Thursday, April 24, 2008

How I Raise Boys

I had a girl first. I thought I was so smart way back then. She was perfect and I figured that perfection had come from my parenting skills... right? Then I had a boy and he quickly proved me wrong. With him it seemed that nothing I did was right. He liked to eat books as a small baby, and loved to break anything he could get his hands on, and for some reason he thought that garbage and toilet paper from the toilet tasted better than cheerios. And forget vegetables, as far as he was concerned it was the vegetables that belonged in the garbage. Then came boy #2, and boy #2 felt that he needed to out-boy boy#1. So, boy #2 took it upon himself to try and die in a new and gruesome way everyday. He created messes the likes which only Katrina can top. And once these two boys were old enough to play together I quickly learned that choking and kicking each other in the throat was the way that they were going to decide who got to sit in which chair, or who got to turn on the TV first.
My first conclusion upon learning all this was that I am an awful parent. I cried a lot, I went a little crazy, and then I decided to throw out all my original ideas about parenting (you know, the ones about being publicly acceptable, owning unbroken jewelry, and talking in a normal voice) and just try to love these new creatures that I had been given. Letting go of preconceived notions was the best thing I ever did, I only wish I had done it earlier, it would have saved some of my sanity I think. I also learned to embrace and love all things boy. Now I have always been a sort of Tom-boy and already loved dirt, worms, and catching bugs. I had even raised my daughter to love these things. No, I'm talking about REALLY loving pirates, swords, knights, sports, physical contact, and pain. But the best thing I ever did with my boys was getting them excited about knights.
First I let them play *GASP* a computer/video game called Age of Empires with their daddy. I bought them lots of swords and staged many family sword fights with them. We practiced hand to hand combat and perfected our playing dead skills together. We read books about knights, we watched movies about knights, we had knight themed parties, we bought plastic armor, etc. (mind you we were also doing many other things, but I was taking this knight stuff seriously).
Now, why did I work so hard to get my boys to love knights? Because along with the fun, I was able to teach them about manners, how to play without hurting, and that obeying rules is heroic. My boys learned that the privilege of owning swords is earned by using the sword with discipline. Just ask them about the rules and they will say:
1. Swords only touch swords
2. We only fight with people who want to fight
3. If someone isn't having fun we stop
4. If the sword touches a person it gets taken away
And then sit back and watch them go at it. Because they have to be mindful of each other they have learned to carefully choreograph their fighting and it actually has made it more fun for them. And boy do they get upset when other kids don't follow these rules!
I taught my boys that all knights have to protect a Queen, and that I (until they are married) am their Queen. Knights bring flowers, give kisses, open the door, and are very gentle with their Queen (this was especially important for boy#2 to learn because he is abnormally strong and would often hurt me). This has also come in very handy with this pregnancy because I am often rendered incapable of bending over due to pain. They are the first to run and pick up things that I need. And I am a good Queen and reward my knights with smiles and kisses and they love it! I teach them that all women are princesses and to be treated with good manners (though they often need reminding of what those good manners entail).
Are my boys perfect now? Well, what do you mean by perfect? Their faces, and feet are often dirty, their room is often a mess, they still fight dirty on occasion, and the Queen still has to reprimand them on an almost daily basis. But, they are kind to me, they do not yell at me (though they find subtle ways to let me know how they feel), they play well with each other 90% of the time, and they really have a desire to do what is right. And as far as I'm concerned that is just about as perfect as it gets.
What unique tricks have you learned for raising difficult children?


Mrs. Annie said...

We did the same thing with our boy; rough and tumble, dirty, wrestlin' little bugger! He's 18 and still likes to be a boy, but he's a gentlemen as far as the ladies go (we don't believe in dating) and we are very pleased with both his character and his ability to be a MAN. You go girl!

An Ordinary Mom said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I really needed to read this post today. This week is doing me in as I try to transition Cory to his big-boy bed. (You can see my latest post.) You make me feel normal and hopeful and you inspire me to embrace these "creatures" I have been given.

Then again, the fact that Boy #2 tried to out do boy #1 leaves me a little more nervous.

Amy said...

This is a great post! As a mother first and aditionally, a mother of boys, I can totally appreciate what you are saying here. This is great!

Richelle said...

That is so cute and clever. I love it! I want my son to treat me like a queen! You hear so many bad things about having toy guns and swords, but allow them swords, but only when they follow the rules! Great idea.

Motherhood for Dummies said...

well since I only have 1 and she is only 6 months... I this my trick is find something that rattels. She loves anything that jiggles or chimes. I don't know how well that will work when she is older and wants to say out pass curfew :)

My Ice Cream Diary said...

While I still don't like having toy guns in the house I know that they can turn anything into a gun and that they will find toy guns at other people's homes so we have rules for those too.

1. Never point any gun (even a finger gun) at another person.
2. Only shoot invisible monsters that are in thr ground or in the sky.
3. Guns (even finger guns) are not allowed to be used indoors.
4. Breaking any of these rules means you can't use a toy gun (even a finger gun) for 3 weeks.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE THIS!!!! I have cried so much with my 6 year old boy...and my almost 3 year old boy...and now I have 9 week old twin boys...and I just recently decided to 'let' myself sword fight with my boys...I had a blast!! I love your rules!! This is such a great post...I have so often been worried about people thinking so negative about 'boy behavior' and have read numerous books on the subject...but getting down and playing with them is such a key...

Thanks so much!

PS-I struggle with the toy gun things as well...but have allowed the 'shooting' to go on many a time. I love your rules on this as well!

Lynell said...

Boys will be boys. And you got to love every minute of it. You have to teach them to be brave and strong and grow up to be men. And Knights would do any thing for their Lady. You are awesome!

Sea Star said...

Knights are big at our house too. I have tried so hard to keep my little guys to rules but 2 year olds don't listen too well and our swords tend to hit other people and things then just other swords.

I love the idea of promoting the chivalry part of knighthood. Maybe I need to go into this part A LOT more.

Boys sure are FUN!

just jamie said...

Thank you for reminding me that we are given little blessings, and it's up to all of us to navigate their way. I am amazed at how incredibly different each of my children are from one another.

We haven't seen an interest in swords or guns yet, but when they come, I'll remember your rules. Good stuff.

Amber said...

Well, if I drank liquor might be a solution. :-)

Great post, though! Hadley has been difficult from day one and is finally getting so much easier. I think the biggest thing I have learned from raising her is having firm boundaries and consitency!

Amy Y said...

This was so great!! I wish you could somehow publish this and pass it out to all mothers expecting their first or second boy. I love how you adapted yourself and your parenting skills to raise them rather than fight against who they are!!

My boys are quite the opposite ~ they border on the weenie side. :) But I know our difficulties lie down the road... and when I'm able to handle them, I'm sure the trials will find me.

Family Adventure said...

We have the same armour and my boys play the same game. Isn't that funny? Our rules are almost identical, too!!!

I guess boys really will be boys, huh?!

Heidi :)

Michal said...

i love it. i will have to introduce the concept of chivalry around here. my three boys could learn a thing or two. we, naturally, have rules about not touching people with swords or pointing our finger guns at them, but haven't introduced some of the rules and concepts you discussed. thanks for the ideas.

boys are so different from girls and our society really tries to feminize them in so many ways. boys just need to learn differently and interact differently than their female counterparts and that's OK.

i'm glad that i finally got a girl (fourth) so that i could see the difference first hand. i adore my boys, but it is a breath of fresh air to have a little girl in the house.

Mo Mommy said...

What a great way of dealing with the unique beasts that are brothers and still teaching how to be respectful of women. It's so rare these days and will be greatly appreciated when they get older!
Sometimes they have these moments where they are so nice to each other and I get a brief moment to think "hey, this just might get better"

Anonymous said...

Knights are a great choice. It channels their boy-energy and like you said they can learn a lot of things about rules and manners! Way to go!

It always makes me laugh/cringe when a mom won't let her sons play with swords and guns. They are going to do it anyway with anything they can (my son turned a piece of YARN into a sword!) and why not teach them the rules that go with them!

Great post!

Kim said...

The knight thing is very clever! Good for you.

I have not tricks for raising a difficult child. My first two, both the girl AND the boy, were so easy. Now this third one... oh boy! I am having to learn some tricks but I haven't really got anything that works just right yet. Combine difficult with the terrible two's and that is my world right now!!!

Kim @ TheBitterBall

Tama said...

Wow! The stories I could tell about raising a difficult child! I even went so far as to read a book called, "The Difficult Child". It really helped. You certainly don't have room here for me to discuss The Daughter. It's a good thing she was a girl though, that helped.

Tama said...

BTW, I have tagged you. See my blog for the details.

Manager Mom said...

Good point about the knights... you have helped me find parallels to draw for my son and his Star Wars addiction.

I am still asking myself WHY in the name of heck I actually purchased Light Sabers for him when he was happy enough using random flashlights. It's much more painful to be cracked by a shaft of buzzing plastic than it is to be blinded by a flashlight beam...

Charlotte said...

Wow, your boys sound just like my boys! I had no idea that all kids weren't like this (seeing as I have no girls to compare them to). I have to say though that my boys being so "boy" has made me ultra girly - which I never was before.

Becks said...

Oh my goodness, Liz. This is so perfect for my family. My two boys are 6 and 4 and very manly. I look forward to knighting them very soon. Thank you!

CC said...

I love this! My husband would be one proud man if our son (and daughter) would get into knights! We have dragons (thanks to hubby) all over the house!

Angela said...

This is a great post- I may try this with my two boys and let you know if there have been in changes! What a terrific idea!

scrap chair potato said...

With only boys in my house (besides me, obviously) I often worry that my boys will not learn how to treat a lady. I love your ideas. I will be their queen!
I love your blog and only know you from comments you post on other blogs I read. Hope you don't mind me stalking you. ;)

Sherri said...

I haven't been here in a while. My husband and I struggle with our oldest, the only boy in the family. I don't handle the boy stuff so well; that's probably why I only had one. I've always had a hard time with the swords and guns. We've never allowed guns, but there are swords. I'm always trying to find a happy medium for all of us. It's so nice to see others who want to instill something in their kids(especially boys). You gave me something to work with, thanks!

WendyJanelle said...

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful idea. My boys, all three of them, are just like this. They will battle to the death over who sits in which car seat. And, yes, one of them TRIES to die in a new and gruesome way each day. I feel like I spend a lot of my waking time just making sure they stay ALIVE, and never mind teaching the 3-year old his address. The 1-year old can eat with a fork, but he'll also crawl towards a street faster than I can turn around.
Oh, how do so many boys even survive to adulthood? I have new respect for my mother-in-law, mom to five kids.
Sorry, this is so long. I've just been dealing with BOYS today and I needed a Knight Plan!!