Boys understand boundaries. Instead of saying, “no throwing snowballs,” make some boundaries. “Snowball throwing within this area only.” Boys get “inbounds vs. out-of-bounds.” And they’re good with it.
We can’t outlaw boy behavior. We can’t outlaw running and screaming and jumping. We can’t ban all violent play, and we can’t stop them from wrestling. If we do that, we send boys the message that their internal impulses are somehow wrong, and that’s just, well, wrong.
We can, however, set some boundaries. We can help them redirect their energies. We can suggest, for instance, that they leap off the playground instead of off the couch. We can give them play guns (or not) while letting them know that it’s not OK to point a weapon at someone in anger. We can provide safe spaces and sane boundaries (such as no hitting the head or groin)when they start to wrestle.
Providing boundaries recognizes and respects boys’ innate needs, while teaching them basic social behavior. Providing boundaries allows boys to experiment with their power and strength in a safe way. Providing boundaries helps boys grow into confident men.
The next time your boys are driving you crazy, don’t simply outlaw the behavior. Work with your boys to develop some boundaries instead.
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