THE BLOG
08/17/2015 05:54 pm ET Updated Aug 17, 2016

How to Raise Your Son to Be a Caring Man

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I am blessed to have three sons.

I always dreamed of having a little girl and it wasn't until I met my current husband that those girls showed up in the form of his four daughters.

I realized when I became a solo mother just how vital a role raising sons was -- I was shaping the men of the future, raising the next generation of men and I wanted to raise men that were in touch with their feelings and able to articulate them. I wanted to raise my sons to be the kind of man I wanted more of in the world and I have to say I did a pretty good job.

Now, I can't take all the credit, my ex-husband played his part and so did my current husband and between us all we have raised three amazing men.

I know this from the way I see my eldest son care for his children. One of the tenderest moments I have ever seen was watching him carefully wash his eldest daughter's hair. At the time she had very long, very thick, wavy hair that took a lot of care and attention.

This particular night he not only washed her hair including applying conditioner , he then spent ages carefully combing out all the knots without yanking or pulling -- a pure joy to watch.

I know this from the way my middle son cares for his wife and friends. From the sheer excitement I heard in his voice when he rang to inform me that they were having not one but two babies and then again when he found out it was not just twins but twin girls. I can't wait to see him as a father.

I know this from the way my youngest (he's currently at home for a short while) asked me why I was upset and then gave me a great talking to, to help shift me out of my funk, not to mention a great hug and the way we still have what he calls "mother-son bonding time." This used to be his code for getting me to make him pancakes while he watched and chatted to me and who could resist their teenager asking for "mother-son bonding time"?

That has really been the cornerstone of parenting my sons, making time to talk to them regardless of their age. The other key is regular hugs even when they are teenagers, especially when they are teenagers.

It is too easy when your kids reach a certain age (and it's different ages for different families) to decide that they are now "too old" for you to show them affection in the fear that we will make them "soft" or "weak" or that we are "babying" them. Guess what? We aren't. Virginia Satir, a family psychologist, said " We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth."

Ideally, every child needs two parents who love them and let them know each and every day. Boys need mothers who love them and tell them so. They need fathers they can look up to and respect and be respected by. They need to learn how to treat a woman from seeing the way their father treats their mother. They need to see what a healthy relationship looks like by seeing love and affection between his parents or those that are raising him. They also need to be able to express their emotions -- all of them and that means letting them cry when they need to (regardless of their age).

(1) Hug often.
We all need a lot of touching and that doesn't stop as we get older.
(2) Make time for talking.
Driving your teen to school is a great time to get them to chat about what is going on in their life. Make sure to check in on them when they have shut themselves away in their room (Knock first. Always knock). Even sitting with them while they play on their gaming console lets them know that you are available if they want to chat.
(3)Emotions need to be felt.
When they are young help them identify what they are feeling. Is that sick feeling anxiety or stress? Are they yelling because they are frustrated or angry? Give them the tools and the space to really feel their feelings.
(4)Pick your battles.
They are striving to become their own person and this will take the form of pushing up against all your beliefs about how life should be. Some of that is just flexing their "Me" muscle and can be left and some needs to be reigned in to keep them safe. Decide early on what the boundaries are and which ones are more flexible. Make sure you and your partner are a united front when it comes to setting the ground rules.

The old adage "the days are long but the years are short." Is true. We never realize how quickly they grow up and leave home until they have flown the nest. Cherish the time you have with them and know that they always come back, however briefly. And when they do it is an unbelievable blessing to share your time with them.