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Raising Boys

Updated on October 29, 2011

What is it really like raising a boy? Read a personal account....

I am the proud parent of two boys. I started my journey into parenthood more than a decade ago now, yet I can still remember my first pregnancy and the feelings that went with it. I think, perhaps, that these feelings are something that you never forget. After all, starting a family is probably the most life changing choice you will ever make.

So what were those feelings? Well, aside from all the usual side effects of pregancy, mixed feelings of elation and anxiety, and joy at feeling my baby move inside me, for some reason or another I was convinced I was carrying a girl. For most of my pregancy, I imagined my baby as a girl, and almost right up until the very end (we chose not to find out the gender of the baby) we had only chosen a girl's name. Why? I don't know. It wasn't that I really wanted a girl above a boy. Perhaps it was because I had grown up in a largely female dominated environment, with only a sister to entertain. On top of that, I spent a lot of my time with my mother and my grandmother, more so than with my father who was occupied with other things. I did have boy cousins, actually, but rarely saw them and never really got to know them properly.

So then, perhaps the reason I became so convinced I was having a girl was simply because I couldn't quite imagine having a boy.

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /
Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

It's A Boy

Maybe it was some kind of insight or something - I don't know - but all of a sudden, about two weeks before I went into labor, I started to think that perhaps, just perhaps, the baby that kicked and kicked inside me really could be a boy. For those last few days we spent hours reading the name book, trying to come up with a boy's name that we both liked. In the end, we found one, which was good because that little bundle inside me really did turn out to be a beautiful little son.


Image: Tina Phillips /
Image: Tina Phillips /

What Is It Like Having A Son?

When a newborn baby arrives into the world there really isn't that much difference between a boy or a girl (apart from the obvious, of course!) But as a baby grows older and becomes a small child, plenty of differences start to emerge.

Boys, even very small boys, often like to be active. Boys like to be on-the-go, and are often less content than girls to sit on the floor with a few favorite toys. Neither of my sons have liked doing that much - it seemed as though they always wanted to reach out into the wider world. It is a known fact that boys take up more space with their play than girls do. Older girls often enjoy sitting and coloring, or sticking. Boys can like this too, but often tire of it more quickly than girls. And then there is the throwing.

Small boys really so seem to take a delight in throwing. I'm not sure why this is as such, but I know it is a trait complained about by many mothers of sons. My two both liked throwing, in a very random 'let's see what happens when I do this' kind of way. In retrospect, it is probably related to the fact that boys like physical play, and throwing is a physical action. Rest assured that it will stop, in the end. Your wonderful son is unlikely to be on the path of permanent hooliganism and senseless throwing will stop as soon as it started. My thoughts are that young children have not yet acquired the skills to partake in more organized activties, so are releasing their energy in other ways instead.

Sometimes boys start hitting other children, parents or siblings. While this behavior should not be encouraged, and you should certainly say a firm 'no', young children are only learning and finding their way in the world. For most children it is just a phase that will disappear in its own good time. Most very young children who hit do not actually realize they are hurting you, nor do they mean to cause pain. Often, it will be just an experiment, and the reaction they might get may make it all the more interesting. Boys do seem more prone to hitting than girls, yet you should not treat them too harshly - it is very common behavior. When my sons were small and acting in an undesirable manner, I found that the best way of dealing with it would be to distract them into focusing their attention onto something else.

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /
Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

Sons Are Loving

Perhaps you don't always see this side of other people's sons, but boys can indeed be very loving. Little boys are usually 'mommy's boys', who totally dote on their mothers. Both of my sons would come up and hug me and tell me they loved me, even from toddlers. Boys can often be quite protective of their mothers, and sometimes jealous if her affections are given elsewhere.  They seem to have an inbuilt pride for their mother - one of my sons would often tell me i was beautiful; the most beautiful mommy in the world!  And when they get older, behavior of this type will probably be deemed too embarrassing out in public - boys like to be cool, after all - but rest assured, a mother will always have a special place inside her son's heart.

Little boys need a lot of attention from their mother, and will often turn to her first when they are hurt or in need of something. Of course, they love their fathers too, and both parents are equally important - yet the role of the father really reaches its potential much later on, when older boys start to look to a father figure for guidance on growing up. Older boys will want to be with their fathers and will often want to replicate them. My oldest son might love me very much, but he certainly sees me as useless when it comes to sporting activities, fixing things or making things. I am just second rate when compared to his dad.

Another myth that must be expelled is that boys are not emotional. That is not at all true - even though a boy may not show it (think 'uncool' again) a boy has just as many emotions bubbling away inside as a girl. Sometimes, though, boys find it more difficult to express and explain their emotions. And not only that, but when a boy's tender emotions do manage to find a way to the surface, they can sometimes be expressed through aggression instead. If a boy starts showing signs of aggression, it is important to watch for indicators that he is unhappy about something.

Jokes About Body Functions

Yes, you probably know it already, and there's not much point trying to stop it - boys love to make jokes about everything from poos to farts to the loudest burps. As a female, I never find any of these jokes even remotely amusing, yet both my boys and all their friends seem to delight in them. (And, dare I say it, I even catch their dad laughing too!) But no, it really doesn't do anything for me. No point telling them off, though. Just go with the flow, or tune out and pretend you're wearing earplugs. They'll grow out of it in the end - but only to a point.

Boys Are Far Less Bitchy

Sometimes smug Mothers of Girls think that they have the easy life during the very early years. After all, while the boys are tearing chaotically about, throwing things and getting themselves into all sorts of sticky scrapes, the girls can be found coloring happily in the corner or role playing with dolls, teddy bears and pretend cooking utensils. (Of course, this is only a general speculation, all children are individuals.) But when girls start school and start to form tight friendship groups, trouble can sometimes emerge. Girls at school can be very cruel to one another, often excluding one single girl for no particular reason. I can remember girls acting this way at my school, many years ago now, and I'm not sure things have really changed enough. It's a horrible feeling to be singled out for exclusion, by the very classmates you were friends with only the day before. Boys hurt by hitting out and fighting, yet girls hurt just as much with their tongues.

During the last few years I have observed that boys in general seem to be much more accommodating than girls. Boys often play in large groups, rather than choosing only one 'best friend'. It is more of a pack-like type of behavior, and usually all is well as long as everyone is following the 'rules'. Boys like rules, and they like to know what's what. Boys often play games with a structure, which means that everyone knows their place. Possibly, this is because boys have been shown to be more logically minded than girls.

From my own experience as a parent, boys are nowhere near as 'bitchy' towards each other as girls. Even when a dispute does occur, boys seem to hold a grudge much less often, and so any problem is easily rectified. Boy's emotions, though not less important, seem to be more basic. And the 'pack-like' characteristics of boys means that boys are much less likely to be affected by a certain friend being absent from school.

Image: Arvind Balaraman /
Image: Arvind Balaraman /
Image: Tina Phillips /
Image: Tina Phillips /

Boys Need To Go Out!

Well, that's certainly the case with my two boys! A rainy day, with not a lot of action always leaves them climbing the walls - quite literally. Somehow, all that unused testosterone builds up and up into a exploding bomb of chaos, mayhem and a trashed house. If that sounds like your son, remember this rule - sons really do need to go out, if only for a while.

My sons like ball games (and yes, you have to be prepared to play as well!) Take them to the park, or if the weather is really dire, then pay a visit to one of those indoor activity centers instead. Let them go wild, and when you return you will find they can settle down to a calmer activity much more easily. Boys really, really, do need to burn off their energy, otherwise it may surface as bad behavior - or to put it better, what you perceive as bad behavior. Perception is an important skill to learn, because what you might find really irritating and annoying might just actually be 'boys being boys'.

Other simple activities that we have enjoyed are walking in nature parks (and playing hide and seek in the bushes and trees), trips to the coast to search for crabs etc, cycling, skating at the local rink and swimming. Exercise is good for anyone, but I believe that it is especially good for the positive development of boys.

Boys Need Boundaries

 Boys get on best when they know exactly what is expected of them.  Boys actually like fair rules; it helps them grow into respectful, well-rounded individuals.  Parents who just let their sons roam wild, doing exactly what they like with no consequences, are not doing them any favors in the long run.  Once a child reaches the early teenage years it is much harder to correct past mistakes.

What should a consequence be?  Well, if your son is doing something wrong and knows it, you should first of all give him a warning.  The warning is to give him the chance to correct his behavior of his own accord, which is always better in the long run.  If he doesn't listen, tell him what will happen if he doesn't stop - perhaps a 'time out' or confiscating something such as a games console.  If you confiscate something he loves, make sure that the time period is not too long, otherwise he will lose all hope and find it hard to see the point.  Discipline is actually supposed to be a positive tool, and should be used in a positive, just manner.


Boys Are Great At Fixing Things And Understanding Instructions!

Yes, even when your son has yet to reach the age of seven or eight, he will probably be much more adept than you at putting things together with a set of instructions, fixing something that is broken, or understanding new technology. Boys seem to have an inbuilt ability to suceed at these things, much more so than struggling mothers. Also, boys love to feel useful and helpful (although you might dispute this at times!). And feeling useful and helpful is definitely good for their esteem. 

Although many reports seem to indicate that girls develop more quickly and reach developmental milestones earlier than boys, I would have to argue that they can depend on the issue in question.  Boys can definitely be better at certain tasks than girls, and the above-mentioned skills are good examples of these.  Which brings me to the next topic - schooling.


Very often, in schools, it is the boys who get told off the most for disrupting the class. And even from an early age, girls often surpass boys in many areas. But is the problem really all to do with boys?

In both North America and the United Kingdom, children start school at a very early age. My elder son was just four years and three months old when he began his first year of school. He had attended a daycare facility part-time, which he had thoroughly enjoyed, but this did not quite prepare him for the structure of 'big' school. It certainly took him a while to realize that it was not simply an extension of nursery,

But just why do boys end up misbehaving the most at school? I suppose the question we really have to ask ourselves is, is it the boy, or is it the school? Many people now believe that the school system just does not cater to the needs of boys as well as to the needs of girls. As we know, the two genders behave quite differently.

Boys have more testosterone than girls and naturally need to move about more. One of the things that my son had difficulty with at first was the simple task of sitting on the carpet. I would just like to mention that he does not have ADHD, or any of the other labels professionals like to stick on children who do not quite fit the model of a perfect child. Another point to mention is that boys typically have a surge of testosterone aat around four years old, which is just the time that most young children are starting school in America and the UK.

Many other countries in Europe do not start formal education until the age of 6-7, with no negative effects on the child's education. Personally, I feel this would have suited my son a lot better, as it was not until this age that he actually seemed to 'click' with school. I remember that up until this time, he could not even recognize that two words were identical, when appearing on the same page. Yet all of a sudden, this really hit home and now he is one of the best readers in his class. However, the negative effects of starting school young have really stuck - some children were almost a year older and much more 'ready' for school - my son's attitude was always that he was not 'one of the clever ones'.

But back to the differences between boys and girls. My experiences have led me to think that the very methods used to teach children do not always suit boys as well as they could. For instance, boys often lose concentration when expected to sit still and work at a desk. My son often thinks school is very boring, despite the fact that I have seen him very inspired by visits to museums, castles and science exhibitions. My thoughts are that boys often learn better when education is more interactive and less restricted.

Image: Michal Marcol /
Image: Michal Marcol /

My Experience

 Now that I have had several years experience as the mother of two gorgeous sons, I can hardly imagine having girls instead of boys.  Raising boys has, for me, been a very positive experience thus far.  Boys like to be silly, cool, and sometimes play more roughly than you would like, but they can also be loving, kind and helpful.  Even if they don't want to show it in front of their mates, boys can definitely be just as affectionate as girls.  And above anything else, you should enjoy your son while he is young, as childhood passes surprisingly fast.


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