I spoke with the mother of a 10-year old son. While he visited grandmother, mom plans to pitch broken and unused toys, clean, and organize his bedroom. As a conscientious mother, she wants to help her son bring his room up to housekeeping standards she imposes on herself.
Having lived 81 years and written this blog for 55 months, many previously complex things in life have become very simple. For example, and the mother agreed with this, respect is more important than love. Parents can demand to be respected and kids comply, but you have to give respect before you receive it from the heart of someone else. On that basis, I suggested there might be a better way. She liked the principle, and it inspired the detailed version that follows.
The boy has already objected to throwing away HIS stuff, things that are HIS. He loves even the broken toys, or else he would pitch them. (Kids don’t just like something. They either love or hate it, because extreme emotional expressions help influence parents to side with them—or so childish hopes convince children.)
Let mom pass to him all responsibility for the appearance of HIS bedroom. It’ll be tough for a while and never perfect by her expectations, but adequate and trying to do better is how boys learn to be men. Trying to do better for whom? If he learns to do better for himself, then he will later do it for wife and family. (Habits learned before puberty become the most reliable and toughest to not follow later.)
Declare the boy’s bedroom HIS. He already loves HIS room, except when mom changes it to HIS dislike. It’s full of playful memories, fun things, private thoughts, and comfort when choosing to withdraw from the hassles of boyhood. HIS room matches HIS taste, energizes HIS personality, satisfies HIS curiosity, ignites HIS imagination, and stimulates HIS dreams about life and HIS involvement. Men act like that all the time about their home for which a boy’s bedroom is a great model.
Mom has three challenges that may take months to master.
- First, learn to imagine him and HIS bedroom as if he’s grown up (respect him as such). Imagine everything in his room as HIS but needful of HIS attention at different times.
- Second, give him the decision-making freedom to care for his own ‘property’ and to admire himself for doing a good job. Mom should not contradict his conviction that he did a good job; it tampers or cancels his self-admiration. Instead, spotlight something, actually anything, worthy of her admiration. (Childhood is the time to let children discover their own mistakes. If it earns no admiration from mom, perhaps “I did it wrong.”)
- Third, don’t point out what’s wrong, but find something to admire that he thinks he does well. Mom should focus on converting all bad scenes for her into something that affirms her admiration for him. Convince him that he can and does good jobs, and he will get better and mature much faster (and admirably).
To encapsulate all that into one solution, let the son hear certain words so often they resound in his heart and not just his head. Not too fast, once or twice a day is probably optimal. He’ll be suspicious at first, but mom’s persistence will win him over. Also, mom must be sincere; she must learn to find and use even the smallest detail worthy of appreciation, approval, and admiration. Also, she should think of it as a lifetime endeavor, a new habit of using these words to coach the ‘property owner’ that lives with her.
- Boys are never more handsome than when mom doesn’t have to keep their bedroom door closed.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they pick up after themselves.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they hang their coats (or put away shoes).
- Boys are never more handsome than when they know that litter can lead to bitter.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they make their bed daily.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they put dirty laundry just where it should go.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they show special expertise caring for their pet.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they keep music volume turned down out of respect for others who show them so much respect.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they put unused toys in the toy box.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they organize everything in their room in the neat presentation of a well-ordered mind.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they return all dishes and trash to the kitchen.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they grow big enough to vacuum their room (or clean the windows).
- Boys are never more handsome than when they make their bed, straighten their room, and even do it before breakfast.
- Boys are never more handsome than when they invite mom into their room knowing that she will approve of what she sees.
- Boys are never more handsome than when both boy and room are ready for school.
- Boys are never more handsome than when…. (The possibilities are endless.)
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera for the rest of HIS life at home. The secret lies in this principle: Admire him for the biggest contribution she can find toward the orderliness and cleanliness that she expects. If she’s smiling and light hearted, he’ll never get tired of hearing her say it. He’ll recall it word for word years later laughing with siblings. It will also dampen the male competitive spirit that often breeds hateful disagreement between son and mother.
Over the course of years, mom can take it from the bedroom with endless lessons that ‘handsome’ means a multitude of good qualities. For example, boys are never more handsome than when they make mom laugh/show they are deep thinkers/prove they are handy to have around. Also, they can be good looking, likeable, funny, a little sweet (not like girls), adventurous, intelligent, smart, knowledgeable, fair-minded, quick learner, non-litterer, personally responsible. It can swell up beyond admiration of a bedroom owner to son earning his bona fides as a man, as a producer, protector, provider, and problem solver elsewhere.
The prime motivator of men is their need for self-admiration. Admiration by others adds to it, and admiration by a boy’s mom gets the ball rolling for manhood.
But that’s not all. Mom’s quadruple benefits are the subject for tomorrow’s post 1656.