Parents: Can We Stop Saying 'Boys Will Be Boys' Once & For All?

When my daughter was about 3, we were over at our friends’ house for a playdate with their kids.

Their son, who was around 12 months, wasn’t too keen on sharing his toys with my child. After a lot of snatching things away and pushing her aside, he eventually kicked her repeatedly in the head. He sunk his teeth into her skin, leaving behind some angry red marks, and my tot bawling her eyes out.

  • The supposed apology from his parents pretty much came in the form of "boys will be boys."

    And therefore we should not overreact to his expected aggression towards our child.

    They also implied that perhaps our daughter is just too sensitive. And that my husband and I are overprotective parents.

    We understand that all kids have temper tantrums and especially the younger ones are still learning how to play nice with others, but was it too much of his parents to expect us to just shrug it off?

    According to them, their son is just naturally aggressive. He often has bad tempers, and even takes his frustration out on them. But this is considered part of his character as a boy.

    So is that child going to grow up thinking that it’s OK to resort to violence to express his unhappiness? And that it’s acceptable for him to act out in a destructive manner because hey, “boys will be boys?”

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  • If you have a son, ask yourself if you have ever used the phrase.

    Did you use it as an excuse for when your son yanks the dog’s tail? Or perhaps when he throws a toy right at his sister’s face. Or secretly steals money from your wallet and sneaks out of the house to go gallivanting around town with his friends when he’s older?

    Of course as a parent you would not intentionally encourage your child to be aggressive to others. Nor do you find emotional outbursts endearing. But every time you trivialize his bad behavior or cover up his shortcomings by using the "boys will be boys" excuse, you are in fact disadvantaging your son. 

  • Because frankly, the “boys will be boys” mentality does more harm than good.

    Due to gender stereotypes, girls are always told to be more ladylike, and boys are supposed to be fearless and macho.

    If your son refuses to help clean up after dinner time and runs off to watch TV instead while your daughter has to help clear the table and wash the dishes, and you shrug it off because “boys will be boys” -- don’t be surprised if he doesn’t lift a finger to do his fair share of the housework when he’s married and expects his wife to do everything (even if she is also a working mom).

    Or if your son relentlessly bullies a girl at school but you don’t take this seriously because “boys will be boys,” and he could supposedly have a slight crush on her so this is the way he’s just showing his feelings -- don’t be shocked if he grows up thinking it’s OK to inflict bodily harm onto girls and women, and possibly even dangerously cross the line when trying to pursue the fairer sex.

    If your son has been caught for vandalism, public mischief, shoplifting, or other petty crimes, and you try to rationalize it with “boys will be boys” so you make little effort to prevent this from happening again -- don’t be surprised if he repeats these offenses and seems unapologetic and not remorseful.

  • Going by this way of thinking, boys are also expected not to be too emotional. Or to cry when upset, because “they should stop being such a girl.”

    It is discouraged for them to play with dolls, or take ballet lessons, or learn how to sew, even though that’s what they’re interested in, because such activities are only reserved for girls.

    They won’t be given much sympathy if they are the victim of bullying in school even though it is not their fault, because it is considered girly of them to not stand up for themselves or fight back.

    All this makes boys grow up thinking that the worst thing in the world they can be is a girl.

  • Stop the double standard.

    By using the phrase “boys will be boys”  you are:

    - Dismissing instead of correcting your son’s negative behaviour

    - Perpetuating gender discrimination

    - Teaching him to not be responsible or accountable for his own actions

    - Inadvertedly setting him up for failure in life

    Boys or girls, children will misbehave. They will try to duck out of doing their chores, get into fights with their friends or siblings. Just generally wreak havoc.

    Ask yourself, does your daughter get punished for certain things while your son is able to get off scot-free?

    We all love our children and only want what is best for them, so teach your son the valuable lesson of being responsible and accountable for his own actions.

    Let him know that he should not expect to get a free pass nor does he have the upper hand in life simply because he is a boy living in a patriarchal society.

    Make him understand that if he misbehaves or does something wrong, there will be consequences to bear.

    Now that’s how a real man should be.

    This article was republished with permission from theAsianParent.

    theAsianparent is a publication under Tickled Media Pte Ltd. Started in September 2009, it is the largest parenting website in Southeast Asia, targeted at urban parents and parents-to-be who live in Asia or are of Asian heritage. theAsianparent speaks to every stage and priority of an Asian mom’s journey – from pre-conception to pregnancy, to breastfeeding, and even how to raise smart, strong and kind children.