Passionate About Boston
and the Moms Who Live Here

Raising Boys :: Saying No to Aggressive Play

Doesn’t seem like normal play to me. Photo courtesy: Aslinn Ritchie

I’m raising a gentleman. This has always been my mantra. Raising a son to me is a heavier responsibility than raising a daughter. I often hear the opposite from friends who insist that raising a strong woman is critical, and to this, I don’t disagree. However, knowing the nature of girls, I don’t worry — I know we secretly rule the world.

And so, raising a good, kind, responsible, sensitive man has always been important to me. As such, we’ve not allowed any aggressive play. No guns, no hitting, no “boys will be boys.” We’re trying really hard to instill respect for everyone. Up until now, this has been fairly easy to achieve.

And then kindergarten started.

Kindergarten has introduced a whole other set of factors that I wasn’t prepared for. His class is made up mostly of boys, and since the beginning of the school year, I’ve seen a real change. He wants to punch more. He hits more. He gets frustrated more often. He comes home telling stories about how other boys are hitting and punching. I’m at a loss. I don’t like this change, and it makes me feel deeply uncomfortable. 

So I did what any responsible mother would do. I Googled it.

Let me preface this by saying that I am, by no means, an expert in early childhood development. But I started reading articles about boys and aggressive play. Many of them stated how normal it is, and how you should let your son go ahead and get it out as long as “everyone is having fun.” This still didn’t sit well with me. Perhaps it is simply part of human nature — boys tend to experiment more with power, and girls express themselves differently. 

I can’t help but think of what’s coming out in the media right now around men who have abused their power and privilege and taken advantage of women. These are prime examples of men who have a twisted sense of self and of power, enough to debase women. How we raise our sons does matter. I’ve been asking myself some tough questions: Are boys just boys, or can we influence that? What can I do, as a mother, to ensure my son NEVER becomes the next Harvey Weinstein? 

I don’t think violence, in any form, is acceptable. Playing aggressively is not OK. That’s what my instinct tells me. And so I’m going to stick with it. I’m going to concentrate instead on conflict resolution using communication, finding ways to ease frustration, and sharpening critical thinking. 

Tell me what you think: Where is the line between active versus aggressive play for you? How do you manage it?


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