Calling all mamas of boys: advice sought.

Raising little boys is a lot different than raising little girls. I’ve always heard it, but now I’m learning it in real life – really fast. Yes, I’m “just” the girlfriend, but I’m spending nearly as much time with Xman as his dad is. My natural mama instincts have taken over, especially given that I’m parenting my own two girls at least half the weekends Xman is with us. Also, I don’t know if you know this, but four-year-old little boys have a lot of energy; two pairs of eyes are a good thing.

That energy is kind of what this is about. The boy is always, always in motion. Sometimes Xman’s energy is focused on running around like a car or a monster truck. Sometimes he’s taunting his dad to tickle him, with my favorite little twinkle in his eye and that grin lighting up his dimpled little cheeks. Sometimes he’s chasing the dogs, or convincing the dogs to chase him, or chasing the girls or his dad or me. And then, sometimes, there’s the play-fighting.

Remember that difference between little boys and little girls? There it is.

My girls aren’t what I’d call girly-girls. They may like to paint their nails (from time to time), and Gracie-girl might be spending a little more time in front of the mirror as she gets older, but Bee is the one who taught Xman to chase frogs and Gracie-girl will play Legos and Nerf guns and science experiments (with nature and slime and goo and god I don’t want to know what else). They’ve never been afraid of dirt or getting out of hand every once in awhile. The girls were pretty tumble-bumble when they were little. But the Xman’s constant ninja moves and gun noises and pew-pew-pews and karate chops! are something entirely new.

Here’s the thing: I’m not entirely opposed to it. Sometimes it’s play-fighting for play-fighting’s sake. The boy’s four and that’s what four-year-old boys do. (And I strongly suspect this doesn’t end at five or eight or even ten.) But sometimes there’s an entire plot surrounding his play-fighting and there is very little that is prized at Casa de Katie more than imagination and pretend-playing. I don’t want to discourage that.

What I would like to discourage is the contact portion of the play-fighting. Xman is a good kid – I can’t even tell you how much I love him already. He’s fantastic! But remember the part where he’s just four? Play-fighting involves an awful lot of accidental contact when you’re four. Maybe especially if your playing partner has been your dad for many, many weekends and accidental contact is barely felt or noticed and so nothing has been said. But now? Now Xman’s play partners are two girls who are doing their best to be both playmates and little mamas, and who maybe aren’t hurt (although sometimes), but don’t want to be hit or kicked or pinched, either.

So what do I do, Gentle Readers? If Xman is acting out and hits because he’s upset he’s losing or the girls aren’t doing what he wants (or his dad), then the obvious answer is an apology from Xman and a time-out. But what about accidental contact? Do we continue with the “Stop it, Xman”s and “Settle down before something happens”? How many of those before a time-out is called for? An apology is expected every time, but is a time-out? I know Xman is just four, but we’re raising a grown-up and boundaries and expectations should be set now. I’m just not sure where the line – absent intent of harm – should be set.

I know it’s normal. I know Xman is a terrific kid who doesn’t mean to hurt anyone. He’s just really good at being four-years-old! So hit me with your best advice. What have you done? What has worked…and not worked?

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3 Responses to “Calling all mamas of boys: advice sought.”

  1. Agent Torklepants Says:

    If on purpose physical contact is immediate timeout then accidental should be warned. 3 strikes and then a timeout. Warnings because it isn’t on purpose. 3 because he is only 4 and a kid who likes to play fight and anyone joining should understand what they’re getting into lol. And eventually a timeout because he needs to learn about personal space, controlling his own body, and the difference between real and pretend fighting. If he gets the excuse of only being 4 and accidents happening then it should also be understood that he won’t always be 4 and when that happens it’ll be expected that he already have learned to not accidentally hit people as much. Having him apologise means you want him to know it’s not ok but the warnings means you want him to learn to have less accidents. Like maybe no swinging arms with his eyes closed, using more space, or pretending to be crazy but really being gentle. If he gets a timeout after 3 warnings he’ll probably flip because it really was an accident but you explain that that’s why he was warned to chill and try harder to have less accidents.

  2. Kathy Says:

    No real advice here. When we play fight we often use foam swords or even our bodies and there has always been contact. Our warnings come when the contact starts coming with force or starts to have real intent behind it. And just as often as not it is the adults and older children who get carried away in the action. Sometime I call a time-out so we can all take a deep breath and calm down a bit. Good luck.

  3. Trish Says:

    Just last night my dad was playing around with my niece (6) and Elle (4) and I didn’t quite catch what they were doing…something with seeing how flat their noses were, and I guess Elle didn’t understand because she whacked Emma on the nose with her palm. She burst into tears, my dad hollered at Elle, she ran off upset. It was definitely one of those…where should the line have been drawn with play. 4 year olds are ROUGH!! Even little girls. I do a lot of warning and if someone (Evie) does get hurt because of rough-housing, then a time-out happens. Or even if I can tell something is on the brink. Even if just to let everyone cool down a bit.

    Sounds like he’s keeping your household interesting!! Is it bad that this mama is counting down the days until she can enjoy a relaxing glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed? šŸ˜‰

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