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Mothering Boys — Humor is a Key Ingredient


I am the mother to 8 boys.  If you have boys, then you already understand why humor is so important. 

kathybasketball.jpgHaving eight boys means that our home runs more like a frat house.  I absolutely LOVE being mom to all these boys.  It has been God's greatest gift to me, along with my very-longed-for daughter.  I want to be honest though: when I found out that my first baby was a son I wondered what God was thinking.  I was, and still am, such a girly girl — how would I ever raise a son? And then eight sons?

Thankfully, our boys have a wonderful dad, and he was raised in an all-boy world of five brothers.  Pete has helped me a lot with understanding when to relax, when to step back, and when to trust my mother instincts.  Most importantly, Pete taught me to laugh at myself and helped me to see how necessary it is, when communicating with my boys, to use their language yet still speak as their mother.  Humour is very often the best teacher, because it can disarm tense moments and help smooth ruffled feathers.

I have very little advice about raising boys, because I'm still in the trenches, but I do want to share that keeping a sense of humour is key: KEY!

Boys are, at every step of their journey, working towards becoming men.  Getting them there alive may seem an impossible task sometimes, because if they are not putting themselves in harm's way, their posturing and independent ways can make you wonder if you, their mom, will survive until they become adult.


But keeping a sense of humour and, by your example, teaching them to keep one as well will save many a moment when you find yourself locked into a disagreement and realise, "This is not the battle I was looking for today"; when you are locked in because there is a precedent to be set and an underlying reason why you must stick to your guns; and they, on the other hand, really just want to get their own way and want you to understand and trust them.

And — let's face it — boys can be turkeys.  When a boy begins to pull the "It's not fair" routine, rather than launching into a speech on how life is not fair, try telling him instead that you stay up late at night plotting ways to keep things unfair, and then give him the "I love you" smile.  Boys understand this type of dialogue.  When he begins to point out inconsistencies in how you treat him compared to one of his brothers — the "It's not fair" statement coupled with the "You're showing favourites" guilt trip — agree with him.  "You let Simon have the last cookie? Why not me? You always let Simon have the last cookie.  He had the last cookie yesterday, too!" I respond, "I love him more", or "I like him best today", and give the frustrated boy the "I love you" in sign language.  I usually hug him, too.  I say this so often that my boys really understand my meaning to be, "Quit feeling sorry for yourself".  Boys get this a lot better than a speech about how you're not showing favourites. 

Do NOT wallow in parent guilt in front of boys.  They will figure this out and use it to manipulate you in order to get their own way later on. 

When they get surly, and they will, be obvious and truthful in your response, depending on the situation.  "Mom, didn't you say that you're giving up sugar?" Rude snicker as he points to the dark chocolate you're enjoying.  An honest reply, "Thank you for reminding me.  I'll set this chocolate aside and go back to thinking about the new chores I was working on before the dark chocolate goodness distracted me".

Believe me, my boys get surly, and they get a response to it that (usually) brings some humour to the moment but also tells them to dial it down.  If they sometimes engage in more surliness (because they are kids, after all) and sometimes mis-read my tone to mean "Keep going" instead of "Whoa, boy", a gentle redirection letting them know "I meant stop!" will often bring about a respectful end to the surliness.

Even though they are not there yet, I find that most battles between mother and son are springing from the place with a boy that is crying out to be acknowledged with more respect. 

Chores: They are all resistant to cleaning up after themselves, cleaning the house, cleaning in general.  The reality is, though, that they actually like having order.  Teaching them that they are not young kings on their thrones but a part of a family is crucial.  I will never forget ranting one day that they must believe in fairies, because they never pick up after themselves, gripe, gripe, gripe.  I was really worked up.  Finally, I stated, "There are no such things as fairies!", and on cue Son Number Two began clapping his hands and shouting, "I do believe in fairies, I do, I do!" We all remember this very fondly.  It was a moment when surliness actually diffused Mom-needs-to-calm-down.  We all laughed, and now, when I want them to understand that I'm ready to rant about their lack of pick-up, I just have to say, "There are no such things as fairies", and they begin their hilarious antics, one shouting, "I do believe in fairies!", while others flit about.  Then they get busy cleaning up.

I require chores, and I require that they do them well.  If a boy begins in on the whole "martyr/woe is me" business, I begin singing, "Cinder (insert name here), Cinder........, night and day....", and I keep singing this until the whining stops.  They hate this, HATE it, yet they would rather me be silly than have me start in on a rant.  Also, they cannot help but smile, because in our home you cannot play the martyr: too many people are ready to correct you.  They'll often begin boasting about who has the worst chore, the hardest homework, etc., one-upping each other to the point of absurdity.  Humour helps bring the martyr back to reason.

I believe that deep down boys want to be men and want to be treated with the dignity of being men.  Even though they are not there yet, I find that most battles between mother and son are springing from the place with a boy that is crying out to be acknowledged with more respect.  When I correct them with humour, I think my boys know that I trust them enough to understand the correction without my having to resort to reprimands or speeches.  (You'll have to do that often enough, because sometimes they'll cross a line, fall on their faces, and really mess up.  It is your job then to help them up, brush them off, and guide them into understanding how it all went wrong.) When it comes to the little moments within a day, all those tiny redirections and corrections can be done with humour.  Try it: you'll be surprised at how well boys respond to this.  A warning though: humour does not belittle.  I would never belittle my children.  Rather, I like to help them to see the absurd and ridiculous.  And the truth is that they help me to see it, too.



Kathryn R. "Mothering Boys — Humor is a Key Ingredient." 9PeasMom.  (January 16, 2014). 

Reprinted with permission.  

The Author

kathyR.jpgHi, I'm Kathryn (Kathy). You should know that my children, my husband, and my Catholic faith are my life. I love sharing recipes, blogging, all things Southern, Nacho Cheese Doritos {just being honest here} and watching movies with my family — we love to not just watch movies, but we quote movies, and compare movies and probably drive other people crazy with our strange love, and hobby regarding the cinema. We have a home that operates more like a frat house than a charming little hamlet like I envisioned growing up and planning my 'one day' family...and I'm just fine with that, in fact I love it.

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