25 Rules for Mothers of Sons

Raising a good man is one of the most important jobs in the world, and mamas, I know you take it seriously. I take it pretty seriously too. With 11- and 6-year-old sons I think a lot about the young men my boys are poised to become. Will they be good men? How will they one day serve humanity? Will they call me every Sunday? Will they dread those calls?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do have a game plan. You see, as any Listy McListerson person does, I developed a wish list of character traits I hoped to instill in my sons, and worked backwards to create a list of 25 rules for myself as a mother (inspired by Diapers & Daisies 28 Rules for Fathers of Sons). See if you agree.

  • Raising a wonderful son 1 of 26

    Today I share this list of 25 rules for mothers of sons composed with an open heart, because gentle reminders of where we're headed and why just feels good.

  • Give her a chance 2 of 26

    Mama, I know it's hard to give up your place as the #1 woman in your son's life, but one day you'll be asked to step aside for a young lady eager to cherish your son the way you always have. Give this young lady a chance to win your heart. You raised a prize of a young man - trust his judgement.

  • Keep him humble 3 of 26

    Mama, don't let your sons grow up to be Spencer Pratts. But like seriously, please no more Frodo Douchebagginses. When we work to instill gratitude, empathy, charity and accountability within our sons, humanity-at-large scores in a very big way.

  • Be his secret weapon 4 of 26

    Your precious boy will get knocked down and pushed around - and not just by playground meanies. Even though life has a funny way of teaching our boys lessons the hard way, resist the temptation to swoop in as mommyguard. Instead, serve as your son's secret weapon - one of support, tenderness, strategy, and strength.

  • Love whatever he gives you 5 of 26

    First came random rocks and handfuls of goldfish crackers, followed by Christmas bow barrettes and rainbow scarves. Cherish every gift your son gives you - whether bought, found, or created with his own two hands. You already have his heart, the rest are just tangible precious reminders.

  • Respect his father 6 of 26

    If you can love your son's father, do. But if love is off the table for whatever reason, respect him as much as possible. When parents love and respect one another, sons win.

  • Teach him table manners 7 of 26

    Basic? Yes. Difficult? Hell yes, but do you really want your son to grow to be a one-date wonder someday? No. You want grandchildren. Teach your boy proper table manners.

  • Surround him with strong women 8 of 26

    Surround your son with strong female influences whenever possible. From grandmas to aunts, friends, and teachers, when our sons bear witness to bold women doing great things, they grow to understand and appreciate the power, strength, and substance of women everywhere.


  • Teach him how to treat a lady 9 of 26

    From opening a car door to understanding that no means no, take the time to counsel your son on how to properly treat a lady. Not only will your son be a better man for it, he'll grow to understand the respect he deserves in return.

  • Let him cry 10 of 26

    Remind your boys that it's OK to cry when they feel sad or darn near paper cut their finger off. That stuff hurts! One of the greatest things we can give our growing boys is the allowance to be human. We can all pretend that men don't cry, but why would we?

  • Teach him domestics 11 of 26

    There's everything right about teaching our sons how to properly take care of themselves. I'm all for being needed by my son, but I sure as sugar won't do for him what he can do for himself. Just as I taught him to wipe his own tush, he'll learn how to launder, cook, and clean - because he can.

  • Insist on good hygiene 12 of 26

    I don't have to tell you that boys are grody gross. Nasty breath, stinky bodies, and dirty fingernails are just a few of the things moms of boys are forever nagging their sons about. Take heart mama, every nag brings your son one step closer to making personal grooming a lifelong habit.

  • Let him adore you 13 of 26

    The next José Eber he is not, but my son loves brushing my hair. Sure, he pulls and yanks knotted brush-fulls of hair with tenderness of the Incredible Hulk, but I endure the hairtastrophie because it brings him joy. Allow your sweet mama's boy to adore you, because sometimes love hurts.

  • Feed him well 14 of 26

    Your boy is growing up fast and growing up strong - all on account of that ferocious appetite! Feed him well and often. Just think of all the many ways that brute strength is sure to pay off!

  • Compliment him 15 of 26

    Compliment your son's character whenever you witness bravery, integrity, honesty, and hard work. These attributes will be the very things that shape his sense of self and strengthen his confidence.

  • Give him a man to look up to 16 of 26

    Whoever serves as an all-important father figure in your son's life, make sure he's a great one. Your son will learn countless important life lessons from a positive male influence.

  • Be honest with him 17 of 26

    Try as we might to shelter our sons from the truth, sometimes life gets too messy to hide. When we share age-appropriate truths, our sons begin to trust the value of our words and sincerity of our intentions. 

  • Introduce instructions 18 of 26

    Your son needn't open a box of build-it-yourself furniture and toss the instructions aside with grave indignation. Could he figure out how to build this IKEA Trofast bed by himself? Perhaps, but he doesn't have to! Introduce and encourage the use of instructions and directions whenever possible, saving him hours of frustration and thousands of "I told you so"s in the future. Building bridges between the sexes, you guys - one boy at a time.

  • Celebrate him 19 of 26

    Celebrate your son's victories big and small. From good grades, to a generous spirit, to even remembering to put the seat down (hey, a lady's tailbone never forgets), recognize moments of greatness within your son. Watch goodness overflow when your son knows you're watching!

  • Let him be a boy 20 of 26

    Boys will be boys - we just have to let them! One day the muddy footprints, broken housewares, and fart jokes will be nothing more than a distant memory, so let him do his thing. Oddly enough, he's learning about himself and the world around him in the process.

  • Give him freedom 21 of 26

    Allow your son to grow and prosper freely within age-appropriate boundaries. Encourage them to explore, play, ask questions, search for answers, solve problems, and try. Our sons possess an innate desire to make sense of the world around them - let them.

  • Encourage him to talk 22 of 26

    Society may not encourage boys to share their feelings, but you can. If something is bothering your son, encourage him to talk it out. Make it a point to establish ongoing open dialog with your son. Remember: emotions are a human trait - not a feminine one.

  • Value his opinion 23 of 26

    As your son grows, show that you value his opinion when it really counts. More than just where you should grab take-out (Chipotle, always Chipotle), ask for his input on important family matters. As a valued member of your household, your son is sure to have lots of wonderful ideas worth exploring.

  • Back off 24 of 26

    Sure, the nag to sweet-talk ratio is wildly unbalanced in motherhood, but back off whenever possible... or risk him moving far, far away. I kid. But not really. Our job is to offer motherly advice, stand back, cringe, and pray. Our sons need to make mistakes on their own. Reserve your epic mom-heroics for helping him pick up the pieces and encouraging him to try again.

  • Show him tenderness 25 of 26

    Hug him, kiss him, tickle him, cuddle him. Show your son tenderness like only his mother can.

  • Be there 26 of 26

    There's nothing quite like mom to cushion life's falls and make everything OK. Relish in your role as your son's first love, fierce protector, and ultimate provider. Knowing there will never be another you, your ever-loving presence matters most.

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