work to help or they will be overwrought with self-loathing and helplessness for not being able to turn things around. Remember, a young boy cannot be your emotional rescuer.

3. Don’t teach or encourage him to hate his father and all men
You can be angry at the father if he has failed to perform his responsibilities or failed to live up to your expectations. However, he is still the biological father of your son and your son has a right to connect or communicate with his father, until such time, that it is clear that it is damaging to the son to do so.

Be careful to not punish the father by refusing him the right to see his son as this will only punish the son. I have many teenage clients who suffer from depression, confusion and anger because they do not have access to or a relationship with their father. Be careful also to not punish the father by poisoning your son’s perception of his father with lies as this will only hurt the son who will grew up angry, spiteful and vengeful towards the world. He will also one day openly resent you for blocking him or lying to him about his father.

4. Don’t emasculate him
Beware of being a domineering and overbearing mother, which will result in him becoming fearful, insecure and afraid of women. Beware of engaging in constant criticism, scolding, yelling, screaming or implicit or explicit suggestions that nothing he ever does is good enough. This behavior will destroy his confidence and prevent him from being able to express himself and his masculinity.

Because of testosterone, boys are naturally aggressive, competitive, and highly physical. Don’t stop him from appropriately expressing this as it will cause him to rebel later, defy authority and even potentially become a bully to other children.

5. Don’t make him a momma’s boy
A momma’s boy is someone who has been cotton-wooled (sheltered) by his mother to the extent that she does everything for him – cooking, cleaning and washing his clothes even when he is an adult or in late teen years; she even makes decisions and controls his life. The momma’s boy learns to become fully dependent on his mother and believes women exist to serve him. By treating him as a momma’s boy you rob him of the necessary lesson to be responsible, independent and self-reliant. He will never be able to become a strong role model.

Here are the suggested tips – the 5 “Dos”

1. Welcome male role models
In the same way that a father cannot truly discuss, guide or enlighten his daughter about her physical and biological development (he cannot speak from personal experience), a mother cannot truly discuss, guide or enlighten her son about his physical and biological development as well as his other emotional needs.

Also, adolescent males engage in ‘all or nothing’ thinking. They need other male role models with whom they are close and respect to become clear about their masculine identity and definition. They need real life role models and not the media’s myths of men. Don’t let him choose character traits from Hollywood and the media.

Seek out clubs, organizations and sports teams for him to connect with other males and potential role models and mentors. It is also okay to ask for help and support when you find yourself struggling with him and whatever he is experiencing.

All children need a sense of belonging. Seek out tribes/teams for him before he does – before he joins gangs.

Point out to your son the positive qualities in men whenever you see and experience them.

2. Embrace his masculinity and differences
Even if your son has a similar temperament to you, he will have a different emotional component to you. Teach him your values and, let him be him. Beware of expecting him or teaching him to respond to the world with your emotions and perspective. Boys need to be physical, to exercise and to engage in sports; let him play and express his physicality. Girls tend to be more verbal than boys; thus, girls generally bully with words, and boys generally bully with physical force.

3. Watch out for isolation, withdrawal or aggressiveness
Teens naturally struggle to find their identity and this can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions – confusion, anger, rebelliousness and so forth. However, be on the lookout for when your son is particularly aggressive or displays isolation or he withdraws; these are signs that he is failing to connect with others and is possibly missing male attention and interaction.

4. Model emotionally balanced behavior
Children absorb the emotions of their parents, particularly the most dominant parent or the one with whom they feel the most connected. Thus, if you are the only parent, your child is going to absorb and subconsciously emulate and copy your emotions and values. If you throw tantrums or scream, your son is either going to react to them negatively (becoming fearful, angry and resentful) or he is going to express those same emotions and in the same way he sees you behaving and expressing those emotions. Teach your son emotional intelligence.

5. Take care of yourself
Although this is tip no. 5 it is extremely critical. You cannot take care of your son if you don’t take care of yourself. In many sober living homes for teens, a key philosophy is to teach the parent or parents to take physical, mental and emotional care of themselves. This implies making time for yourself, to do the things you love and need to do for mental and emotional calm and fulfillment. When you take care of yourself, your son feels less pressure to take care of you. Say to your son “I am an adult and can take care of myself.”

Remember, the way you express self-love will be more important and impactful on your son than any words you might use.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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