21st Century Boys


How can I stop my son from shooting everything that moves? Why is he so obsessed with power? I find his level of energy so draining, not to mention the constant competition between him and his younger sister. It seems that the only way to keep him quiet is to put him in front of the computer or the telly…

I hear these sorts of questions/complaints from parents of boys again and again. Girls seem much easier to manage. But boys… everbody agrees that they are hard work.

Boys were evolved to be active most of the time, I say. Their nature is to learn while they move, not to sit nicely on the carpet and play gently with their little sister. They need exercise, daylight and the company of other men. They also need to be allowed to take risks, and to learn from their mistakes. And it is in their nature to compete and to think in hierarchical terms. Boys need to know what are the rules of the game- including the game of life.  They must also know who is the boss- and it better be you!

If you want to know more about boys nature and how we can all help them to thrive, you may wish to read Sue Palmer new book called 21st Century Boys. She explains it all- backing it up with plenty of stories and with the latest research. And most importantly- the book is very compelling and reads like a novel. If you are struggling to understand your boys, or accept some parts of their personality, this could be the book for you.


  • arbella

    As the mother of three boys I know what you’re talking about and I think that, as a mum, one has to move on from one’s distaste at the behaviour of boys and try to learn to see things from a boy’s point of view.

    My own sons began to be obsessed with guns just at about the time they went to secondary school (I don’t know how old your son is – a bit younger, i would guess). As a Buddhist I’d always been very careful to avoid them being exposed to violent films (it was the days of Arnold Schwarzennegar killing everything that moved) and I’d never bought them toy guns. As we live in the country lots of the local dads went shooting or beating, real guns were around and local boys were quite familiar with shotguns, so I knew that my objections would have to be carefully managed if i didn’t want my boys to have trouble at school.

    I looked instead at why my eldest son, in particular, was so keen to have some sort of gun. He, probably like your son, turned everything into a gun. The more I considered the more it seemed that what he was really looking for was protection, some way of feeling powerful, in charge, (You’ll see the “knife crime” relevence!)Now, although he had been bullied a little, we had stopped it pretty fast, so he wasn’t in any real danger. His family life was very happy, with me always at home and he and his brother were close friends. Nothing obvious and yet…he obviously really needed to have this thing even if I wasn’t clever enough to work out why, So, because I trusted that, at some level, he knew what he needed I bought him, a BB gun and a target and let him get on with it (obviously with certain restrictions!)

    The result was that after a couple of weeks intensive shooting he lost interest and never looked at it again. It was as if possessing that symbol of power had done its job and he had moved on.
    Boys, as you say, were designed for a different life to the one they are now forced to live. They need to compete for status and power with their peers and no amount of well-meant girlie advice is going to change that.

    My children were very lucky in that we live in the country so they were able to have considerable freedom and get into many a small danger without adults interfering. Parents of those who are not so lucky will have to work much harder to allow their sons, in particular, freedom to develop in their own way. My own feeling is that we infantilise our children by treating them as children far too long. We have to learn to respect their separateness from us and expect them to begin to behave as adults by their early teens. Trust is at the heart. I see people far too often who appear neither to trust or to respect their children.

    We live in an increasing paranoid world where we are encouraged to trust fewer and fewer people. Our children need to know at a deep level that we trust them and are ourselves trust-worthy.

  • Miriam Chachamu

    Hi Arbella
    Yes, your experience is very similar to the experience of many of the parents I work with – for some reason my own son was never into this stuff. In my experience, quite a lot of parents refuse to allow their boys to play with guns, warhammer figures, or sometimes even innocent games such as football cards, either because they are not in line with the parents’ value system or they seem to involve pointless waste of time. As a result, many boys feel misunderstood – which I suppose they are. Because their thinking is immature they sometimes even feel unloved – what really matters to them is frown upon. Usually, when parents allow their boys more freedom to play with the ‘offending toys’ after a while, the boys lose interest. As you say- the toys ‘do their job’ and the boys move on. I would agree with some of the other points you made too- thanks for contributing!

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