Let them Find their Own Limits [Opinion]
Last night I watched as my 2-year-old was in a dead run pushing his Minions suitcase like a vacuum cleaner into his older brother’s ribs who was sitting quietly on the floor doing a puzzle. His repeated shouts of “stop” went unanswered and the barrage continued. Once he had enough the older brother retaliated with a punch to the stomach.
And on it went for a few rounds; rib shot, gut punch, rib shot, gut punch.
Then the youngest adjusted fire. Puzzle stomp! He’s a brilliant tactician.
The oldest stood up to defend FOB Pirate Puzzle with a headlock and attempted a hip toss. That turned into giggling from both of them and what looked like it was going to turn into an all-out boxing match turned to play. By not getting involved and breaking it up before it got ugly, as most people would, the boys learned a boundary with each other and how far they can go. I didn’t have to break it up. Had I gotten involved they would have incorrectly learned that rough play is bad, dad will get mad and they wouldn’t have had the fun that they did.
Forcing a boy to suppress his natural instincts to be aggressive, to run, to climb, and yeah, even to push another kid is teaching him that his instincts are wrong in the formative years. The early ages are the time to let the boys explore and find out what they are capable of. Teenage years and early adulthood are the times to harness the instincts and channel them into something productive and positive. Then is the time to teach the young man the right time to use that aggressiveness. To use it in defense of loved ones or to save a life. If that urge is suppressed it may come out at the wrong time or not at all like in a situation of life or death, when it is needed most.
Boundaries and Consequences
The mind of a 4-year-old boy is not complex. That mind doesn’t need to be constantly stimulated because it already is by everything around it. Everything to the young mind is stimulating because it’s all brand new. It’s developing and probably operates like an excited dog in the backyard.
“Look at this stick! Isn’t it awesome? Why is this stick so awesome? I don’t know why it’s so awesome but I think I want to throw the stick at the house. Awesome! Throwing that stick was better than I thought. Now I’m going to run after it, pick it up again and throw it again. This time at my brother! Awesome! He hated that! What else can I throw?? Look at that! What is that? it’s round, and it’s hard and it’s smaller than a stick, I bet I can throw it harder than a stick at my brother. I did!! And I hit him again, awesome!”
The “meanness” that boys aged 2-6 years can show to each other is their natural impulsive instincts and they act on them. Doing things like throwing rocks at each other is them testing boundaries and learning about consequences. What will happen if I hit dad in the nuts with this stick?
The consequences were severe and now he has learned not to do that again.
Competition is healthy
Testing the boundaries of their peers or siblings’ breeds competition. Competition is what this world runs on and it’s the reason we have flat screen TVs, digital everything, and why you are reading this article on the internet instead of a newspaper. Maybe it was playing football in high school, little league, maybe it was the debate team or maybe it was just with the other dumb ass in detention trying to launch the biggest spit wad, who knows, but we all have it in us and it should be allowed to come out at a young age.
Trying to take the animal out of a 4-year-old boy is like trying to alter the course of the Mississippi River and both can be equally destructive. You might be able to do it but it’s going to take years and years of hard work, men, machines, resources and probably the damn Army Corp of Engineers. Who’s got time for that jazz? Who has the energy for that? You would have just as much success if you stood on a bridge and cupped your hands around your mouth and screamed
“Hey river, what’s wrong with you? Go that way!”
It’s best to let the river run and clean up the mess when it spills over its banks – or diaper. Whichever the case may be.
It is important to monitor the behavior to keep them from killing themselves but it isn’t always necessary to get involved in order for them to learn a valuable lesson about life and dealing with other people.
So why would you want to suppress a boy’s natural need and want to compete, to run, to climb, and get dirty? Let them go out and find their own limits.