Sunday, November 24, 2013

Embracing Boyhood: Finding Joy in Little Boys

We are blessed with four girls. Dramatic, gentle, quiet, nurturing, self-controlled, calm girls.

We also have three boys. Rambunctious, curious, destructive, loud, busy little boys.

When our first son was born, I didn't realize that boys were wired SO differently than girls.

At only eight weeks old, he would awake from a sound sleep with a grin on his face and his little feet kicking rapidly.

He was loud. And silly. And wild. He was amazingly

When he started walking, he wasn't content with coloring or looking at books like his sister.

Instead, he stuck his hand in toilets.

He climbed up on the kitchen table.

He jumped off  anything and everything.

He played BIG and loved BIG and the only time he was STILL was when he was asleep.

I remember the first time I tried doing "school" with him. He had just turned two years old so I put him in his high chair and gave him a coloring page and a handful of crayons.

I told him to color, then turned to my four year old and got her started with her schoolwork.

By the time I turned back around, he had broken all five crayons and dropped them all on the floor, one by one, and was watching them roll away.

"All done, Mommy!" he exclaimed, with his hands out-stretched and waiting.

I sighed.

(You mamas of busy boys know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you?)

I had my first lesson about little boys that day. And while I'm still learning, today I wanted to share a few of the lessons I've learned since then.

How to Find Joy in Little Boys:

1. Embrace the Difference.

It's easy to look at your little *boy* and compare him with your friend's little *girl*, and wonder what am I doing WRONG? Look at how docile she is! Her little girl will be content to sit and play with a bucket and shovel in the sand for an hour while your little boy is throwing the sand (to make a windstorm, Mommy!), jumping off the side of the sandbox (I'm flying, Mommy!), and running off a hundred times in the first ten minutes of the play date.

You just can't compare boys with girls. Their entire physical, emotional, and educational make-up is different. God made them that way---so DON'T compare.

We mothers are GIRLS and so we often don't understand the way our boys think. It's unfair to expect them to act like little girls when they are wired so very differently.

After church one Wednesday night, when Nathaniel was four, his teacher approached me.

"Nathaniel said he doesn't want to color in class."

"I know. He doesn't like to color at home either."

"But he says it hurts his hand to hold the crayon that long. I think he's lying and you should deal with it. He needs to learn to color."

"Well, I will talk to him about it. But he isn't lying. He really, really has a hard time coloring for a long time."

I was tempted to come down hard on my little guy after this conversation. But then I realized something. This teacher was comparing my little guy to the only other child in her class--a GIRL who LOVED to color and did so elaborately.  My little guy had many strengths, but coloring just wasn't one of them. :) Don't compare boys to girls. Let them be different. It's okay.

2. Embrace the Energy.

We have three boys (ages 9, 6, and 4 right now). Just one of my boys has more energy than all four of my girls put together.

If I fight this fact, and expect them to sit all day, docile and quiet, I frustrate both myself and them. :)

Every single day, these precious little boys awake with a seemingly endless supply of energy.

If you can learn to laugh at their antics, redirect their rough play ("Balls are for throwing OUTSIDE. Here are your shoes."), and engage their energy in creative ways, you will find such JOY!

*Be a Mama Bear and get down on the floor and TACKLE your Baby Bear.

*Surprise your little boy by grabbing his hand and jumping with him across the parking lot.

*Have him stand to do his homework, run to his room, and crawl to the kitchen table.

*Let him "race" to complete every task. "How fast can you pick up all of these Legos? Ready, set, GO!"

The next time you find yourself frustrated at your little boy's energy level, think outside-the-box for a way to exercise that energy in creative ways.

3.Embrace the Opportunity to Train .

Sometimes parenting a child brings you to a point of frustration.

My husband and I always say that there are two options for frustrated parents.

*One--lower or change your expectations so the child can meet with your joyful approval.

*Two--train more efficiently for the desired behavior.

Yes, little boys are different than little girls. Yes, they are full of life and energy and we need to be understanding and creative in our interactions with them.

BUT--they are NOT un-trainable! They absolutely CAN learn self-control, gain a quiet spirit, and be obedient!

My boys LOVE to play "rough", to sword-fight with sticks, to chase the girls, and to wiggle through their schoolwork. :) But all three of them were sitting quietly through multiple church services at a year old. All three of them would stay on their blanket time for thirty minutes by a year old. These may not be goals you have for your little boys, and that's okay---each family has different goals, expectations, and experiences.

But every little boy can begin to be taught how to channel all of that energy into appropriate behavior.

Now, my boys are not quiet little robots by any means. :) When I take them all shopping they get antsy and sometimes very foolish. :) They are still a glorious work-in-progress.

Aren't we all? :)

I have found the key to not being frustrated is by setting the goal HIGH but working towards that goal with baby steps.

If he can't sit still for an hour, try 10 minute increments. If he is has too much energy to focus for three hours on his schoolwork, try shorter bursts of time with a lot of physical activity mixed in. Give lots of praise and tiny rewards when he gains skills that don't come easy to him. Stay positive.

Appreciate the fact that your little boy's most annoying qualities will most likely be what drives him to be a successful man someday.

Let me give you an example. Remember my two-year-old-crayon-breaker/thrower? He still doesn't love to color. But he will read (without moving or getting distracted!) for over an hour now. He will RUN to accomplish any little task for Mommy. He is by far my most nurturing, protective, tender little soul. He is still loud. He is still busy and energetic. But he is learning to turn that energy into productivity.

That early riser who never seems to need sleep? He's going to jump out of bed to go to work each morning with a smile.

That energizer bunny? He's going to work circles around his laid-back college friends.

That loud, embarrassing, over-the-top little guy? He might be a preacher, unafraid of what people think, willing to speak the truth at all costs.

That curious, take-everything-apart, destroyer? He just might change the world with his inventions.

Perspective is EVERYTHING. Embrace your little boys for who they are--and who they will become.

Set goals for your little boys. Help them learn to focus, to complete tasks in a timely manner, to stay quiet when necessary. But don't just EXPECT them to obey---TEACH them how to do it.

Little by little, one baby step at a time. :)

When I began parenting BOYS, I was frequently frustrated. I wanted quiet, still little angels and was shocked at boyish behavior. Thankfully, the Lord worked in my heart, gentling me toward these sweet little men. Now I wouldn't trade my busy boys for all the "quiet" in the world. :)

Embrace Boyhood--and you will find such JOY in little boys!


  1. Wow! my boys are 15 and 17…wonderful boys…all I have, a husband and 2 boys--no girls. All dinner conversation is cars, airplanes, engines, guns, hunting, etc. Homeschooling (10th and 12th grades) is STILL filled with jumping jack breaks and "run around the house a few times"….we always did very short lesson times with "activity" breaks often. But they both have spent hours reading and looking at books; and they still wrestle around like they were 7 and 5! Love the blog!

  2. Just a small note to say, hope you are all well.Looking forward to hearing your latest news!
    Kaz UK

  3. Thank you for sharing your insights about little boys. So very needed today. My husband has made these same discoveries. He says much ofvour society (schooling, etc) are set up for little girls and we are demonizing our little boys. I also appreciate the fact (having just been with you) that although your little boys were all boys, they were well behaved. I've seen some opposite thinking which excused bad behavior as . . . " Well, he's just a boy". This is a great article that all should read.


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