I often hear first-time parents say that babies should be sent home with an instruction manual. Never has this been truer than for moms of boys. Nothing could prepare me for the journey I'm on as the mom of four boys.
Raising boys: Things you need to know
Boys have been given a bad rap
"When did it become expected for boys to be buck wild in public?"
I love being a mom of boys. Sadly, the first question I'm often asked by strangers when out in public is, "Are all four boys yours?" followed by, "Better you than me," or "I don't know how you do it," as if having all boys is some kind of cruel punishment. On the contrary, I have found our sons, ages 7, 9, 11 and 13, to be fun-loving kids — not easy, but fun. Over the years I have also been baffled by how shocked most people are when they see our four boys sitting still at restaurants, as if all boys should be swinging from the chandeliers or having a food fight. When did it become expected for boys to be buck wild in public? We have given in to the notion that living with boys means living with unruly chaos.
Boys are wired differently
Studies have shown that even before birth, boy’s brains are developing differently from girls. Boys are born with more testosterone, which shapes the development of the brain. Most boys are active — they would rather be jumping, climbing or running than doing anything that requires them to sit still. Boys are naturally curious, they are constantly exploring and investigating the world around them. This does not mean they need to be moving, jumping and running 24/7. There is a time and a place for everything and shopping at the grocery store or eating out at a restaurant is not the time for rambunctious, boisterous play.
Boys do not smell
Well, they might smell a little. Genetically, boys should have a stronger odor than girls, but it's not anything that regular showers and deodorant — if age appropriate — can't fix. If a child plays outdoors all day, of course they will come back in with a foul outdoor smell, and so will girls. Boys' rooms do not have to smell like a football locker room. If a room is kept up and the child bathes often and changes socks and underwear daily, then his room should not "smell" any more or worse than his sisters'. Moms, if you smell your boy, it's time to re-examine the bathing schedule and set some rules and boundaries. Teach them early about proper hygiene and what is expected of them and I promise you will bypass this horrible season of smelly, disgusting, messy behavior.
A boys' bathroom can stay clean
Our bathroom shared by four boys does not smell unless our boys get lazy! Moms, don't give up and settle for a bathroom that reeks of a gas station bathroom. A toilet is not a urinal (or a tree), it was not created for standing boys — or men, for that matter. You might think me crazy but I have taught all of our boys to sit when using the bathroom. Period. If little ones have an accident, disinfectant wipes are at arm's reach to clean up the mess. Our boys take turns cleaning the bathroom weekly. Consistency in teaching boys and checking on them early on will allow them to form good bathroom habits that their future wives will thank you for.
Boys thrive on structure and routine
When rules and routines have been established early, there are far fewer power struggles. Boys know what to expect and what is expected of them. Over time, kids learn the routine, without constant reminders. Having routines on a chart on the refrigerator or in the bedroom helps too. Boys love being in charge of themselves. Allowing our boys (and girls) to feel more independent leads them to be less rebellious.
Boys have emotions too
Many would argue that boys don't like to show emotion and that boys should "suck it up" when they are hurt, angry or sad. In his book Real Boys, William Pollack, an associate clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Centers for Men and Young Men, writes, "Behind their facade of toughness, boys are vulnerable and desperate for emotional connection. What neuroscientists will tell you is that nature and nurture are bonded," says Pollack. "How we nurture from the beginning has an effect." Boys need a sounding board, and they usually enjoy talking things out. If your son is not talkative, you can ask open-ended questions but keep it simple — no need for a Dr. Phil therapy session. Allowing our boys to fully tap into their emotional pool is a good thing. Boys should be able to express their anxieties, excitements and disappointments.
Boys need affection
A study presented by Dr. Carlos Santos of Arizona State University suggested that boys who are affectionate, show emotions and are close to their mothers grow up with better mental health. Moms (and dads) there is nothing wrong with showing boys how much they are loved and appreciated. Being affectionate with boys can only make them more secure and confident that they are loved. We are raising boys to be men that will hopefully make loving husbands and fathers. Boys give the best bear hugs, so take advantage of them while you can!
Boisterous is not the same as aggressive
"If there is mud, they will find it, if there is a tree, they will climb it."
Boys are boisterous and active, they need safe "boy places" to run, climb, crawl and preferably get a little dirty. My boys can usually be found running through the yard yelling, with swords waving high. If there is mud, they will find it, if there is a tree, they will climb it and if there are bugs they are going to dig them up. Offer safe play places and activities such as the martial arts for boys to channel their energy in productive ways. It's hard not to mistake boisterousness with aggression, so watch boys closely and keep the aggression under control, especially if they are playing with toy weapon.
Please don't put boys in a box — don't give in to the myths of boyhood. Boys are made of snips and snails, and puppy dogs' tails but they can also be sweet, affectionate, fun-loving and orderly.
What surprises have you found on your "boy mom" journey?
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