Though they may sometimes smell like wet puppies, we moms sure love our little boys. While dads play a key role in boys' development and well-being, wise and patient mothers are essential for more than doling out snacks and doing laundry.

What do boys need from their moms?

1. Help With Grooming

Your husband ignores his back-of-the-neck stubble and occasionally has trouble matching his clothes. You can bet he won't always notice your son's inside-out T-shirt, uncombed hair, icky socks or mismatched outfits. This is mom territory. Clip his fingernails and when he's old enough, teach him how to do it. Give his ears a swab with the Q-tip. I know - gross and duh - but little boys aren't self-cleaning ovens or cats.

2. A Chase Around the House

Save the pro-wrestling smack down stuff for dad. When you both have energy to burn, who says mom can't play an impromptu game of tag? Boys love a good run and chase. You're sending the message, "You are fun to play with and I love you."

3. Snuggle Time With a Story

Generally, girls dig reading more than boys. Often, schoolteachers assign nightly "reading minutes," which can sometimes turn reading into a chore. Find a book that you can read to your son each night, completely un-school related, simply for the pure enjoyment of it. Make it fun by giving each character a different voice or accent (give Wilbur a nasally whine and Charlotte a British lilt, for example). Snuggle up. Boys need affection, too.

4. One-On-One Pow Wows

Boys aren't always vocal about their personal concerns. They tend to manifest their anxieties in physical ways rather than sitting down and articulating them. Help draw out your son's worries by holding regular, informal interviews. Chatting in the car alone can be ideal conversation time. Ask open-ended questions, such as:

  • What was your favorite part of your day?

  • If you could change anything in your life, what would it be?

  • What are the three best things about you?

5. Introduce a Bit of Culture

  • Attend a play with your son. It doesn't have to be Broadway. Something local and inexpensive can be great.

  • Create a show tunes playlist to listen to in the car. Your guy may groan at "Dancing Through Life" or "On My Own," but you may be his only link to this fabulous music genre, which, at least on some level, he'll appreciate someday.

  • Along the same lines, rent or record a musical or any classic movie to watch together. It'll open up to him a new world of wholesome entertainment.

6. Cooking 101

On those Sunday afternoons when your son desperately needs something to do, assign him a "very important" recipe for dinner. (A dessert usually scores big points.) Pull out the ingredients, review the recipe together, and let him go at it. Stay close enough to monitor things, but let him feel like this is his baby. He'll learn a new skill, enjoy an immediate reward, and you'll get a moment's peace.

7. Grab the Wiimote

Play your son's favorite video game with him. It's all about spending time together, and when you display interest in his hobbies, your son will love you for it.

Moms are often overwhelmingly busy. If you don't have ten minutes to read a story or play tag, don't fret. Pull your little guy into your arms and tell him you love him - that will do the trick, too.

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