20 Reminders for my Growing Boys

  1. Always hold the door for others—especially girls.
  2. Don’t let anyone boss you around. You are your own person.
  3. Admit when you’re wrong and say you’re sorry.
  4. Remember, God is always watching.
  5. Make eye contact.
  6. Before you judge others, put yourself in their shoes.
  7. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s how we learn.
  8. Your actions have consequences.
  9. Remember that even when you mess up, you are still very much loved!
  10. If someone treats you badly, walk away.
  11. Clean up after yourself.
  12. You can’t be good at everything. Embrace that fact.
  13. Always give thanks—even when things aren’t going your way.
  14. Make lots of friends.
  15. Listen when others speak to you. Don’t just hear them—listen.
  16. When you’re upset, don’t keep it in. Talk about it.
  17. Always give a thank you wave when someone lets you go in traffic.
  18. Tell the truth, even if you think it might get you in trouble. Honesty builds character.
  19. Be dependable. Keep your word. Be someone others can count on.
  20. Your family is your safe haven… your support system. Come to us with anything.


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  1. This list is great, Steph. I had to remind one of my boys the other day that girls can do anything boys can do, sometimes even better than boys. We just need to keep reminding them.

    • That’s a good one, Kathy! I’m going to start telling my boys that, too.

    • “Anything” is one of those no-no extreme words like “always” or “never,” which we never say. And, it’s simply, utterly not true. Ask the U.S. Military fitness test instructors who record #s of reps. Honesty (one of the biggies above) C’mon!

    • This article clearly states “Reminders for Boys”…. why do you have to write a comment about “Girls doing anything boys can do…. even BETTER than boys”… I’m so tired of boys being shot down by society! People act like it’s such a bad thing to have all boys, or boys are so hard to raise, blah…blah… blah. I thought this was a GREAT list to share with my boys! Quit bringing girls into everything…. or “scaring” boys that a girl can do something better than them (way to shoot down their self esteem). Let boys be boys….

      • Though I did write this with my own two boys in mind, I think many of these can apply to girls, too. It’s really up to the reader how they’d like to interpret or apply these “rules.”

      • Actually Denise, it’s “20 Reminders for my Growing Boys”. If you’re going to quote something, it needs to be exact, otherwise paraphrase without the quotation marks. You are correct about the nature of the article, Steph was commenting on her two boys. I think it’s interesting that you complain about gender discrimination by doing the same. How are boys being “shot down by society”? I don’t see that, and I think people misinterpret that too easily. Others bring girls into the mix because girls are a group that are unfairly represented across the board. In Steph’s post that’s not the case, but in general it happens way too often. Girls deserve to be on a more level playing field, given the same opportunities. Janine’s comment was accurate, there are clear physical characteristics that enable one gender to accomplish things that the other cannot. That’s okay. But many obstacles are placed by culture and society that don’t need to be. It’s not that boys are being shot down, it’s that girls are not given the chance to rise up. Replace the words “boys and girls” with “whites and blacks” or “straight and gay” or whatever floats your boat. The reason ANY group of people speak out so much is because they are not being heard as much. The “other” group holds most of the power. If we reach a better balance and erase those lines of discrimination, you may be less tired of hearing people wanting to be treated fairly.

  2. This is a wonderful list. I’m always talking to my kids about these things. Every once in awhile, my son SHOWS me he’s listening by holding doors. I pray it can become a habit, even without his dad to model it for him

  3. Love ditty love love loooooveeeee…

  4. Steph, I love that you value and teach these things to your boys. What a blessing they will be to their friends and future spouses some day. Go you for keeping it real and classy, when so much in this world doesn’t.

    • Thank you, Meredith. As moms, we can only hope we’re teaching our kids the right lessons, right? I pray every day that I’m doing right by them.

  5. As a Mom to two boys (and a husband, sometimes-LOL), I can relate to the importance of almost all of these. As a friend to many a Mom with girls, I would say that they are all important to teach to aspiring young ladies, as well. As for the holding of the door, instead of “especially girls” I say, “Especially those older than you, or with their hands full”, but really, especially EVERYONE. My guys (3 and 5) are such door holders that sometimes I have to pull them away from a door! OK, you let 26 people through, now we need to GO! I know a few people who have the same “problem”.

    Love the list, thank you!

    • Yes, Cat! Elderly and those with hands full. Absolutely! I wish my boys would be a little more willing to do this without my having to remind them. Hopefully, someday!

  6. I love the one that says you can’t be good at everything. I think this is something boys really struggle with. I have four brothers and it was always a big deal when they had to learn their limitations.

    Great list!

    • It’s a difficult concept to grasp, Hillary. That’s why I’m trying to pound it into my boys’ heads early!

  7. I love this. However, these can be applied to everyone. 🙂 The world would be a nicer place if everyone lived by these rules.

  8. Mary Rainville says:

    You covered all the bases. Great job

  9. As a single dad I Love this list. It may sound odd but I truly believe that holding a door for someone shows respect and kindness.

    • I agree, Karl! I am always drumming it into my boys’ heads. Maybe someday, they’ll surprise me and do it without my prompting!

      • Abhijit Choudhury says:

        Thanks for the list. As a Dad of boy-girl twins, I really like this list.
        Btw, it’s not just boys who should hold the door open. In this day and
        age, whoever reaches the door first should hold the door open…
        and that may very well be a woman holding the door open for a guy.
        It’s just a matter of politeness and respect.

  10. Such an inspiring list, I will print them out on a poster size and stick it on my son’s room, agree with all other moms that we just have to keeping reminding them until the day that will retain!!! Thanks for sharing..

  11. Keep your word as a parent. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Count to 15 before you answer. My Mama told me, “Keep putting in the good stuff and it will come back to you”.

  12. Replace #17 with…
    “Never hit a woman. In fact, treat them like a Princess even if they don’t treat you like a Prince.”

    Waving in traffic is nice, but not a must. And too many little boys don’t know not to hit women. Notice I didn’t call them “men” because no man would ever hit a woman.

    • Yes, I do like that one. Although, thanking people for letting them go in traffic is also important to be because it shows common courtesy. That said, I do also tell my boys often to be sure to treat their future girlfriends and wives with respect.

  13. How about please and thank you and yes/no sir or mam…Manners have gone out the window. .

  14. Four important ones to add to this list:
    21. Always be The Better Person, no matter how difficult- don’t let the actions of others allow you to lower your standards or your ethics to their level.

    22. Always, always try your very best at all you do. Actions speak louder than words and you will always own your actions. Let them be actions that will never be cause of regret.

    23. You own your actions and all of it’s consequences- be accountable for them. Do not defer or blame others. Learn from the mistakes and move on in a better direction.

    24. Respect authority, elders, your boss, your girlfriend/wife and your parents. Respecting others will get you far in life and breeds respect for you in return.

    Most of these also apply to girls also, but the most important for girls is: You deserve respect, do not NEED a boy/man to make you someone worth loving. As such, do not tolerate being in the presence of someone who humiliates/embarrasses you, hurts you, belittles you. Boyfriends as well as girlfriends should treat you with respect and love, should treat you like a treasure. Never cave in to pressure to “prove” your affection or loyalty.

  15. Almost applies to both boy’s and girls for the most part…..#4 I can live without.

  16. The list is lovely, except for one thing: eye contact. It is almost offensive that it is on there given that there are a number of disabilities, from vision issues to autism, that make eye contact difficult or impossible. Eye contact has nothing to do with ethics or morality, nor is it an indicator of character.

    • Jennifer,
      I see your point, however I really was writing this to my boys. They are capable of making eye contact and I often encourage them to do so. In the case of my older son, I feel that when he does not make eye contact, he comes across almost rude. So that is advice I’m giving my sons in particular. I mean no offense to those with disabilities.

  17. Ben Olson says:

    Really like this. I learned holding the door for people from my grandfather, and recently nothing pleased me more than to watch my 8 y.o. go out of her way to hold the door for people. Also important to say “thank you” if you are the person passing through the door being held. These common courtesies nod to the fact that we are here to help and respect one another, no just in it for ourselves, and the simplest way to live the Golden Rule.
    Also love the fact someone added about telling boys and girls that “girls can do anything boys can do, sometimes even better.” My daughter said just last night that boys laughed that she, a girl, likes to build with Legos. We reminded her, and said she might remind the boys next time 🙂 Cheerd.

    • Tell your daughter I like doing legos more than my boys do! I’m always begging them to do legos with me. PS, my mom was a chemical engineer and when she was in Engineering school, she was one of only two women in her class. They once went on a contraction site and the women were asked to wait outside. Talk about a woman in a man’s world. Thankfully, that is much less prevalent these days.

  18. I like the list but I feel the first one, instead of especially girls, should be especially the elderly. Women should be treated with respect yes, but they should also be equal to men. So this list is also good for them and they should be politely holding doors for people behind them as well. Especially the elderly or people whom will clearly have a hard time with the door, like those in wheelchairs and with crutches. Just my thoughts though.

    • Yes, it really should be all people. And that is what I do teach them on a regular basis. The “girls” piece was the old fashioned romantic in me coming out.

  19. Steph,
    Great list! I respect that you want to teach these ideas to your two boys. I am curious about one thing, however. Why, with the door holding, do you specify “especially for girls”? I know it wasn’t intentional, but that does imply that girls are somehow less capable or need special consideration. That can be somewhat contradictory or otherwise send mixed messages to your boys when it comes to respecting future girlfriends or wives. 🙂 I hold doors for people. All people. And I’ll teach my toddler girl to show the same respect to all people. Again, I applaud you for sharing those ideas, with your boys and here. I’m sure they will grow into fine men. 🙂

    • Jeff,
      I encourage my children to hold the door for everybody–man, woman, child, elderly. At the same time, I also want to instill a sense of chivalry in them. It has nothing to do with girls being less capable. Perhaps it’s an old fashioned view, but I just really like the idea of a man holding the door for a woman. That said, I hold the door for anyone who’s near me (men included) all the time!

      • I agree about the chivalry. My husband always holds the door for me, it is one of the things I noticed when we first started dating and it makes me feel special, I want my boys to do that for their girlfriend/wife one day. But I also like the comment about the elderly and anyone!

  20. I am printing this out and putting this on my bulletin board for a constant reminder. I am going to go over this list with my 2 boys……loved it!!

  21. What a great post. I would love to find a poster/wall hanging of this to hang in the hall between my boys’ rooms!

  22. Good rules to live by with little boys. My wife and I remind ourselves daily that we want to grow our three sons into the best men that they can be. The best husbands, the best fathers, the best employees or the best bosses, etc.

  23. If it applies where you live: Look up at every stop on the train to see if someone (older person, pregnant woman, family with a child, etc) needs a seat, and offer yours if they do!

  24. I love it. Agreed with everything you said and hold same principles.

  25. One thing I insisted on both kids, boy and girl, is to write thank-you notes. Not the email kind, the snail mail kind. They are now 32 and 29 respectively, and still do it. Too many parents don’t teach this.

  26. Aaron Beckwith says:

    This was a nice article. Some people on here are ruining what you wrote for your kids and can’t just appreciate it- taking things way too seriously…

  27. A good list, but I don’t see number four “Remember, God is always watching” as belonging on it. I disagree with it for two reasons. The first, is that not every parent wants their child to grow up with a concept of God. Being atheist myself my kids are free to choose any religion, and I don’t want to push them in any direction. I understand that you probably come from a Christian family where religious education is seen as an important part of growing up. Regardless, I don’t think it is relevant to this list and I see it as an attempt to just “throw in” religion since in our society religion is many times seen as necessary to be a good person. The second reason is that I believe this “God is always watching” mentality does not teach children to evaluate actions and why they are wrong, but rather makes them fearful of punishment. This is effective in discouraging bad behavior, but teaches kids to behave well not because it is the right thing to do, but because God is watching and he’ll throw you in hell if you don’t.

    • Jack, while I respect your views on religion, please know that I wrote this list to my children—not to children everywhere. And what we believe in our family is that God IS always watching. While you may believe that teaching kids about God is somehow misleading, I do not. So I will continue to instill this value in my children. This stays in my list because I feel it is important for my children. I said nothing about punishment or hell. My children find comfort in the idea that there is a higher power guiding them.

  28. I applaud the positivity of this list. I honor everything you put on it for YOUR boys, while having the generosity to share it with us. I acknowledge that it is not all encompassing, but I do not criticize any of your choices. I also acknowledge that I have the freedom to make my very own list for my own children if I don’t think this one fits the bill.
    Thanks once again for sharing this Stephanie. Ellen

  29. This is so great! I see many of my family’s values in your list, and I love that we readers get a clear picture of your focuses as a mom. Thank you for sharing, and your boys are lucky to have you!

  30. What a beautiful list! I hope you print it out and frame it. 🙂

  31. I thought this was a great common sense list! As I read the comments, I was surprised that people were offended or nit-picked about what you felt was important to teach YOUR children. Great list!

  32. I need a copy for the fridge . How do I make a copy? I have 4 grandsons !

  33. Love love love. As a single mom of 2 boys, I need all the help I can get. Thank you for sharing.
    And plz dismiss the negative comments. I can’t say I’m surprised!
    Difficult personalities walk among us. Fun fun!

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