Raising Boys

Last night I went to a talk by the hilarious Maggie Dent on the subject of Boys, Boys, Boys.

Maggie specialises in early childhood and adolescents, specifically in the area of raising boys into brilliant men.

Which is particularly relevant to our family, especially when we learned the sex of baby number 3 πŸ™‚


Friends of ours went to one of Maggie’s talks a couple of weeks ago and came back with information on electronics and children that my husband and I thought we had better get some knowledge on.

They had mentioned something about addiction and aggression being part of too much screen time and an escalation in bad behaviour.

Unfortunately Maggie obviously talks off prompts but doesn’t follow a script so I don’t have much information on that for you….

But I have a slew of other stuff.

She was funny and entertaining and kept the audience awake and following what she was saying.

The biggest take-aways for me were:


  • You cannot communicate with your boys the way you would with girls or other women.

They just don’t listen to a lot of verbal instruction. They cannot remember as many things and they do not want to have long discussions about anything.

Sound like anybody’s husband?

Instead we need to make sure that we have their attention. If we want them to get ready for school then we need to make sure we have eye contact, that they are not doing anything else – otherwise they truly do not hear up to 70% of the things we say.

  • The Car Meltdown.

Totally common. Phew. It’s been happening a lot to me lately. The reason that they come back from school and just throw tantrums or cry or get angry is because they have been trying so hard to be so good all day and it’s just all too much for them. Our societies structured learning with less play-based activities does not work as well for boys as it does for girls and they have trouble staying focused and it requires a LOT of effort for them to ensure they are behaving in the way that is expected of them at school.


  • Shaming a boy is one if the worst things you can do.

“Are you a baby?” “Don’t act like a baby” are pretty common sentences that come out of my mouth. Not good says Maggie. Boys forget very easily that you love them and that they are worthy. They spend their whole lives looking for worth and proving it. So don’t role your eyes, use sarcasm or any other put downs with them. It only works to make them feel small.

More love is what is needed. Put love notes in their luncbox – from Dad and you. Make some special connections to remind them that you love them, To the moon and back, To infinity, to the Universe. Make your love sentences unique for you and your child and have fun with it. They will remember that part.


  • Talk to boys about their day at nighttime

After school I ask Julian a million questions to which I get these answers, “I don’t remember. I don’t know.” or sometimes from what I can tell, I get completely made up answers. Just to shut me up I think. He doesn’t want to think about what happened that day. He is in the moment. Playing with Leo. Pointing out things in the car. Asking about what’s for dinner and probably thinking about playing with his skylanders when he has gotten home. The day is done. It’s in the past.

Maggie suggested after bath and bed is a great time to have a chat about what happened that day. Julian does often initiate conversation with me at this time of day and seems calm and happy. I just need to remember this next school pick up!


  • The coffee morning

Boys hate this! They can’t sit still and it doesn’t take them long to get up to mischief or annoy you with their behaviour. Sound familiar? It’s because they are boys. They want to get out, explore, do more than just sit and chat. I am very guilty of doing this with my kids especially Leo.

Maggie says that instructing them on how to behave better in these situations is not going to work. They don’t hear you or they don’t pay attention. Show them. Firmly pull their feet down if they are standing on chairs, if they are playing with their food- take it away from them, be firm and don’t over-verbalise.

Plus maybe don’t take them to coffee, get take-away and spend the morning outside with them where they can run and be free and you can both stress less.


  • A Pet

Between the ages of two and four children can really benefit from having a pet as they learn gentleness. All ages will benefit from the unconditional love pets show their owners.


  • The importance of a Father or Father Figure

Boys need their Mothers but they learn how to be a man through their Dads. Dads need to step up and give them:

Rules;Routines: Ridiculousness (fun, laughter, jokes); A “you have what it takes approach.”;Love and affirmation

In short (and a direct copy from the handout we were given) boys need:

To feel part of a team; opportunities to explore and investigate how things work; they need structure and help getting organised ; they need goals and good coaching; they need safe environments and a zero tolerance attitude to ridicule and shaming

These talks work as a reminder, a motivator and a shake up of your current parenting behaviour. Yesterday I walked the kids to school (less than fifteen minutes) so that Julian would get a chance to burn some energy before having to sit, behave and use his brain for the rest of the day.

Maggie is also a big advocate of getting some stillness and silence into boys lives. This is the only time that they can cut their mental chatter and reflect on anything (us women can do it all at once!). As you know I am a firm believer in meditation, reflection and gratitude and hopefully my children will follow suit.

Maggie lives in WA and I know she has some upcoming talks coming up if you want to check out her facebook page and website for details. She also puts up some really great information on her FB page and general parenting stuff.




  1. Thanks so much for sharing, Nicola. Until I can make it along to one of Maggie’s events, I know these easy learnings will help me to be a more thoughtful Mum.

    H πŸ™‚

    PS. Congratulations!

  2. Well I’m 15 and male. Being incredibly talkative, emotional and studious whilst hating anything active with a passion, I can say that I conform to none of these traits you have attributed to ‘boys’ as a whole. Obviously I’m not a parent and I’m in no position to give anybody parenting advice but articles like this are just poison – assuming all boys are the same and will always fit in to the same box will only make parents more inclined to push them towards that box. Generalising remarks like ‘boys hate this’ and ‘that is because they are boys’ aren’t exactly encouraging parents to look at their children as individuals are they? No – instead they just teach us to think “Boys will be boys” and views like this are constantly enforced upon children. THAT is what could stop a boy expressing himself on a deeper level, because society tells him that he shouldn’t do so, NOT because a lack of sensitivity and overdrive in physical energy is biologically hardwired into male nature which is what this article implies. Who cares if these gender stereotypes are derived from a majority – I am male and don’t possess these qualities you have claimed I should possess. I am sure that I am not the only person in this world, male or female, who does not fit into their stereotyped roles or personality. Many may ‘tick the box’ and that is okay too, however until we accept that kids of the same gender are not the same people and that everybody is an individual, every single child who does not comply with their gender – associated stereotypes will feel completely alienated and could even pretend to be something which they’re not which can only lead to low self – esteem and other negative consequences later on in life. I tell you what- articles like this certainly do not help. Honestly, I just feel it a shame that we have to define children by their gender and not by who they are as people. We are all more than just ‘male’ or ‘female’ and, although it is clearly well meant, I don’t feel this article realises that all.

  3. Great advice, I enjoyed reading this and thinking of my little man who is turning 2 this month and needing some more understanding of who he is…especially after raising a girl first! thanks hun x

  4. Just gave birth to boy/ girl twins that join their 2 older sisters. It will be so helpful to have concrete ideas on how to approach his needs differently than his sisters’. Great post!

  5. I have 3 boys 24,18 and 11. What we as mothers forget is that little boys are mini men. Everything that annoys the shit out of you about your own husband will shit you about your boys. Exactly the same. I am an early childhood educator and have seen many little boys come and go over the years. The mums that relate well to their boys are the mums that are kick arse confident with an enormous amount of fairly floss around the edge. I’m sorry to say this but wishy washy mothering won’t work with little boys who then grow into teenagers then men. I love my boys and life is never dull. Give me boys any day. They are a delight.

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