Raising Boys: 7 Elements of an Environment Where Boys Thrive

I love being a boy mom.

I loved having boys in my classroom when I taught school (even when they couldn’t sit still) and I’m happy when my son’s friends are at our house, eating our food, playing video games, camping in our backyard, leaving their dirty socks everywhere…

…okay, maybe not that last one. 😅

I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve even grown to love football- thanks to being a boy mom. I’m a balletomane (fancy word for someone who loves ballet), a Vogue reading, pink loving, tea parties and white furniture kind of girl…so this all took me by surprise. I was nervous about the idea of a boy, but once my son was born, I was smitten.

And suddenly, statistics, like the ones below, became more personal.

  • Little boys are 5x more likely to be expelled from preschool as girls. 
  • Boys are 10x more likely to be diagnosed as hyperactive, than girls.
  • 80% of attention deficit disorder drugs are prescribed to boys. 
  • 80% of high school dropouts are boys, and
  • 1 in 70 men in the U.S. today, are in jail. (1) 

Most certainly, there are some major problems with the way boys are being served by our society today.

These are sobering statistics, and I believe we need to pay attention to them, but we are not without help or hope.

Prayer is my first, and most powerful strategy in raising a boy who thrives, in spite of such statistics.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

In addition to prayer, I’ve also found the seven strategies outlined below to be helpful in providing an environment where boys can thrive (both in the classroom and at home).

7 Ways to Build an Environment where Boys can Thrive

1. Movement

Free, open, movement and lots of it! 

I was surprised to learn that in the Waldorf kindergarten, here in Seattle, the students spend the first two hours of the day walking (or running, skipping, jumping, etc.) through the forest, rain or shine.  Two hours!  And we do get more rain than shine.  After that, they have a snack and are then ready to sit down, concentrate, and listen to a story for 15-20 minutes.  And please note, there is a difference between play movement and organized sports.  Competitive, organized sports do not meet the need for free, open movement. My son (age 11) loves competitive sports, and I see their value. I just want to make sure he also has plenty of unstructured time to be active.

2. Boundaries

Boys need to know who’s in charge, because if they don’t, they will often appoint themselves.  They need a strong boss.  Humor is one of the best ways to address boundaries and can often be used when delivering consequences.  Dignity is also an important consideration with consequences. Always allow for a boy to save face.

3. Male Role Models

They need to have a sense of what their fathers do for a living.  Many jobs today (my husband’s included) are very difficult for young boys to understand.  Added to that, most elementary teachers are female.  Boys need to see archetypal men working in jobs that they can understand.  Visiting fire stations, the fisherman’s terminal, lumberjacks, farmers, were all suggestions.  It was also recommended that boys be provided with lots of stories about heroic, noble men, such as knights in fairy tales.  The reason is that boys are hungry for pictures of healthy manhood.

4. Directions

When giving directions to boys, talk a whole lot less.  One noun, one verb is best.  Hand signals are good too.  But generally, boys tune out excess talking. This advice still holds true for my eleven year old. I’m not sure when this will change.

5. Feelings

Don’t ask young boys to analyze their feelings.  They just aren’t capable, and in fact, it often makes them angry, and later on, depressed, because they have such a hard time processing it.  

Instead, modeling effective ways of dealing with feelings is best. Unsolicited affection, and lots of it, is also encouraged.  Often boys act out because they are asking for affection.  So don’t wait for them to act out, just give it to them. 

Both physical affection and admiration are important.  There’s a distinction between praise and admiration.  Too much praise, for what they do, can become hollow, but boys want and need to be admired.

6. Work

 Real work is necessary.  Boys need plenty of real work to do.  Not made up tasks, but real work, like household tasks, or taking care of their own needs.  It’s empowering to them. 

7. Less Screen Time

The average school age child now spends six hours with a screen per day.  It’s what they’re missing out on while they’re staring at a screen that brings the greatest harm. 

They’re not getting that movement and free play that they so desperately need.  Then they go to school the next day and can’t pay attention.  It’s no surprise why. 

The task God has given to us as our son’s mother is a serious one. May we love our sons for who they are and how God made them, using wisdom in how to provide the right environment- one that helps him shine.

May we raise or boys to become men who love and serve God, who are kind, hard working, happy, and respectful of others.

Most parents want those statistics I quoted earlier to be irrelevant. Through the power of prayer and the practical strategies I’ve outlined here will go a long way toward that end.

(1) Statistics given are from notes taken at a seminar titled, “You’re Not the Boss of Me! The Charms and Challenges of Raising Healthy Boys”, by Tim Bennet and Melissa Borden, The Seattle Waldorf School.


Dawn is a writer living near Seattle with her husband, Derek, and their two kids, Grace and Trent. A gatherer of friends, she enjoys seeing how many people she can host in her tiny home. A church girl her entire life, she’s still trying to figure out what it looks like to put her trust in Jesus, so she’s writing about it @ Above the Waves. You can find also her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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  1. Melanie Redd says:

    Great advice, Dawn! (and Kaylene)

    I love your 7 strategies and think they will help many people! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and advice so well.

    I pray that God will use your words to impact many homes.

    Hope you have a blessed day~

  2. Anastasia says:

    Movement is critical for my boys. They have so much energy that many times during school when I see they’re getting ansy or frustrated I tell them to run laps (our house layout allows that). They LOVE it! I think it may be their favorite time of the school day! 😉

  3. Courtney says:

    These are awesome strategies. I hadn’t even thought about how much of my “girly” ways they are observing. I have to spend more time doing the things boys enjoy doing and exposing them to those things as well. Thank you, I really appreciate this perspective.

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