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Feminism: chat

Raising a Boy

45 replies

HoponPopPat · 18/06/2021 19:34

At 3.5 years old, my son is going through a very unpleasant phase: hitting and kicking girls, throwing, shouting, answering back. It has become quite horrible to be around him. I know that boys are said to be naturally more aggressive than girls, but I'm reluctant to attribute his behaviour to his sex, as I prefer not to impose gender stereotypes on small children. I think his aggressiveness probably has less to do with him being male and more to do with him being a toddler, testing the boundaries, etc.

However I must admit that there is a (very small) part of me that is aware that this boy will grow up to be a man, and worries (not much, just a little, very occasionally) about what sort of man he will be when I see him being aggressive and bullying towards girls. If I fail to address these issues, as and when they arise, while he is still a child, what repercussions might it have on him as a man? I guess what I'm saying is that I'm very keen for him not to grow up to be a threat to anybody, especially women. Does anybody else think about stuff like this?

Please don't bombard me with abusive messages about how you feel sorry for my son having an evil mother who thinks such things about him. It should go without saying that I don't think of my son as anything other than a sweet, innocent, beautiful child. My only concern is my own ability as a parent to preserve that essential goodness in him and to nip the aggressive, bullying behaviour I have witnessed recently in the bud as soon as possible. (But I expect there will be the usual posters ready to tell me that I'm a terrible mother without any knowledge or understanding of me or my circumstances. Please remember that I am a human being with feelings before you attack me).

OP posts:

BeachWaves2 · 18/06/2021 19:39

Is it just girls he's hitting or boys aswell? Make a point that's its not nice to hit anybody not just girls (even if it is atm) all toddlers go through a hitting phase. My daughter was awful but she's grown out of it now and I Dont have any worry she's going to grow into a violent woman. His behaviour is toddler bahavour.. Not boy behaviour.


nocoolnamesleft · 18/06/2021 19:51

Well, you do have the wit not to smile indulgently and say "boys will be boys", so sounds like you're making a good start!


StrawberryLipstickStateOfMind · 18/06/2021 19:58

@HoponPopPat I hope you don't any nasty comments- I get totally where you are coming from. It's clear you aren't an awful mother who thinks evil things about your son! I know exactly what you mean about wanting to preserve that inherent goodness- my 6 yr old DS is the kindest soul I know, and I want to do everything I can to raise him well and for him to grow into a kind man who respects women. It's difficult for me too because I was abused by my ex... it's made me very cautious of men... I don't want my son to be affected by this.

FWIW of my two children it's my DD who is by far the aggressive one! I think your DS is displaying behaviour within the norms for a child of his age. Keep an eye on it and reinforce it's not nice to hit etc but try not to worry at this point! I think he'll be fine with a mum who is aware and is considering these things.


MrsOvertonsWindow · 18/06/2021 19:58

Hopefully HoponPopPat you won't find anyone on here being abusive. Most? many? of us are parents and it's very humbling to discover just how difficult it is.
As BeachWaves2 points out, this seems to be toddler behaviour. Is he in a nursery or with a child minder? Have you had any feedback from others?


MouseyTheVampireSlayer · 18/06/2021 19:59

I worry about that too op, especially as I fear I overindulge Ds because of his disability.
We bought feminism for girls- a picture book for boys around your son's age.
Also, don't underestimate the impact his peers (ie.other boys at nursery and later school have on him) I'm a teacher and I can't tell you how sad it is seeing nice boys as young as four being pressured into toxic masculinity by their peers.


sharksarecool · 18/06/2021 20:01

Isnt there something about boys getting testosterone surges at various points in childhood? Boys and girls can still have some aocisl differences regardless of socislisation, because they have different hormones


sallievp · 18/06/2021 20:01

Try not to worry. My son was the same at same age. He is now 5.5 in reception and very gentle and kind. Still boisterous but is lovely with little ones and keeps saying how he likes to look after and protect smaller children and girls!. I was so worried too and my husband is very kind respectful gentle etc and was worried my son would be a bully!


theThreeofWeevils · 18/06/2021 20:05

If applicable, ensure your son's father also picks him up on the bad behaviours as much as you do, so he doesn't form the notion that mummies mind about it but daddies don't.
As per the PP's comment, though, it's not being Boy so much as being 3.5 and (briefly, usually) a horrible little savage. Good luck.


speakout · 18/06/2021 20:07

Violent behaviour at 3 and a half cannot be tolerated. No matter the sex of the child. He is not a toddler at this age.
You are not an evil mother, but at this age you have the ability to control this behaviour.
Any aggression is stopped. Removal from the situation.
Zero tolerance.


AliceW89 · 18/06/2021 20:09

Hey OP. You sound like you are really lacking confidence in your post, especially your final paragraph. I’m really sorry if people have made you feel that way before - the fact you are already thinking how to raise a kind, thoughtful boy shows you are a bloody good parent, not an evil one at all! I too worry about how to raise my spirited boy to the best of my ability so you are not alone.

Different schools of thought but I’m not sure it’s your responsibility to preserve his essential goodness, to quote. It’s so hard when it’s your own child, but at the end of the day they are human with their own temperaments, likes and dislikes - they will do things you consider good and bad throughout life and it’s not your responsibility to try and alter that.

Re: this specific issue though, you’ve hit the nail on the head - at 3.5 he’s not hitting girls due to any internalised hate or misogyny. He’s hitting girls because that’s what toddlers do. It’s probably a sheer coincidence he’s targeting girls. It’s so easy to say, but I would take a step back and reassure yourself this in no way reflects who he will be as an adult or how you are doing as a parent. You are doing great.

Obviously you need to stop him physically hurting himself or others, but after the situation has diffused, keep explaining to him more generally why it’s important to show empathy and not hurt people physically. Turn it into a broader topic around big feelings and how it’s really important to check in on how you and others are feeling. I personally wouldn’t bring gender into this as it’s the broader concept that needs conveying. Whatever happens though, I’m certain it’ll pass. Good luck x


AssassinatedBeauty · 18/06/2021 20:10


Isnt there something about boys getting testosterone surges at various points in childhood? Boys and girls can still have some aocisl differences regardless of socislisation, because they have different hormones

That's a myth, from a book by Steve Biddulph and is just not the case. Levels of testosterone in small boys is very low and stable until just before puberty.

Clickbait · 18/06/2021 20:12

My DS2 went through a pushing / hitting phase when he was 2. I found it very stressful, so I really feel for you OP.

I found the only thing that worked was, after ONE warning, to leave the playground (or wherever you are) and take him straight home.

My DS2 is 11 now and is a really sweet gentle boy who would never hurt another child.


Hardbackwriter · 18/06/2021 20:15

I find it quite surprising that he's only hitting girls - all the children I know who have gone through a hitting/pushing/biting stage (including mine) have been indiscriminate - that must come from somewhere and at 3.5 you could probably have a very basic discussion about it.

I have two boys - a 3 year old and a baby - and I agree that it feels like a big responsibility to raise good men. Realistically there are a lot more violent and aggressive men out there than women, and I don't want mine to be among them. I tell myself that just being aware and caring about that is a step in the right direction. I sometimes get sad when I think that all those violent, abusive men were once someone's precious innocent little boys but then I think that actually, a lot of them weren't which doesn't excuse but often partially explains.


BlueBrush · 18/06/2021 20:16

OP, I don't think you're an evil mother at all. Many of us worry about this.

As PPs have said, it's not unusual behaviour at 3.5, but you just need to nip in the bud as much as possible and not take a "boys will be boys approach". As he gets older, be a strong role model and make it clear (in an age appropriate way!) that you don't expect to take shit from men, and that you expect him to treat women and girls with respect. Challenge his preconceptions every now and then - he's not too young for that. And as PP said, it does really help if his father takes the same approach. We all need role models, and I can't help but think it makes things easier if a boy can witness men showing women respect.


BlueBrush · 18/06/2021 20:18

And also go easy on yourself because raising another human being is hard, and you can't fix everything!


Sweak · 18/06/2021 20:19

When he is doing this are there any is he hungry or tired? Is the hitting at home or nursery? How do you respond?

One of mine went through a hitting phase around age 2..I think most parents will understand your distress and not judge don't worry

I really recommend the book 'how to talk so little kids will listen.' that may well help with the shouting and answering back. Also has some discussion on hitting too. That book really helped me when I found one of mine difficult around age 3.


AssassinatedBeauty · 18/06/2021 20:25

In terms of parenting, I have no idea why you'd be worried about being told you're "evil"! What you describe is all perfectly normal.

Emphasis to him that you don't hit anyone, remind him about gentle hands and using words not hands, assuming his speech is ok. You can also talk about being aware of other children and if they aren't enjoying his play and say stop/no, then he stops. Don't excuse anything as "boys will be boys" or allow rough play because he's a boy.

And as others have said, how the male role models in his life treat women and how they behave is a big factor too.


HoponPopPat · 18/06/2021 20:30

Sorry for my defensiveness, it’s just that it seems like every time I post what I think of as a perfectly innocuous question here, I get attacked by people.

I suppose he’s not just hitting girls but that’s all I’ve seen. He is around more boys than girls.

I think it is normal behaviour too but because he’s my firstborn, there’s always this lingering doubt of “But what if it isn’t?”

I have had mostly bad experiences with men so I really want to protect my son from all of that.

OP posts:

JoodyBlue · 18/06/2021 20:32

I would echo exactly the previous poster said. Also a reassurance, that when my own son was that age we had a friend in our circle who behaved in a very similar way. He has grown into a sensitive, intelligent, and creative adolescent. Toddler energies are hard to contain. Just keep kind, keep level headed, and keep loving him. I am sure he will be fine. But do gently and fairly correct if you need to. I have sometimes seen mums go way over the top in my opinion in correcting their kids. It is all a balance isn't it. But try not to worry.


Siameasy · 18/06/2021 20:41

My DD was quite nasty around age 4. Just make sure you follow through eg remove child, time out, whatever consequences you use.
We introduced a reward jar using pom poms. I also put up a poster “rules”. She would gain pom poms for good behaviour, subtract for bad. 10 pom poms is a prize. Day one she started on something like minus ten pom poms Grinshe soon got it!


ArabellaScott · 18/06/2021 20:52

My son had a biting phase aged about 2. It was because he'd been bitten by another kid, and was upset, confused and frightened by it. Horrible, though.

There is usually, I would say a reason for 'big emotions' - firstly thirst, hunger, tiredness, also frustration (is there something he is struggling to learn?), fear, or playing out something that is worrying him.

I loved 'playful parenting' techniques, and did a LOT of rough-and-tumble, pillow fights, etc with my son. That really helped him blow off steam.

I do find boys are more physical than girls but that really doesn't equate to violence unless its misdirected - I find boys need to be exercised, lots. Get them outdoors, running about. All kids need strong boundaries, firm and clear rules. Otherwise, they can act out trying to get you to place boundaries on their behaviour.

It's frightening for a kid to not know what they can and can't do, and I think a lot of violence seems to stem from this, so I went from thinking I'd be a very laissez faire parent to being relatively firm with boundaries. This doesn't mean punishment/rewards, just being very clear with what is and isn't accepted. Talking things trhough, explaining consequences, modelling calm, etc. (Of course, I fuck up regularly, everyone does, but that is my general aim).

He's now, aged 11, mostly lovely, and definitely not got an ounce of misogny in him, aged 11 - he's quite furious if he notices unfairness in general and sexism counts as that for him.

So I wouldn't worry too much about that, I think if you are worrying about it, it's not likely to be a problem, if that makes sense. Teaching boys to squash their emotions, 'man up', all that shit, is what breeds toxic masculinity. Teach him to act well, with respect (including you and himself) and also how to express his emotions, listen to him, allow him to be upset but not to hurt himself or others.


VerticalHorizon · 18/06/2021 20:55

Whilst it might be possible to identify some unpleasant traits in the childhood of adult 'bad' people, it's far more realistic that most children will grow up to be perfectly sensible and reasonable people, despite being rather boisterous as infants.

Just be the best parent you can be.

For many children, merely having a parent who strives to be the best they can be is enough.


Peppaismyrolemodel · 18/06/2021 21:09


Violent behaviour at 3 and a half cannot be tolerated. No matter the sex of the child. He is not a toddler at this age.
You are not an evil mother, but at this age you have the ability to control this behaviour.
Any aggression is stopped. Removal from the situation.
Zero tolerance.

31/2 is basically THE time for hitting and kicking. ESP boys, as they get a testosterone surge around then. What the OP does about it is the issue, and she is clearly not tolerating.

So unnecessary. Any excuse to be judgemental.

AssassinatedBeauty · 18/06/2021 21:12

Boys DO NOT get a testosterone surge at aged 3.5, or 4, or at any age up until just before puberty. It is a persistent myth, originating in a book by Steve Biddulph where this claim was made without any evidence.


FOJN · 18/06/2021 21:13

Please don't bombard me with abusive messages about how you feel sorry for my son having an evil mother who thinks such things about him.

This isn't AIBU, you'll get great advice and support here.

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