Need Advice from Moms Who Have 2 or More Boys

Updated on August 29, 2009
K.W. asks from Parkville, MD
12 answers

My 2 boys, ages 3 and soon-to-be 6 (later this week) have been extremely difficult to manage over the last month. There haven't been any new changes in our life and I can't figure out the best way to discipline them. My biggest problem is that they feed off of each other. They are ALWAYS playing, rough-housing, wrestling, etc... and doing all the stuff that little boys do. The problem is that it takes me forever to get them to "turn it off" to do the regular everyday stuff that needs to be done i.e. eating meals, getting dressed, cleaning up toys, etc... I find myself having to repeat commands, yelling, and threatening to take away priviledges, but it isn't effective. They sometimes laugh at me or just ignore me altogether. I don't think that their behavior is abnormal for their age, but I often feel overwhelmed with them and sometimes just want to walk away and cry. Of course, they don't act this way with my husband, but I'm the one here with them by myself all day. Lately, parenting hasn't been enjoyable and I don't know how to change this. Any tried and true tips/techniques to help me regain control and actually enjoy being with my boys?

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answers from Washington DC on


I completely agree with all the advice you have gotten and wanted to add another angle too. I have three boys (13,11, 2). I also have an 8-yr old girl. My husband constantly reminds me that boys need rewards more than punishments. They love competition too--especially with the clock. So telling them they have three minutes to get dressed (or whatever) usually gets them focused better than a simple command to 'go get dressed.' We used to use a point jar (pennies in a jar) for the boys when they were younger (toddlers up to about 8). The kids would get points for doing things when asked, maybe extra points if I 'caught them cooperating together.' They loved adding up the points in their jar. When they got to a pre-established number (like 100), they would get a reward. The rewards were very simple, like an ice cream, or maybe flying a kite with dad, or whatever. That really motivated them. When they were fighting or out of control, I could often pull them back in line by threatening to remove points from their jar. I also found that just physically moving them to separate areas of the house, with no particular punishment, was effective. They would usually calm down and start reading a book or doing a puzzle or something. My older ones still get rambunctious sometimes, but now the most effective way to get them to behave is to take away video game/computer time. If I want them to do something, it's still very effective to have a reward rather than a punishment to dangle in front of them. Good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

Well I read the other advice first and I agree boys can be challenging. I raised 4 boys and 1 girl. The boys are now ages 22-16 and my youngest , the girl is 15. First of all, don't forget to laugh with them. Second, make rules and stick to them.

Here are my rules:
DO not let them play video games and do not watch too much TV. I raised mine in a no video game household - it seemed as if TV and video games made their behavior worse so I limited it and it helped.

Make them help you. If you are cooking let them stir or pour or something - it makes them feel "bigger".

Make them pick up after themselves - have a place for everything and give them very specific tasks. Do not say "pick up your toys" say "Lets pick up the blocks", or Lego or whatever.You have to be there and show them, work together and eventually they will do it on their own.

ALWAYS make them feel like you need their help. Tell them you are a team and that you all must work together. Say things like "Would you please help mommy do..."

Make sure they have time outside, running, jumping, whatever. Boys need to use a lot of energy every day.

When it comes to getting dressed have a race. You dress the little one and have the bigger one dress himself and make it fun!

Make sure you take them somewhere once a week. Just you and them. Go to a park, or buy family passes to the Maryland Zoo, the B & O Railroad Museum, the Science center, etc. Then you can go for a few hours and go home, without feeling like you have to be there all day. There are different kinds of playgrounds all over.

When it comes to dinner, make it an event. Get them to help set the table, make sure there are rules like: No toys at the table, Ask to be excused, Use a knife and fork, Take their plate into the kitchen when they are done.

Make sure that there is an area in the kitchen where there are cups they can reach, so they can help put things away when they are clean. When my were too short to reach, I had them stack it neatly on the counter below where it went.

Kids, especially boys need responsibility. When you give them responsibility they naturally become more disciplined.

They also need definite structure - structure also creates discipline.

Give them a bedtime and stick to it. (mainly) If they go to bed a 8 make it a routine, wash, dress, bed, stories, sleep. If they do not want to stay in bed sit there until they fall asleep, putting them back every time.

Remember boys are exhausting, but oh so worth it. I constantly get compliments from people about how well-mannered my boys are. I was so structured my brother-in-law said I needed a small South American country that I could be the dictator of..LOL

When they were a little older I taught them to do their own laundry, and posted directions by the washer. Now that they are grown they are so grateful I did that.
I also created a chore chart. Instead of having one person clean the bathroom, the youngest cleaned the sink, another the toilet, one the floor, and one the tub. I broke the tasks down so nothing took long or seemed overwhelming.

So I think that covers it for me... please enjoy them now they grow up soooo fast.

About me: SAHM mom of 5, all homeschooled, 3 finished, 2 to go. Was a single mom for nine years, have been happily married for almost 6 years.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Welcome to boy town! I have 3 boys also -- ages 2, just turned 4, and 5. I know EXACTLY what you mean!!

I try to take one of them out of the situation to try to get them to calm down (I am always saying "please calm down!" haha). For me, it's the oldest, I'll pull him aside and tell him seriously how much I need his help for whatever we need to do (get ready for dinner, put on jammies, etc) and he is eager to help me. So once he's separated from them, it takes a lot of the frenzy out of their playing (he is the ring leader and one who riles everyone up).

Another thing, I have found boys really need their activities rotated. Like for me to make dinner, I have to have them sit at the table with markers, or a craft, or scissors and books, or puzzles -- anything to get them to SIT and work on it, so I can cook without stopping to referee every couple of minutes.

I also have been taking toys and putting them in large trash bags, away from them, and I pull out ones they haven't seen in a while to give them something new to do, which usually helps them stay busy peacefully (yes sometimes that causes more fights).

It is true, boys are go, go, go! Sometimes you just need to go in the bathroom for a minute and take a deep breath. I get a little discouraged when they don't listen, but then I think, if I were them, all I would want to do is play too. So hang in there, I have found their dynamics change all the time. Sometimes they get along better than other, sometimes they play more than they fight.

God bless you --- V.

PS Forgot to add, there is a GREAT book about raising boys, called (appropriately) RAISING CAIN: Protecting the Emotional LIfe of Boys by Kindlon. It is excellent! It's been around for years, and recently republished. They also have one about teen boys. I highly recommend it. There is a section on how much boys dislike being yelled at, that was something that never even occurred to me. It really affects their ego and is the #1 thing they don't like.... anyway, check it out on you can look inside the book on the website.



answers from Washington DC on

I don't have boys, but this sounds familiar anyway.

May I suggest you give them more to do. All day does not have to be playtime. Send 6 upstairs to clean the bathroom, and have 3 mop the kitchen floor.

Get them out to run around or do a gym activity early in the day.

But also tell them when there will be quiet time. When we gave up naps at my house, it was relaced by "quiet time" for reading and playing. And in your case they should be separated for it. Every day between 2-3pm. This may not stop some of the craziness, but it will give you a break.

Also, do they know the concept of "personal space." YOu can teach this to toddlers and it sets touching boundaries. I can say to my five year old (when she is laying on her baby sister, go figure) "Hey, watch your personal space." And she moves. Might want to talk to them abnout some noise and space boundaries.

I also generally see no problem with being frank with your sons and saying, "when you act like this, Mommy gets frustrated and angry and it makes me want to go be by myself to get calm. But I want to be with you. How can we fix this??"

Good luck, and try to take pleasure in this. I bet they still want your attention all the time. In a few years, they won't want as much from you and the craziness will be far less cute.



answers from Washington DC on

I have three boys. I like the 1, 2, 3 Magic book. The more you take the emotion out of discipline, the easier it is. I was going through boxes of old school work the other day and found the handwritten list of rules that used to hang on the wall when the kids were little. They told me the rules and then we made up the very simple consequences for breaking rules (loss of toys, time out, etc.). Also, lots of exercise helps. On crazy days, even in the rain or snow, I would drive to the ball field and have whoever needed or wanted to run the bases. They thought it was really funny. Water helps too. They have always liked baths and showers for calming down.

I also use music and cds with stories. Sometimes you will cry. It's better to take a mom timeout than to yell. And I think it is okay for the boys to know that Mom gets upset when they don't listen or break things - that you get tired and sad just like they do. Lots of cuddle time at night helps. And quiet time in the afternoon, even after naps are a thing of the past, helped me stay sane and get a chance to read.

The boys also had chores and helped with meal preparation and cleanup so it wasn't always just about entertaining them.

Hang in there. They grow up so fast. I just dropped the loudest one off at college.



answers from Washington DC on

OMG, this sounds just like my boys who are 3 1/2 and 6 years old. First be glad that they are playing with each other and enjoy each others company. What has been working the best for me is telling them what I expect of them and rewarding them for good behavior. I also give them the oppurtunity to have the rough housing and boy time with each other (outside or at the playground) second when nothing else works I seperate them and get them involved in a quiet activity. If you are like me my boys take my husband way more seriously then me,. I am the softy, but they do need to understand when they are getting out of control. I would not tolerate the laughing stand your ground and follow through with punishments, they will still love you at the end of the day. GOOD LUCK:-)



answers from Washington DC on

Hi K., I'm glad to see that I have company out there. My two boys are 9 and 6 (2.5 yrs apart). I have a 2 1/2 year old girl too. Your story sounds much like mine. Boys are difficult; especially when they are close in age. There are no two ways about it. What they need is a strong male role model. They respect their dad more. Wait until they're in school; unfortunately most or all of the teachers are women. I can't give you any advice; I need some myself. Just hang in there sister......I.



answers from Washington DC on

Hi K.,

I agree with Karen H. I have 2 sons (now 13 & 11) and a daughter (6). My sons have very different personalities & temperments and have had issues their whole lives. When they were younger, I made a list that I stuck on the fridge. 1st offense was a verbal warning, then stand in the corner for 3 min (or whatever amount of time you set); 3rd loss of all electronics; 4th loss of playdates, etc. It did take the emotion out of it & worked quite well when they were younger. Now, they have different "currency", so discipling my oldest usually consists of taking away his cell phone, computer, etc while my younger is more effectively disciplined by taking away his skateboard. Hang in there & love/enjoy them. They truly do grow up way too quickly.



answers from Norfolk on

I too have two boys ages 1 1/2 and almost 4. I hear you and completely understand. I already have trouble at meal times and have to tell the 4 year old repeatedly not to run in the house or push or try to sit on his brother. Although, I don't have much advice for you I wanted to thank you for this post and let you know I will be watching for the answers too. It's not easy parenting rambunctious boys.



answers from Washington DC on

Please let me know when you figure out what works!! I have almost 13 y.o. boys and they can't keep their hands off each other either. I have found though that keeping them busy does seem to help a little and also using a reward system instead of taking stuff away seems to help more. For example all three of mine (I also have a 7 yo daughter) lost their Wii, gameboy, playstation privileges about 6 months ago. They were told once they could show some respect for each other they would get it back! Well its been 6 months now... Anyway good luck and please share what helps.
Oh I see you are a RN. I am too and work part time at Fairfax! What kind of nursing did/do you do?

Take care,



answers from Washington DC on


I have a 13yo boy, an 11yo boy and a 6yo girl, life is definitley interesting. The one lesson that works best for me, is let your NO mean NO. You said that somethimes thye laugh when you try to correct them. Tell them Once to stop, the second time add the penalty for not listening. There is no third chance, if you have to repeat yourself then FOLLOW THRU with the penalty. When you say I will....whatever if you do not do .....whatever, then you don't follow thru, then they will walk all over you. My kids didn't know that I could count past 2 for a long time. Now I rarely get to 2. If you get this under control now, you will have much fewer problems later.

Also, at this age, they just need tog et out more. FInd a local park for them to just go and run around in. If they have more things to do in and around the house, they will have less time for wrestleing. BTW, all 3 of mine wrestle from time to time, just listen so that no one gets hurt.

Another thought, when their Dad gets frustrated with them, his voice goes up in pitch, if you go down an octave, it may help.

The kids, and teachers, know me as the Drill Instructor. My NO now means NO and I stick to it, my voice goes down an octave, my volume may go up if the noise is loud. But they ALL tend to stop and listen when I need for them to do something, but it took alot of training on my part, and a lot of patients too.

When they start in preschool, or pre-k, the behavior will go down a bit, you just have to stivk by your guns and not let them run over you now.

I hope that this helped.



answers from Washington DC on

Hi K.-

I too have two boys - 3 and almost 5 (21 months apart). Their behavior is exactly as you described -- always in each other's faces and getting into trouble/mischief all the time. I have resorted to separating them a lot lately. I put one in the playroom, one in the den -- to play quietly. If they break the rule - they end up in their rooms. On weekends or afternoons when my husband is home -- we try to take each boy to a separate activity -- one rides his bike while the other plays inside. My threats of "time-outs" work sometimes, but I'm sure that won't last too much longer. I am going to spend some time with parenting books and/or class to help this year, as it only seems to be increasing. Let me know if you get any good ideas.

Good luck
B. C.

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