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.
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.