Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable. - Plato, Greek philosopher, 2300 years ago

 I know what it’s like to raise boys; to live too long with too little sleep and too many worries. I have had dozens of forks stuck in my ceiling, countless shattered dishes and lamps and sliding glass doors, numerous stretched-out bandaids clogging up the bathtub. I have learned that feet can actually smell exactly like puke. Ew. Trust me, I could tell you stories for days about what it’s like to be a mom of boys.

The Benton brothers have broken things, smashed things, burned things, stained things, shot things and ruined things. They have gone way too fast on bikes and scooters and skateboards, gotten lost, beaten each other to bloody pulps, climbed things that are way too high, and generally have kept me up at night worrying they might not make it through another day.

Raising boys is like herding puppies.

Once my youngest son
pushed a chair across the house, unlocked two deadbolts, climbed over a mountain of boxes in the garage and locked himself inside my pristine Honda Civic. He then proceeded to coat the upholstery, the windows and himself with a brand spankin’ new tube of red lipstick. All while joyfully honking the horn for 30 minutes while Momma frantically tried to coax him out. I wish I could say this was the only time he escaped to wreak havoc. 

Hedrick Jr High School’s Vice Principal and I were on a first name basis. We had a chat at least once a week over the span of a few years while my 3 boys were students there. Once she called to tell me my middle son almost cut his best friend’s ear off in sewing class. Sewing class for a 12 year old boy? Duh. Another time she called because my oldest used a whole box of rubber gloves to make puppets when they made him serve in-school suspension. In the science room. Alone. Duh. I’m lucky he didn’t blow something up.

My seventeen year old spent the night in juvenile hall for throwing firecrackers over the fence at the tennis team, which then ignited some dry grass. Yeah. Fire + school property = no bueno. Oh, and another one? BB gun + antique stained glass church windows = mucho dinero.

And speaking of dinero, if I had a dollar for every crusty booger I chiseled from my walls I could retire tomorrow.

And yet, somehow I survived it. I survived being a mom of boys, and now I am a mom of grown men. I’m still not used to that. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but along the way I’ve learned some things. Here are three of the biggies. 

  • Do not humiliate your son in public. I don’t care how much of an ass he is already making of himself. Do not tell him he is acting like a girl, do not point out his flaws publicly, do not try to be funny by embarrassing him in front of anyone. Ever. Know the difference between friendly banter and humiliation. Protect your son by protecting his dignity.
  • Don’t succumb to cookie-cutter parenting. Become an avid student of your little man. Every boy is different. If he wants to get dirty, let him be dirty. If he loves music, let him make noise and dance. If he loves to read, buy him books. Learn which type of discipline is most effective for him individually, and pray for discernment when using it. Before you discipline him, ask yourself: Is this rebellion or is this boyish behavior? Save the harshest discipline for rebellion, and use it sparingly. Be creative and use ‘natural consequences’ when dealing with boyish foolishness. 

  • Still reading? Stay with me now; this last one is a tough one. Let your son be brave more often than he is safe. Read that last sentence again. I mean it. As Mama Bears we tend to protect our children at all costs. We hate to see them hurt or afraid.
  • But boys who aren’t allowed to test their own limits wind up living lives of fear and insecurity.

My days of little army men littering the bathroom floor are over. I sleep in on Saturdays and I can’t remember the last time I yelled, “I can never have anything nice!” 

And you know what? Being a mom of boys has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. I wouldn’t change a thing. If your little guys still yell when they need to be wiped, or they still piss off your neighbors, or they still beg you to read them just one more story - take a deep breath and know that this time will not last forever. You will miss it when it’s gone. Make the most of it. As a Momma, you have more power than you know. Use it wisely. You are raising men.

(I wrote this guest post over at the fabulous FEARLESS EXPERIMENT BLOG a few days ago. These are a few of the rules I've learned over the years, mostly the hard way. Thanks for stopping by!)


  1. Thanks so much for your advice. I am the mama of three very crazy little boys (5, 3,& 8 months). I grew up in a family of all girls, so this is very new to me! I really appreciated your encouragement to parent based on your kid and not what all the experts or others around you think you should do. Sometimes I dream about the days I will get to sleep in on Saturday, or not have to hide all my Sharpies so your post was a good reminder to enjoy my little guys right now and let them be little boys!

  2. As a mom of 4 little boys I laughed and cried while reading this. Thanks for shining a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

  3. This is truly beautiful. I only have two children and only one boy but this still touched me. Mine are still babies (3y & 21m) so I am just trying to figure it all out as I go. Thank you.

  4. wow i so needed to read this today i think i might print it and pin it on my entry wall thank you so much :) , mommy of two boys 4 and 2.

  5. With tears in my eyes, knowing the man I raised is 33 now, I am fondly thinking back to the time I said, "Don't do that skateboard trick on the front porch, I don't want blood on the steps." He promptly asked, "Can I go get blood on the church steps?" Believe it or not, I said "Yes". I felt bad about that until now. You are a wise and brave woman...

  6. thank you for this. i can't imagine the days when my little ones (son 3.5, daughter 1.5, and daughter due in may) are grown, but the connection between life now and their adulthood is something that i don't consciously think about a lot. i get caught up in the day-to-day. the reminder to slow down because it goes too fast is an important one to me. i am going to print this and place it where i can read from time-to-time. thank you for these pointers and your beautiful and funny tone!!!

  7. This is all so true! I raised two fine men and I am constantly proud to be their mother. It truly is an adventure! And I would not trade it for the world....all the ups and downs and in betweens made my life oh, so interesting! I am still not used to people calling me by my given name instead of Hey! _______'s mom is here~
    Love my "men"!!

  8. So are you saying i need to let them get dirty...haha ;)....love our boys..just cant believe i have so many. Poor Ashlynn she may be in for a wild ride :)

  9. Found this post via Small Potatoes. I must say I actually laughed outloud at the line "I can't have anything nice!" I scream this in my head many times throughout the day though I do my best to not say it outloud too often lest they think I value my things more than them. I do long for a new couch. Someday...

  10. this was truly beautiful. i laughed while crying. i know how tough it can be to raise boys. i am raising two of my nephews (9 & 2) and they literally drive me crazy. and being 17 doesn't help much either. i have to fight for 'em against my other sisters, school bullies, and even my own dad. i'm just glad to know that i'm not the only one having a hard time. i'll do my best to hang in there...

  11. My Ty and his buddies slept in the tent last night.... good move house is clean, bad move for the poor tent! It will now be the frat house.What do you get with 6 liters of soda + 3 teenage boys one sticky tent. You are right though Jenna let them play hard and have fun and so what if the tent is now the frat house, what a memory.


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