Stop Saying It
As I sit, watching my children play at the library, I hear a commotion coming from a corner of the designated kid's area. I watch as two children unintentionally and unapologetically barrel through another child, leaving her flat on her back, crying as she scans the room in search of her parents. Her mom rushes over to comfort her as the mom of the two cannonballs comes storming in to find her boys and make them half-heartedly apologize. Cannonball mom then turns to the other mom and says "I'm sorry, but boys will be boys."
This is just one of the many times I have heard the "boys will be boys" quote. When a boy grabs a toy from another child; when boy siblings play wrestle with each other until it's no longer a game and one of them is hurt; when a boy decides to jump from the top of a dresser; when a boy makes rude comments about the way a girl looks; when a boy picks their boogers and eats them; when boys gang up on another child and bully them without remorse. "Boys will be boys" becomes the battle cry of parents who think it justifies actions and explains the reason why their child acts a certain way.
Let's get one thing straight: boys are not inherently bad. Boys aren't born to act and behave a certain way. Having a penis doesn't mean one is predisposed to be mean, cruel, or reckless. Using the term "boys will be boys" as a get out of jail free card tells your boys that they had no control over what they did. It assumes that no matter what, they would have behaved this way because of a genetic predisposition. Using such vernacular not only excuses the very behaviours we find unpleasant or aggressive but also propagates it.
"Boys will be boys," says we expect that behaviour; how can that mentality possibly be good enough? We are not trying to raise boys, we are trying to raise men and that means we need to set our expectations higher. We need to stop letting things slide under the guise that it was just a 'boy thing' and instead hold our boys to the same standard as our girls. Yes, some children are more inclined to play physically, but a need for physical play doesn't lead to intentionally hurting or harming others. Of course, there are always accidents - male or female - through the trials and tribulations of growing up, there will inevitably be injuries. But how we expect our boys and girls to respond to these accidents should be exactly the same. From saying, "I'm sorry" to teaching them that they need to slow down, be aware of their surroundings, and not put themselves or others in dangerous situations. It has to be the same. No one gender assumes less responsibility simply because of their genitalia.
As I think about raising my own son, I can see the appeal in the term "boys will be boys." How nice it would be to simply wash my hands of having to actually parent my child in one facet of life simply because of his Y chromosome. As if my daughter needs no reminders on proper manners, how to handle stress, or cleaning up after herself. Obviously, her X chromosome means she is a perfect little lady and therefore the need to teach those things is nonexistent. As parents, it is not our job to explain away our children's behaviours and absolve them of their wrongdoings. Instead, how about we set aside our beliefs on what each gender is and just simply raise good humans. Humans who need guidance in every dimension of being.