by Cheryl Critchley

10 things parents of young boys should stop worrying about

Child painting with mum

Worrying is par for the course when you have a child. When that child is a boy, your worries may include: Will he hurt himself doing that? Where did that dirt obsession come from? And why are his peers counting to 100 when he isn’t?

As a mother of a teenage boy (my son Ben is 14), I’m here to let you know that some of the common things parents of young boys worry about simply aren’t worth your time and energy.  

Perhaps you’ve met a parent at childcare pick up who insists their son read poetry at age 3.

Don’t worry about it.

Your friend’s daughter walked at 12 months but your son still isn’t on his feet at 14 months.

Don’t worry about it.

Your 3-year-old son isn’t toilet trained yet, but your neighbour’s kid has been out of nappies for 6 months.

Don’t worry about it.

The truth is, looking back, I can’t even remember exactly when Ben started walking or talking.

And yes, it easy for me to say ‘don’t worry about it’ after notching up over a decade of hindsight. I do recall feeling anxious when other parents talked about how their son or daughter had reached a milestone that seemed a long way off for my son.

Of course, some boys have genuine physical or mental development issues. If your newborn hasn’t gained weight for a month, for example, you may need medical help.
However, if your little boy is physically and mentally well, here is my top 10 list of things you should stop stressing about right now.

1. His size
All babies are different. Some are heavy, some aren’t. Some have big heads, some don’t. It’s not a competition, but us parents with smaller babies (or those on the larger side) can end up worrying. Don’t. Size really does not matter.

2. Organic food or eco-friendly nappies
It’s great if you have the time and inclination to use organic food and cloth nappies, but the sky won’t fall in if you can’t. I gave up after three months in cloth and couldn’t afford organic everything, but my kids eat healthily haven’t been mentally scarred by doing their business in disposables.

3. Reaching milestones
In years to come, you probably won’t remember when he got his first tooth or spoke his first word. If your health nurse or paediatrician says don’t worry, don’t worry. Often parents who boast about reaching milestones early are insecure – or stretching the truth.

4. Toilet training
Don’t push this because other kids are doing it. Your son will show interest when he’s ready. When I stopped stressing, Ben toilet trained on his own terms – albeit later than his sisters did – and it was a breeze, both day and night.

5. Getting dirty
Dirt is good! We rolled around in it as kids and there’s no reason toddlers shouldn’t now – mine all did. It’s fun and it may even boost their immune system.

6. Risky play
As much as we don’t like it, boys take risks when they play and can hurt themselves. Ben ended up in hospital twice after accidents, but I didn’t worry when he played. It won’t change anything.

7. His dislike of sport/competition
I used to think my son’s non-competitiveness and hatred of sport was a problem. He keeps fit by riding his bike and competes in a solar car competition. Your boy may not play AFL or NBA, but as long as you encourage him to play to his other strengths, he’ll be just fine.

8. Reading/counting before school
Kids don’t need to read Harry Potter or count to 1000 before they start school. That’s what school is for! Being prepared is great, but high expectations put untold and unnecessary pressure on parents and kids, and takes all the fun out of school.

9. Junk food
Some parents vow never to feed their child McDonald’s or anything containing sugar. I’m a big fan of healthy eating, but the occasional lolly or serve of hot chips won’t kill him and it will help your son learn the difference between ‘everyday’ foods and ‘sometimes’ foods.

10. Being a super mum/dad
Sick of hearing parents brag about juggling three jobs and taking junior to toddler gym and language classes? They’re probably struggling too. And chances are that child – and parent – will burn out pretty quickly. Being super parent isn’t sustainable, or enjoyable. Stick to what you can comfortably manage and what your son enjoys. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Cheryl Critchley is an Australian freelance journalist and mother of three. This article is about


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