Don’t Hate My Boy Because He Acts Like One


Here’s a a dkrstksfbr
piece in Canada’s Globe & Mail by teacher Dionne LaPointe-Bakota
, about her 3-year-old  Malcolm’s “wildness.” Malcolm growls and chases and brandishes sticks. Onlookers who see him always say something like, “My, you have your hands full!” She wonders if they really mean she should make her boy act more like a stereotypical girl:

Malcolm and I met some friends in the park after their son’s music/art/dance class (I can’t remember which). Malcolm scouted out a stick as soon as we arrived and began to swing it around. I asked him to be careful and left it at that.

My friends’ son wanted to join in the fun and picked up a stick of his own, but as soon as he did his parents told him to put the stick down. He did.

I felt mildly uncomfortable. Should I ask Malcolm to put down his stick? That would be like asking him to put away his spirit, so I did nothing.

The children played, hiding in the trees and bushes, chasing each other and creating that delightful chaos that children will.

Once again, my friends’ son picked up a stick. Once again his parents said, “Put the stick down,” and once again he did.

I could see he wanted so badly to brandish his stick, to join in the swashbuckling, the gunfire and the battle that raged in their minds. He joined in as best he could, but this experience stuck with me.

I replayed that afternoon in my mind many times. Had I done the right thing? What was those parents’ problem with sticks, anyway? We all want our children to be safe and to treat others kindly, but are safety and gentleness the only things we want for our children?

Read the whole thing here (it’s got a lot of great points) and ponder whether we are asking for too much stereotypical girl behavior from stereotypical boys. – L


But I love my stick!

But I love my stick!


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84 Responses to Don’t Hate My Boy Because He Acts Like One

  1. Kenny Felder July 26, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    Play with the stick!!!

    (P.S. If a girl happens to want to play with a stick, that’s cool too!)

  2. SKL July 26, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    They know their kid, maybe he is likely to hit someone with the stick.

    Sometimes other parents are judging us, other times they are just doing what works for their kids and letting us do what works for ours. We need not be defensive without reason.

  3. Elizabeth July 26, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    First of all, playing with sticks is fine, as long as they are not trying to jab, hit other kids with them. So let him play with sticks. 🙂 However, after reading this article, I couldn’t help but chuckle. This mother claims her little boy is “just like this” and it is not from anything in his environment or media. Soooo….where did a 3 year old learn phrases like, “I’m sorry, but I must annihilate you,” “You are dead” and “I must kill you now.” He he he. He IS being exposed to violence somewhere. 3 year olds can be naturally wild and rambunctious, but this little guy is obviously hearing quite violent things somewhere which is most definitely contributing to this behavior that she has no idea where it came from, LOL.

  4. Elin July 26, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    There should definitely be room for children playing wild but the whole thing about this only being for boys in this article made me a bit sick. All children need to be able to play rough at times. Also, all children need to learn when this is not appropriate.

    I have a pretty calm child which still loves wrestling (and is good at it) and plays with sticks and games with involve shooting or knives. Oh yeah, she is a girl and often does so in dresses…

  5. James Pollock July 26, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Something in the other parents’ experience leads them to believe that letting their child pick up a stick leads to some behavior they find unacceptable (probably smacking someone with a stick). It could be that their son has a history of smacking people with sticks, it could be that their son is clumsy, or it could be that one of the parents once read a book that that said children shouldn’t be allowed to play with sticks. Different parenting styles, is all.

  6. Loreen July 26, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    I just spent a week with my dearest friend and her 5 year old boy and 3 year old girl, I brought both kids play butterfly wings. The 5 year old boy spent countless hours pretending to fly with his butterfly wings. The girl had no interest. The boy is sweet and sensitive. The girl frequently hits and spits and,yes, brandishes sticks and other weapons, The boy likes to play “mommy and daddy” with a baby doll. The girl has no interest in that. Maybe the writer should check her gender essentialism.

  7. Warren July 26, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    Going back to Lenore’s piece on race. I commented on the damned if you do, damned if you don’t point out race. And here is a prime example. Two people, on here, had to point out about it being okay for girls as well.

    As for the language being learned from some sort of violent influence…………………give it a rest. It is play. Nothing more, nothing less. It is play. And everything from Looney Tunes, to Woody Woodpecker, to freaking Scooby Doo is violent.

    Now for the parents knowing their kid, and that being the reason to keep him from picking up sticks……….yeah right. Even in the very rare chance that is true, how the heck is he going to learn how to moderate himself under zero tolerance.

  8. M July 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    Wow, I could have written pretty much this exact article about my sons, especially my older one. I also regularly feel uncomfortable when I allow my kids to do things that other kids are being told not to do. At 6 and 7, my boys are now largely beyond the stick stage, but they still climb everything. I still am second guessing myself every time another parent tells their kid to get down off of whatever it is my kids are also climbing. Sticks are one of the best toys for little boys(and girls). Let them play with sticks, and let them climb.

  9. Juluho July 26, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

    I have a 9 year old boy and 6 year old girl. While they are very much alike in a lot of ways, enjoy the same activities, games, etc (meaning we haven’t driven them to gender only interests, they share many of the same interests) there is no comparison when it comes to their energy levels. My son will climb everything (doorways while we’re talking) my daughter reserves her energy for trees. My son runs everywhere, my daughter takes her time. My point is it is just NOT THE SAME.
    I had a neighbor tell me once that their son enjoyed playing with my daughter more than my son. My son’s energy was just too much for the boy ‘who isn’t use to it, since he’s been taken care of his whole life’
    Like I know what the _____ that means. I have the best kids, one is just more energetic!
    My point is that unless little boys are zoned out robots, their robustness is treated like a Dx or bad parenting. Instead of the natural human condition.
    I don’t want to say there is a war on boys because it’s not just boys. There is a war on little girls too. It’s just a different battle. I’d prefer to call it ‘the war of childhood’

  10. Elin July 26, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    Warren, I am not pointing out that this is OK for girls but that this is normal CHILDHOOD behavior. That is not the same as saying that this is OK for girls. What you are saying is that this is acceptable for girls but you are also hinting that this is still not normal which is what I say.

  11. Juluho July 26, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    I want to add that a child (boy or girl) doesn’t need to be exposed to ‘violence’ to want to play rough or war like games.
    There are many studies showing that rough play is good for children. It teaches limits, physical and emotional, teaches restraint, amoung other things.
    Not to mention we see it in nature, young mammals play roughly.

  12. Warren July 26, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    You missed my point. The author was writing about her son and his male friends. And you and others have to go and point out that it is okay for girls to. Just saying that authors cannot win with people like you because you always have to point out sex, race, creed and freaking eye color.

  13. Juluho July 26, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    It’s totally normal for girls too. I love Game of Thrones so much that I joke with my husband that our daughter is a little Arya. She loves wrestling and shooting boys and arrows and climbing too. But I don’t think that the reaction to this sort of behavior from *certain people* is the same when it is a girl compared to a boy.

  14. Matthew Miller July 26, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    I agree with the essential parts of this article, but as a parent of a rough-and-tumble girl who *will* run around like wild with sticks and rocks and unexpectedly jump from high places and won’t sit still and all the rest, this part:

    I have nothing against quiet, gentle, sweet little boys and girls. I was one myself. But I want to live in a world that has room for wild boys, too.

    makes me sad. Why does the author have nothing against “quiet, gentle, sweet little boys and girls”, yet only argue for room for wild boys?

  15. Matthew Miller July 26, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    Juluho, your sample size is too small to be meaningful. Your son may be more energetic than your daughter, but it’s a logical error to put that down to sex, and extremely unhelpful to extrapolate that to some sort of universal difference.

  16. Buffy July 26, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    Oh my gosh people, take the article for what it is. It’s about a boy. It’s about boy behavior being frowned upon. I’m pretty sure the author doesn’t hate girls, but her child happens to be a BOY and that’s who she’s talking about. She isn’t required to write an article about wild girls if she has no knowledge or experience with them. There is no deep, dark , hidden meaning to her writing about only boys – stop looking for one.

  17. Juluho July 26, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    I wouldn’t use any amount of data to make any statement about universal differences. There are too many variables to make such blanket statements. But I stand behind it being a meaningful example. Two children who share the same DNA, raised in the same enviorment, nurtured in the same way, roughly the same age, there is a big enough difference to theorize if it related to their gender. Does that mean for every child ever? Of course not. I’m using anecdotal evidence to relate to the essay.
    That, however, wasn’t my entire point. Energic girls brandishing sticks and climbing trees don’t deal with the same black lash that little boys do while engaging in the same activities. We are happy to see little girls kicking gender roles to the curb, we still think active boys need to be medicated to simmer down.

  18. Stephanie July 26, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    My son has always been my quiet child; my girls more active. My sister’s son outwilds the lot of them. You just never know.

    My kids do enjoy roughhousing, and I’ve found that for inside the house our beanbag chair really helps. It’s the one piece of furniture I don’t have to worry about them breaking, and it’s one of the ridiculously gigantic ones, nearly 6 feet in diameter. The kids can run and throw themselves on it, wrestle with each other and just generally have a lot of fun. My only wish is that our house had a sliding door or double door somewhere so they could take it outside and really go nuts. It took a good 15 minutes to get it through the front door (bought used, so it was already fluffed out) and I am not going through that again. It’s popular with every kid who comes over.

  19. bmj2k July 26, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

    I’m all for being careful, etc, but kids playing with sticks is like kids playing with Lego. A stick is a Frisbee is a doll is a lightsaber. It’s called imagination and we all should support that. I wish adults would pick up sticks sometimes.

    And on another note, kids can police themselves. If the kid is getting out of hand with the stick, if he’s hitting the other kids, if someone gets a boo boo, then the kid will either stop his behavior on his own, or the other kids will stop playing with him. It’s a great exercise in socialization and they could learn it all from playing with a stick.

  20. Emily Morris July 26, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    I see this in the school system and the neighborhoods. We (being society in general) want these kinder, gentler kids to the point of trying to fully restructure childhood. Kids will play with sticks and experiment with the world. I’m not promoting raising violent bullies but I don’t think kids and sticks mean bullies. They are playing a game, expressing themselves, being creative. I daresay the weird social engineering backfires into kidd who can’t self-monitir their play and emotions. They’re stifled.

  21. Matthew Miller July 26, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    Juluho, you say “Energic girls brandishing sticks and climbing trees don’t deal with the same black lash that little boys do while engaging in the same activities”

    I only have my anecdotal evidence to go on, but based on that, I emphatically disagree. Despite this article, it is generally the case that people shrug and say “boys will be boys” when boys are being rowdy, yet get extra-upset when girls are not “ladylike” in the same situation. Or if not upset, at least feel entitled to make comments.

    In fact, that’s… pretty much exactly why we have these general sexual stereotypes. Here, we can go away from my anecdotal evidence and just look: boys are encouraged to be involved in more boisterous play. Girls are generally rewarded for more “reserved” behaviors. Toys marketed to girls are different than toys marketed to boys. And on and on. To the point where, really, I think it’s pretty safe to say that girls deal with significantly more backlash for acting outside of the “norm” than boys do for acting within it.

    And, I see this article as entirely in-line with reinforcing that pressure, even if it intends to be well-meaning.

  22. Kerry July 26, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    I was just discussing this with my dad and husband the other day – I feel like my son gets singled out all the time because he’s more of a rough and tumble boy than some of the other kids in the neighborhood. I did worry about letting him watch things like Star Wars at the age of 5, but one of the things he ‘threatened’ to do to the neighbor kids one day he got from Pocahontas! I don’t love that he plays with guns and swords, but if I didn’t let him at home he’d do it at his friends’ houses anyway.

  23. James Pollock July 26, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

    “Toys marketed to girls are different than toys marketed to boys.”

    Yes, the color of the plastic is different in the Nerf guns marketed to girls and the ones marketed to boys.

  24. Donna July 26, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

    I know lots of girls that act like stereotypical boys and because they are girls people really come down on them hard to act like girls. I am tired of our expectations that boys are this way and girls are that way. Leave gender bias behind and let kids act like kids. We need to appreciate that normal kid behavior covers a broad spectrum male or female. It is normal for any 3 yr old to run around and play with sticks. I know I did, I know I let my daughter. Finding objects out side to play with part of how a 3 year old learns about the world. It is certainly not just a boy thing.

  25. Warren July 26, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    Thank you. I am sure if she had written an article about her daughter, people would be “what about boys”. It is ridiculous.

  26. Juluho July 26, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    Of course it all depends on the local culture. I don’t see a lot of young girls expected to behave more ‘ladylike’ though I agree that there are other battles parents of girls must face, such as modesty culture and on the other side of the spectrum over sexualizing young girls.

    However, I think there is that scientific data you want to prove my point, boys are much more likely to be medicated and misdiagnosed with ADD and ADHD than girls for the behavior we are discussing. Not that there isn’t the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality but perhaps not where it counts- like school. But certainly in school systems reserved behavior (of girls and boys) is rewarded, as you said. And I wouldn’t disagree with you about toys, marketing, and gender stereotypes in general.

    I believe the root of the problem is that many people expect children to behave with the same restraint as adults paradoxically as we smother them with the helicopter parenting culture.

    As free-Rangers we know that the more freedom a child is given, the more self-restraint they gain and find appropriate ways to channel their abundant energy (that they siphon from their parents :))

  27. Marilla July 26, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    The 5 Best Toys of All Time | GeekDad |… and a stick is one of them!

  28. SKL July 26, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

    Boys are different from girls. Political correctness be damned.

    Yes, there are girls who like to act wild, but there is a pattern of organized activities not allowing for behavior that is reasonable to expect – and this is more likely to affect boys than girls.

    It always irks me to hear that parents decided to hold their boys back in school because they are “wiggly” or however you want to term it. If so many 5yo boys are “wiggly,” then accommodate “wiggly” in KG.

    Then again, maybe this particular boy is a hellion and the mom doesn’t want to admit it to herself. I don’t know.

  29. Chris July 26, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    It seems that these days most boy behavior is either diagnosed or somehow criminalized. Between all of the adhd diagnoses and zero tolerance rules, boyhood is frowned upon and discouraged at every opportunity.

  30. MichelleB July 26, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

    I don’t think anyone ever criticized my girl for being wild. My boys seem to hear about it for practically ANYTHING. Wiggling on a picnic bench, walking too quickly….and that’s before we even get to the rocks and sticks.

    I was fortunate enough that when my older two were that age the kids were part of a “pack” There were my son and daughter, two sets of identical twin boys born within days of each other, and another little girl. We’d take them all to the park and, since all of the moms involved were on the same page it was SO much easier. “If you’re going to throw rocks, line up and throw them all the same direction….” There was running and getting muddy and fencing with sticks and plastic light sabers. We had the usual bumps and bruises and skinned knees and one awful playground injury that ended in oral surgery, but no one ever got hurt by rocks and sticks or another child. And I didn’t have to hear endless rounds of “put down that stick….don’t climb that….don’t make gun noises (bang) make laser space noises (whoosh)…” I still haven’t figured out that last one.

  31. Sukiemom July 26, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    My rule of thumb: if the activity goes wrong, will my child be hurt or will another child be hurt? If my 3-year-old runs around with a stick he’s probably not going to accidentally hurt himself, he will hurt another child by poking him in the eye, particularly if he’s “brandishing” it around. If he’s 10 and he jumps off the roof of a house, he may sprain or break something and he’ll learning something from it. (However, if he jumps off a roof onto someone else, that’s a no-no). I do not let my kids hurt other people by “trying” something.
    BTW, the 2nd part of my rule of thumb: if my child tries something that only can hurt himself, how bad will it get it does wrong? Sprains and broken bones are okay, death or dismemberment is now.

    No to any 3-year-old running around a park brandishing any stick unless he is by himself.

  32. Meg Raminiak July 26, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    It seems to me like we’re expecting behavior that is not necessarily feminine behavior so much as *adult* behavior, which little girls happen to mimic in their play much more than do boys. I’ve also been frustrated by the dirty looks and passive agressive comments I receive should my son be running around pretending to be a wild animal or a CIA spy or really anything that doesn’t involve talking quietly and sitting still. I’m not sure when our tolerance for children became so low that we stopped accepting developmental norms.

  33. Jim P. July 26, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    While in general, I am no fan of loud, raucous children, I can think of few better places for children to run about “creating that delightful chaos that children will.” than a park or playground.

    Battling with sticks, chasing each other and in general reenacting the predator/tree monkey stage of our existence is as natural as it gets and this sort of unstructured activity has endless benefits for a child, his/her body and imagination.

    A bit of education as to “stick safety” in general would be proper but kids who grow up without cuts. scratches, bruises etc are likely being wrapped in cotton batting and have learned far too little about the realities of the world.

    Watching a tumble of kids playing always strikes me as a lot like watching a herd of puppies. The energy output is instance, chaos is rampant and all parties appear to be having a tremendously fun time as they discover what they can do with the bodies and the world around them,

    Structured play has a place but every kid and every group of kids simply needs anarchy time as well. With an occasional correction or adjustment by adults to make things do not get too wild as some discover they have dominance capabilities. Lord of the Flies is not fiction if things go too far.

  34. James Pollock July 26, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    ” I’m not sure when our tolerance for children became so low that we stopped accepting developmental norms.”

    This is not a recent development. Remember Dennis the Menace? Mr. Wilson? What year were they created? You suppose they WEREN’T based on stereotypes that existed even back then? And that was long enough ago that the TV show was filmed in black and white.

  35. Elizabeth July 26, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    This seems to be unnecessarily divided by gender. Both my daughter AND my son like to pick up sticks, swing them about, and run through the bushes with them. There is nothing fundamentally “female” about not wanting to pick up a stick. When my kids have tried to poke each other in the eye with sticks I make them put them down. When they have used them more safely I let them keep them. This seems more about paranoia than gender roles.

  36. Retro July 26, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    Two 3 year olds with sticks is trouble. In another year or so they will be better at keeping it out of each others faces. Putting restrictions on toddlers/preschoolers is not helicoptering. It is more important that they start being allowed more freedoms at 5/6+

    Was it really that important that your son play with a stick right then? It may have been better in this situation to show him how to get along with others – “Sweetie, put down your stick so you and your friend can play together”

  37. James Pollock July 26, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

    “Was it really that important that your son play with a stick right then? It may have been better in this situation to show him how to get along with others – “Sweetie, put down your stick so you and your friend can play together””

    Depends… is the only result of this that he learns to pick up sticks only when no adults are watching?

    A stick is just a stick. It’s not some kind of guided, eyeball-seeking missile. A child that is mature enough to A) not try to hit people with sticks who aren’t playing the stick-whacking game, B) not hit the kids who ARE playing the stick-whacking game hard enough to permanently damage them, C) avoid hitting anyone in the face, and D) physically coordinated enough not to do it by accident, then they’re old enough to play with a stick. If they fall short in one or more of these, they need adult supervision and guidance.

    With some kids, it’s sticks, with some, it’s throwing rocks (or sometimes other objects, like pinecones.) Sometimes, it’s just running through crowds of smaller kids and knocking them all over like bowling pins. I think the worst age for this isn’t 3, it’s about 7 or 8… big enough to damage smaller children who happen to be in the way, not big enough to carefully think about the consequences of their actions. YMMV.

  38. Anna July 26, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    Matthew Miller – Here is some further (non-anecdotal) evidence besides the points Juhulo raised, that indicate that we are currently routinely expecting and requiring behavior from children that is more problematic for boys than girls, especially in school settings:

    -boys are twice as likely to be kept back in school
    -boys are five times as likely to be expelled from preschool
    -they’re four times as likely to be diagnosed with learning and attention problems
    -they’re three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD
    -they now do worse in every level of schooling than girls, and have higher drop-out rates

    Sure, some boys are quiet and gentle and some girls are rambunctious, but on the whole, what we’re doing is working much worse for boys than for girls, and I find the arguments persuasive that it’s because we’ve shaped school to be much more conducive the needs of girls than boys – at least on average.

  39. sigh July 26, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    When my boy was about five, we befriended a family who had a four-year-old boy who was really keen to roll around and wrestle and play fight.

    My son was game for that, so I let them go at it. The mother of the four-year-old, though, couldn’t deal with it. “They will figure out what works and what doesn’t,” I tried to counsel her. “But they are pulling on each other’s clothes. I can’t let that happen,” she said, wringing her hands. “But boys need to do this kind of stuff,” I said. “Let them be.”

    But she couldn’t.

  40. Retro July 26, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    I think I wasn’t clear… my second point was that it is ok for your child to follow a more restrictive parents rule when they are playing with another child. It teaches empathy. “It won’t be much fun for Joey to play if you have a stick and he doesn’t”

  41. SKL July 26, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Speaking of girls and wrestling, my 8yo daughters join their 10yo girl neighbor in “beating up” the neighbor’s older brothers and their friends. Presumably the boys are careful, because my kids don’t come home with bruises or broken bones. Once my kid strained a muscle and couldn’t walk for 3 days, but she didn’t want to blame it on the wrestling; she didn’t even tell me about the injury until a couple days later when sports aggravated it.

    To get to the point – I don’t feel entirely comfortable hearing that my kids have been piling onto other kids, even though they are much bigger and older kids. I am fine with my daughters wrestling each other, but not so much other people’s kids. (Though I have thought about finding a wrestling team my kids could join, LOL.) It just seems like lawless behavior. Am I weird?

    If they were preschoolers I might feel differently, though I’m not sure. I don’t recall them ever physically engaging another kid when they were little. Thing is, sooner or later someone gets poked in the eye or something, and then things get ugly. People get upset and go home. Not sure it’s worth it.

  42. Susan Roberts July 26, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

    Let him play with the stick!

    Go to the library and check out Smick! to see how a dog and a chicken play with a stick!

    If we take away all the ‘exploration’ things, we give kids little ways to discover themselves. What if he hit a child, he’d learn! Kids need to be left alone to explore, with minimal parental supervision. That’s how they learn about themselves–even when you know (as an adult) it may not be the wisest choice, let the kid learn that. If you role model angry-free and non-violence in the house, that’s what the child will express. If you role model anger, that’s what they will express. From your description, it sounds like the boy with the stick just has a fascination with a stick. Normal. A stick is a stick.

  43. Sarah July 26, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    When my son was 3 and went to daycare, as soon as he went inside he would go into dinosaur mode. He would hunch over, put his hands up with finger claws and sometimes roar. All the day care workers loved his imagination! He loved sticks too and was always collecting them – but never did anything with them. Now he is 6 – he still loves collecting sticks, but now he uses them for “fishing” and to make rafts to float down the creek.

  44. Wendy W July 26, 2015 at 8:28 pm #

    When I was a child the book “Where the Wild Things Are” made absolutely no sense. I thought it was stupid. Got it from the library when my daughter was little, and my opinion was the same. After raising 2 boys it makes perfect sense, and now that I can see my own kids in it, I actually like the book.

    Obviously there are kids of both genders represented in the whole spectrum of personalities, but the wild end is heavily weighted toward boys, and the quiet end heavily populated by girls. When did it become such an evil thing to speak (or write) in general terms and averages? People need to quit taking offense at normal conversation.

  45. Warren July 26, 2015 at 9:44 pm #


    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    It is thinking like yours that has created a lot of the problems. Why should my kid bend to someone else’s insecurities? What if all the parents are idiots about sticks? Then this kid doesn’t get to play how he wants to play.

    Like with the other post that veered off onto bullying, this generation is taking empathy way too far. Empathy is fine. But losing oneself in the process is not.

  46. Nadia Brandl July 26, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    i have 3 children of my own. My kids are wild. They are kids. They explore with no restrains, but are courteous. I will never take their free spirit. We celebrate it. Yes, there are people who want them seen and not heard. There are people who enjoy watching them be children. In the end, they are just happy free children enjoying the moment.

  47. Abigail July 27, 2015 at 2:08 am #

    I’m done trying to curb the gun/sword play. My time has been better served setting a few boundaries – no “shooting” people and such and then walking away. This mom has picked her battle. And I feel her – because we’ve had kids over and I felt the need to restrict my children’s play based on the guest’s norms. My poor kids had zero clue what was going on when that would happen.

    My son will play dress up and make for a lovely, if not demure, princess. Truly tho, he’s best served with a few sticks, a box and rocks. And string – to tie sticks to the trees and the box and then hang the box with rocks in it. Then catapult the rocks out of the box. Then trap the dog. Well, you get it.

  48. sexhysteria July 27, 2015 at 2:34 am #

    Girls’ wildness and aggression is no better than boys, possibly worse because it’s more hidden.

  49. hineata July 27, 2015 at 3:04 am #

    @Anna – am shocked about the expulsions from preschool! Who would expel someone from PRESCHOOL?

    Can’t teachers just help the kids develop the skills needed to be at preschool? Expulsion sounds ridiculous. …

  50. MichaelF July 27, 2015 at 4:10 am #

    Judging our own children by other’s behavior will just lead to a bad end, and I always considered that part of the whole free range philosophy. Every child IS different and judging our own actions by another parent’s style is not going to help us. There are reasons why the other parents don’t allow sticks, without knowing them we don’t know why so let’s just enjoy our sticks, more of them for us.

  51. Peter Brülls July 27, 2015 at 4:40 am #

    @Elizabeth Actually, they also also pick this up from other kids. We don’t have TV reception at home and our 3 year old son’s film consumption is limited to “Das Sandmännchen” (a German staple, short films to mark that it’s time to go to bed, with sleeping being the main theme of most stories. And once in a while a little youtube – the most violent there being a T-Rex getting hit by an Ankylosaurus’ clubbed tail. No video games either.

    His most weaponized toy is a 40 year old plastic toy sword – he knows what a sword is, because child pirates from kids’ stories have those, of course.

    And he still brandishes sticks to “fight” with them or uses them as mock guns.

    Because we are not the sole arbiter of knowledge coming to him. And that’s okay.

  52. mer July 27, 2015 at 6:25 am #

    At dinner at my neighbors over the weekend, they showed us a picture of their grandson out on a boat fishing with dad and some friends. This picture was about a male right of passage: peeing over the transom (actually through a scupper since he’s still too short). What does this have to do with swinging sticks? “Sterotypical boy behavior”.

  53. Cassie July 27, 2015 at 7:15 am #


    I am with you. A bit tired of hearing about how boys are rougher than girls. They aren’t. They also are born with an innate sense of pinkness… that is all thrust upon them.

    Stereotypes suck, I would have like this article a bit more if it dropped the “boys will be boys” title and talked about kids instead.

  54. Cassie July 27, 2015 at 7:20 am #

    *They are also NOT born with an innate sense of pinkness… I failed to re-read.

    I have sheltered my daughter from gender, and it is interesting to watch. She is 5yo and yet to realise there is a distinction in gender. She has only ever seen big groups of kids in school uniforms, so she doesn’t realise pink is a thing.

    She plays so freely with all genders, rough games, quiet games, everything. To me this is normal, normal girls like all colors, it is only under the heavy influence of society that girls become covered in pink, and ditto for girls behaviour.

  55. BL July 27, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    “I am with you. A bit tired of hearing about how boys are rougher than girls. They aren’t. They also are born with an innate sense of pinkness… that is all thrust upon them.”

    I don’t know about pinkness, but you might want to look up “gender differences in metabolism”.

    There are differences, and they make a difference. On average.

  56. E July 27, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    From the linked article:

    “And that is not all. He also growls, roars and howls. These noises are usually made while baring his teeth and fashioning his hands into fearsome claws.
    He does these things to complete strangers, children and adults alike”

    If a kid does this, and people respond with “you have your hands full” it’s not the least bit surprising or insulting, it’s simply an observation. I mean, much of her article outlines the behavior of her “wild boy” (her words). Is she pissed that other people make idle conversation that is essentially the exact same thing?

    There are certainly circumstances where my boys were told to put sticks down. And as his parents, we don’t have to explain that to anyone.

  57. Elizabeth July 27, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    @ Peter and Warren. 3 year olds absolutely can pick up sword fighting and guns from other kids and stories and normal cartoons. Completely normal. But in my 38 years of teaching preschool with 3 year olds I don’t remember ever having one telling other children they were going to annihilate someone and honestly I’ve had very few who ran around telling the other children they were going to kill them on a regular basis. It certainly does happen, but it’s not extremely common on a regular basis, in my experience. The 3 year olds consistently uttering phrases like that were always the ones at home watching the violent action movies/video games with Dad/Grandpa/big brother. I’m not here to pass judgement on if that is age appropriate or not. I’m simply stating that, as a mother, she seemed to think he was born acting that way and logic dictates that in order for a little one that young to know those phrases he had to learn it from somewhere. He wasn’t “born” with that knowledge, as she seems to suggest. And perhaps being exposed to that had fueled his behavior. I don’t know if his behavior is over the top or not. But for her to write this article on how he seems so different from other little boys, whose parents, she assumes, are holding them back, gives a clue that his behavior may be a bit over the top.

  58. Warren July 27, 2015 at 9:32 am #


    So his actions are over the top. I would say that the other parents actions, not letting their kid play with sticks, is the actions that are over the top.

  59. Maxine July 27, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    I agree that children need to play and some play harder and more aggressively than others. Long period of extended, unsupervised play is critical to personal and social development. However, as this little boy gets older and goes to school and he has not learned that there are times when being wild is appropriate and there rare times when it is not, he is gong to have a hard time adjusting and his teachers are gong to have to teach him what his parents should have at home.

    This idea that kids should do whatever they want whenever they want to is absurd. There are times when playing with a stick is fine. But generally 3 years olds in a group “brandishing’ sticks means someone is like to get hurt and it could be seriously. My 10 year old likes to play with the sticks that fall of of our willow tree. I remind her that this is fine as long as she is not pointing them at anyone.

    How is letting a child aggressively approach strangers with or without sticks appropriate? It is one thing to growl and roar and gnash teeth when playing. Pretend to be nay kind of creature you like. It is another to run up to unsuspecting people and do this. Children needs boundaries and limits as much as they need freedom.

    And at 3, he certainly should not be telling other kids he is gong to annihilate them or kill them. Does this mother never tell her child that it is appropriate to say certain things or behave in certain ways? I am sure if he picked up dog poop and the park and threw it at someone she would tell him not to do that. So it is not a question of freedom to act like a boy, it is a question of setting boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behavior and where different parents draw the line.

    I personally would keep my kid away form a 3 year old waving a stick around and saying the things this kid said.

  60. Donna July 27, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    “She plays so freely with all genders, rough games, quiet games, everything. To me this is normal, normal girls like all colors, it is only under the heavy influence of society that girls become covered in pink, and ditto for girls behaviour.”

    I disagree completely. People are who they are. Despite the attempt at raising a gender-neutral kid, my brother was all stereotypical boy from the second he came out of the womb. He didn’t go to daycare until he was 4 so it was not an outside influence. It was just who he was.

    Likewise, my daughter was a stereotypical girl from birth. This despite the fact that her mother (me) detests anything girly and always has. She was well established in her pink happy place long before she ever attended preschool and she never watched tv (literally hated it until she was 4). I do agree that the pink obsession is likely the result of all the overly frilly dresses that she prefers coming in pink and purple, but the desire for overly frilly dresses is all her (I don’t own a dress). And it is also a bit of a phase. The frilly dresses are mostly a thing of the past. Being into clothes and shoes and shopping and nails and hair – all things I have zero interest in – have taken over.

  61. Warren July 27, 2015 at 11:25 am #


    Wow talk about making HUGE assumptions not indicated.

    He wasn’t approaching strangers with the stick. The other kid was approaching him to play with sticks as well. Big difference.

    And to make the assumption that this mom lets him run wild 24/7, and not just at certain appropriate times is BS. Talk about holier than thou judgements.

    People like you are why so many normal kids are being medicated into politeness comas.

  62. Rene Steelman July 27, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    I am a mother of four boys and I couldn’t agree with this more! Where would Mark Twain be if he wouldn’t have been allowed to leave his yard? This is so sad, the feminization of our boys.

  63. E July 27, 2015 at 11:35 am #

    I’m confused about the whole article. She admits her son is “wild” uses aggressive body language and language and he’s 3. She’s suspicious of a parent of another child (who happened to go to a music/art/dance class dontcha know) who asked her kid to put down a stick. The kids engaged in play: “The children played, hiding in the trees and bushes, chasing each other and creating that delightful chaos that children will.” and she’s still questioning why the kid wasn’t allowed to pick up a stick?

    I mean — what about throwing rocks? If parents say “hmm, this isn’t the place to throw rocks” does that mean they want their boy to be more “girl like”? Or are they just looking around saying “this is not the place for my 3 year old, who is still developing their motor skills, to start tossing rocks”.

    She’s already lamenting the phone calls from the principal about her kid’s wildness. If a child’s behavior results in a phone call from the principal, it’s because they’ve broken classroom or school rules. One of the “wildest” kids in my son’s 1st grade class was a girl, but you know what? She broke rules and THAT’s when the teacher had to reach out to the parents. You don’t get calls from the principal to just talk about your kid’s personality. I’m sure she’s not suggesting school rules shouldn’t be change for her snowflake right?

  64. Juluho July 27, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    Instead of being worried about a 3 year old using the word ‘annihilate’ I think we should be happy that he’s using such an advanced vocabulary word.
    Please. Violence is subjective. Sure the kids could be watching Saw 3 with his parents and playing Call of Duty or he could have caught a Power Rangers episode. It’s a huge leap to assume the boy in question has been exposed to age inappropriate violence.

  65. E July 27, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    @Warren, I don’t think anyone is suggesting he approached people with his stick but she most certainly said he approached strangers :

    “And that is not all. He also growls, roars and howls. These noises are usually made while baring his teeth and fashioning his hands into fearsome claws. He does these things to complete strangers, children and adults alike. ”

    Of course, a 3 year old would scare anyone, but if a kid comes up to do that, is it so surprising for the stranger to say “You’ve got your hands full with that one!” ? Of course not.

    I had people say “he’s all BOY” about my sons. I didn’t take that to mean anything other than they liked stereotypical boy things and NOT that they were suggesting they NOT be that way.

  66. E July 27, 2015 at 11:41 am #

    ugh..clearly….”a 3 year old would NOT scare anyone”

  67. Liz July 27, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    This bothers me, I hate it when people relate to each other in a gender specific way. My little girl loves dresses and being pretty, but not when she is playing. they get in the way she tells me, she wants to run, slide down slides, climb trees etc. She is wild, much more so than her older brother ever was. boys will be boys is a cop-out. kids will be kids more is more accurate.

  68. E July 27, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    yes, the gender roles in this article seem pointless. In fact, the whole thing is pointless. What I can tell is

    -that someone ELSE didn’t allow their 3 yo kid to play with a stick that day.
    -that people have observed the same thing she has, that her kid is full of energy and a bit “wild” and made comments to her that she might have her “hands full”, something she also admits by saying “Parenting him can be exhausting.”

    That’s it.

    She wonders is she needs to apologize, except no one has asked her to. No one has accused her son of anything. No one has reprimanded her child.

    I don’t get it.

  69. Anna July 27, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    I think people are going a bit overboard assuming this kid has been exposed to violence because he talks about annihilating. I think it comes perfectly naturally to preschoolers to play with the idea of being powerful (no doubt largely in reaction to how powerless they are in relation to us) and also ideas of death & destruction. This doesn’t mean they’ve been playing World of Warcraft or watching Terminator movies, nor that they’re future mass murderers.

    My son has pretty much zero exposure to pop culture – just a smattering of Thomas the Tank Engine and Blues Clues – but I’ve noticed him doing this lately. Since his main knowledge of death & killing comes from books about dinosaurs, that’s where he got the language he adopted the other day to tell me how angry he was: he said I was being a bad mom and he was going to make me extinct. Yes, it’s a little upsetting, but I’m pretty sure it’s quite normal.

  70. SOA July 27, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    I let my boys be boys within reason. They can play shooting games or run around and burn off energy and get dirty etc. But I don’t allow violent roughhousing. There is no punching allowed or throwing rocks at each other or beebee guns etc. There is a line I will say “Nope” and not cross.

    I also don’t push sports. But if they want to shoot each other with nerf guns or put on boots and go play in the creek they are more than welcome to.

  71. Adam K July 27, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    When I was 5 or 6 not only did we play with sticks at the apartment, my dad went the extra mile and used duct tape to wrap two long sticks together to make swords and used two small sticks and black electrical tape to make the hand guards. We played sword fighting all the time and even had little matches and tournaments. Somebody always got “hurt” i.e. whacked with the sword somewhere. Yet time and time again everyone always came back to be part of the fun.

    PS all the parents stayed indoors, only us kids with no “supervision”

  72. Buffy July 27, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Well @E, to be fair I think many posters on this board have wished she would apologize for not including girls in her article about boys……..

  73. E July 27, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    @Buffy, lol. I guess there’s that.

    I do think the author is projecting onto what people who observe her kid think. She is presuming that someone wants him to be less “boy” (however one wants to define that).

    The kid’s a handful. We all know kids like that, and some of us have them.

  74. Rina Lederman July 27, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    you should teach your kid that if he is playing with the stick, and someone else wants to but cant, your kid should put down the stick instead of swinging it in his face.

  75. Anna July 27, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    One of my fondest memories (and one we all still laugh about) of my daughter and her best friend when she was three and he was five, is seeing them clobbering each other with toy hockey sticks. When all the adults rushed out to tell them to stop fighting, they both sweetly told us “but we aren’t fighting, we are just hitting each other with hockey sticks”. They thought it was hilarious, no-one was hurt and the game carried on for hours.

  76. Sherri July 27, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

    As the mother of two boys who are very musical I am offended that she suggests that they are “more like girls”. My boys sing in choirs, perform in musical theatre, take piano lessons, and play in bands, but this does not make them “more like girls”. They also practice archery, rifle range and like to go fishing, as do many girls. Sure, there are time when I “have my hands full”, but many more times I am told I have such “well behaved boys”.

  77. Joan July 28, 2015 at 2:23 am #

    I cannot get over the level of sexism in these comments. “Girls are” “boys are” get a grip people. You don’t seem to understand that people in the real workd are individuals who don’t follow a script.

  78. Joan July 28, 2015 at 2:24 am #

    And Sherri, you act as if girls are the worst possible example to give. Lighten up with the stereotypes.

  79. Jennifer Fink July 28, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m a mom of four boys & once wrote this phrase re boys & sticks: “While I’m completely comfortable with my kids chasing one another with sticks, other parents, uh, aren’t. Their glares and sidelong glances suggest that they think I’m raising serial killers or something.” — from

  80. E July 28, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

    If you want your kids to use sticks/swords in their play….let them.

    If another parent doesn’t want to do that on a given day (or any day), they can do that too.

    If you don’t like the looks people are giving you, don’t look at them.

    This is so dumb.

    My kids weren’t allowed to chew gum or have gum in my house. I hate the sound of someone chewing gum and I hated the smell and wasn’t interested in it ending up in laundry or furniture or carpets.

    As adults, we are allowed to make decisions that someone else might not.

  81. Jo Jo July 30, 2015 at 12:36 am #

    Well, there’s nothing like assumptions and strawmen to get the adrenaline going in the morning! I’m glad I found this place. I have stopped wasting money on coffee and now just read a new post whenever I need a pick-me-up.

  82. Ryan August 2, 2015 at 2:44 am #

    My goodness! As an adherent of the FRP philosophy I am surprised that this article is even here because isn’t this sort of asinine thinking what we are against. I, as a parent, have the right to tell my child – without explaining to you or anyone else my reasons for doing so – to put down a stick. Period. I also have the right to pay for classes in things my child is interested in. That means if my son – or daughter – wants to take classes in art or karate – I have that right to allow the pursuit of that interest, and in no way, shape, or form does it give anyone the right to undermine the perceived sexuality of my child because – oh my gosh – my child doesn’t conform to their idea of how my child should be based on their gender. Seriously? Seriously? We are actually having this conversation? Here’s the reality. Kids indeed mimic what adults teach and model to them. You sit around and start saying that Little Billy is ‘effeminate’ because of some arbitrary reason you think you might could be teaching your kid to bully him? Read the comment section sometimes on these articles about kids killing themselves and it is the same rhetoric – they didn’t ‘man’ him up or ‘toughen’ her up enough and kids will be kids and blah, blah, blah. Heck on this thread alone some commenter weighed in that boys have been feminized. Seriously? Well last I checked humans are like snowflakes – no two are alike. I have brothers who are manly-men and I have brothers who are quiet and sensitive. Together – if necessary – they can all defend life and limb when necessary. None of us see our so-called ‘effeminate’ brothers as ‘less manly’ or ‘feminized’. More like that old adage about beware of the quite ones. My one brother likes to crochet. Oh my gosh! Such an effeminate and girly behavior for a guy who can drop a deer from 300 yards out, skin, process, and have it in the deep freeze in a day. Wow. Did I mention he is married to a woman? Stereotypes are bad and parents who throw those stereotypes around gave my FR parents no small amount of grief and so did their kids. It’s dumb. How about as an FRP I do like my parents and teach my kids to be well-rounded, healthy and respecful human beings that judge people based on their CHARACTER and subsequent BEHAVIORS that indicate whether or not that person is indeed of good or bad character? How about we all do that? Hm? ‘Cause right now this article is poo and if you want to think my kid is effeminate or mannish for reasons THAT IS YOUR PROBLEM . The whole point of this site is that parents have the right to raise their children without having CPS called on them for BS or the dreaded helicopter parent tut-tutting them. I am not a helicopter parent, I do not have CPS on speed dial, and I am not going to let other parents bully me or bully my kid over their perceived gender whatever ’cause reasons. Sheesh.

  83. Bitsy Baken August 4, 2015 at 12:46 am #

    Ryan, why do you even care what any random schmuck on some dumb website says? Just raise your kids. I stumbled on this site… and “philosophy” by accident last week. At first I was intrigued, but then I was quickly disgusted. What a waste of time. All this “conversation” (one of our favorite buzz words these days) about this “philosophy”. Everything has to have a label these days. Just raise your kids. My wife and I are raising ours and find ourselves rolling our eyes frequently at all this self-centered manure being flung around by these pretentious and fearful types. And it really is fear. The FR’ers are afraid of the non-FR’ers, and the non’s are afraid of the FR’s. It’s so dumb. Just raise your kids however you want. Don’t follow some dumb trend. Don’t buy into the latest hype on some daytime talk show or the evening “news”. It’s the flavor of the month. Let it pass. I don’t even know why I’m wasting my time with this. The internet sure has inflated our egos. The ease with which we can all share our opinions has made us think our opinions are valuable. By and large, they aren’t (mine included). This is the beauty of corporate media. Quality control.

  84. Beth August 4, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    Where are all these anti- folks coming from? Seems on every article there are Free Range haters (really, Lenore is a random schmuck?) posting vitriol. Note to everyone: a) You’re not required to read a website whose philosophy you’re opposed to. b) It might be nice if you have legitimate concerns/comments regarding that philosophy, you stated them kindly and respectfully.