Boy Business

I've been thinking a lot about becoming the mother to a son. As I've mentioned before, I don't have a lot of experience with boys. And I have only 21 months of experience being the mom to a little girl. I'm not exactly an "experienced mother" but at least I know how my daughter behaves, her mannerisms, her ways of interacting with the world. Will a little boy be all that much different?

So much of what I've heard and read recently tells me yes, he will.

This article in the June issue of Parenting speaks to this point, and frankly makes me a little worried about raising a boy. According to the article, boys are harder to discipline and keep safe, are not as adept at girls at communicating and have more limited vocabularies, and have a tougher time in school. Of course the article ends with the conclusion that while boys are more of a handful early on in their lives, girls are more of a challenge starting in their preteen years. But frankly, waiting 10+ years for the "challenge" of raising a son to lessen is more than a little frightening.

Before becoming a parent, I used to believe that all little kids were essentially the same, that they were blank slates at birth and as they grew, their behavioral differences were due solely to individual parenting methods.

Now I realize that's not so. Boys and girls are different.

It's not that I'm exceptionally girly and can only relate to the typical "little girl" playthings of dolls, tea sets, and coloring quietly for hours on end. In fact, I have some pretty strong beliefs about what toys and activities I plan on limiting or altogether excluding as Isabella grows up, and most of these fall into the "accepted girl play" category. That's a post for another day. But I am a pretty cerebral person. My favorite things to do with Isabella are reading books, doing small craft projects, and basically anything that turns down her volume for more than 5 minutes at a time. Will my son like these type of things? I'm not sure. Boys' brains are wired so differently.

My main fear is that because I know so very little about the way boys' minds work that I will fail miserably in raising my son the way I want to.

Don't get me wrong. I have many friends who have kind, well-behaved, emotionally mature, and very verbal sons. In no way do I believe that all boys can be painted with the brush described in this article, because I know little boys who simply don't fit into the "boy" mold it details.

But one particular event has stuck out in my mind since I learned one of the twins was a boy. Isabella was about 18 months old, and we were visiting an indoor play area with a sandbox similar to the one at the Strong Museum. Isabella was sitting in it and playing with a toy truck when a mom and her 3-year-old son arrived. He played by himself for awhile jumping around the box and throwing sand, then decided he wanted Isabella's truck. He took it right from her hands, and the mother, although watching him do this, said nothing. I looked at her, expecting her to tell her son to give back the truck, and instead she said, "Boys are just different."

Was she excusing his behavior because he was a boy? If so, what was she really saying: that boys are more active, aggressive, and demanding? Is this what the world expects of boys?

Parenting plays a huge role in the development of both boys and girls. But what happens if I cannot relate to my son and his innate and even normal boy behavior because of my inexperience or lack of understanding?

Only time will tell. Until then, if you can recommend a good book or some words of advice on raising boys, I would really appreciate it.

24 Responses to “Boy Business”

  1. # Blogger Christine

    I have no advice on the subject but as someone who babysat all through her teen years, generally boys and girls played differently, but that mother still should have given a stern "no" and a "wait your turn." Manners shouldn't be taught only to one sex.

    Also, I have a feeling you'll be fine. Maybe hang out with some of your friends who have sons to get an idea on what to expect. Each kid is different. My little brother was quite accident prone and was every where physically, but he was also a very sensitive little boy who disliked getting dirty and played house. How much of that had to do with having two older sisters? I have no idea.  

  2. # Blogger shokufeh

    I think the important thing is just to see and treat each of your children as an individual, and recognize that being a boy or a girl is just one aspect of that. I will say that MrMan has lots of energy, but I don't know if that's because he's a boy or because it's just part of his personality. (I have two brothers, neither of whom I would describe as aggressive, and only one of whom I remember being very high energy.) Other aspects of his personality include always striving to communicate (even in infancy), loving to read, taking great pride in his artwork, focusing on bugs (alive and dead), pointing out when he's doing something he's not supposed to, cataloguing everyone's injuries.... I have nothing to compare him to, but people with more parenting experience say he has a very good vocabulary. My mother chalks this up to our talking to him a lot. His teacher points to our reading abundantly with him. This is not to brag about him, but just to address some of your concerns. And, believe me, if MrMan ever grabbed a toy from another kid, I'd say something to him about it. Being a boy doesn't excuse him from having manners and treating others well. And remember, you have a partner in this parenting gig, and he has experience as a boy.  

  3. # Blogger Tracey

    First, boys are NOT so different that they should be allowed to take toys from other kids. End of story.

    Second, yes, all boys are different. My first 2 were boys and I came from a family of 3 girls. I was a bit worried over what the future held, but you know what? I LIKE bugs and trucks and science stuff just as much as crafts and glue and glitter. And so did Justin. He was my crafter kid. More so than even Corinne! Evan definitely is/was a "typical" boy, but probably because he had a big brother to model more than anything else.

    Just treat them as individuals and not as genders and you'll be fine. He may have more energy or less. He may hate dolls and glitter or adore it. There aren't any hard rules for either gender.

    Think of how sensitive and sweet he may grow up to be, having 2 sisters!! Awesome.  

  4. # Blogger Jesser

    This is very interesting to me. I really really wanted a girl when I was pregnant with Tabby, probably more so than I told most people (though it was absolutely true that healthy was the most important) and I think part of it was fear of raising a boy. Like you, I think I'd feel a bit out of my depth with it. Most ever kid I've ever babysat for with the exception of two (two out of say ... 50) were girls! I get boys in the same age relationship way (a lot of my childhood/teenage friends were boys), but little boys do mystify me. My friend's little guy is just so ... rough. I could argue socialization somewhat there, but I agree. There are inherent difference. And I have to say, I think it's probably harder to be a boy and therefore raise a boy these days. They're being scolded for what comes so naturally to them ... being rough. I think they need to be taught a time and a place for it, but they definitely need some good outlets and I don't just mean karate class. Being manly isn't so in vogue anymore and it's sort of a mixed blessing. But I suppose the great hope is that if you're aware of the challenges, you can raise one of those exceptional guys that any woman would be lucky to get.  

  5. # Blogger Mom24

    I've only had two, so I'm certainly not an expert. However, my two are very different from each other, so I feel like I have a variety of experience, at least. I completely disagree that boys are harder to discipline. Respect is respect. It's a two-way street, it is earned, and it is the key; no matter what the gender. My 24 year old did things we would have rather he didn't. He contributed to a few of my gray hairs! But, when he did (inevitably) get caught, he respected and responded well to our discipline, the behavior changed, all was well with the world again. My 7 year old still gets crushed at the idea we might be upset with him. Discipline is not a problem. My boys have been extremely sensitive and loving. They both loved to cuddle (the 7 year old still does), and were very vocal and demonstrative about how much they love all of us in the family. Don't believe everything you read about boys. My 24 year old was not a "typical boy"--whatever that means! His life was a bit easier in that teachers loved him because of that. Grrr. My 7 year old is much more a typical boy. By that I mean he's busy, excitable, and full of energy...in short, wonderful. I wouldn't trade him for anything. Teachers, on the other hand, seem to be much more comfortable with kids who would sit like blobs no matter what. *sigh* Neither of my boys are aggressive--probably because DH and I are not. I wouldn't trade having boys AND girls for anything. You're going to enjoy that little guy more than you can possibly imagine, I bet.

    I know it goes against your type A nature (lol), but I wouldn't worry about the books. I wouldn't treat him and differently than your girls. Right is right and wrong is wrong, it doesn't matter what your gender is. He'll guide you, based on who he is, and I bet it will be much easier than you are imagining.  

  6. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I do not have any experienced advice and as you know, I am in the same boat. But I can tell you how I am approaching it. Basically after a lot of freaking out, I am embracing the idea of raising this totally different creature and even though I expect the challenges and perks to be unique, I also expect some things to be the same. He still needs cuddles and love and to be allowed to cry. There will be no "be a man" speeches allowed. I plan to raise both he and Sam to respect one another's abilities and differences. That said, I am a newbie like you. But if I can do it, so can you and to be honest, I am really getting excited about the challenge.  

  7. # Anonymous Veronica

    Observations from my nephew:

    1) Not as verbal as little girls

    2) Very much an engineer in comparison to other little girls (he likes to put things into holes [read: bags, boxes, compartments, purses, bellybuttons, etc.] and take things out)

    3) They are adorable and very loving ages 0 - 2 (I don't know what happens after that)

    4) You will fall in love with him like nothing else

    5) You have to be certain that you don't compare him unfavorably in his verbal skills against the girls -- they really do develop differently

    Good luck, Kris...... you'll be fine. I promise!

    Don't forget, Rich is also there. He knows something about being a boy.  

  8. # Blogger Chas

    You know what I've noticed...moms that start out with a girl seem perplexed when they find out they're second child is a boy, and moms that start out with boys suddenly seem to be scared to have a girl. I've seen it happen over and over.

    So, I obviously have no experience mothering a boy and probably never will, but I do have lots of experience dealing with boys. I've worked with children in every age group, from babies up to high school seniors. Approximately half of those kids were boys. Yes, they're quite different from girls in general in the way they process information and express their feelings, but boys are also all so different from one another. I think there's really no way to prepare yourself. Because you're a good mom, it'll come naturally.

    Here's some things I find quite interesting. A few years ago I was teaching 6th grade and for an educational grant our school decided that we were going to try out some single gender classes within our core curriculum classes. I taught English and reading, and that was the class the grant focused on most, because in general boys don't like to read, especially in middle school. In preparing to teach classes that would appeal to boys, I was to attend a workshop on the way boys learn. I also had to read many articles on the subject. What I learned was so important for parents of boys. Research on the subject shows that parents of boys don't talk to their sons as much as parents of girls. They believe that this accounts for the later verbal development in so many boys. I also found that in general parents don't read with their boys as much as they do with girls. Also, something I've noticed since becoming a stay at home mom....this is totally just an observation of mine, therefore completely unscientific, but within my playgroup of nearly 90 members, the girls outnumber the boys 5 to 1. This makes the think that there is a possibility that moms are less likely to stay home with their children if they are male...or that maybe stay at homes of males are less likely to get them involved outside the home. There has to be a reason behind it, because our group is made up of a totally random group of people, and it's is very lopsided as far as gender. So, if it's true that parents in general don't talk to their boys as much, read to their boys as much, or spend as much time with their boys....then no wonder they develop so differently.

    I have a lot more to say on the subject, but this is getting pretty long. Anyway, I think the fact that you're even thinking about the best ways to raise a boy means that you're going to do an excellent job.  

  9. # Anonymous Kris

    Before I found out that my first was a boy... I knew that I wanted a daughter. I could live without a son if I had girls, but at some point, I REALLY wanted a girl. Now that I am a mother to 2 boys, I feel totally different.

    My boy is a little less talkative and more active than some of the girls, but not all of them. He's very adventerous on the playground, but at home, he won't go near the stairs without help. He is more interested in learning how to take off and put on the cap to the marker, or how to make the pen work than in actually drawing with it. In reality though, the traits of "boy" that he has are a lot more like me than like my hubby. I'm the analytical one, he's the artist.

    So what I've realized, is that I'm ok if I don't have a daughter, because like everyone else has said... every kid is different. My boys are sweet, cuddly, and wonderful. The only thing missing is the cute clothes! =)

    (PS- You will LOVE having a son!)  

  10. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    Personally, I don't buy into the notion that girls are more gentle and less hyper than boys. My three children are ALL extremely high-energy and prone to mischief. My sister's boys, on the other hand, are what I consider oddly sedate for boys. The difference between Hannah and Jacob (I won't include Bridget since she is a toddler), is that Hannah is more compliant than Jacob. Likewise, I can count on her to behave appropriately in social situations. I don't have to remind her of social graces. However, Jacob is A LOT more trustworthy in that he would rather chop off his own foot than tell a lie. Hannah has no problem deceiving me to suit her own needs, whereas it absolutely kills Jacob when I disapprove of something he has done. I realize that I may not be the best one to say how "typical" boys behave, but I believe Jacob is more typical than atypical, despite his behavioral and social issues. The difference between boys and girls, too, is that I think boys are often misunderstood. People misinterpret high-energy as problem child. At the end of the day, Jacob still needs to be tucked into bed, have a story read to him, and be reassured that mom and dad love him. All children need that. I have no doubt you and your husband will provide for your children exactly what they need, even if they require different degrees of love and parenting (which they will). You'll have no problems adapting your parenting style for each of your children. And I hate to say this, but you won't find the answers in a book. ;-)

    PS - And it's not like the hospital is going to hand you a five-year-old boy. Just as you had a chance to grow along with Isabella, you'll get that same chance to grow alongside your son.  

  11. # Anonymous Jenny

    Well, I'm obviously not a parent here and I didn't read the article but I'll share my thoughts anyway... Boys/girls - whatever they are - they're all starting as little babies. As some of the above comments said just think of them as unique individuals. And you'll grow and learn with them! Each of the twins could be totally different from Isabella too. I know how much you and Rich will live him and her and it won't seem like such an unknown once they get here. When I look at me, my sister, and 2 brothers - there are various things that different pairs of us have in common. I identify with my sister in some ways and each brother in different ways... and I see the same between all of them too. Well - those are my late night rambling thoughts for whatever they're worth! :-)  

  12. # Anonymous Jenny

    "live" was supposed to say "love" above  

  13. # Anonymous Ness

    There are only 2 things about boys that you need know...

    1. There will be dirt.
    2. There will be noise.

    Answer 1: It's okay, they like to bath too, so they're clean for at least 5 minutes a day.
    Answer 2: They're quiet when they sleep, so your ears WILL get a break.

    As for allowing her son to take your daughters toy in the sandpit and just saying 'boys are different' that's a totally lame thing to say and she's clearly a lazy parent. I would *NOT* tolerate that kind of behaviour from either of my boys. No way. There is no excuse for bad manners.  

  14. # Blogger angela

    "Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different - And How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-balanced Men" by Steve Biddulph

    I found the above very helpful, informative and interesting.  

  15. # Anonymous Brigid

    As the mother of both a boy (5) and a girl (3) I can tell you that they ARE different. The way that they play with toys, interact with the world, potty train - all different. I totally agree with some of the other posters - most importantly this is your CHILD. See beyond the traditional gender rolls and nurture your child. Read some books on boys, talk to your pediatrician but at the end of the day know that you are lucky to experience parenting both genders. What adventures you have ahead!  

  16. # Anonymous Shannon

    I have no experience with raising either gender since I'm not a mother. But I think Roseanne Barr, way back when she was doing stand-up comedy, summed up the difference between raising a boy versus raising a girl in this concise example:

    BOY: Mother is downstairs, hears loud, bad noise coming from upstairs. "What're you doing up there?!" yells the mother. Son answers, "I threw the cat down the laundry chute! It was totally cool!"

    GIRL: Mother is downstairs, hears loud, bad noise coming from upstairs. "What're you doing up there?!" yells the mother. Long pause, then daughters answers in a sugary-sweet tone, "Nothing!"  

  17. # Blogger Damselfly

    I grew up with mostly brothers, and it's great that I have a boy. I think boys are more experiential; if they do something after you tell them not to, I think it's because they have to see for themselves. They might look like they are doing something dangerous because they are stupid, but actually they just want to see if their idea will work. The best thing for them is to have a good relationship with their dad or another strong "man figure" -- hopefully a man who loves you and respects other women!  

  18. # Blogger Damselfly

    I also meant to write that I would have had my son give the toy back to the child who had it first. Taking something right out of another person's hands is just rude. If he had the verbal skills to ask if he could play with the toy, that's another thing....  

  19. # Blogger Marie

    Yep, they're different. And your little boy will have his own interests & personality, unique to him. Nothing you can't handle! You will love him so much that you'll want him to explore his interests. You'll find ways to teach him how to behave. It'll all be good...  

  20. # Anonymous Laura McIntyre

    I can offer no advice but can agree 100% on your post. Im so nervous about raising a boy and just how different it will be, im so worried about how many times i will be peed on lol  

  21. # Blogger Dawn

    Hi Kristi! I haven't been in blogland for a while,so first of all, congrats on the twins!! I was very surprised to hear that.

    I have a wonderful son, who is 8 years old. I can't say that he is typical of the other boys, but that may point to a larger problem in parenting trends.

    I once had a boy over for a play date and the next thing I knew, he had thrown a rock and hit one of my neighbors' windows. The window didn't break (thank god), but I was mortified. I think that my son was, too. When I told his dad what happened when we dropped him off, he said, "Boys will be boys." That was the last play date we had. My son didn't want to be around him as much as I didn't want him around. My son plays well with younger, nicer kids but also likes some of the rough boys his own age...as long as they are funny.

    I can't say that I would have raised a girl any differently...lots of love, guidance, morals and all things creative. My son thinks out of the box, is creative, is nice to others and believes in playing fair, talks a lot (to us and others he is comfortable with) and is just awesome. I am so thrilled to have a boy. After having a boy, I don't think I'd want to have a girl...the drama and loudness.

    But, both are only as good as you raise them to be, so I'm sure your kids will all be great.  

  22. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    I think that woman just didn't want to discipline her son. Little Elvis isn't three yet, but my cousin's son is, and he would not be allowed to take a toy from a younger child and keep it.
    I was worried about having a little boy, too. My mom and friends kept sending me these not-funny emails about the awful things boys do and how hard it was. But it's been wonderful. He's extremely loving and affectionate. He's also extremely busy and determined and stubborn. I'm sure it's a lot different than having a little girl, but it's really great.  

  23. # Blogger Kristi

    I have two boys and my best friend has three girls. There is no question that there are absolute differences. I am glad God blessed me with sons because I know that I would not be able to handle the "moodiness" of girls. I do believe that both can be taught to be respectful, responsible, and kind and loving. Sometimes I think we just need to approach how we achieve these characteristics differently.  

  24. # Blogger Suzanne

    I've been trying to avoid comments so I can read faster, but I have to chime in : )

    I have four boys, ages from nearly 9 down to 15 months. My first two boys live with their dad, and I see them on the weekends (long story.) I watch my sister's kids (she has a 6 year old little girl and a 15 month old little boy, yes, we were both pregnant at the same time both times) when they interact with my boys, and I have to say, yes, boys and girls are so different. Every one of my boys has started talking late. My first son was in speech therapy for 2 years, and now I'm worried about son #3 who is nearly 3 and still not speaking clearly. Boys run and jump and are wild and noisy and crazy (son #2 has had 3 trips to the dr for accidents just in the past year alone). That's been my experience. I've seen my niece acting like that but to a much lesser extent (she's a girly girl, all about the Disney princesses and pink pink pink.) My brother has 4 boys and 1 girl and just found out they're having another girl in July (his wife has the patience of a saint). I love my boys, but I always wanted a girl so I'm completely jealous. It would be nice to ask "so what'd you do at school today?" and get any other answer than "nothing".

    Of course, all that being said, I'm really glad I'm not going to have to deal with the drama that comes with having girls when it comes to preteen angst!

    As for the mom who let her son take Isabella's toy, no, boys aren't THAT different. Boys should have manners just like girls. That mom was just being lazy. Or possibly exhausted : )  

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