How to parent boys with high energy

how to parent boys with high energy

“Do you feed your kids crack?”  The Sunday school teacher asked.  “Oh… no, they are pretty energetic though aren’t they” I laughed.  I entered the room to gather my three boys while one of them was sliding head first down the plastic slide, the second was leaning off the edge of the fort as though it was a ship at sea, and the third was chasing a girl around the room.  I quickly gathered my clan rushed them off to the car and buckled them in their seats.  My main thought on that day was, “my boys require a lot of structure.”  We headed home and I chalked it up to another day in the life of a high-energy family.

A few weeks later I started to think about the question that this teacher posed to me.  Like many things the more I thought about it the more frustrated I became.  Don’t get me wrong I am the first to admit that my boys are active.  They love to run, jump, wrestle, and get dirty.  I am also the first to state however that I have great children and this is where the frustration came in.  I started to wonder what this teacher thinks of my boys.  My guess based on her question is that she views them as out-of-control, untamed, crazy, or scary.

I know that ultimately it does not matter what this person thinks about my children.  I believe strongly however, that the way we experience children is the way they experience themselves.  So, if this teacher experiences my children as crazy, out-of-control, or scary then that may be the way that they feel in her presence.  I begin to wonder if she is overwhelmed by their energy.  I sense that maybe she does not know how to contain them or is unsure of how to discipline them.  If I were honest with myself I would admit that at times I feel these things.  I feel overwhelmed, out-of-control, and scared of someone getting hurt.

Unfortunately when I feel these ways I tend to rely on my more primal parenting skills.  Sometimes this includes yelling, sometimes annoyed tones of voice, other times checking out.  Of course these skills do not work very well and actually communicate even more firmly to my children that I cannot handle them.  I wonder what it feels like to my children when I am out of control?  How do they feel when I am yelling, using my annoyed voice, or checked out?

At times I can see the answers on my sons face.  The feeling seems to be either hurt or humiliation, whatever it is I know it when I see it.  In my best moments I slow down, apologize, and acknowledge my mistake.  In my worse moments I move on without giving it a second thought feeling justified in my frustration.

My sons truly do require a lot of structure.  I find that things go better when I provide simple activities to help provide this structure.  It might be playdoh, drawing, coloring, a task, or a walk.  No matter what it is when I take action and help to structure the time they respond well.  The best part is that in most cases when I start the activity and engage with them for a short time I can leave the activity and they will remain engaged beyond the time of my involvement.  The hard part is staying calm, remembering that they need the structure and providing it before I become overwhelmed and out of control.

One thing that I have learned to do when things get tense at my house is to ask myself, “What do they need from me right now?”  Many times the answer is structure and when I provide it things seem to calm down, and so do I.

What activities do you use to provide structure for your children?

9 thoughts on “How to parent boys with high energy

  1. Providing structure often means that I need to engage my children and put aside my personal agenda. When I become annoyed or impatient with my children, it's often because I'm more focused on something I want to be doing then giving them the attention they crave. Structure for our home is easy, it's simply giving them attention and being active with them.

  2. Chad,thanks for reading and commenting. I find the same thing. the more engaged I am the better things go. that engagement is a realchallenge when I am exhausted. I agree about attitude as well, when I am frustrated things go down hill, if I can manage my attitude all is well.

  3. I would never say crack, maybe too much sugar, lol. Yeah it is difficult and I almost immediately regret raising my voice or getting upset with my children. You can see it in their faces sometimes. But you know what, sometimes they need it. There are times when I just can't get through, they're in another world or just not in the mood to pay attention. A quick “HEY!” or “SERA!” usually does the trick. That being said, structure and routine can be your best friends, it's tough, sometimes boring, but keeping kids engaged (and wearing them out) seem to work.

  4. Legos, books…for the most part, Paige does a good job of finding things to do on her own and remains pretty calm. Riley is a boy so he is a tad more random and less structured with what he wants to do. However, we have found that he is taking after his sister with sitting and reading more and more. They both like to do their outdoor running and activities that involve a LOT of energy, but they both know that is for outside, and know that there will be consequences if they run and are wild inside.

  5. I hate to disagree with you, but I think there is a real difference between parenting your own kids and a Sunday school teacher having your boys for an hour while you're in church. It seems to me that if a teacher made that comment about my kids (rude or not), I might need to consider that the behavior of my kids is an issue. Just my opinion.

  6. Justin,thanks for reading and commenting. You raise a good point and of course if I am honest with myself I have to reflect on my own parenting style and the behavior of my children to determine if there are some things that need to change. like I said in the post, I am the first to admit that my children are high energy, I am also quick to admit that they can be challenging to manage. They are very close in age, and we have intentionally attempted to draw a fine line between freedom and control. I believe it is important to provide freedom while balancing the need to control behavior. this is much tougher to do than to say. those things being said I think the problem in this specific example was the lack of structure being offered by the teacher. she was allowing the children Free play. although I am very in favor of free play to provide learning and creativity I think in this moment more structure was needed. this realization is what prompted my self evaluation and consideration of the importance of structure with my children as well as for myself. So, I really do appreciate your challenge to reflect on possible areas of improvement. what are your thoughts about the challenge of balancing freedom and control?

  7. Ethan,thanks for reading, legos work wonders, our kids are just getting into them and will spend good calm time with them. I envy your ability to keep them calm in doors, that is truly a challenge in our house… we tend to send them outside for some dirt and running when things get too out of control.

  8. Fandads,Ha! wearing them out is right… we love to keep them outside and active and are blessed with an abundance of children in the neighborhood for them to play with. When they lay down for bed it is lights out

  9. I am not trying to challenge or call you out on anything. I am not perfect as a parent or as a man. My kid likewise isn't perfect either. I do think that the rude, unnecessary comment that was made about “crack” has muddied the waters a bit. I think kids, whether they are boys or girls, close in age or not, high energy or docile, should be able to behave themselves for a short amount of time even if that time could have been better structured. Sometimes what kids need is discipline and consequences. Kids need to be able to behave in a variety of different situations as situations outside of home aren't going to be customized to meet their individual needs at any given moment. This doesn't sound like a freedom versus control issue to me.

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