The demonisation of boys

While attending kinder duty yesterday, it dawned on me that I possibly have the most hyperactive kid in the classroom – “mat time” is really just a pseudonym for “jumping around on my knees like a crazy person” and sharing toys is so last year.

As I watched the assistant teacher shame my son over breaking the wheel off a car in front of the entire group, I was torn between telling her to back off and wishing he was playing quietly in the corner with a train set.

I could see the wheels turning inside the teacher’s heads and it took every fiber in my being not to yell “he’s been assessed by a paediatrician and he’s a normal hyperactive boy!!”  Me defensive? Never!

Knowledge is power. If you want to defend your child, appointments with paediatricians and tests are sometimes necessary. If there are issues, early intervention is equally as important. Unfortunately it doesn’t stop you from feeling like you’re betraying your child or squashing their spirit.

A child care professional once told me my son was not normal. Looking back, I perhaps could have asked “Is there some reason your occasional care centre isn’t accredited? And how come my kid calls this place scary?” But defensive mother’s of boys are a thing. They’ve even got their own acronym “DMOB”.

Finding a professional who has a good rapport with your child, whether it be a maternal health nurse, a GP or a pediatrician is sometimes key. I’m blessed to have a local maternal health nurse who calls my son “inquisitive and smart” instead of “hyperactive and naughty”.

She is of the same opinion that little boy’s behaviour is often demonised in our society. One in four children walk through that centre to take a screen test that acts in decreasing the number of unnecessary referrals. And as our primary schools become smaller and rules such as “no running at recess” become enforced, one has to wonder what sort of effect this is having on the busy kids.

It’s great to see private school’s in Sydney introduce extra recess and encourage risk-taking, but that’s a luxury few of us can afford and where once I was happy sending my child up the street to the local primary school I now have to think about how they treat the ants-in-my-pants kids. If my son settles down, great. If he doesn’t, he still has the right to a decent education.

I might be exhausted and frayed around the edges but one thing my son has gifted me with is more tolerance. The child melting down in a busy CBD mall might have sensory processing issues. The mum eating fast food with her children could be having a well deserved break after preparing 358 dinners in 4 days and maybe nuggets are the only thing that’s bringing a smile to her child’s face this week. I am indebted to my son for opening my heart wider than I thought possible. Not just to him, but to other children too.

Do you think society demonises boisterous behaviour? Are you a DMOB? Has anyone called your child abnormal?

Linking up for Flog Yo Blog Friday



  1. says

    Just love your maternal health nurse ‘inquisitive and smart”, so spot on I want to hug her and you. Working with child behaviour there are so many not so nice labels given to kids, its like we forget that they are a kid, they should be up, exploring and inquisitive. I have parents call me after being told by kinder that their 3 year old is immature, well they should be immature they are 3 years old.
    Anyway I could go on forever fab post Nx

    • Mrs.Savage says

      Thanks Nathalie, I’m so glad there are people like yourself out there that parents can turn to. I want to hug my health nurse too xx

  2. says

    After growing up in a house of girls, this is something I have to stop *myself* doing now that I have three little boys in the house.

    Boys are different. They are loud. They learn by experimenting, by experiencing and by touching and feeling.

    I too, am learning as I go. Learning how much rope to give them before gently pulling them back in.

    While my children haven’t yet been ‘labelled’, I have suffered the judgey looks from older ladies at the shops who believe that children should be seen and not heard. And while I haven’t labelled myself a DMOB, I do hide a giggle as my kids shriek past them yelling ‘BUMHEAD’ or something equally as flattering.

    Boys are ace, aren’t they?

  3. says

    I have 2 normal, boisterous boys. I don’t care what anyone says they are completely normal it is societies expectations of quiet play that is not normal.

    I realised 18months ago that I was not happy with my children being demonised and being compared to quiet little girls who were in the corner playing dolls together. I made a tough call. One that will see me financially stressed for the next 20 years. We sent the little man to a private all boys school. He started this term and let me tell you, being told by the staff that there WILL be physical altercations, they WILL be dirty, they WILL ruin their uniforms, and that Mums are NOT doing their boys any favours by mollycoddling them and that we should let them, the school, do what we are paying them for and they are qualified to do (they really know little boys), produce resilient MEN, was just so amazing. I have no doubt that boys should not be compared to girls and that they should not be expected to sit still and I have no doubt that I have made a hard, but right choice for my boys.

    I am completely shocked by my own choice. Until I had boys it never occured to me that I would see a need for single sex education.

    • Mrs.Savage says

      I have always been really anti same-sex education but I feel the same way. We are now looking into catholic or private boy’s schools because the ratio of male teachers is higher and they seem to just get this stuff.

      Unfortunately this view that boisterous behaviour is abnormal starts when they’re so young. My son HATED sitting on the mat in gymbaroo, I ended up not going after four weeks of hairy eyeballs! Someone needs to start up a group activity for hyperactive kids where they can just run and explore and the exhausted parents can sit and console each other!

      • says

        We did Gymbaroo too, but I travelled to one far from home so I could attend a centre where the mat time was in a seperate room and the teacher was a pro with boys.

        Another parent pointed out to me recently that if I had sent my son to a co-ed school as I had always planned, his potential male (and let’s be honest most will be male) friends is at least halved and the pool decreases as the kids going to private schools leave in yrs 3 and 5. That in addition to the boisterous boys issue really makes it easy to accept the school fees!

        I recently read some studies that show that girls and boys cannot /should not be compared academically till 15 because of this boisterous boy factor and maturity levels.

  4. says

    Do they have DMOG – defensive mothers of girls? haha.. my girl has a lot of energy, spark and creativity. that is the way I see her, but maybe some people might see her as hyperactive and naughty. to me, she was never in the “terrible twos” and I think even if she runs all over the place like a cave girl {as my hubby calls her sometimes}.. it is normal for a child that age. no?

    • Mrs.Savage says

      Cave girl, I love it! I think a lot of it is a cultural issue here, I sometimes think we’re not as forgiving of children’s behaviour as places like Italy or South East Asia can be.

  5. says

    This post has really opened my eyes to my own perceptions and makes me wonder if I am the one demonising my little man. I have two boys who are chalk and cheese – the eldest, relatively quiet, cautious, eager to please and has predominantly female friends. His carers/teachers all adore him.

    My youngest has been nicknamed Bam Bam for obvious reasons and is very boisterous, loud and stubborn. He gets into everything and is a real risk taker. He hasn’t formed the close bonds with non-family carers that his brother did and I put it down to him being a ratbag. But you have rightly shown me that he is simply being a BOY. Thanks for a great post xx

  6. says

    Hear, hear!

    I have four boys, they are all different. I have one I’m pretty much convinced has ADHD, not because he’s loud or distructive (he can be loud, but he’s very rarely distractive, no more than your average, so-called normal child)… I have two I’m also completely convinced have no issues and one who is too young to tell yet…

    Funny story. When my two oldest boys started school – the same year because I’d been homeschooling them to that point. It was the ‘normal’ child who had me speaking to the teacher almost every afternoon because he was ‘to distracting and boisterous in class’. He would not sit on the mat for any length of time. She said it was because he lacked the benefit of ‘training in kindergarten’… I hadn’t realised kindergarten was for ‘training active little boys to sit still’…

    I had my son moved to a new classroom with an older teacher who understood that my normal son was just energetic and being a FIVE YEAR OLD.

    Meanwhile my seven year old child with ADHD symptoms was no less active, but his teacher figured out that if she gave him something to with his hands, he was better able to sit still and listen to her while on the mat…

    I think it’s hardly ever about the child, and almost always about the often unreasonable expectations of the adults who want to turn every boisterous child into a mini-adult…

    • Mrs.Savage says

      Thanks so much for sharing this, for some reason the blog has been marking some comments as spam. I completely agree with societies expectations being unrealistic – you only have to look at people like Richard Branson to appreciate that ADHD is not always a negative thing :)

  7. says

    I hear you. My son is also very ‘spirited’ so I can well imagine that we’ll have to deal with this kind of thing as he hits kinder/school age.
    It’s funny with boys in general I think – as a friend pointed out recently, right from the word go girls things are splashed with slogans like ‘little angel’ ‘cutie pie’ ‘little princess’, where as boys are all about ‘little monster’ ‘cheeky monkey’ and the like. It’s no wonder they turn out to be more boisterous than the girls!

    • Mrs.Savage says

      Yes if there’s one thing that irritates me almost as much it’s the whole “pretty” and “princess” thing. Why can’t girls ever be clever or rowdy?

  8. says

    agree completely. and what the *&#$ is with the no running at recess??? Why are we trying to discourage physical activity??? there is something incredibly wrong with that.

    Also agree with the above poster about slogans on tshirts and stuff. I will not buy my son tshirts that say “I break stuff” or my girl tshirts with “pretty butterfly” on it. Even if that is exactly what my kids are like.
    I remember t-shirts a few years back with horrid slogans such as “boys are dumb, throw rocks at them”. Hideous perpetuation of stereotyping and increasing the gender divide and as a mum of a boy I resent crap like that.
    Damn right I’m a DMOB. But I’m also a DMOG. I’m just a DM.

  9. Dr Bron says

    At our primary school, all kids run laps every morning. Distance depends on age. There aint no rowdy behaviour from *anybody* in the classroom at *that* school :)

  10. says

    I have a boisterous loud girl. And I am very protective of her. She has always been this way (I can totally relate to your comments about sitting on the mat!) and we now know (through all those tests and with the help of her paediatrician) that she has Aspergers Syndrome.

    This goes a long way in helping us understand her, but it means nothing to those simply observing her. All they see a naughty, loud, inappropriate girl.

    • Mrs.Savage says

      I wish people would think twice sometimes, having a boisterous girl is probably even more difficult because you can’t blame it on “typical boy behaviour” either.

  11. says

    I can relate yes – I once had a shop keep tell me my son was spirited which was really just a polite way of saying your son is a little shit who is pulling all the shoes of the shelf. I also had his kindy teacher tell me she was very relieved when his younger brother proved to be very different to him…much quieter. I think you are on the money – society is a little to quick to over analyse normal energetic, inquisitive behaviour. Oh and I am a little defensive too ;)

  12. says

    I have three boys – two boisterous, funny, super-smart ones who were always on the go from the minute they got out of bed in the morning and one quiet, introspective, deep-thinking little fellow.

    They’re all well past the running and shouting stage now (I would hope so at ages ranging from 16 to 24!), but when they were small, I was very sensitive to the judgmental looks and comments from others. I heard a lot of: “My girls would never do THAT”, always said with a smug look. Blah.

    Personally, I loved that my boys had the ability to get mad with each other and sort it out with a quick, noisy, tumbling, whirling physical one-on-one – and then be best friends again instantly. Being one of four girls myself, I know that it’s preferable to deal with the odd punch, rather than hours or days of emotional warfare.

    I say let those energetic free spirits run and jump and shout all they like, and bugger the critics.

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