The problem with boys

By Carolyn Edgar
My ten year old boy is adorable. He’s smart, he’s handsome, and he’s funny. When he is determined to do something, there is no stopping him.

He’s also forgetful, lazy and defiant. When he is determined not to do something, there is no convincing him otherwise.

Take homework, for example. He only does his homework when an adult – specifically, me – sits with him and insists he does it. “Insists he does it,” sounds so much more passive than it actually is. I have to read the questions to him and walk him through the problem-solving steps. I have to make sure he has thought through his answers. I have to school him on the differences among their, there and they’re, and coach him on punctuation and capitalization.

I say “I have to,” because if he didn’t, he would be failing 5th grade. Not because he can’t do the work. Not because the work is over his head. He would be failing because he doesn’t understand the importance of actually doing the work. And despite the well-meaning advice of his teachers, “let him fail” is not an option. Letting him fail wouldn’t teach him anything. My son isn’t motivated by failing at something he doesn’t care about being good at.

I’ve had to accept that girls and boys are different. I struggled with my now 14-year-old daughter when she was his age. But it was a different struggle. She would do the work. She would do the bare minimum, and she would get angry when I made her re-do it – but she would do the work.

My daughter was offended when I told her – in 5th grade – that her writing, which her teacher had told her was “good,” actually was bad. She was upset when I corrected her papers not just for spelling, sentence structure and grammar, but critiqued the soundness of her ideas and logical reasoning. She was so offended, she actually improved.

My daughter cared about being a good writer, because she wanted to please me, she wanted praise from her teachers, and she wanted to get good grades.

My son likes praise, but isn’t motivated by it. He does what he feels like doing. And he has a very high opinion of himself and his efforts. Grades mean very little to him. He’ll like his effort, even if I don’t, or his teachers don’t.

Sometimes, especially if we don’t.

My son has ADHD, so I assumed everything I’ve described above was a symptom of his focus and attention issues. Instead, I am assured by everyone who has ever encountered a ten-year-old boy that his behavior is normal for boys his age.


If all ten-year-old boys are like this, I really don’t understand how they grow into men who rule the world. I don’t even understand how they make it to eleven. Dealing with a ten-year-old boy is like dealing with an infant all over again, except they smell much worse. They are all id everything.

Except…he is smart, handsome and funny. His bad moods pass like storm clouds. When the bright sun of his smile comes out – when I see him working hard by choice, like he did this weekend on a school project – I think maybe he’ll be okay. Maybe he’ll get through the bumpy transition of 5th grade and learn how to be independent, self-motivated, self-directed.

I hope he does. Until then, I’ll keep feeling like I’ve been forced to repeat 5th grade.


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