How Single Moms Can Raise Great Boys

Your sons need good men to look up to, and other smart advice

I’ve watched parents raise children for 30 years (and raised four of my own), so I know how hard it is. Here, I share a question that came to me as a pediatrician, as well as my answer to this parent.

Dear Dr. Meg,
I’m a single mom and all of my children are boys. I want to raise them well, but how can I do this when their father isn’t present?


Single Mother of Boys

Dear Single Mother of Boys,
Single moms have a very hard row to hoe and my hat is off to you. There are a few things that you need to do with your son, particularly if Dad is not in the picture. Here is my best advice, distilled into four points.

1.) Regardless of his age (particularly if he is a teen), do your best to find a good adult man to spend time with him. Do you have a father, brother, male friend, pastor, teacher, or coach who will do things with him once or twice a month? Boys need face-to-face time with men because they need to see a good man to know how to become one. That is something that you simply can’t give.

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2.) Don’t slack off on your expectations of his behavior. If you believe that he should speak well, be courteous, help around the house, etc., make him do it. I have seen many single mothers feel so guilty about the fact that a son doesn’t have a father that they compensate by babying their sons. Don’t ever do this. He will never learn to respect himself if you do. Boys love it (though they’ll NEVER show it) when a mother raises expectations and then demands that they rise to those; it makes them feel good about themselves.

3.) Be tough on him during his teen years. You will be running out of energy by this time and you will want to relax — but don’t. Teen boys need stiff boundaries when they are teens and they all test their mothers, thinking that if they push hard enough, they will get to do whatever they want. They challenge mothers severely because they feel they can wear you down. Take a deep breath and don’t let him win.

Related: How to Help Boys Deal with Aggressive Girls

Remember, by this time, you’re almost to the finish line. Fight for his emotional and mental health until he’s off on his own.

4.) Get support. You need a confidante and friend or two to keep you sane. Have someone who will listen to you vent, who will help you figure out what to do, and who will keep you strong until the finish. Many single mothers feel so guilty (there it is again) that they won’t do anything for themselves, like spend time with friends. Don’t do this. You need help and your son needs you to have help!

If you haven’t read my book, “Boys Should Be Boys,” you might want to pick up a copy. I hope you’ll find a bit more help there as well. Keep up the good work. All of your hard work will pay off.

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project.

meet the author

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the book “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing), along with a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.

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