Ask Amy – Boys and their Attitudes

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When a reader emailed me with a question about boys’ attitudes, I was actually excited to be able to address this topic because it gives me the opportunity to share with all of you wisdom that was passed on to me many years ago.

Here is the email…
“I have a constant struggle with my struggling 10 year old boy. His attitude stinks, he is rude to others and mostly has a lack of discipline when it comes to doing school. I struggle with consequences for not getting work done…What have you found useful for motivating/ or disciplining your boys? Thanks for some creative ideas!”

First of all, it helps tremendously for mothers and fathers to know why boys often come to a point in their lives where they exhibit rude behavior and defiance toward things they never took issue with before.

The world will tell you this is just the “normal teenager” but that’s a somewhat hopeless answer; a throw-my-hands-up-in-the-air sort of answer.  Not acceptable.

What’s really going on is actually quite simple, but not something we moms readily realize…

Our boys are growing up.

That’s right.  That attitude you see is your son growing up and trying to figure out who he is, where his place is in the family, and over whom he has authority.

If your son has younger siblings, you might see him trying to exercise authority over them by barking orders or lashing out when they don’t do what he wants, when he wants it done.

You might see your son grouching over school work and giving you guff or even pouting.  He might seem moody and off kilter.  One day, he’s super man, the next, he’s totally unsure of himself.  (Sounds a bit like our daughters, huh?)

Boys go through hormonal changes, but they also go through dominion changes.  Honestly, I think all boys have an innate sense that they are supposed to conquer something.  Often, the first manifestation of this need to conquer starts with those closest to him…his own family.  In boyish foolishness, he sets out to be in charge.

So, what’s a mom to do (or a dad, for that matter) with this child who is looking to become a man?

1.  Lay ground rules about who is in charge.  Your son needs to know he cannot treat his family/friends/strangers with disrespect.  He needs to know what type of behavior you expect when it comes to family interactions and school work.  You have to set a standard and then hold him to it.  We’ll talk more in just a moment about one of the best ways to discipline when a standard is blatantly ignored.

2.  Give responsibility.  You’ve probably been watching your son’s behavior and thinking, this kid doesn’t deserve any responsibilities!  But, that will backfire on you.  Your son needs to know you expect him to become a man and he needs to be given man jobs, little by little.  Mom, you are going to have to let him grow up and let him try new things…hard things.  Praise him for the heavy lifting he does for you, praise him for diligence in completing a “man-sized” task, praise him for showing himself to be a workman approved.  When he does well, give him more responsibility and also more privileges.

3.  Revoke privileges as punishment.  Because he is beginning to have man-sized responsibilities and man-sized privileges, you now have a way to discipline your son when he has an attitude or tries to take over your authority or blatantly disrespects you.

Let me give you an example:  Suppose one privilege your son has acquired is the ability to shoot airsoft guns with friends in the field behind your house.  Suppose he chooses during one of his airsoft battles to yell at his little brother.  Because one of his man-sized responsibilities is to take charge of his younger brother and protect him and he did not do that job properly, he has now lost the ability to shoot airsoft guns with friends in the field.  He hasn’t lost the responsibility of caring for his younger brother, but he has lost the privilege of playing with friends.  In fact, for the next several weeks, he must take his little brother out to the field to shoot, lending him his own gun and giving him lessons on how to safely use an airsoft gun.

4. Point toward Christ as an example.  Guiding our son toward Christ provides him with 2 things:
A standard of godly living
Much needed humility.
Our sons need to see their faults and they need to see their need for a Savior, but they also need to see hope and approval in Christ.  Don’t let your son never be good enough.  Spending his growing up years harping on him over every little thing will not make him stronger, it will make him resentful.

5.  More time with Dad (if possible).  Mama, it’s time to start cutting the apron strings.  Your son needs to know what manhood looks like (yes, even imperfect manhood).  He needs to spend less and less time being your buddy and more and more time being about the things of men…preferably with his dad.

6.  Male role models are a must.  If Dad isn’t in the picture, then you’ll need to start here, but if dad is in the picture, this is not the place to start.  Wait on this one until your son has a well-established relationship with his father.  As he ages, he will naturally begin to seek out men who fit into his picture of role models.  Help him find these men and be involved, rather than defensive.  My son is 14 and this transition has not happened yet, nor do I anticipate it happening until he is several years older.  So, unless you are needing to help him find someone because of an absentee father, don’t push the issue of finding male role models outside the family.  And never, ever assume a man who appears to be safe and godly truly is.  This is one area where you should be protecting your son by being involved.

However, I would highly encourage you to start watching videos and reading the books of godly preachers with your son.  These men are role models too even if you do not know them personally!

I hope this sheds some light into the reasons why boys reach a certain age and start firing away with larger than life attitudes, as well as offering you a way to guide them toward manhood.  May you and your sons be blessed in the journey!


40 Comments on Ask Amy – Boys and their Attitudes

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40 thoughts on “Ask Amy – Boys and their Attitudes

  1. Your timing is awesome Amy! Just yesterday we had one of those moments where my son was stretching those “dominion” muscles with me. As a single parent I’m never sure if I handle these situations properly, but I did exactly what you said in stating this behavior is unacceptable and placing restrictions on privileges.

    For some months now I’ve been noticing a “bossiness” in my son towards me. He has no siblings, so this was like an “A-Ha” moment. Thank you for these wonderful posts.

    • Great job, mama! I was so thankful to have the information long before my son hit that stage. It made it all make so much more sense. Do you have resources available to you for giving him some godly man-training as he grows up?

      • Unfortunately not as much as I’d like. We recently moved closer to my sister and her husband (my hope was he would fill the void), but he’s not much interested in that role. He is still harboring hurt feelings for his own parents and how they raised him, and he doesn’t exhibit the Godly character I’d like my son to emulate. Funny how you don’t really know someone until you live with them for 6 months.

        We’re members of a great church though, and I’m hoping to find more help there.

        • I’ll be praying for you! My mom raised two boys as a single mom and she has told me how she asked in the church for role models and no one would step in. I have a special place in my heart for moms raising boys alone. (HUGS)

  2. HI Amy! Great post. I have a 15 year old son and these are all things that our family has faced over the past few years. Now my just 12 year old son is starting to show these stretching growing changes, that can be so difficult for him and (us!!) to deal with, but deal we must!

    I just wanted to restate something that you said at the very end. Please, please for your precious children’s sake, never trust anyone blindly to mentor your sons (or daughters) no matter how good, Godly, and absolutely harmless they seem. We did, and even though we were providing near constant supervision when our children were in this persons presence, he still managed to attempt to harm one of our children in a very real way, in the few minutes that it took to go to the mailbox and back. And this person, was a loved, trusted elderly member of our own family, who was living with my children’s grandparents. And this threat happened more than once before our child confided in us what was happening in those 3 or 4 minute long walks outside. This is a person I grew up loving as a little girl, someone who attended church every. single. time. the doors where opened, someone who was an ordained pastor, and someone who now is in jail for child molestation and attempted statutory rape. After our child told us about the threat that was being posed, and the elderly person was confronted he admitted to attempting this with our children, and having DONE this to numerous other children for the past 50 years! We had NO IDEA!

    I do not ever plan on writing this on my own blog, to protect my children from prying people, as so many of my own readers know us in person, so today I am posting this comment as anonymous, even though I have posted many comments here before as “myself”. But I just wanted to restate your warning, and say, I never believed our children were in any way under threat, but they were. I thought we were being so very careful, but with these precious lives you can never be too careful! Tread with much prayer!

  3. Great post. I was scared to read what you were going to say since I have heard a lot of terrible advice and also some Christian writing which emasculates boys and expects them to act like compliant little girls.

    You are spot on with this advice.

    I think though, that this is a process that will go on for years. Do not expect a simple fix at age 10 and think you are done until the day they move out of the house as young men. This is the same core issue and challenge for parents in the teen years. Even using the same consequences, it doesn’t stop the GROWTH and DEVELOPMENT of the teen, so they are always trying to gain more control over their lives and think they should be able to be completely independent when they are not even 16 and can’t even get a real job yet.

  4. Thank you Amy… My eldest son 32 years old now, never gave me the fit my 13 year old does some days… With the LORD’s guidance we will make it through all of this and he will be a fine young man… Looking to Jesus…

  5. I agree 100% with the bit about giving more responsibility. My husband is in the Army, and is gone somewhat frequently for a week and up to a month at a time. Our 8-year-old son is charged with being the man of the house while Dad is gone. Each time he has to leave, my husband has a serious conversation about how our son is taking over several of his responsibilities – taking out the garbage, helping with our three-year-old daughter, and just a generally responsible attitude. Each time, our son rises to the expectations set – a piece of me thinks it’s because DAD set the expectation, but that’s wonderful! Amazingly, there are far fewer discipline issues with Dad gone. We’ve begun adding to his chore chart, and it has helped the attitude issue! :)

  6. Boy attitudes – I need help with my girls’ attitudes, lol! But I like your points. I would add another, though much less profound – read books and watch movies with strong, moral men. Too often shows and movies show men as bumbling idiots and I think watching such things disrespects my husband and my boys. One book we read recently that was great for male role models was Ralph Moody’s Little Britches.

  7. Thanks. This gave me some insight into my 14 year old who has started being very bossy and talking in a mean, kind of booming voice to his 5 younger siblings, when he wants them to do something. I am trying some of the things you suggested already, but, this post helped me realize that it is a phase that we can work through.

  8. Thank you Amy! My 11 year has been struggling with the exact things you described. It’s wonderful to have encouragement that we are trying to do the right thing, knowing you have an older son and you have already been through this territory. Thank you for letting God use you!

  9. Ahhh, thank you, thank you for this post! I feel like we’re already seeing this inner struggle between boyhood and manhood in our almost 7 year old! I’m pinning this so I can read it over and over again!

  10. Loved this advice but was wondering if you have any specific books that would be good reads on this topic? I have been wondering what is going on with my just turned 11 year old and I never thought of your points. Would you say its sort of like a power struggle? I always thought that girls were supposed to be worse but I guess we haven’t hit puberty around here yet (which scares me to death).

  11. Amy this is great! My son is only 6.5 but I’m starting to see some of this same attitude/disrespect already. My boys’ dad is not involved and I’m having a hard time finding a godly role model for them. Any tips/suggestions?? Also any recommendations for those godly preachers you mentioned?


    • LaToya,
      I’d try reaching out in your church first. I’d also take a moment to listen to What to Expect from a 12 year old by S.M. Davis (I think you can find it free on or there is a link in this post to actually purchase it: ) I’d look for strong role models from history (think of early church fathers, or WWII heroes or Martin Luther King, Jr. etc), then dive into documentaries and books about or by those role models. Remember, no man is perfect, but your son will greatly benefit from learning what a strong man looks and acts like. I really like a lot of Voddie Baucham’s sermons (also on and Doug Phillips has some great sessions on being a manly man. Take a look at this post for more ideas (there is a list of Bible verses full of godly, strong men in that post too!)

      • Thanks Amy! Unfortunately our church has been of no help at all. I’m in the process of looking for a new church though and praying that I’ll find some godly men willing to help me out!

  12. Amy, I needed to read this today! My son turns 13 just ten days from today, and I always said Jesus was coming back before I had a teenager! LOL! But he exhibits behavior just like you stated above…trying to dominate. He’s an only child, so who does he try this out on? ME! And I so often lose my temper over it that I’m a horrible example of tough grace. :) Thank you for putting this in perspective and giving me a little bit of a glimpse into his world. I am the baby of two girls, never having had a brother, so his behavior is totally alien to me! :)

  13. Thanks for the great post! I especially appreciate the useful example under number 3. :) I only have one son, and he’s only just turned 2, but boy, we’re dealing with this already. He thinks he’s in charge of all his sisters, even though he the second youngest! I knew girls were “little moms”, but I was not prepared for little boys to be so controlling too!

  14. Amy ~ wonderful advice. Sometimes I think our children are just feeling out who they are becoming, and learning how to handle hormonal changes and everything else that goes along with growing up. It’s disconcerting (to say the least) when they start to do this, but I do believe it is totally normal and I like the advice you give. I do also believe that (like you said) the answer “oh, it’s just teenagers” is a cop-out. What are we going to do about those “just teenagers” is the more appropriate reaction. Guide them, love them, and point them to Christ.

    I love this post. Thank you!

  15. What fantastic advice. You are so right that boys are becoming men, and they do have an inbuilt sense of ‘I have to rule, to protect, and to get ‘out there’ ‘. The lack of challenges leaves many boys frustrated and they take that frustration out on parents/sibling/the world in general.

    Lots of physical exercise is so useful to let their frustration escape.

    Great words!

  16. Thank you Amy for this! You have described my 12 year old perfectly with *flexing his dominion muscles* and the lashing out at younger siblings and definitely in trying to control ME when dad is working his 24 hr shifts. I can’t wait for my hubby to read this! THANK YOU!

  17. Aha! I think that is what I am seeing with my three teenage boys. Even though each is dominating/conquering new challenges in own area-music, athletics, etc.) and I believe feeling successful overall, they are still trying to dominate in the household. It is almost like a pecking order mentality. Is the notion of “boys/men needing to conquer’ your hunch or rooted in scripture?

    • My Scriptural basis for this is everything from the dominion mandate in Genesis to the order of headship in the New Testament. My “hunch” is that this is God-given drive to lead and conquer that starts to really show itself at this age.

  18. This article put many things into perspective for me, however do these same principles hold true to say a 4 year old boy? Right now I am going through these same issues with my 4 yr old. If you have any advice in this situation I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you for your time and wisdom!

    • Oh my too! My 4 year old is so disrespectful, mouthy, defiant…I am ALWAYS getting after him for it. I’m at my wits end and at the point where I just don’t know what to do anymore.

  19. This came at just the right time! I feel like my son is too young to be in this stage (he’s 6 1/2 y/o and in K). But when I read over your article it really seems to hit the nail on the head. It’s very frustrating for me because I grew up with no boys, so I don’t readily “get” them. I only work 1 1/2 days a week so I’m home with the boys more than Daddy. I will be working on your ideas! Thank you!