When a boy is a violent, deceitful, disrespectful bully, though — when he blatantly disobeys his parents, when he flouts authority, when he beats up other children and disobeys house rules (both at his and at other people’s homes), and his behavior is repeatedly excused as, “boys will be boys,” — THAT is a problem.
Have you ever heard this excuse for bad behavior? I hate it. I always have. When my then-6 year old son didn’t clean his room, and I was told, “He’s just a kid; boys will be boys,” I felt undermined and angry.
When my then-3 year old son climbed fences and trees to three times his height, despite my admonitions otherwise, and I was told by relatives that, “Boys will do that, get used to it. Boys will be boys, after all,” I felt frustrated and voiceless — first off, it’s not just boys that do that, I did that as a kid, too. I used to climb up on the roof of our house, settle my back against the chimney, and read for hours. It was a great way to obtain privacy, and I knew my mom (scared of heights) wouldn’t come looking for me.
Second off, it’s not an excuse — I told my child not to do something. It doesn’t matter if the kid is a boy or a girl, I laid down a rule and was undermined as a parent by another parent. I don’t care if he’s a boy, and I don’t care if you let your boys do this or that, that’s not an excuse for disobedience.
More and more, I’m starting to feel like saying, “Boys will be boys,” is just another way of saying, “I don’t feel like disciplining my child. It’s a lot of work.” And, when it’s applied to someone’s else’s child — especially if they’re in the process of disciplining them, it feels like a way of justifying bad behavior by trying to inculcate it in someone else.And yeah, I admit, bad behavior is subjective. For instance, I don’t think a boy getting dirty while playing outside is bad behavior. However, I do think that if I tell my son not to play outside because I want him to keep his clothes clean because we have a thing to go to, and he disobeys me, that’s a problem. Not so much because of the dirt, but because of the disobedience. Another mom might be willing to let it go, be more understanding of a kid playing in the dirt in his dress clothes. That’s not that big an issue.
Kids have boundless energy, regardless of gender. And different kids have different levels of energy — I’ve known little girls who can’t sit still, and little girls who turn into silent little shadows for hours on end, tucked into the corner of a bench and hidden amongst pillows. I’ve known little boys the same way — energy-vibrating attention grabbers, and quiet, reclusive boys who retreat into the background whenever possible.
I hate the way that saying, “Boys will be boys,” dismisses the shy, sensitive little boys and the active, vibrant little girls. I hate the way that parents who describe their son’s behavior as “typical boy,” just being boyish, generally seem completely unable to recognize bullying, appropriate discipline, or how to instill respect for adults.
I just got to thinking about this today in particular because of this thread on reddit, discussing moms who avoid family/ friends who don’t discipline their kids, and this article about a CEO who dismisses the idea that women can be CEO’s, based largely on a mentality that sexism will always exist in the workplace because, “boys will be boys, can’t change it.”
I hate how these negative gender expectations box in boys while excluding tomboyish girls. It’s not fair to either gender, and to use negative gender stereotypes as an excuse for bad behavior is just, quite frankly, bad parenting.