For many boys – not all boys – being able to communicate their unmet needs, worries and the reasons why they often make poor choices can be difficult.
Given that many little boys have a strong biological wiring to use movement and experience to learn how the world works, this can lead them to make impulsive choices which can be seen as bad, naughty or inevitable.
Sometimes, boys use their behaviour as their language – they are trying to tell us something without words.
1. When your son hurts his brother by jumping on him from the couch… he never meant to hurt him. He genuinely wants to have fun with his brother and 'aggression nurturance' — wrestling, gentle arm punches and other physical contact — is often a way of showing affection. In fact he may feel hurt that you thought he deliberately tried to harm his brother. While this may be common, boys do need to be coached on doing this safely because deliberately hurting others is never OK.
2. When you take him to a coffee shop expecting him to sit quietly and he starts to fidget and stand on his chair, despite your pleas and cries of "I have told you three times to sit down and behave! … Your son may be unable to tell you he has run out of the neurochemical dopamine — which helps him sit and focus. One way to make more dopamine is to move. By stopping his movement, you are inadvertently creating the stress hormone cortisol.
3. School is very stressful for many little boys as they have so many things to remember with limited freedom and movement. When your son runs at you really fast when he come out of class and almost breaks your leg, he is not trying to hurt you — he is trying so show you how much he missed you and loves you.
4. When your son suddenly tries to kick your leg when you stop to chat to someone on the way out of school – he is not being bad or naughty. He may be trying to tell you he has a poo that is due and needs to get home quick! Boys don't tend to poo at school as school is too stressful and he needs to feel relaxed to poo well.
5. Boys tend to be better at reading non-verbal communication and so he notices your eye rolls, when you say "tsk tsk tsk" and a look of disappointment. What your son wants you to know is that he feels like you stop loving him when he mucks up. This is both scary and sad for him. Reassure him often that you still love him.
Helping your son to understand poor choices for what they are, rather than thinking he is bad, is so important. Then we can gently teach and guide him to make better choices next time. Learning to see the world through your son's eyes can really help nurture your connection and help him to shine.
Maggie Dent is a parenting author, educator and mother of four adult sons. Her latest book, Mothering Our Boys: A guide for mums of sons is out now. www.maggiedent.com