I am in the process of raising three boys. I have not had a lot of time to do research or read books on the subject, but I have had a lot of time to think about boys and their behavior. I am in the thick of it with a four year old and twin 3 year olds. I hear the line "boys will be boys" all the time and I often wonder what it means and what I find acceptable in my own home or with my family. I usually hear it with regards to bad behavior being excused. As one boy slugs another "oh boys will be boys," or "oh they are just being boys." Other times they are running around yelling but playing nicely, again "such energetic boys."
In each of these situations I would react differently to my sons. The first situation would receive a time out or other consequence. The second I would watch in awe and think about how I wish I had that energy. I am by no means an expert on boys and I will not claim that mine are the best behaved boys around, but we have been working on what "boy" behavior is allowed and what is not. I feel I must add, when it comes to my sons' behavior I have had to look to my husband. He always calms me down and says, "Honey they are fine. They will be fine. That's normal."
Behavior that I accept as the mother of three boys:
1. Wrestling - I can't stop it. It used to scare me and drive me crazy but I have accepted it. It is not just my toddlers who are itching for some full contact rough housing. My husband comes home from work and is more than willing to throw the boys around a bit -- and not just my husband, but both grandpas get in there and toss the kids around. I have gotten over my fear of injury and let them have their fun. If things get too out of hand I run interference and calm the match down.
2. Sword fighting - From the day that my oldest could walk he picked up a stick and hit things with it. Now, I never showed my 10 month old how to sword fight. There was something innately fun about hitting things with sticks. This has continued. I lost that battle to keep these things out of the house. My play room is a giant armory full of Nerf swords, light sabers, and dress up weapons. It was exceptionally difficult with my Star Wars fan of a husband itching to get a good light saber fight in with his sons.
3. Loud and energetic play - I don't know about other households, but mine is a noisy one. Sometimes it gets to me and I lose my marbles, but for the most part I don't mind loud play. We have drums and instruments and play tools that make all kinds of noises. Trust me with this many boys it's the quiet times, where they are plotting their next devious plan, that really concerns me. They are also very active. Our play room and living room have literally turned into their jungle gym and I let it with proper rules. When they jump off the couch pretending to to be Peter Pan flying out to save Wendy, they are not to jump from the top of the couch but from the seat cushions. They are to never jump on a sibling, especially their baby sister, and they must jump into their fluffy bean bag chairs. When we are in other peoples homes they are not allowed to jump on furniture.
4. Playing the bad guy - My oldest son likes a lot of bad guys. He loves Captain Hook. I allow it and I am not worried about his portrayal of a villain. He is a good boy -- a little rambunctious and slightly more aggressive than the other two boys -- but it is play. When his play becomes too aggressive, I step in and talk to him about proper behavior. I am not worried that somewhere in his head he is turning into a super villain who will want to take over the world someday. He also likes to be the superhero as well. I have spent many an afternoon playing the Avengers with three Captain Americas at my side.
Behavior I will not tolerate and cannot excuse because of a Y chromosome:
1. Rude or disrespectful language - As an Aunt I was always amazed at how well behaved my nephews were. They were good at remembering their please and thank yous and spoke nicely to adults. I knew that I wanted to instill some of those values with my kids. We work really hard to make sure that our boys have good manners and not just when we are around. To be honest I think they are better when we are not around and save up their worst behavior for us. If there is screaming, yelling, demanding, or whining, I don't respond. I remind them that I can only help if they use their manners and respect me. Of course I am not saying that my kids are angels. Far from it. There have been times where I have hauled all of my children out of a store for one of them throwing a fit, but at least there are consequences.
2. No hitting/kicking/biting or angry pushing - Now I know you must be thinking that I said I allow my children to wrestle and jump off the furniture, but there are strict rules. During those activities there is no hitting or kicking or biting. With wrestling there is obviously some pushing. How else are they supposed to knock my husband over if they are not pushing him? But I can clearly tell when they get too worked up, ball up their fists and start running that it has gone too far. They are not allowed to run up and randomly shove their siblings or friends at school. We have taught them there is a time and place for physical play and everyone has to be a willing participant.
I know that what I allow in my house is not the same as in other households with boys. I don't know if their energy level is because they are boys or if it's because they are three boys. I will never know what it's like to have one so I only know what works for us. My boys will be boys. They will wrestle and sword fight and pretend to be Captain Hook. But they will have good manners and be respectful of others and know when it is the right time to play or be serious.
Have you found boys' behavior to be different from girls'? If so how and what would you allow?