Wednesday, June 10, 2009


"Boy development is trustworthy."
-- Michael Thompson, author of It's a Boy

How often do we worry about our sons?

When they're babies, we worry that they're not eating enough, that they're growing too fast or that they're slow to walk. We worry when their female cousins babble months ahead of them and try not to obesses when the neighbor's daughter is drawing detailed scenes by age 2 -- and our sons are still eating the crayons.

We worry when their hands, utensils, toast, playdoh, cars and stuffed animals become guns. Scenes of Columbine flash through our head and we pray, please, don't let our sons grow up to be murders.

We worry when our sons bring home notes telling us they can't sit still in class, and we worry when they bring home straight As. We worry about their friends -- and their lack of friends. We tell them to find something to do, and then worry when they do it.

We worry about their impulsivenss, aggressiveness, shyness, intelligence and physical prowess.

In short, we spend a lot of unnecessary time worrying about our sons, because as Thompson says, BOY DEVELOPMENT IS TRUSTWORTHY.

That doesn't mean we can stop parenting our sons; it means that, instead of obsessing over every little milestone or characteristic we don't understand, we should look at the bigger picture. It means that it's OK if your five-year-old son is squiggly in school; that's all a part of how boys develop. It means that a fascination with plastic weapons and hours spent playing war are perfectly normal. It means that our job, as parents, is to accept, love and support our sons as they are.

We don't need to mold our son into what they "should" be. We need to trust the innate developmental timetable built into each and every one of them. Boys -- all boys -- have gifts, and they need time, attention and freedom to grow.

Just today, my six-year-old son asked me to help him read. He'd gotten a reading record at daycare (read 10 books and get a Happy Meal!) and was eager to learn. I was still eating breakfast, but he had the books and was raring to go. For 20 precious minutes, we read together -- not because he was 6, not because it was "reading time" and not because someone, somewhere decided that today was the day he should learn to sound out "c - at." We read because he was ready.

My three-year-old, meanwhile, waited with a pen and paper, watching TV. He wanted help "making letters." And so when I'd finished reading, I held his hand and helped him write his name -- then "Grandpa," "Grandma," "Daddy," and "Mom" -- not because he needs to learn how before he goes to school, but because today, he wanted to "make letters."

Try it. Watch your boys, not the clock. You might be surprised by how much fun you have.


  1. Both my sons learned to read on their own timetable - especially the younger one. It is so good to go with their own pace and development when it comes to this sort of thing! With my boys, it definitely seems that their brains absorb better when learning is self-initiated.

  2. Thanks for visiting, Christine. (BTW -- Christine has her own amazing blog at

    I'm having so much fun watching my six-year-old learn to read and write. Last night, he wanted to stay up to write. So he did. This morning, he read some more and then worked on his own stories.

    Good stuff!

  3. Good advice, but I wish there was a crystal ball to tell us what's worthy of concern, and where we can let go.

  4. You know, this is true of girls too! I'm having to remind myself not to hold my daughter to the same timetable that my son was following as he learned to read! They all have their own rhythms.

  5. Knowlege is a good thing when it allows me to know that all the fighting play is normal and won't result in my boys turning into murderers. An adult male perspective helps too, I think -- my husband assures me he did all the same things, and I think he turned out all right! Blogs and good parenting books help remind me that my boys are (mostly) normal, and let me relax to a certain extent in my parenting and homeschooling.