Raising Boys without girls and how they learn from us

Raising Boys without girls and how they learn from us

By Jo McKee

I am sick, really sick with some hideous flu-type virus and have picked up gastro on top as a real treat. So, I have been lying here, deep in thought, trying to distract myself from my own temporary misery.


As I lay here, I am being nursed by my eight-year-old son, Tom. He has so far managed to keep the other two boys inside (we are on acreage) and bring me water and a wet cloth, as he said I felt hot.


Right now, part of being sick actually feels like a gift, as I have time to think and rest.


Which brings me to some ongoing comments buzzing in my head because I have three boys and no girl in my home…apart from me.


I often hear comments like: 'Aren't you worried the boys may not be able to relate to girls, having no sister?' And another passing comment in relation to my boys attending an all-boys’ college in mid primary school: 'They won't know how to have a relationship with females'.


So, that brings me back to this moment. I know Tom has prepared the evening meal for himself and his brothers (okay, it's noodles and toast, but it's food and I just can't get up).


He instructs his five-year-old and two-year-old brothers that: “the dishes are to go in the sink”. Then I hear “chop, chop, it's shower time”.


He comes in to ask me if Sammy (the two-year-old) can have a bath tonight as he obviously knows this might pose a danger if I am not watching. I tell him “no”, and he starts undressing them and himself, washes his baby brother and makes sure they get dry and dressed, and clean their teeth.


He finds a brush and brushes their hair. I can hear Jack (five) being way too active and jumping on the bed before an ominous crashing sound. Then I hear Tom say: “Well that's what you get for being silly. I told you it wasn't a good idea” (as much sympathy as I give for poor choices).


My husband is away for a work project and is due home tonight. Great for me, not so great for him as I can't 'parent or adult today'.


This also means the dishes will be waiting for him and, to be honest, my house is a mess after just one day of no cleaning.


Back to my thoughts on this a mother of all boys, I realise that mine won't be around girls as much (well not yet), and they don't have a sister to normalise some situations as they grow up.


However, as far as being able to relate to girls...I know by the way they treat me that they are learning to be compassionate, thoughtful and considerate towards females.


They already know women and girls are very strong, both mentally and physically, and should be respected. They know kindness is the most important aspect.  We get rewarded for acts of kindness in our family, occasionally with little treats at the shop.


Kindness is closely followed by telling the truth, and saying to someone's face: “I am sorry I wronged you by...”


I believe they learn how to relate to girls by being with me, their mother. They also have positive relationships with other mothers, my girlfriends, their teachers, and of course in the playground, for now.


I am not perfect at this role of being a mother to all boys and have plenty of parenting 'fails'. I am first to admit I did want a daughter too. There is nothing wrong with this, nor does it take away from my love of these boys.


I am working it all out as I go along in this journey. I do know, they will be just fine with the opposite sex, as long as they are taught well and understand their boundaries.


Seeing my eldest son be so kind, helpful and capable has made me realise that he is doing just fine without a sister or (when the time comes) without girls in the classroom.  He is already learning to be a kind, compassionate and giving person and knows when TLC needs to be given.


He is also learning to communicate, and is not afraid to say how he feels.


As a woman of 40, these traits in a man mean everything to me - be it my husband, a sports coach or a friend.


One thing I have drummed into them from the get-go was that being mean because you like a girl gets you nowhere, and that's not how we treat anyone'.


I have encouraged them to treat girls as friends and to learn to communicate.


I would love to hear some good stories from you, when your children have showed you compassion or surprised you with what they learned from just being part of your family.


It has been one of my most rewarding parenting moments witnessing my son’s ability to step up when I needed it most.

Jo McKee

Mother of 3 boys, Brisbane.

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Comments (4):

An excellent article. Thanks so much Jo. Insightful and interesting.

claremary - January 31, 2018

I love this article. I have no children and I've been a professional nanny for 20yrs. I've worked in all types of families, boys, girls, mixed and single child. I don't believe boys learn how to treat or communicate with girls by having siblings. Their thoughts and beliefs seem to come from watching the mother and the father. How the father speaks to women. The role the mother takes and what she will and won't tolerate in actions and speech. How much emotional burden and decisions the mother takes on for the family vs the father. I have worked for strong women that I would call feminists. Confident and caring women. However, often these women still treat their boys differently to their girls. It's very obvious, but I'm sure they'd be surprised to learn that. It's often ingrained in us, learned and passed on through generations and it's a hard thing to identify all these ingrained thoughts, let alone challenge them. I believe children learn by example. The parents have the most influence and it's the little things that we don't realize we do, that the kids notice. Very important for all of us to examine our roles within a relationship.

Mjl - January 30, 2018

As a mother of two boys, reading this article, this just makes me beam with pride.
My oldest (4) is displaying very similar attributes and I will admit.. I hoped he wouldn't become a sterotypical ill mannered male. Thank you for sharing the beauty amongst struggles of motherhood..
It gives mothers like me strength!

Tammy1366613 - January 21, 2018

Beautifully said, Jo.
It’s funny how people make the comment to you, as if you could fix the situation by simply deciding to have a 4th child ordering a girl! Somethings are beyond our control. I’ve had similar comments made about having two girls and planning to send them to an all girls school for highschool.
I grew up with no brothers and I don’t think it effected my ability to relate to boys, nor did it effect my husband who was one of 4 boys and went to an all boys boarding school. We set the example for them
You are clearly doing a great job of raising those boys, to be well rounded little gentlemen with a touch of spunk!

ClaireB - January 14, 2018