Rule #54: Boys will be Boys
As the father of 2 wonderful girls and the grandfather of the awesome Hailey I am a strong supporter of the #metoo movement, and societal protections that give those who need it most a voice. There is never an excuse for behavior which abuses, and using power to take advantage of others. I think the pendulum of fairness was way off, and this recent increase awareness has helped many people who where damage find strength, support and acceptance. It has been long overdue and needs to continue.
As the father of 4 wonderful boys I have been assessing what I have taught my boys, and if my approach would be modified in the light of this new awareness. I was bothered by a new PSA from the Joyful Heart foundation, which does good work in the areas of cultural change- it is a good organization that is positive force. Its latest PSA has male celebrities saying ” boys will be boys” and ends the the words ENOUGH and the call to change the culture.
I raised my boys with the words ” boys will be boys” used often. When they fought among themselves I did not intervene to settle arguments, but rather allowed them to work out their issues, sometimes physically, between themselves.
No, I did not throw a knife in the fight and encourage it, but rather taught them to learn to work as brothers and resolve issues. Sometimes that pushed each other and teased each other. I always tried to avoid things escalating too far, but I did let them resolve their own problems. My belief was that I would not be able to be there all the time, and that if I didn’t want them to be completely dependent on me I needed to give them room.
Andrew had a incident at the catholic grade school at age 10 which stands out. I had gotten a call from the Principal, a Sister of mercy, to tell me Andrew was in a fight in the school yard and she asked me to stop and see her. The Sister told me that she had watched Andrew be harassed by a smaller boy for several weeks, with the child teasing and poking at him. She said that a apparently the kid has taken a kick ball and hit Andrew in the back of the head, which Andrew responded by picking the kid up and slamming him hard against the fence screaming to leave him alone. The kid was scared and ran to the teachers for help. Which brought them to Sister.
I asked Sister what needed to be done. She told me Andrew was a good, kind kid and he needed to learn to stand up for himself. She told me she was punishing the other boy with detention, and letting Andrew go with a warning. She added that when the other kid complained she said ” I know what you are doing, and the next time I’m not going to help you”. She said ” boys will be boys”, and told me that this was a lesson for Andrew that he had to stand up to this type of abuse.
Was Sister wrong? I don’t think so. Part of raising boys is to teach them to stand up for themselves and to defend others. Not raising boys to be bullies or violent but to raise them to be men who can survive what life throws at them.
The whole “boys will be boys’ thing has me thinking about Sister and what it means to be father of boys and the lessons you need to teach. The objective is not to take the boy out of the boy, but to find the man within the boy.
I think it comes down to really only three things that define a man’s character
A boy has to learn that they are responsible for their decisions and the consequences of their actions. That making good decisions lead to good consequences, and bad decisions lead to bad consequences.
When one of the boys had a problem in school with missing home work, or failing a test I never intervened or appealed on their behalf unless the full story was not being told. Matthew will confirm dozens and dozens of detentions he endured for missing assignments, that I never appealed or argued with the school. Even with Abby when she was given detention for chewing gum ( that I gave her for anxiety on test days) I told her to serve the detention because it was the rule. Yes, I told the school it was my fault but she accepted the consequences.
Learning you are responsible for your own actions and decisions is key part of character.
In 2019 I find a decreasing amount of respect for everything. Respect of God, country, women and parents all seem to have become optional. Its an arrogance that children have that they are the center of the universe, and their happiness is the only thing that needs to be respected.
Its important that boys learn that their respect comes from the respect of others. Getting this “respect concept” into a boy’s mind is hard, and I think a lot of parents are just too busy to focus on it. Slowly the boys have learned that they can talk to parents with an attitude of entitlement, that since there is no God there is no reason to think anyone is more important then they are, and that the country is run by fools. Its hard for the boy to accept that maybe they aren’t the most important thing on the planet unless a parent is there to say they are not.
Changing this comes by living by example. Talking about higher purpose in life, that its our obligation to serve others and not just ourselves. Simple things like opening the car door for a woman, or bringing the garbage can up for an elderly neighbor sends a message that our role in life is not always to be get the biggest piece of chicken on the table.
Its enforcing quick, and clear consequences for lack of respect. Talking back to a parent or defying a rule should be treated as serious issues which have punishments from grounding to loss of all screens ( very effective ). Boys, even the really good ones, are not born with the concept of respect it has to be learned by behavior and response. Excusing disrespect builds long term problems when authority, women and the country as a Boy tries to figure out a world with no rules.
My simple parenting rule was if the boy isn’t listening add more structure to his life. The simpler and clearer the rules, the clearer the need for respect will become. This does not happen by accident a parent has to teach it, and if it is missed long term problems developed. I can’t help believe that if Max Weinstein had smacked young Harvey in the head and taken away his TV the first time he was rude to a woman he would have headed in a different course. Someone needed to teach him about appropriate behavior. He didn’t become the narcissistic rapist by himself, a lot of people ignored behavior to create this monster.
Finally the role of father.
I believe there is an critical role a boy should learn as head of the family. Not head in the concept of CEO or General, but head of the family as leader and protector. This seems very sexiest, but I think the lack of teaching this important role has lead to many of the problems that exist today.
The boy needs to learn that a Man solves problems, and that with his partner ( man or woman) sets rules and the course of the family through life. That as a father he has a moral responsibility to care for his partner and children. That the role of father is one that comes with it tremendous obligations, and for him to forego these will destroy the family.
If the boy doesn’t understand this role he will fail as a father. I look at things like Andrew making decisions about doing extra work to save for a vacation, as him having understood the role of father. He understands he has moral obligation to protect and provide for Ashleigh and Hailey, and bucks stops with him, that he has keep his family focused.
This doesn’t mean that my daughter-in-law could not do this all herself, she certainly has the intelligence and work ethic to do so. But the family works so much better with Man accepting his role as father. It allows Ashleigh to have a partner and not another child. Him succeeding as a father stands out as what I view as my most important contribution to the world.
I think the phrase “boys will be boys” in not insulting and that accepting that boys will be aggressive, stupid and clumsy at times is not bad. Accepting that the will make mistakes when they are small, be corrected and move on to being men is part of the process. Sister was right we need boys who can handle themselves in this world, that can be strong and have character.
Boys will be boys. But every father has the obligation to know that Boys will be Men, and we need them to be the best men possible.
The Me Too movement is right that we can do better. We need to raise better men, while not losing the boy.