Why I Hate the Phrase “Boys Will Be Boys”

Boys are not doomed to be a menace. We parents have a strong influence on our boys and can raise them to be amazing young men.

boy looking at camera

We were standing in line for a children’s ride at an amusement park.

I listened to two different sets of parents right behind us repeatedly telling their boys to not do something. These parents didn’t know each other, but struck up a conversation, laughing nervously over the behavior of their respective children.

They talked about how they couldn’t get their boys to listen. Finally, one said, “Boys will be boys.”

Oh boy.

I looked down at my boy who was behaving just fine. What was he being? A girl? A man?

No, he was still being a boy.

Little bit of an announcement: Being a boy does not mean that you will (must or should) be some sort of menace in society.

Okay, I typically refrain from passing judgment on parenting skills when out in public. I have no idea what these parents and children have been going through that day.

Oftentimes, public places means lack of sleep, and lack of sleep means disobedient children.

I think any child, even the best angel, can act up in public and reflect poorly on the best of parents.

I know full well that the moment I judge a parent is the moment the Lord will have some teaching moments lined up for my future. 

But the statement of “boys will be boys” is a dangerous narrative to introduce into your thinking. Once you adapt this narrative, you lower your standards and expectations for your boy.

When I was a teenager, I knew a family with six boys. The parents were good people who were kind, but adopted a “boys will be boys” mentality toward their male children.

Those boys did things the parents certainly did not want them to, including drugs and getting fellow teenage girls pregnant. 

As an adult, I know another large family with boys and girls. They also have a “boys will be boys” attitude, and somehow an attitude that girls will step in line and obey.

All but two of their children are adults. The girls have served church missions, gone to college, and are from what I can see quite successful. The boys, however, are often high on drugs and getting in trouble with the law. 

“Boys will be boys” does nobody any favors. 

Children rise up to expectations. This is knowns as the pygmalion effect.

If I say to myself, “I have a boy and therefore he will basically be a wild child who will never listen to me,” that will happen.

But I can have a totally different dialog and different expectations.

Do you know what boys will be if we let them? Lots of good things, like:

  • Gentlemen
  • Respectful
  • Kind
  • Gentle
  • Patient
  • Friends
  • Studious
  • Athletic
  • Musical
  • Artistic
  • Funny
  • Smart
  • Stewards
  • Lots more good things
  • And Fathers

Boys can be any number of good things in the world.

Being male does not condemn a child to a childhood of getting into trouble only to hopefully someday snap out of it and grow up.

Let’s try a different narrative. 

Boys will be who we teach them to be. 

Not as catchy, but more productive. 

So let’s improve our viewpoint of boys! Boys can be every bit as good as girls can be. Yes, boys and girls are different in many ways, but boys have an equal capacity toward obedience as girls. 

Boys will be who we teach them to be. So let’s give them the chance, have the proper expectations, and teach them well. Then boys will be amazing.

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