Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Boys Will Be Boys

The other day my four-year-old son discovered blue and yellow make green by coloring on his blue pants with a yellow highlighter. Two days ago, my seven-year-old son was sitting on the toilet for what he said was "three hours" (it wasn't really), got bored and did this to the curtain rod:
Bent Curtain Rod in Bathroom
Yesterday, my 12-year-old used some bricks from the garden to test the bridge he built for technology class. 
The bridge can hold two bricks!
Last summer, one of the boys put holes in his brother's bedroom wall with his heels. Another one literally hung from the drapes in the living room and pulled the curtain rod out of the wall.

They love to wrestle, do messy science experiments, dig, knock things down, hit things with hammers and sticks, sword fight, have Nerf gun battles and a million other boy-type things. They all also love to cook, read (or be read to depending on age and ability) and draw. Seven likes to crochet. Twelve likes to do origami. Four likes to help me clean. I have always let them follow their interests and have never made them choose an activity because it's a typical boy activity. Nor have I made them avoid things because they are typical girl activities. They simply tend to gravitate toward the more boy-type things with a few quieter activities thrown in for good measure. 

Yesterday, I read the post 5 Excuses Parents Make for Their Bratty Children on BlogHer. While I don't take offense at what the author typed, a comment left by someone else got my hackles up. She felt the phrase "boys will be boys" is another excuse people use to justify bad behavior in boys. I've read this criticism before. As a mom to three active boys, it always burns me. I think it can only come from someone who doesn't know boys.

I've done a lot of reading about raising boys and, the sad truth is, boys tend to get the shaft these days both socially and in school.

By school age, the average boy is less mature socially, less verbal, and more active than most girls (from the article, Understanding and Raising Boys, on the PBS Parents website). Schools are now heavily language based, a situation that puts boys at risk of falling behind before they've really begun and gives girls the academic edge. Children are expected to sit still for most of the school day, something that is challenging for many boys, while girls, on average, handle it with greater ease.

Schools remain strongly centered around achievement for girls through college. Nationwide in 2003, women earned 60% of all associate degrees, 58% of all bachelor’s degrees and 59% of all master’s degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (From the OC Family website, article Boys vs. Girls: Who has the edge?).

I believe in girl power and think girls should be raised to achieve whatever they want, but I really wish it didn't come at the expense of boys. Most parents of boys know the phrase "boys will be boys" rings with a lot of truth. They need activity. They need to run, bang things together, wrestle and do typical boy things. They need it as much as they need to breath. Giving them the message that typical boy behavior is bad and forcing them to sit still for long periods of time and, well, behave like girls, crushes their spirits. It also tends to leave them with a lot of pent up energy that will come out in misbehavior.

This isn't to knock down girls. That's not my intent at all. Girls that have an easier time focusing, can sit still for longer periods of time and excel in school deserve all the credit they get. Girls that aren't being served by schools and society need help, too. But, all the dialogue seems to be centered on girls.

Let's turn some of that dialogue back to boys.

We need to stop getting frustrated with boys' excuberant behavior and learn to work with it. That doesn't mean there aren't consequences when they do things like bend the curtain rod. But, it also doesn't mean boys need to be made to feel bad for, well, being boys. The truth is, boys will be boys. They can't help it and we shouldn't expect them to.


  1. I agree with you 100%! I loved the book "Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different - And How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men". It touched on a lot of the same subjects you posted about.

  2. Barb,

    Before I read this delightful post, I thought it would be about boys missing the toilet bowl.

    My sister-in-law had a solution for that. The kids bathroom when they were growing up had carpeting except tile in back of the toilet, with carpeting right up to the front of the toilet. So my young niece thought it would be cool to pee like her older brother did, and guess what! She peed on the carpeting!

    Girls will be girls also.


  3. Resweater - Thank you! I read that book several years ago. I should re-read it.

    Carol - That's a funny story! Yes, that's true, too - girls will be girls - lol! Carpeting in the bathroom - yuck!

  4. Wow, you have some mischievous boys. But that's just natural I suppose.

    - ACCS

  5. Great post! I have 3 boys and often feel that boys are being made to be the villains in the entire "Girl-Power" movement. I commend and respect strong women, but do we have to diminish the value and importance of a strong man in the process?

  6. Marianne - Thank you. That's the point of my post in a nutshell! While everyone understands the why behind the girl-power movement, I feel like the issues surrounding boys are something only parents of boys understand. We NEED more dialogue and brainstorming about how to best help boys.