I burst out laughing the other day while reading a friend’s Facebook status. He explained that he and his two grade school sons were watching Anne of Green Gables when they came to the part where Anne and Diana have a conversation while standing on a cliff overlooking the sea. The youngest son suddenly blurted out, “Anne better watch out, Diana might push her off the cliff.”
In amazement, my friend looked at his son and asked if he thought girl friendships were the same as the physical, often rough-and-tumble one which existed between him and his brother. The conversation ended in hysterical laughter as all three of them recognized just how different male interactions are from female ones.
I thought of this story when I came across a piece by Heidi Stevens in the Chicago Tribune. Stevens, the mother of a nine-year-old boy, recently noticed how intense and troubled her son’s friendships are with other little boys. Curious, she reached out to psychologist Wendy Mogel to find out if her son was an anomaly. Mogel assured her he was not and that many other little boys wrestle with “existential questions,” including:
“How can I be myself without getting into trouble?”
“Does anyone consider me a hero?” and
“What do I contribute to this family that someone else doesn’t already contribute better?”
Boys, like the sons of my friend mentioned above, are naturally known for relationships which involve rough play and high adventures. Although energetic and overactive to female perspectives like my own, they often fuse strong friendships which are helpful in forming bonds of manhood.
But as Mogel implies, these rough, but good, friendships seem to be disappearing, particularly as boys wrestle with the above questions. Instead, boys have friendships infused with more drama and trouble. Mogel believes this change stems from the way we expect boys to behave these days:
“Boys, Mogel contends, bristle at expectations that they quiet their bodies and minds and mouths and follow the rules of a traditional school day, particularly a modern school day with its increased reliance on standardized testing and decreased gym and recess time. They long to ‘skylark,’ a word she stumbled upon in ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.’
‘They’re these darling little elves who are kind of on lockdown at school and at home,’ she said. ‘Even on teams, there’s a coach and there are rules. All day long they’re figuring out how to talk to their teachers and talk to their buddies and fit in the cool crowd, and they’re hungry and they’re frustrated and they’re tired.’”
Rules are great and necessary, but the fact is, we’re disallowing boys to be boys. We’ve taken away toys like guns and swords because they’re “dangerous.” We’ve medicated little boys because their movements and noise are too much for us to take. We’ve tried to make sure girls are equal and included, and thus removed the institutions where boys don’t have to compete against those of the opposite sex.
Let’s face it: Little boys are different from little girls and adults. And unless we allow them to have outlets for natural boy play and ideas, we should not be surprised when they seem frustrated and can’t succeed in modern society.
Is it time to stop treating the traditional, rough-and-tumble boy like a dangerous creature who must be toned down to suit feminized society?
Women have had to play by male rules since the beginning of time. Perhaps if we begin raising both genders to care about others instead of “what if I don’t win/be a hero” mentality, we could reduce the number of conflicts in the world. And yes. I am the mother of sons.
What are “male rules”? I have always played by my own rules; work hard, do my best, be considerate. After almost 40 years working in male dominated industries, I understand men and have tremendous appreciation for them. I too have a son. He is a strong man and the head of the family. Women destroy weak men. Almost all of the family breakdown we have seen in western culture (and yes there really IS a western culture) is the result of weak, feminized men.
“And yes. I am the mother of sons.”
Then I hope your husband intervenes and quickly…
Nonsense, the home lives of boys and their caregivers have always been women.
Further, this is that men make rules to benefit men. Have you seen the murder rates, assaults, sentencing stats. men target men.
Point is, what you claim isn’t true and even if it were it’s not equivalent. It seems like you just have a chip on your shoulder.
I’m quite sure that by now you’re the mother of girls, instead, and part of the problem discussed above.
Reducing number of conflicts—–agree we need to raise all people to care about others. But naturally we compete and it is a hormonal issue. In my 60 years of being a boy, youngest of 7,second gen immigrant to 2nd grade graduate farmer parents, father was a WWII vet who stacked bodies at Hiroshima so came home with radiation posioning thus alcoholic (sorry had to give background) yet I woudn’t trade my life for anyone. Because of competition and safety at school, i found male role models that i have emulated to become a teacher/coach/administrator for 36 years (and still going) with 2 Bachelors, 1 Masters, and 4 other state teaching certifications. I achieved these because I wanted to win, to be a hero because I didn’t see it in my Dad. I don’t think bad of him, nor blame him because he was altered by serving our country. Once you take away the desire to win in society, espectially boys, and despise them for wanting to be a hero, you end up with lost generations of males that we are experiencing NOW. Have a great day.
Stupid article based on a chauvinistic attitude.
There is no gene that makes boys innately superior to girls, as the author suggests. Both boys and girls are programmed from birth to specific roles based on socio-specific norms. Acceptable colors, toys, clothes, emotions, and behaviors are dictated to us through stories, tv, and movies.
Perhaps the “frustrated” and “unsuccessful” boys the author cites are disillusioned to realize their “macho” attitude hasn’t afforded them any advantages towards being a successful human being.
I don’t thing you’ve read the article. There is no mention in the article that boys are superior to girls. They are just different. It is a different matter if these differences were used to supress girls. Reasonable women and men recognize this fact and we know how to bhe respectful of tothers no matter who they are, boys, girls, homosexuals or people of different cultures.
Oh, I agree with this article. I am sick of boys treated this way. They should have a lot of time to run and play and wrestle with each other. It is a shame we have gotten so sisified in our thinking for boys and men. I like to see boys as boys and men as men are supposed to be not political correct boys and men.
Gail s mcfarland
Hello 3 years later it’s gotten worse, much worse. There are those that are engineering our society. They don’t want testosterone males taking care and protecting and spreading their seeds. It gets in the way of their transhumanist worlf
agree, when comparing males in high school in 1980’s to now, I see boys who are lost.
Uhhhhh…what about what the word of God says? I am a bit disappointed in simply opinions of man. Genesis 1:27 says, …”male and female created he them. , and gave them their different complimentary functions. ‘Not sure what socio-specific norms God had forced on Him by someone else. HaHaHaHa! Only after sin entered the picture did men begin to fail at leadership and women begin to want to control men, (Genesis 3). The same old temptation and sin is wreaking physical, mental, moral and spiritual havoc in nations, families and churches today: …”Yea, hath God said,”…? (Genesis 3:1). Much of our problem is that we don’t know what God says or we are so arrogant that we think we can ignore it too. Thanks.