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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35 thoughts on “Why I Hate the Phrase “Boys Will Be Boys””

  1. LOVED this post! I am pregnant with my second and it will be a boy, the first is a girl. Honestly I have been terrified to have a boy because I have been watching boys at church or play areas for quite a while now. I cannot believe how disobedient and crazy they seem to be. I couldn't decide if it comes down to parenting style or the "boys will be boys" idea. This post gave me comfort that boys can be more than crazy and destructive, especially when well fed and not tired. Thank you!

  2. YES!!! As a mom of one boy and one boy on the way and as a former Kindergarten teacher, I whole heartedly agree. Thank you for writing this, now let's spread the good news that our boys don't have to mean trouble for society! 🙂

  3. THANK YOU! I absolutely hate that phrase. It's only an excuse for bad behavior. As a former 4th grade teacher, I heard this from parents several times and thought, "What does that mean? Should we just let them do whatever they want because they are boys???" I am a new mom to a baby boy, and I vow now never to use this excuse for lazy parenting.

  4. THANK YOU! As a mom of two girls, THIS is what I hope their husbands will be like! As a former teacher I have had all kinds of boys and (after a year of relationship building) can say ALL types can obey and obey joyfully! 🙂

  5. I love this post, especially your new coin phrase, "Boys will be who we teach them to be". That made me smile (and it's so true). There's a lot of encouragement wrapped up into that phrase too.

  6. I agree! I can't stand "boys will be boys". Where does the Bible teach two standards for males & females?

  7. I needed this post today! I'm expecting my second boy and my 3 year old is starting to display some typical "boys will be boys" behavior. (I think he senses the upcoming changes and that is starting to affect him a bit). I caught myself muttering under my breath this morning when my boy was getting into yet another mess "Stop being such a boy!" This post helped me evaluate where I might be slacking off a bit as a parent. I know that as my pregnancy draws to an end I've been feeling more tired and have let a few things slide. I'm now more motivated to help my son get back on track so I can have the boy you described in this post! Thanks for the great reminder!

  8. my job as my sons mother is to raise him to be a MAN. a man who will make a woman a very wonderful husband and his children a wonderful father. A man who will do things God's way and live his life to follow Christ and lead others to Him. SO many people get trapped in just "managing" their children and not our mission as parents which is training them! I too try sooooo hard not to pass judgements on other parents but it's tough not to do that when you hear constant negativity coming from parents mouths!!! i loved this post and really appreciate it…people assume a boy = a wild child and I have a mission to prove that idea wrong 😉

  9. I respectfully disagree with your phrase 'Boys will be who we teach them to be'.Yes, we as parents have a great responsibility in training our children (boys and girls), but I don't believe that we are in control of the outcome, or even the day-to-day behaviour choices our children make.Our boys, and our girls, like us, are flawed human beings. All of us have character flaws, due to sin, developmental issues, poor parenting, you name it. All of us make both good and poor choices each day.I believe it is God's grace that ultimately enables us, and our children, to make the good choices each day that build good character. Good parenting skills are only part of the picture.Thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinions!

  10. I agree with the idea of teaching boys to be men but as far as the labeling of them, in my head I am very guilty. As the mother of boy/girl twins I can't help but think, "But have you met MY son". What can be done swiftly and easily in the discipline department with my daughter takes an army, a battle plan and a will of steel to get through to my son.

  11. I think it's just like using the "Terrible Twos" as an excuse too. Two year olds have a lot of emotions, but it doesn't have to be a terrible year. Some parents will just let their 2 year olds run amuck because of those "terrible twos." I try not to let anyone say that double "T Word" in my home 😉

  12. I agree but isn't there some truth to the energy and rough nature God gave boys? My two-year old is definitely different from some of the two-year old girls he is around, and it's not usually "bad" behavior. Where do you draw the line between being a rough boy and misbehaving. I want my little guy to be free to be a boy and not stifle the rough and wild nature God gave him but I also want him to be polite and respectful of situations we are in. I'll be the first to say I'm not a pro, but I definitely struggle with where the balance is in letting him be a boy and being inappropriately rough and loud. Thoughts?

  13. To Cervantes: I'm not a pro either and have been struggling lately with consistently enforcing the rules, but here are some things we are doing with our 3 year old boy:1. Running, jumping, yelling, etc. are ok outside but never ok inside the house, at church, or at someone else's house. Basically, "There's a time and a place for everything". It's a hard concept but he's getting the hang of it.2. You must ask permission before touching, tackling, pillow fighting, etc. So now when he goes to his friend's house he asks his friend first if they can have a pillow fight or if he wants to wrestle. So he can still be a rough and tumble boy as long as the other participant is willing. 3. We are also working on overall obedience. If Mom says not to climb on something than he needs to listen and obey. I usually try to explain the reason why but ultimately he needs to trust me and do what I ask. Again, I'm not an expert but these things have really helped us out.

  14. I really loved this post. It was so encouraging to me – I cannot stand the negative labels people put on children (terrible twos, boys will be boys, girls are all drama….) Thanks for addressing this is a kind and positive way.

  15. I also hate the comment – "well wait until their teenagers!" I have 2 girls and am constantly hearing this and hate it. Why do we put these negative connotations on our children. If we expect the worst we will get it. If we expect the best. . . 🙂

  16. I agree, great post! I just have a girl so I don't, of course, hear this particular comment but there are similar sayings (e.g. terrible twos) that others here have mentioned that I really dislike. They're similar in that it's a built-in excuse for bad behavior. It seems that with every stage of my DD's life there's always been someone warning about the awful times ahead: wait till she crawls! walks! starts talking! And these are bad things? Part of me is irked by these comments since it feels like people setting you up for failure or that I should be dreading the future. But then I shrug them off since half the time I think people are just trying to make conversation and it's an accepted thing to say, I guess. In fact, I try to say how much I'm enjoying my DD and looking forward to her progress to leave them with a positive spin on it.

  17. Thank you for this! I'm going to post a link to it on my blog. I have a boy and he is almost 2 and an only child right now. I think boys are wonderful and we parents have such an awesome opportunity to turn out some brave, strong, sweet, smart, caring young men.

  18. Penny, I find it very fascinating that you don't think you can teach your children to grow into certain character traits. The -wise books are all about training your children to be a certain way. I agree that we all have the ability to make choices. But I think we definitely impact who our children will be–for better or worse.

  19. Cervantes, Yes, boys and girls have an inherent different nature, and that is a good thing. I believe the Lord made them different for a reason. I love the suggestions Janelle gave. Allow time and place for being rough and active, but also put limits based on where it is and isn't appropriate.

  20. My mom always said, "Boys will not be boys, they will be men someday". She trained my brothers to grow up to be men, not boys and they are responsible men now raising their own families well! If we expect boys to boys then they will still be acting like boys at age 20 and 30 rather than acting like men. (as we sadly have plenty of examples of in our society!)


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