Monday, April 12, 2010

Understanding Boys?

The Question:
Thanks for your uplifting blog and great insights.  I figured it’s about time I asked a question, so here goes:
I have two boys, ages 9 and 7.  I love them to pieces but lately, I am becoming so frustrated with some of their obnoxiousness:  the potty talk, laughing at stupid noises, sloppy behavior in dress and chores, showing off for friends, and just in general acting stupid!  One of my boys resists work by asking stupid questions, “What’s a room?”  “What’s clean?”  “What’s a broom?” in an annoying voice.  Another has shown amazing proficiency at chores in the past, but now resists work at all costs. 
Ironically, I used to teach a bunch of Primary boys that age when my own kids were younger and I’d get so annoyed by the same types of behaviors.  Of course, I vowed my OWN BOYS would never behave that way, yet here we are.  =) 
Please give me a little perspective on how boys this age think.  Is most of this stuff just temporary and best ignored, like a toddler’s tantrums?  Or should I intervene more and work harder at teaching appropriate behavior?

The Answer:

Dear Christina,
I loved this question.  I just laughed right out loud.  You really captured that age and stage perfectly.  I actually have thought a great deal about this issue over the years.  I think it's more important than it might appear.
Your boys are at a stage where they are discovering their own humor.  I think a mother can go a long way to help them in this endeavor--and encourage some patterns that will last for years to come.  I usually have a talk with my children at around this age that goes something like this.
"I've noticed that you are getting a good sense of humor.  That's a great thing because everyone likes funny people.  But we have a few rules about humor in our family.
1)  It can never be crude.  Crudeness isn't really funny.  It's just crude.  It isn't clever and it detracts from the spirit in our home.  Here are some things that I think are crude:  Vulgar noises, bathroom humor, talk about boldily functions, anything sexually degrading, certain terminology.  (I don't like the words "butt" or "sucks" or "crap" or a few others.  You'll have to decide what's acceptable to you.) 
David Bednar said,  "Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us."

I recognize that this stance is almost outrageous in today's world where almost every children's movie is steeped in crude humor.  But our children can be taught to find this humor offensive.
2)  It can never be at the expense of someone else.  Cutting remarks may seem funny, but when they injure another person, they show a lack of character.  We simply don't hurt people with our humor. 
3)  Humor cannot be smart-alecky.  (Your sons remarks about "What's a room?" fall into that category.)  
After laying down those rules about humor, I am pretty tenacious about upholding them.  "Remember, we don't use humor that way."  I try to teach them by laughing at their appropriate humor (even though it's only marginally funny at this age) and sharing fun stories that I know they'll enjoy.  By taking the time to work with them and develop their humor and personality in a positive direction, you are preparing them to be respected and appreciated throughout their lives.  Because, let's face it, many people seem to stay "stuck" in that grade-school humor forever.
All of that being said, I admit that I don't fully enjoy children between the ages of 9 and 13.  They are a little bit annoying to me--the way they want to tell you a whole movie in detail, their drama, their chitchat.  Don't get me wrong, I never stop loving my children or attempting to keep the relationship strong.  But I'm always so relieved when they arrive at 14 or 15.  They become truly clever and intelligent.  I completely enjoy them at this age and beyond.
You're a great mother with a lot of insight.  Good luck with this new little challenge.
With Love,


  1. Hooray! Someone else who doesn't like the words butt, crap, and sucks! Sigh. I know that I won't be able to get everyone not to say things like that but I hope to be able to get my own kids to speak well! Thanks again for another great letter with lots of great advice for moms (and moms of boys --I have three!) :)

  2. When my nephews were going through this stage my SIL asked if we could get one of them a joke book for a birthday. It was something like...101 clean jokes-and it was only about $3.00 from the clearance table at Barnes and Noble or Seagull Book (I can't remember), but he loved it and I think it helped.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful blog. I tried your ditch the church bag for Sacrament yesterday with my kids who are 3,2,1 AND it was the best meeting ever. I can actually tell you what the speakers said. We didn't have to take anyone out. I am looking forward to ever more great advice.

  4. I love the way you are teaching us to teach!

  5. Thanks for the suggestions! We've had lots of talks about appropriate humor, but usually it's right after they use INappropriate humor. I think I forsee a FHE lesson coming soon.

  6. I have three boys 4, 2 and 3 weeks. I have a lot to look forward to! Ha! I think I am going to archive this one!

  7. I love how you fully admit that you don't like certain children's ages or developmental stages. So many other websites make you feel horrible for not "fully enjoying the moment" with our kids. Like, enjoyment equals love? Not really, I think. Heavenly Father doesn't like it when we sin or behave irreverently, but the love is always there.

    I appreciate your blog and hope to see more entries!


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