Girls and boys, men and women. I don’t remember a time when we weren’t treated differently due to a perceived difference in our “innate” personality traits. Even growing up, I remember complaining to my mom as to why my brothers didn’t have to do certain chores with as much regularity as I did. She’d say “they’re boys, they just don’t understand how it needs to be done properly”. First of all, what? How did me having a vagina somehow constitute that my DNA made me better at folding a fitted sheet? It doesn’t by the way, I still roll that thing up and jam it in the closet. The same goes with behavior. It is somehow not okay for a little boy to express sensitivity or emotion, and not ladylike for a girl to express anger or be rambunctious. As human beings, we are all capable of experiencing the same emotions. Sure some people may be more in tune or more apt to expressing particular emotions than others, but our sex should not determine whether or not those emotions are acceptable for us to express. This is exactly why I will not minimize any of my son’s violent, rambunctious, or destructive behavior as a boy just being a boy.
It is imperative to hold our sons accountable for their bad behavior. If your son is running rampant, knocking over other children’s toys, pushing other children, and essentially dictating his environment with his erratic behavior, that can not be overlooked. Children of both sexes should be held accountable when their behavior is harming others, or themselves in an equal and fair manner.
Curtailing a little boy’s obnoxious and harmful behavior as no big deal, or even normal is also extremely detrimental to our little girls. It not only tells boys that when it comes to girls they can treat them however they please, but it also tells little girls that they have to change their own actions or behaviors in order to appease the boys behavior; that they must create a smaller space for themselves to allow the boy to have more space to do as he pleases. However if a young girl were to be acting in a destructive manner, they would more than likely be immediately stopped and told that their behavior was unacceptable and ‘unladylike’.
I refuse to allow my son’s bad behavior, on the oh so rare occasions that it does happen (lol), be excused. When he hits someone, he knows there are consequences. When he is being disruptive, over the top and destructive, there are consequences. However when he is sad, upset, or crying I make an attempt to be compassionate. I try to get him to identify his feelings. “Are you feeling sad?”, “Did this make you upset?”, “Why did that make you feel bad?”. I also explain to him the reasons why he’s sitting in time-out for bad behavior. “Hitting hurts other people. It makes them feel bad and sad”. He’s three, so the simpler the better. It is important for your son to understand how his actions affect the other people around him.
By creating more compassionate boys, we are creating an all around safer world for both women and men. Boys are not inept to understanding feelings. They are not lacking empathy. Society is what tells them they have to be unemotional, and that their violent outbursts are somehow synonymous to strength. This is also directly opposing a female’s angry outburst, where they may be deemed as unstable, overly emotional, and of course my favorite… crazy. Stop excusing your child’s behavior based upon their gender. Hold them accountable for the behavior that adversely effects themselves and their peers. Teach them simply that they must be kind to themselves and others.