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Entries in Self-Control (2)


Teaching Boys Self-Control and Kindness


A friend of mine shared a post today that really got me thinking. It focused on the fact that we shouldn’t brush off boys’ bad behavior toward little girls by saying, “Oh it’s just because he likes you.” I agree. No one should be on the receiving end of unkind actions. I particularly like how the author says, “I want (my son) to know that aggression and disrespect are never ways to show affection, and that showing his affection in tender ways does not mean sacrificing his masculinity."

However, I do take issue with another post that the author referenced. Here’s the part that gets to me, “I want my daughter to know that the boy called her ugly or pushed her or pulled her hair didn’t do it because he admires her, it is because he is a little asshole and assholes are an occurrence of society that will have to be dealt with for the rest of her life.” Hold on. We’re talking about little boys here (her daughter is 10). I have a very hard time labeling any 10-year-old as a “little asshole.” Sure, that kid is using inappropriate behavior, but it doesn’t mean his character is inherently flawed. Kindness, gentleness and politeness are all learned behaviors--for boys and girls.

Little boys tend to be very physical creatures. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a toddler boy hit another kid in the face in order to initiate play. I am NOT saying that this is appropriate behavior; what I am saying is that it seems that many boys are hard-wired to act physically on impulse. What we need to do as parents/educators, is teach them how to recognize that impulse and choose another course of action. This is a very difficult thing for a young boy to do, and takes years of practice to accomplish consistently. It’s not fair to label him a bully or an asshole.

The gist of what I’m saying is: Have compassion and teach boys the right way to communicate with girls (or boys for that matter). There’s no question that it’s not right for a little boy to knock down a girl’s sand castle or rip the bracelet off of a girl’s wrist (as was the case in the original post). But instead of teaching little girls that boys are assholes, how about we focus on teaching little boys how to control their physical urges and make kind. moral choices?

Instead of assuming that a boy must have a crush on a girl if he’s mean, let’s stop and talk to the boy for a minute. Let’s tell him that his action was inappropriate and then ask what he was trying to accomplish with his behavior. Once his motive is established, let’s work with him to find the right way to achieve his goal. Teach him what to do instead of what not to do.

I think it’s so important to examine the motive of “aggressive” behavior. Long-time readers of this blog will know that we’ve had our challenges with Nic. I know he’s not a little asshole, and I also know that his physical behavior is almost never motivated by anger or meanness. He pushes or hits or leans against kids when he’s excited. It’s not acceptable behavior, and that’s why we’ve been working with him on self-control every day for three years. He’s made tremendous progress, but we’re going to be reminding him to make good choices probably through his teenage years.  

If we want to live in a society where men treat women with respect and kindness, let’s do a better job at raising little boys who can check their instincts and act with self-control. And let’s remember that doing so is a long, hard job.

We need to teach kids kindness and self-control, just as they need to be taught how to ride a bike.

Note: Please keep in mind that I’m talking about kids here and not full-grown men (although a lot of full-grown men could probably have benefitted from this process as children). Also, girls also need to be taught kindness in this manner, even though their aggression tends to be more relational than physical. 


Culture at Christmas  


Nic and Z have spent a good deal of time in science museums, on hikes and playing in mud puddles, but I’ll admit that their education in the arts has been limited.

They’re still a bit rowdy for the de Young and until today, I wouldn’t have thought they could sit through any type of performance. I’ve loved seeing musicals in the City since I was a little girl and even Shaun is a sucker for A Christmas Carol, but I figured we were at least a few years off from doing any shows with the boys.

About a month ago, Nic’s Montessori teacher announced a field trip to a local production of Madeline’s Christmas. I was hesitant to sign up. I thought Nic would enjoy the show, but I knew I’d have to bring Z, who is only 28 months and pretty squirmy. Nic’s teacher assured me that I’d be able to take Z out into the lobby if necessary and that she’d stay with Nic in the theater. This sounded like a good backup plan, so we signed up to go.

This morning, I dressed the boys in their Christmas best (got to get the most wear out of the red plaid as possible!), and we headed to the show.

I was so impressed with my boys and the other kids from Nic’s school. They were all engaged and entertained. Granted, it was a short show (about 45 minutes), but it was easy to see that the audience really appreciated what was happening on stage.

I think we often underestimate kids. It’s definitely easier to put them into situations like playing at the park or running around the zoo, but I’m resolving to expect a little more from time to time. Not only do they get a little “culture,” but it’s also a lesson in self-control and good manners. Perhaps we’ll visit more restaurants with waitresses? Maybe we’ll even take on a morning at the de Young?