Any parent of a boy and a girl will quickly tell you that there are many developmental differences between the sexes that are evident almost from birth (apart from the obvious physical ones). We recently ran across an interesting article from Eleanor Reynolds, author of a series of books on guiding young children, which suggests that mothers should acknowledge these differences and “let boys be boys”. Ms. Reynolds has spent 25 years in early childhood education, and is a strong proponent of the “problem-solving” child-centered philosophy of education and care. The problem-solving approach encourages “kids to do what kids do” as they learn to take responsibility for their words and actions.
In the article “The Problem Solving Parent: Boys Must Be Boys”, found here, Ms. Reynolds offers suggestions to parents (mothers especially) of ways to enrich the lives and futures of their sons:
Boys need intimacy as much as girls, but boys must learn intimacy; it doesn’t always come naturally. Baby boys may not seem to invite as much cuddling as girls, but they still need it. Hold, carry, rock, make eye contact, sing to, and coo with your baby boy as much as possible.
Teach your boy by showing him how to do things. When putting away his toys, be his partner and do the task together. Get down to his eye level, take his hand, and guide him. Don’t assume he’ll respond to verbal cues.
Help your son learn how to express his feelings in ways that are natural for him. Boys take their time expressing their feelings, sometimes repressing how they feel which leaves them with only one acceptable emotion: anger.
Encourage your son to take risks, not only physical risks but mental and emotional risks as well.
Boys prefer to take charge and solve problems. Learn how to use the problem-solving approach so you can help your son make the most of his innate skills. When there is a dispute, ask both kids to think of ideas to solve the problem. This helps children to use their thought processes and verbal skills in place of physical force.
Accept your son’s level of physical activity. Give him space to run, jump, wrestle, make noise, and be a boy.
If your boy is in child care, choose your provider cautiously. Search for a warm and nurturing setting that offers numerous physical activities when children are indoors as well as out.
While many of Reynolds’ suggestions are applicable to girls as well as boys, she is focused upon encouraging parents to embrace the “boy” in their sons, acknowledging that this may not always be so easy to do. What do you think, GCP readers? Is this helpful information? Does it paint a too stereotypical picture of boy behavior? Do you find her suggestions valid? Let us know your thoughts.