Saturday, 25 August 2012

Raising healthy boys!

I love little boys, but I can understand that some mothers recoil in horror when they find that there lovely baby boy:
  • is fixated on cars and all forms of wheeled transport
  • takes great joy in loud burps and farts, often repeated for extra effect
  • runs and climbs and kicks and throws balls
  • is unable to sit quietly without starting to wriggle, wrestle with siblings and create a commotion
  • plays superheroes and has mock fights at every opportunity
It's not that little girls don't do these things, but somehow, some little boys do them all and with such gusto.
And it's not as if every little boy is like this.  Some are gentle, sensitive souls who are creative, studious and caring.
But some little boys are right out there, almost as a caricature of all that is masculine.

Parents of children like this should not despair, even as these youngsters challenge their rules and push the boundaries.

These little boys are healthy.
  • They are often physically assured and so challenge what we regard as safe behaviour.  A tree is there, so climb it.  A fence is there, so balance on it.  They are confident in their own abilities and consequently take risks so they end up bruised, scratched and sometimes with broken limbs.
  • Their personalities tend to be irrepressible and they take little notice of warnings, especially from those they regard as having inferior prowess (ie their mothers).  
  • They tend to be cheerful, not brooding; they are given to hero worship of those bigger and stronger.  
  • And they are often very affectionate when they are not being thoroughly obnoxious.

Raising healthy young boys, however, does require that they have good male role models.  This is especially true when they live in all female households, or where their fathers are present but frequently absent because of work, or are emotionally absent.

They need male figures in their life who can match their energy and help to channel this into safe and fun activities.

They need to learn from these figures:
  • that people who don't share their enthusiasms are different but still worth having as friends.
  • that there is a time and a place for their more boisterous behaviour, but there are also times when it is sensible to be quieter
  • that there are limits which need to be observed for the safety of others, if not themselves
  • that their behaviours do have consequences.

It is important to have rules about:
  • respecting other people eg no bullying, good manners
  • the difference between indoor play and outdoor play eg no jumping on the furniture or running inside
  • the difference between inside and outside voices eg quieter voices inside

But the quiet, sensitive boys also need good male role models who can show how these qualities can be expressed without leaving the boy open to mocking or bullying.
They need to know that it is ok for boys to be artistic and creative, that not every boy is a future footballer.
While their more boisterous brothers are climbing trees and leaping from rock to rock it is fine for them to be collecting flowers to draw, or watching the clouds blow and making up stories about the images they can see or playing 'Pooh sticks' (floating sticks from one side of a bridge to another in the style of Winnie the Pooh.)

And boys need male role models to show them how to be decent adult men, respectful of women, respectful of property, and respectful of themselves so they don't drink themselves to oblivion, use drugs or drive dangerously.

Boys are fun, but they need lots of help to grow up healthy.

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