My three-year-old boy, who is downright amazing and sensitive, is also supercharged. He's full to the brim with energy, like those energiser bunnies – he just keeps going and going and going. At nine months pregnant with my third, we used to joke he was my F45 instructor. He would have me running at pace over multiple obstacles just to keep him from getting into serious trouble. Intense! He’s one of those kids that challenges your parenting stamina daily ...
It got me thinking, why is this little man so full-on? I'd find myself getting angry at him for it, and I didn't want to be like that. Then, I did this amazing webinar and here’s what I found out from author, educator, and parenting and resilience specialist, Maggie Dent.
Boys need to move to feel good
Boys run out of their 'feel-good' neurochemical, dopamine, much faster than girls. This means they need to build their levels back up to feel good again, to be able to concentrate and sit still. To build it back up, their bodies need to move. Yes, that's right, they NEED to move, which is exactly why they start fidgeting and the supercharge behaviour kicks off – so they can self-regulate.
“Little boys tend to feel more unloved than girls because they are always getting into trouble.”
– Maggie Dent
You can imagine what happens when we don’t let them move and start punishing them for it; they lose their confidence, cortisol (a stress chemical) builds up along with that negative inner-critic voice in their head. What we need to understand is that forcing them to sit still when they need to move is actually asking them to do something they're not neurologically capable of. Wow. How interesting is this?
A star jump strategy
At dinner time, once that initial 10 minutes of sitting down and eating has passed and it's all turning to custard; rather than getting angry with the wee man, I'm getting him to jump up and give me 20 star jumps then come back to the table. I'm trying out giving him a chance to build that dopamine back up which means he can sit still again.
Busy doesn’t mean bulletproof – reconnect to repair the ruptures
Parenting these turbo-charged little characters really does make you question your parenting abilities! But, what I’ve learnt reminds me that we need to be attuned to the fact that these boys are also super sensitive.
“Little boys are just as sensitive as little girls, and in some ways can be more vulnerable to feeling abandoned and unloved.”
— Maggie Dent
When our little boy was two and we were in peak chaos, one thing I am so pleased I did when I look back was capture those peaceful pre-sleep moments. I’d lie down with him on his bed and by that time of night he was finally calm and I would drift off to sleep with him for a while. I was three months pregnant at the time with morning sickness so it was a welcome relief to have a quick nap at 7 pm!
I won’t ever forget those little arms wrapping around my neck and holding me tight. It made me feel like no matter what kind of day it had been, what had been said, done or busted, he knew I loved him dearly and I knew that tomorrow would be another day. I’m so glad I did that because as long as he knew he was loved unconditionally, nothing else really mattered. Even if the day had been peppered with ruptures between us, the end of the day always finished in the warmth and gentleness of repair.
Find your night-time routine
Maggie Dent touched on finding that peaceful night-time moment in her webinar also. She mentioned a great poem you can say to your little boys before they drift off to sleep. I’ll pop it below. Try it, there’s something really special about capturing that calm evening pre-sleep moment — for both of you.
I love you more than all the
stars in the night sky …
more than every grain
of sand on every
beach in the
whole wide world
and more than all
the hairs on
all the bears
All the best for you all out there parenting those incredible little boys!