Few things are as strong as a mother’s love for her child. But when it comes to boys, little will rival the connection he shares with his mama. The intricate nature of a mother’s love for her son has been covered by everyone from Maya Angelou to Sigmund Freud and when passed through the lens of class and race in America, that relationship takes on entirely new dimensions. Black men that get caught up in the system of imprisonment and frequent unemployment start off as someone’s baby.
Regardless of whether men grow up in a single parent household or not, moms typically lead child rearing efforts. Much of that time is spent sheltering your boy, protecting his knees and elbows from boo-boos, answering to his call and making him happy. And rightly so. He’s your baby and deserves your love. The problem is that often, the way in which we raise our boys doesn’t always match up with what we and the rest of society expect of them as men.
The term “mama’s boy” probably comes to mind. Clearly a man should have a cherished place in his heart for his mama but that shouldn’t interfere with his ability to have an adult relationship with another woman or be a productive member of society and his community. Even as you spend your last dime to give that perfect little angel love and attention as only a mother can, it’s important to keep your eyes on the end goal: raising a good man.
Kids grow up fast but not over night. There will be plenty of time for your little man to be your baby but along the way, help him be the kind of man any mother can be proud of.
Make him “earn” his keep.
Let’s face it, you’re probably going to do most of the heavy housework but you’re not doing your boy any favors in the long run by leaving him completely out of it. Even something as simple as holding the dustpan works to include younger boys and as he gets older, take your pick of “man” chores he can be responsible for. Not only is tandem housework great bonding time but it reinforces your child’s ideas about partnership in the home and working for his living.
Give him choices
You’re always going to be around for the easy choices–what to eat, when to go to bed, what to wear to school. Sometimes it’s quicker for you to decide for him but much harder choices await him in the not-so-distant future and beyond. Should his first brushes with making decisions that impact his life be the tough choices like smoking, going for a joyride with friends or worse? Men don’t make good choices in life by accident–they need practice. Pick two options you are okay with and let your boy decide on one that’s good for him. The more practice he gets making good decisions under your watchful eye, the easier it will be to make the right choice when you’re not around.
Make him responsible
You have to have your act together when you’re responsible for another life form, even if it has four legs or a set of fins. Dog-walking is especially useful in man training since a dog must be lead by a strong and authoritative figure allowing your boys inner-man to rise to the occasion out of necessity.
No one prefers a broke brother. The road to long-term wealth and financial health is paved with the ideas he is forming about the value of a dollar right now. It’s surprising how much cash children get from friends, family and sometimes perfect strangers, only to blow it all on candy and chips at the corner bodega. It may be too early to be thinking about his retirement but not saving a lil’ something for a rainy day. Short-term savings goals are effective and fun. If he want’s an Xbox kinect, hold out until he can hold on to half the cost then you can put in the other half.
Gentleman in training
If chivalry is dead, it’s because no one is training our boys to be gentleman. Holding a door open, letting a lady go in ahead of you or giving up a seat in our gender-equal society may no longer be necessary but your kid doesn’t know that. If you’ve ever wished a man displayed a bit of chivalry for you, what you really wished is that his mom taught him how to treat a lady from the get.
No Man’s an Island
He’s the center of your world. But in the real world, he’ll need to know that it’s not all about him. In order to be successful in school and life, he’ll need to be a team player, work with people who are from a world of places and check his ego at the door. Team-centric activities like sports and enrichment activities like volunteering and after school activities like working on the school paper are great ways to build people skills.
Stick to your guns
Nothing inspires young black men more than strong black women. That may seem like a tall order at times but a very simple way to show your boy how to be a man of integrity is to exhibit those qualities yourself. Manywomen have a hard time telling their babies something they don’t want to hear (like no) but that’s all part of being a man. Moreover, by not sticking to your word, you show him that he doesn’t need to either.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. He may not like it, but he’ll respect your word. And grow into a man that expects others to respect and trust his.
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