As a male, a father and grandfather, who has worked with boys for 30 years, I wish all moms knew the following 11 things about boys.
Despite the beliefs of some in our culture who have allowed crazy cultural ideas to run amok, boys REALLY ARE different than girls. And treating them the same is just wrong. So, from this Male, father of a boy and grandfather to 5 boys, and educator of hundreds of boys, this is what I want Moms to know about their boys.
#1 Boys love you
Mom, your son loves you. Dearly. He may not say so because for many boys the spoken word is not the preferred way of communicating and words are not mastered for some time, maybe never. But they love you. Look for their actions, not their words. And if you want to hear “I Love You” then don’t be afraid to ask your son to say it when you want to hear it. He likely will do it just for you.
#2 Winning, competition, and gaming isn’t about what you think
Yes, boys love to win. Yes, they will spend endless hours arguing about rules and who won. But in reality, winning is not really what this is all about. It is really about RESPECT. Every boy wants to be respected. Deeply and desperately. Teach them how to win and lose respectfully. Teach them that your respect for him grows when he works hard, is respectful to others and does his best – win or lose. Celebrate with him when he wins, cry with him when he loses, but respect him and he will be OK. And if your son is playing too many video games, then give him some real life ways to earn respect by “conquering” difficult tasks. You may find he gains more satisfaction in the real life respect he gains through these tasks. Make sure your son knows how to earn your and his father’s respect. One more word about respect. It often includes an element of risk. Sometimes physical risk. So moms, don’t keep your son from all physical risks. Of course set boundaries, but recognize that some risk is OK. Yes, your son may get a few more cuts, scrapes, and bruises, but such is life! They will pale compared to the satisfaction of earning respect.
#3 Surprisingly respect oozes into other areas
Because boys want to be respected, they want to have the right electronics and wear the right clothes. And the “right stuff” always seems to be expensive – very, very expensive. So begin teaching him early that there are the right people to earn respect from and the wrong people. For a while, he won’t honor your list of the “right” and “wrong” people, but in time he will come back around. So hang in there!
#4 Boys are fascinated with how things work – including bodily functions
So, I say, have fun exploring how things work, including bodily functions. But don’t be afraid to set boundaries for what can be done or discussed in public. You son understands this. He wants to be respected and that includes being a gentleman. So he can separate out what times are ok and what times are not, as long as you are willing to discuss these things with him in private. Don’t belittle him, he can learn to be respectful of public norms, etc. But don’t stifle him and tell him he may never speak of these things. And remember that exploring can sometimes be a dirty business. Especially outside exploration. That is OK. Don’t mind the dirt. You can always wash him off with the outside hose and then let him enter your house. Really, a little mud is good for the immune system and I think good for the soul of a boy. So let him discover and learn how things work. One last word on “how things work.” For many boys, school is not a fun place. Boys are natural learners but many of today’s schools kill their fascination on how things work. (You can read more on this in previous articles: http://allboy.life/217/ and http://allboy.life/345/)
#5 Speaking of bodily functions, your son may be more afraid of maturation than you think
Maturation is very scary for many boys – and they don’t want to talk about it. But they do want to “hear” about it. They may complain, but boys really do want to “hear” about these changes to their bodies from Dad or a trusted male. They most likely don’t want a “special” day to go and discuss these changes. (Though I have seen many successful programs introducing boys to the maturational changes in store for them which are run by schools and churches, so don’t be afraid to participate in one if it is available.) Rather, boys seem to readily accept learning about their maturing bodies and what adulthood holds while doing fun things together with Dad or a trusted male. They seem to have no problems with short, 5 minute, “Hey did you know it is normal that when you mature. . .” talks over multiple times together. These short little lessons can help settle their fears. So start early with male bonding and discussion of these changes. But really, once they start to mature, don’t expect them to talk about it.
I tease middle school girls when they are talking about who they think the boys “like. “I tell them,
“you are sadly mistaken if you think those boys think that way. They don’t. They are thinking about what they will be eating at lunch and how much longer before they can break out of the jail we call school. They are not thinking about which girl they like.”
And truthfully, if they do think about the girls it is in an objectified way which would horrify those girls. Which one is “developed,” which one has gross pimples or some other physical characteristic. So be glad they are not thinking about the girls. And they don’t want to “express” their emotions. If they are sad or upset, they may just want a hug and move on. Really, even if they do have these complicated emotions, expressing them often adds to their anxiety. So for now, just give them a bear hug. That often helps them over the hurdle.
#7 Being still is not always a matter of discipline – it is painful
When doing my Thesis for my Masters in Education I researched as many writings of early American education as I could find. I looked for Character Qualities. But honestly, I found that for the most part, early Americans never used the word “Character” how we use it. Instead, they would talk about developing children’s character as their ability to get a child to grow up strong and healthy. So I did read how many One Room Schools came up with ingenious ways to allow boys to keep moving and still get them to learn. Many of these one room school houses were not what you think! They seemed to understand boys better than we do today. Moms, you know when you are on a diet and you try denying yourself food during dinner time, your mind can think of nothing else but food? So it is with boys and having to move. Stillness is painful and they can think of nothing else but when they will be able to move.
#8 Boys love a good story
Look at the boy books from a hundred years ago. They are good stories. They have been read by boys for years and years. So cultivate their love of a good story through reading to them early and often and provide your son with books he enjoys. Don’t be afraid of a good story, even if there are battles and some gore! (I won’t go on about my dislike for the huge amount of screen time boys gravitate to, but I am convinced that families can help boys balance their screen time by introducing them to books early. If you don’t, boys will naturally gravitate to stories through videos and gaming. For more ideas head over to http://boysread.club.)
I don’t think Moms can fully grasp this. For women, if there is a failure, they gather around, strengthen each other and move on. But for boys (and men) they think they have lost respect and look upon themselves in a very, very negative way. So when a boy experiences failure, love him. Don’t dismiss it as nonsense, or tell him his feelings are stupid. Instead, let him know that everyone experiences failure. Let him know that through failure we learn to ultimately succeed. But mostly hug and love him when he fails. It hurts deeply.
#10 All boys from 0 – 100 love physical touch
Moms, your son loves physical touch, but maybe not the way you want to give that touch. He may be a terrible cuddler and hugger, although some boys are wonderful cuddlers and huggers. But some boys would rather bump, bang, wrestle, lean, and hang on necks, etc. So, compromise. Teach him how you want to be touched and give him some of his desired touches. I am always amazed at how much boys love “noogies.” You know, grabbing them and rubbing your closed fist on their head. Then “pushing” them (gently of course) away and telling them how goofy they are. Most boys love it. Really, they love physical touch, just not the ways many moms understand. So, Mom, be physical in your way, at the right times. Bath, bed, tired, scared, nervous, hurt, etc. are all times boys will willingly let you hug them. But other than those times, touch them the way boys like to be touched.
#11 Boys are sensitive to the things of God
Boys do not “naturally” hate church and spiritual things. They may not love sitting still or being talked to for hours, but they are very sensitive to and willing to learn about God. Especially how God created the world, how He rules and how He is a just, fair and loving God. Boys love these aspects of God and have a desire deep within to fight and defend the ways of God. So teach your sons about God and His ways with Bible stories and lessons. It will make him richer and well-rounded and will help your son better understand the important aspects of being a man.
Mom, your boy loves you and wants to connect with you. He really does! Just give him a chance and get to know what is “under the hood!” I know most moms dearly love their sons and with some understanding moms can find their sons enjoyable, even if very different.