According to the U.S. Census Bureau, out of approximately 12 million single-parent families in 2016, more than 80% were headed by single mothers. With that being said, a portion of these single mothers are raising male children alone. Some studies report boys raised by single mothers are more likely to grow up with behavioral and emotional issues. Society tends to be against these young men early on in life labeling them in very negative ways, harboring preconceived notions. Even teachers often prejudge these young men. I know because I have seen it with my own son. So how can single mothers raising male children beat the odds? By teaching their sons muscles of responsibility.
I recently wrote an article about a book titled “Onward to Manhood: Establishing Godly Masculinity”. The book serves as a blueprint for young men, well actually men of all ages, as they journey down the path to manhood. I was truly impressed with the book, but as a single mother, I wanted to know more. How can single mothers raising male children get past the negativity and empower our sons for their journey to manhood? I was fortunate to interview Eric Elliott, the author of “Onward to Manhood”, who provided valuable insight.
What I really wanted to know was how are we able to to take our sons on this journey of manhood. Let’s face it – I am not a man. I don’t know what it feels like to be a man. I know what it feels like to date one but I don’t know what it is like to be one. Being truly honest with myself, I can’t fulfill that role in his life. How do we get there? Eric used his relationship with his own children to lay the foundation. He shared during the interview, “I have a son and I have a daughter. My responsibility as my son’s father is to feed a boy but to call into and pull the man out of the boy. I can do that for him because I am already there.
I have a daughter. My responsibility to her is to call the adult out in her. I can not call the woman out of her because I don’t know how. I am not a woman. But only my wife, her mother, can do that – call the woman out in her. “
Eric advised, when single mothers cross that arena, the arena of guiding our sons into manhood, quite frankly it requires outside help. As his mother, she can not pull that man out of him. There should be people in his life he can identify with that can help to call the man out. But what can you do specifically as a single mom? What if there is not a strong role model to pull the man out of him? One of the main things a single mother can do is to help her son develop what Eric calls “muscles of responsibility”. These are not physical muscles you build up at the gym but muscles of responsibility.
If you are a single Mom and you have a four-year-old son, help that child develop muscles of responsibility by teaching him to clean up his toys. When he is 8 years old, help him develop muscles of responsibility by having him take the trash out. When he is 16 years old have him check the oil in your car and put gas in the car. Help him develop muscles of responsibility by letting him see what it means to balance a checkbook or if you do it online through your app.
There are many different opportunities we have all throughout the day to help our sons these muscles. Eric emphasized you must be deliberate in looking at your daily calendar, what’s going on in the afternoon or evening and, no matter what is on your calendar, help your son develop muscles of responsibility. Have your son step up and fulfill roles appropriate for his age. This may be difficult for some mothers as they naturally want to nurture their sons. They want to keep doing things for them. However, they must learn to let go allowing their son to become responsible growing into his role as a man. You have to look at every different area of your life and ask, Are you helping your son develop those muscles of responsibility?
Another way to assist in the journey is to buy the book “Onward to Manhood”. Mothers should read the book and pass it on to their sons to read. The book helps mothers to understand some of the challenges their sons face as young men as well as educate them on the 4 quadrants of manhood every man needs to pass through. As young men read the book, they can reach out to the author, Eric Elliott with questions or feedback they may have. If there are a group of young men reading the book, consider reaching out to Eric to have him speak to them or facilitate a discussion of the book. With all the advances in technology, this can easily be done in person, video conference, webinar or even Facebook live.
After the interview with Eric, I became more consciously aware of opportunities for my son to flex his muscles of responsibility. He is reading the book and I can already see the difference it is making in his life. Thank you Eric Elliott!