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There’s No Such Thing As Good Boys 

You look at me.

Big blue eyes.

White blond hair.

And say,

“Mummy I good boy today”

All lashes and cheeks

My heart takes a pause;

I stop. I brake.

Have I gone too far?

Have I made a mistake,

In trying to make you

the good boy you are?

I try to explain:

“Sorry, no

There’s no such thing.

No good boys.

No bad”

You look confused

Eyes squinting,

Asking me:

Are you sad?

(Mum’s gone mad!)

Why do I say it so much?

Ask you to

“Be a good boy please”

Try to appease

Your mum and your dad

But it doesn’t make sense.

We’re both so glad;

You’re our son.

There’s no such thing

As good boys

Or bad

Just boys.

Who wants a “good boy” anyway?

A little side of parental guilt with this one. There are some days where I feel as though I’ve spent all day asking my son to “be a good boy please” and then I feel bad about it at the end of the day (vintage parenthood!).

It will feel like he’s not listening and nothing is going in but then out of the blue he will say something which catches me by surprise and I’ll wonder if always trying to keep his behaviour in check is the right thing to do.

Especially when, to be honest (*biased mother alert*) he’s a really good kid.

Often as parents we spit out these little instructions blithely, on parental autopilot, and forget that there’s a little person hearing the same thing a hundred times a day. It’s not just us saying it: grandparents, aunties, friends, sometimes strangers we cross paths with in the day will all ask well meaningly: “are you a good boy for your mummy?”.

In one sense the phrase, if that’s what it is, loses its meaning. What is a “good boy” anyway?

And in another it’s a continual reinforcement of an impossible ideal. There really is no such thing as “good boys”.

Ironically, if I were presented with a perpetually well-behaved “good boy” or “good girl” I would be a bit non-plussed (really, there’s no pleasing some people).

I don’t want my son to be wet and insipid; I want him to have gumption and spark.

I don’t want him to always follow my instructions to the letter; I want him to learn to take risks and figure things out for himself. I want him to show initiative.

That’s all got a bit deeper than I intended but what I’m trying to say is, this continual impressing upon our children to be “good”: is it the right thing to do? does it matter?

Our children will be “good” sometimes and they will be “bad” sometimes because they are human, like us.

So when should we draw the line as parents? Let the odd snatched toy or elbow shove slide? And are there better words we could be using?

Are you an over-user of the classic “good boy”, “good girl” phraseology like me, or do you avoid these words?

Am I just really, really over-thinking this one?

Let me know what you think!



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  1. Ewa Gray Ewa Gray

    This is exactly what I do!! My 3 year old Thomas is such a good boy that he ends up getting told off for the smallest things then I feel terrible that I’m turning him into a robot! I definitely think they should get away with a little bit of rebellion and feistiness – but maybe not when you’re trying to get out of the house & they’re doing a runner naked down the hallway! xx

    • thebrightnessofthesedays thebrightnessofthesedays

      It’s so hard getting the balance right! “Nude-y rude-ys” also very popular in our house!! Xx

  2. I wish I said it less, but ‘good boy’ seems to slip out of my mouth automatically. It’s so ingrained. Although I agree with everyone who says that it is an unhelpful phrase (implying as it does that it is possible to be a ‘bad boy’). Still a work in progress…#Marvmondays

    • thebrightnessofthesedays thebrightnessofthesedays

      Yes me too. I am trying but I need an effective alternative!

  3. Very “good” point, well made! I did one of the classic “toddler training” courses through a local childrens centre a while ago and they spoke about trying not to use “good”, as what does that really mean to a child anyway? I was the world’s worst offender, but now I do try to praise the behaviour that I’d like to see more of in a “It’s lovely when you share your toys” kind of way. I’m with you though. A bit of cheeky character is actually a lot of fun!

    Brilliant rhyme x

  4. I was lucky my son was a really good boy and rarely got up to stuff lol. Now i have grandchildren its starts again lol

  5. Liz pattison Liz pattison

    This is brilliant. I tend to opt for ‘clever boy’ or ‘naughty’ when talking to my 2 yr old son as I have a dog and when the words ‘good’ or ‘bad’ boy come out I feel like I’m taking to the dog! I have however mastered ‘the look’ which so far is working, so if he does play up he gets my ‘look’ which stops him in his tracks. That’s this week, who knows what’s going to happen next week.

    • thebrightnessofthesedays thebrightnessofthesedays

      A look! Wow! I need some tips. My life would be way easier if I could master this look of yours. Ha re the dog! I see what you mean.

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