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"Boys Will Be Boys" = A Free Pass to Bad Behavior?

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When moms dismiss their son's bad behavior as "boys being boys," does this harm our children? Our expert explains.

two boys head to head staring at one another

There's no doubt about it -- little boys and girls are very different.

From the way they are socialized on the playground, to how they problem-solve, even how they interact with their parents, it seems as though boys and girls are light years apart. And thanks to all that testosterone, boys tend to be rowdier than girls. As a result, parents often brush off this behavior, by saying "Boys will be boys."

But is this smart?

"The phrase 'Boys will be boys' can be dangerous if parents are overlooking dangerous, rough, or bullying behavior," says licensed marriage and family therapist Shannon Fox. "Just because your child is a boy, doesn't mean he can get away with punching kids in the nose."

•"It's true there are fundamental differences between boys and girls," she adds. "High testosterone levels in boys can trigger aggression, low concentration, and less focus. Whereas little girls are more interested in learning, nurturing relationships and bonding."

"Parents should deal with these gender differences by teaching their sons the same principals as their daughters," Fox says. "And while you shouldn't expect boys and girls to act the same, taking into account your son's temperament and personality will help determine the best course of action when he's rowdy."

•"The bottom line: Whatever the gender, if the school is saying your child is causing problems, you should listen."

Jeanine Pirro explores this topic on today's episode of "Judge Jeanine Pirro." In the clip, a young boy has stolen a cell phone, and Judge Pirro asks the mother what her son's problem is. The mother says he's been in therapy, but the problem spiraled because she figured boys grow out of bad behavior.

Watch the clip here:

Tell us -- does bad behavior in boys go untreated for longer because parents think they're just "being boys?"

Check local listings to catch "Judge Jeanine Pirro" on the CW.

next: Men Who Date "Real" Dolls
11 comments so far | Post a comment now
foxymama October 17, 2008, 4:45 PM

I am so guilty of letting my son “be a boy” and putting pressures to be perfect on my daughters. I can’t figure it out. I guess I have this need to baby him, but want my girls to be fiercely independent. I’m working at not letting my son’s rough behavior be okay. HELP!

Charles Orlando October 17, 2008, 7:41 PM

It’s not just parents… I have blogged about a personal situation with my daughter at school. The teacher told her that the boys were mean “because they liked her.” Umm… what? Being mean = love!?!? Not really. We straightened that out with my daughter, but the notion that “boys will be boys” is so pervasive… but it’s just an excuse for bad behavior.

Charles Orlando October 17, 2008, 7:42 PM

It’s not just parents… I have blogged about a personal situation with my daughter at school. The teacher told her that the boys were mean “because they liked her.” Umm… what? Being mean = love!?!? Not really. We straightened that out with my daughter, but the notion that “boys will be boys” is so pervasive… but it’s just an excuse for bad behavior.

ashley October 18, 2008, 9:02 AM

When my son was in Kindergarten last year, he was having some problems in the beginning. I got a note home from school that he had hit and pinched a few of the students. He has always been a very sweet kind child and I think it was just a reaction to having a new baby in the house. We set up a system with the teacher where she would send home a happy face or sad face or sometimes half and half depending on his behavior. After about a month he only had happy faces. Then another month and we didn’t have to do it anymore. He was great. The other night he had a friend over and I walked into the living room only to find my husband and his friend egging them on while they beat the crap out of each other. Later, I had to sit him down and have a long talk about how that’s only ok at home when everyone is having fun. Hopefully he doesn’t go to school and try to put someone in a headlock. I’m sure he won’t.

birdsfly October 18, 2008, 10:25 PM

My son is 3 and is having some problems with how to behave around other kids. We don’t allow excuses like that. Any time he picks on someone he has to apologize. If he was being physical he gets one warning, then a time out, then no more playground for the day. I’d treat a girl the same way. Just because little boys are more prone to violence doesn’t mean it should be an excuse, it just means parents need to teach them how to behave properly despite testosterone.

Ed October 19, 2008, 3:05 PM

This is a little off the subject here but as a parent with boys and girls, I would appreciate all parents standing up for boys when there is male bashing in the media, in movies, by those in the public eye, etc. Mothers, do not stand for this. This eventually goes against your own sons, brothers, fathers, nephews, grandsons, etc.

Yes there are a few men/boys who are bad apples but there are women/girls who fit in the same category. We must stop the male bashing. It only hurts EVERYONE in the long run.

Lastly, many boys/men are being falsely accused of rape and it’s time to arm your boys with info to protect them. The Duke case is a prime example. Their lives being ruined while the girl was not held responsible for her lies. If this happened to your son would you not be outraged? It’s time parents talk to their boys about sex, rape, unwanted pregnancies, golddiggers, etc. Does the thought of your son going to college, getting a good job and having his life destroyed by a false rape accusation, or not thinking with his head re: sex and being trapped by an unwanted pregnancy, disturb you? It is happening! PLEASE TALK TO YOU KIDS!

Sorry but this needs to be said so your boys will be armed with the information to make sound choices when they start going girl crazy. Thanks for listening.

kendall October 20, 2008, 11:32 AM

THANKS ED! It was a relief to read your response. I am the mom of a 10 year-old boy and you are absolutely right. Boys are blamed for things far more than girls are. My son attends a school where most of the teachers are women and the girls in his classes (from grade 3 and up) have always had the final say. They torment and set the boys up only to sit back and watch the boys get the blame. When the boys try to explain, the teacher will not even listen. He is now in grade 6 and the same thing is happening. The girls use their smiles to get their own way and the boys have no say at all. The girls insist on joining the boys at recess, only to complain when they get hurt. The boys want to play football on their own, but the girls insist on playing, so the teacher insists that the boys let them play. The boys don’t interrupt the girls when they are having girl-time. If they did, they would be blamed for harrassement. One side of my family are true believers that boys will be boys and regardless of their opinions, our son is being raised as a kind, gentle, caring and sentitive human being, not a boy or a girl. He will manage the boy stuff all on his own. As a result, we have a boy who is interested in sports, music and saving all animals, homeless people and the world. He treats other children the way he wants to be treated and has never used force on another child. We have never been notified from his school or another parent that he has not been bahaving himself. All children should be raised the same regardless of their gender. We have many friends with only girls and if I have to listen to “if a boy ever touches my girl, I’ll kill him” one more time, I’ll scream! Do these parents even know that most 11-12 year old girls are far more interested in touching the boys than the other way around. I have to watch the girls around my son. He is only (at present) interested in reading, playing sports and video games. I wish I could say the same for his female friends. You parents of young girls had better open your eyes. It is time you start teaching your young girls to behave like ladies and stop looking to the boys for approval, attention and more. The hormones don’t help, but is their lack of self-esteme that leads them to wanting attention from the boys in the first place. I know, I was a young girls once too. We will surely teach our son how to protect himself from the gold-diggers and mommy wanna-bees. He will concentrate on his education first, but will be armed to protect himself from the girls and their naive parents. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to let off some steam. This issue has been bothering me for quite some time. Parents … if your boys (or girls) are exhibiting violent bahavior, you need to look beyond the child and into your own homes and the homes of your child’s friends. If that doesn’t help, look further into your child because whether it is a boy or a girl, consistent violent behavior can be a cry for help.

Charin October 20, 2008, 12:10 PM

I would also like to add that sometimes behavioural issues, in girls as well as boys, can have a physical cause. For example, food allergies are notorious for causing everything from aggression to lack of concentration and even violence. Food colours, such as the yellow dyes used in Kraft dinner are notorious for causing reactions in children. Common foods such as apples, apple juice and sugar, food additives and preservatives are others. Take a moment to read the ingredients in most prepared foods kids eat and you will be astounded. I don’t know how the vast majority of kids function with the foods they eat and the chemicals they are laced with. (Not to mention complete lack of nutrition.)

Also, there can be other causes such as lead. Two of my sons have toxic lead levels that cause everything from sleep disturbances to behavioural issues. The source can never be truly identified, but as an example 90% of kid’s jewellery that was purchased by the Toronto Star (during an investigative report) showed they were made sometimes of 100% lead! Some children received brain damage simply by wearing or putting jewellery in their mouths. (which kids do frequently) Toy cars etc. from china were also up to 100% lead. Beware! Take it from one who knows this can cause damage that takes years to repair and untold grief to the child and his/her family. One final note. Sleep deprivation is also prevalent in kids today and when rectified (and given proper sleep) many attention and behaviour issues vanish. Nutritional deficiencies such as lack of omega 3’s in the diet (which affects brain function), and lack of zinc are two other possibilities.

Aggressive behaviour is never acceptable, but it may underlying causes that need to be address, hopefully BEFORE the poor child gets labelled as BAD.

Ed October 20, 2008, 5:26 PM

Hey Kendall! Thx for the reply. Just reading it was infuriating me. You made so many valid points and I’m glad someone else understands where I’m coming from.

Why is it that some women want all-exclusive female only gyms, or other organizations, but when men do that they’re “sexist pigs”.

I have seen girls become sexually aggressive around boys and touch their butts or kiss them on the cheek. If a boy did that to a girl, he’d be suspended for harrassment. I know of girls who have told me flat out that they lie and cry to get what they want and it just makes me feel for the boys because it’s damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Why is this not discussed on Oprah or other female-driven talk shows?

Have you heard of Todd Goldman, founder and president of David & Goliath t-shirts, who has an anti-boy clothing line that says things like BOYS ARE SMELLY, BOYS ARE STUPID? I emailed this jerk and asked him why he was doing this to boys and his response was “he didn’t care he was enjoying the money”! You know if the t-shirts said GIRLS ARE STUPID there would have been an uproar!

Where are the mothers of sons to protest this? We know most fathers are not present or don’t care to do anything. They are passive about the sexism and male-bashing. It takes women to get anything done! Mothers of sons, nephews, etc. I beg you to stop this and email Todd Goldman through his site and do whatever else you can to let stores who sell this garbage that you won’t tolerate it or spend your money there.

Our boys are being left behind and while most feminists probably don’t care, trust me, in a few more years our society is going to pay the price because these boys are not going to have proper education, they are going to be working minimum wage jobs, and I believe a higher unemployment of young men that can only lead to more crime. This is serious yet it seems no one in the media wants to talk about it. Mothers, keep up the good work!

Lisa February 9, 2009, 7:19 PM

Ed, isn’t your comment,”It takes women to get anything done!”, part of the problem?

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