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  • Boys living with single mothers are at an even greater disadvantage than girls in any number of ways. Tweet This
  • Growing up without a father "doesn’t have to land boys in juvenile court to hamper their prospects." Tweet This

If last week was any indication, Nikkole Paulun is going to be nominated for mother of the year. A former star of the reality show 16 and Pregnant, Paulun may seem an unlikely candidate. But when she posted on her Facebook page a description of the monthly dinner date she has with her six-year-old son, the Internet melted. Accompanied by a picture of a boy looking through his wallet, Paulun wrote:

Once a month my 6-year-old son takes me out on a dinner date. He opens doors for me, pulls out my chair, talks about his day & asks me how mine was, pays the bill with money he earned by doing chores, and even tips the waiter/waitress. By doing this I am teaching him how to treat a lady & how to take her on a proper date. How to show that he respects the woman he loves (right now that would be mommy). We put our phone and iPad away (except to take this photo) and sit and talk to each other about our days, things we want to do, etc. I’m teaching him proper table manners and that it’s rude to sit on your phone on a date with your mom or with anyone else…

Yes, he is young but I believe this is something he should learn now. It’s never too early to teach your child how to properly respect others, especially women. As a woman who has been abused & treated like crap in the past, it’s extremely important to me that I teach my son how to show respect. Too many men these days have no idea how to treat women or how to take them on a nice date. It’s nice to know my son won’t be one of them.

It is hard to find anything wrong with this picture. Paulun is clearly trying to raise a polite, intelligent, responsible young man. Unfortunately, it may be even more difficult than she imagines.

Recent research suggests that boys living with single mothers are at an even greater disadvantage than girls in any number of ways. In fact, for most disadvantages a child can experience—from living in a bad neighborhood to growing up poor—boys feel the effects more than girls do. As a piece in the New York Times last year pointed out, “By the time boys from poor neighborhoods start kindergarten, they are already less prepared than their sisters. The gap keeps widening: They are more likely to be suspended, skip school, perform poorly on standardized tests, drop out of high school, commit crimes as juveniles and have behavioral or learning disabilities.”

One of the most obvious explanations for this is that while girls in these homes see a same-sex role model—indeed, a person who has taken all the responsibility for work and for childrearing—the boys have no such person. To the extent that they have men in their lives, they are often transient, irresponsible, and sometimes even law-breaking.

This is having effects beyond boys’ misbehavior. As Kay Hymowitz noted in City Journal, growing up without a father “doesn’t have to land boys in juvenile court to hamper their prospects. Several studies have concluded that boys raised in single-parent homes are less likely to go to college than boys with similar achievement levels raised in married-couple families; girls show no such gap.”

Single mothers are trying to shoulder an incredible burden. Many people will remember the Baltimore mother who smacked her teen son and dragged him off after she caught him participating in anti-police rioting. As much as what she was doing was admirable, it was also a little sad. A mother, no matter how much righteous anger she has in her, is not going to be as effective as a father in this situation.

And though we can hope that Nikkole Paulun’s son takes to heart her lessons in being a gentleman, it is hard to know how effective they will be coming from a woman.