Boys, Boys, Boys

Let’s talk about raising boys for a few days!  For those of you raising daughters, I did a few posts specific to fathers and daughters here:  and here:

Here is another one:

For this topic of raising boys, I really like the book (once again!) by Don and Jeanine Elium entitled “Raising A Son: Parents and the Making of A Healthy Man”.  You can find this book here:

My husband and I also recently read “That’s My Son:  How Moms Can Influence Boys To Become Men of Character” by Rick Johnson.  This is a quick read, and very interesting.   My husband and I really enjoyed this one.   You can find this book here:

I was wondering what mothers out there are finding most challenging about raising boys?  I would love to hear from you, please do leave me a comment in the comment box!  

Boys are wonderful.  I happen to very much love a little boy who grew up to be a terrific man.  🙂  But, the question for many parents of boys seems to exactly be “how to raise a good man.”  After all, the statistics regarding boys quoted in Rick Johnson’s “That’s My Son” are rather dire:

  • Boys are six times more likely than girls to have learning disorders
  • Boys are three times more likely to be drug addicted
  • Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed as emotionally disturbed
  • Boys are twelve times more likely to commit murder
  • Boys have a 50 percent greater risk of dying in a car accident
  • Boys are five times more likely to commit suicide
  • Young boys are seven times more likely to be admitted to mental hospitals and juvenile institutions than girls of the same age/socioeconomic background
  • Boys are twice as likely as girls to have autism and six times as likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Boys stutter more than girls and are diagnosed with more speech disorders than girls
  • Boys are more likely to have birth defects, mental retardation and even genetic diseases.

When boys seem to have so much stacked against them, how can we go about raising a good man?

I think one of the first places to start is to understand what makes a boy tick.  Physically, boys are different than girls.

For example, a boy or a man uses mainly one hemisphere of the brain at a time.  Women’s brains have a larger corpus collosum that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain, so we tend to use both.  This may account for differences in perceiving emotion and multi-tasking.

Males have less serotonin than females and  have up to twenty times more testosterone.  Testosterone is a cause of more dominant behavior, and also causes more muscle growth and hair.  Males are bigger, faster, stronger.  Rick Johnson writes:   “Due to higher levels of testosterone, males tend to act out in times of stress.  Females tend to become withdrawn in similar circumstances.  In stressful situations (during their parents’ divorce, for instance), adolescent males often become angry and aggressive, getting into trouble and acting act, whereas adolescent females are more prone to becoming depressed and withdrawn.”   Males also have a larger amygdala, the portion of the brain that orders the adrenal glands and other glands into action during times of stress.  This also contributes to increased dominance as compared to females.

But this is just the physical side, and we know that people are more than just their physical bodies.  Males *typically* are better at math, science, spatial relations, logic and reasoning as shown by brain scans. 

The Eliums write in “Raising A Son”:  “…a man tends to fix problems first and consider his relationship with his spouse or partner later, whereas most women consider the relationship in the solution.  Men tend to focus on one problem or task at a time (as at a bull’s-eye on a target) and see any other occurrences in their lives as distractions to ignore.”   Men tend to take in less sensory input from their environment and have shorter overall attention spans than females.

Competition, rules and order are more important to boys.   Clear, firm but loving guidance is really important to boys.  In Chapter One of “Raising A Son”, the authors point out that boys want to know things.  They want to know who is the boss, what the rules are, and are you going to enforce the rules.  “To have a strong relationship with a boy, you have to be the boss, and a very kind one.  Only set rules that you can enforce, and always enforce them.  Then you have the basis for the relationship.  From here comes respect, and more importantly, trust.  Then you can be kind, he’ll listen, and he knows that you are on his side.”

Obviously, all children, boys included, are developed through biology, psychology,  culture, the unique and individual “I” that every person has.   However, firm, kind, consistent are words that have come up over and over in the literature I have researched in dealing with the guidance of boys.  Some of you have wonderful boys who may not have needed this approach, but most of the literature seems to support these traits in raising boys. 

The other thing that has come up over and over and over in my research is that boys need a man mentor.  A woman just cannot teach a boy to be a man.  Positive male role models are extremely important in a boy’s life.  Typically a boy starts identifying more with their fathers than their mothers around the age of five.  It is important that fathers have an active relationship with their sons.   This does not mean that mother is no longer important, or the tie to mothers must be severed, but that the relationship of a boy to other men is important in learning how to be a good man.  The Eliums point out in their book that “Ancient peoples wisely anticipated the first show of testosterone’s power.  When boys became unruly, hard to handle, aggressive, and difficult, community members knew the time was ripe. It was time to make a boy into a man.”

Lots more to say, but will stop there tonight.  Thoughts?

Many blessings,


16 thoughts on “Boys, Boys, Boys

  1. I look forward to reading more in your series! I am the mother of an almost-two-year-old son. He is very fortunate to have a great father and grandfather for male role models. Since my son is still so little, I feel we haven’t done much differently so far than we would have done with a girl. But I anticipate more challenges to come as he gets older.

  2. thanks for this post! its actually something i think about alot even though my son is only 2.5 years old. i watch him a mix of children and the fact that he is a boy is so apparent to me! things always needs to crashing down! tumbling over! not to mention…cars, trucks, buses…anything that moves! Recently we have had a problem with hitting and immediately my mind goes to criminal! I dont think I would think the same with a girl, isnt that terrible? perhaps it just one of my worst fears! t

  3. Thank you for doing this series!! I have a sweet, gentle little boy who is almost 3. I am amazed at the energy level, lack of fear, and occassional aggression that comes out.

  4. My biggest challenge with my boys (especially my oldest) is the sheer brute physical force that erupts out of him. Hits, kicks, full body lunges at me, his younger brother, his dad. I’m not sure what to do or how to react, even, sometimes, to his physical power… which often causes physical hurt to those in its path. It’s not my mode of operating, so it’s a bit overwhelming, particularly when it’s directed at a person in a not-so-loving way. I see his younger brother (18 months) starting to mimic his older brother (biting in defense, and “smacking” me on the face playfully).

  5. Carrie, Thanks for all the great book recommendations. I’m going to check out the books you mentioned. Also, I really enjoyed the book you recommended called “When anger hurts”. It really helped me a lot. Three very simple words I learned that helped me out was “I can cope.” Thanks for all you do!!

  6. Hi Carrie

    Wonderful. I think as a society we are letting our boys down, and as a mother of a 3-year old boy I am very interested to read all there is abour raising a Healthy Man.
    With my little man so young I do not have specifically boy issues at the moment – just the normal under 7 issues.
    However I think all the advise on your blog ie lots and lots of time outside, less media, more time at home etc is actually contributing.
    And I have/are spend(ing) time working on just accepting my little boy for who he is, for being the male he is. Maybe we as mothers need to do the hard Inner work to accept the gender differences. And find ways to celebrate it.

  7. I have two boys, 6 and 4, and a daughter 10 months. I can already tell the difference between the two genders. It really is amazing. My first boy is very gentle and my second boy is very physical. I’ve noticed three years old has been the roughest year for me when parenting these little men. If I stay positive in tone, approach things gently and am firm but kind…we have a good day. Outside play is a must. We spend hours at the park, we hike and we ride bikes. They love playing imagination games with their father and adore their grandfathers. I really think playing with dad is one of the most important parts of their days. They read with me, cook and do art…but dad is the imagination game player.

  8. thank you…I really need this

    i just had my boy (nigel) and I’m TERRIFIED…I actually cried when I found out I was having a boy…My girl (emerson) is a joy…and I was so disapointed…

    But i’m over it (so so glad I found out at 15 weeks…so much time to deal *grin*)

    Nigel is lovely. So different to have a term baby as opposed to a 32 weeker.

    Anyway, I love this pbs series

    Studies show that boys actually need MORE emotional nurturing than girls. I keep this in mind as I cuddle and nurse Nigel…and I pour into him the amount or more warmth and nurturing as I did with Emerson. My husband is a very sensitive man who requires a lot of emotional nurturing too…

  9. Pingback: Raising Healthy Boys « The Parenting Passageway

  10. Jennifer, there is no need to be terrified!

    I think this ‘problem’ of the genders seems to be an adult one, specifically these days. I think especially mothers and females who do not acknowledge the obvious difference between males and females have a real problem with the gender differences.
    I only had a few concerns regarding myself when my son was born, would I be able to raise him as a good boy? I think I momentarily forgot that I had a husband…haha.
    Boys are different, one must only realize this and deal with it. I hear a lot of mothers, mostly mothers to girls, say oh there is no difference you need to raise all children the same way etc., but they are NOT the same! I realized this when my son was three months old and he started spitting down his changing table on purpose to see what would happen when it landed on the floor… need I say more! 🙂
    From my experience and as previous posters mentioned, boys need a lot of outside/ nature time and male bonding/ good male role models. Our son adores his dad and loves his nature excursions with him up into the mountains and with other dad’s and sons,….and a daughter actually.
    I think it really depends on the child, but our son is a ‘typical’ boy, fearless, powerful, very physical, likes roughhousing and going into the woods with dad.
    He is also very polite and kind, as these are also traits that are important to be taught to a boy, gentle but firm guidance seems to become our son and it is important to provide a lot of emotional nurturing as well, like you said Jennifer, as boys need to know that there is a place that is safe for them to be open emotionally if need to be, since males do not tend to carry their emotions on their sleeves. At least not the ones I know.

  11. thanks Maggie

    I’m glad we had a girl first actually becuase all the things you described, fearless, powerful, very phsyical, and loves going out of doors, nature walks, describe Emerson perfectly…and I wonder if we would have had a different approach if we would have had a boy first.

    boys and girls are different…but they all need LOVE 🙂

  12. There you go Jennifer, you are all set! LOL
    The article that Alyss posted in her comment under ‘Raising Healthy Boys’ describes the differences wonderful and also the approach to how to raise boys a tad bit different than girls. We do have a very similar approach in our family, just in a Christian way.
    It is funny how sometimes it is frowned upon traditions.

  13. It’s nice that you are talking specifally about boys, Carrie. We are on the same wave, as I am right now reading Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. This book proposes some very interesting work on boys. First, that scientific studies show that hormones (including testosterone) act in response to environmental events (e.g., that in cases of agression, high testosterone is an effect NOT a cause of aggression). This is very interesting when/if we want talk about biological causes of behavior. The book talks about the environmental challenges of boys: pop culture and emotional miseducation; and also how deeply boys need males in their life who model a rich emotional life. Interesting book! More thoughts to add!

  14. Pingback: A Rant About the Etiology of ADD/ADHD « The Parenting Passageway

  15. Thank you for these posts specific to boys! I need to understand my boys more! I’ll explore your blog more when I have more time. It is comforting in a way to hear that other moms with boys are also struggling with their son’s physical behaviors and that these behaviors are just partly due to being a boy. I am struggling with my 6 year old son’s aggressiveness toward his 2 year old brother – he punched him in the chest this morning when the 2 year old asked for his toy back! I feel so challenged – I know it’s partly a boy thing, but how can we redirect that kind of aggressive energy? And, yes, he’s been diagnosed with ADHD and sensory integration issues. I’m not sure where I stand on this right now – we try to spend lots of time outside (and still get our cooking, cleaning… done), homeschool, don’t use media. I’m wondering if anyone has found a strategy that helps guide their son’s aggressiveness?

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