Only until recently have I discovered how boys, not just toddlers, get caught up in the storylines of the epic struggle between good and evil. Seriously, it’s interwoven in pretty much all of my boys pretend play and the adventures they come up with. When I started to listen in their little world pretend play, I was intrigued by how they are swept away by the magic of it all–good and evil. When I was a little girl that was not the case, my make believe world consisted of my dolls playing and talking with each other. I didn’t need a super hero or villain to ruin my tea time.
Michael Gurian the author of The Purpose of Boys shares this interesting finding:
Romans 12:1 says, “Don’t be overcome by evil; overcome evil with good.” All world’s religions and thousands of male-oriented stories from every continent provide admonishments similar to this one. If you look at statures about pubertal boys with an eye for this, you’ll notice that in the stories, inspirational aphorisms are integrated into a call for young men to put forth their best, most mature selves by setting out on a journey of maturation in which they will seek a path to truth, strength and purpose.
Isn’t this intriguing! My boys spend so much time arguing who is going to be the bad guy and the good guy and figuring out every detail of their battle plans. It’s quite fascinating to watch their little imaginations unfold.
I remember when my first born was a toddler and I decided that we were not going to purchase toy guns for our son and I managed to convince my husband to agree. This worked out quite well until he started playing with other kids. After his first “play date” that parenting theory quickly went out the window. He walked out of the church nursery holding the straw from his juice box that was now a gun then in his most fierce little boy look he said with pride, “Pow!” I still refused to buy him a gun but soon everything was turned into a gun from sticks on the ground, to crayons, to spoons… EVERYTHING. I reluctantly gave in and we bought him a toy gun.
If you have girls I want to encourage you, not to compare your little guy to his big sister and her development. Also, I suggest you not parent them the same way. Many things will overlap in their development and characteristics but some things just need to be handled different with our boys.
Though we will never fully understand our boys, and it will never be our goal to try to tame them, we can do a better job of coming along side of them and helping them on their treacherous journey to becoming men.”
So join me in this journey as we go through the book Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David S. Thomas. Let’s encourage each other along the way! Share in the comments what you’ve gleaned from chapter 1 and stop by our Facebook Group where you can ask questions, encourage each other and share articles that we find helpful along the way. Just ask to join our little group here . If you’re on Katch.me you can stop by and watch the video that has a bit more information that what I share below.
Parenting Toddler Boys–You Can Do This!
Our Toddler Boys Need (from Chapter 1)
We all need boundaries in our life but our little 2-5 year old boys especially need them because they haven’t learned how to self-regulate. He doesn’t know when or where and sometimes even how to stop. They love to push their limits so it’s important that we give them boundaries to help them feel safe and let him know what is permissible and what’s not appropriate in their little world.
A more productive and reasonable way to set boundaries for Explorers (toddler boys) is to redirect this energy toward usefulness. For example, You can’t be that loud in the house, but you are free to go to the backyard and be as loud as you want.”
When we talk to our little boys about boundaries make sure that you’re being short and succinct in our guidance. Also don’t expect them to pick up toys all by himself.
Set rules that are straightforward. For example, We always tell the truth. We don’t lie. But also have it make sense by using logical consequences.
Many toddlers boys may appear to be quite aggressive in this stage of their development and their are lots of reasons this is the case but one explanation is that our little boys brain secretes less serotonin than that of a girl. Why does this matter? Well, serotonin serves as an impulse control agent. The authors share some research where it was discovered that boys brains are wired for activity and girls brain tends to lean towards personal connection. So guess what all of this fuels–some aggression. Please note that there is a difference between an aggressive child and a violent child. Our boys are not wired to be violent. Violence is learned.
Our boys at this stage, “Demonstrate love and affection through wrestling, head butting and sometimes even hitting.” Now remember not all toddler boys are aggressive. One of my boys was definitely not this way but my other two were and one still is he’s only 5. He’s learning that cuddling with mom doesn’t mean that I want to be wrestled down, but he sure is a good little kisser and hugger. One of the things the authors mention is that at times if they are being overly aggressive this maybe a signal to us that why are overstimulated which then bring on tantrums. When our boys have completely lost it ask yourself, “Is he tired? Is he hungry?”
So as a result we should “identify places around the house and yard where it’s safe to run, kick throw spit, art, dig and jump.” My boys love to fart at the dinner table so I tell them, “We don’t fart at the table but you’re welcome to go to the bathroom and do this.” This let’s them know that there’s nothing wrong with farting it’s okay but the dinner table is definitely not the place to do it.
I love this idea in the book called “race time”.
Race time took place whenever the need arose–rain or shine, warm or freezing, day or night. She marched her little fellas out the front door to the steps, lined them up, and raised the flag. Then this little pack of boys would start running laps around the house…”
So instead of constantly telling our boys to stop jumping off the banister, don’t run in the house let’s come up with some strategies to channel their energy and aggression in a productive way.
The book mentions that our toddler boys need a great deal of structure and consistency but after working with inner-city middle school kids, I believe kids of all ages NEED structure and consistency. This kind of structure brings peace and assurance to the little world. Procedures and rules help give them consistency as mentioned above in boundaries. We follow through our boundaries with our consistency. If he hits his brother, I walk over each time and talk to him about it, “Remember hands are not for hitting. See what kind things our hands can do.” So we clap with his hands, I fold them for prayer, I brush them across my cheek in a nurturing way…
You can also offer consistency with their naps, meals, snacks, morning and bedtime routines.
Another way we can help them with this is by anticipating changes and announce transition. One of my boys needed this much more than our last. I think the last one has just learned to roll with the punches but it wasn’t that way with all of them. I had to give him a warning for everything. If we were swinging I’d say, “This was fun but we have to go soon. I’m going to recite our ABC’s and when I get to Z we’ll need to go.” Or sometimes in the morning I’d give him a quick heads up if we were going to have an outing.
Boys need for us to understand the uniqueness of their wiring and to respond to them accordingly.
We need to understand that our boys need:
- More concrete and direct communication because they don’t grasp abstract ideas.
- Make your request very specific (short and simple) instead of using lots of words.
- Give a command rather than ask a question.
- Give them options but not too many.
- They need time and space to play.
I hope you walk away with some great tools from reading chapter one of this book, I sure have. The wonderful thing is that many of these things have helped me even with my boys who aren’t in the toddler stage.
Don’t forget to pour on the positive affirmation into the hearts of our little boys who in so many ways want to please us. When they feel successful and affirmed we are more likely to see them bloom and feel loved in their stage of life.
Note: All of the quotes and tips from above are from the book Wild Things the Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David C. Thomas unless otherwise noted.