Have you noticed some rather loud changes in your son? Photo: Getty
Did you wake up one day to find your beautiful and sweet little boy had been replaced by a loud, shouting, wrestling and super energised little monster? Well, don't worry you are not alone. In fact, the chances are that you have just entered the tornado that is your little boy's first major hit of testosterone.
According to Raising Boys author, Steve Biddulph, at the age of four little boys experience a huge surge of testosterone, approximately double their usual levels, and it is this which can be blamed for an increase in activities of a noisy, dangerous and extra boisterous nature.
Whilst this stage is totally normal for any boy’s development, it doesn’t mean that it’s any the less surprising, confronting or challenging as a mum, as Katie Burns explains.
“My shy, cautious sweet little boy suddenly became confident almost overnight and it’s as if he has the volume button turned up at all times,” she says. “Every demand is delivered in what we call his ‘outside voice’, even when I’m standing right next to him, and he bosses his little brother (aged 2) from 7am until 7pm shouting commands and getting extremely frustrated when he doesn’t follow his orders.”
But it’s not just Ollie’s volume that has increased. Burns has also noticed a huge difference in his energy levels, saying, “He seems to need to jump, high five the air, wrestle on the floor and run down our hallway at every given chance, all accompanied with noises that resemble a rocket taking off, a motorbike, a racing car or any other fast moving and loud automobile.”
Burns has similarly noticed that Ollie has developed a new passion for ‘shooting’ things, despite the fact that she has never bought him any sort of toy that resembled a gun, nor explained what they are.
As with all stages, Burns admits that the change in Ollie’s behavior has brought about it’s own challenges that they are working on overcoming. But, whilst the increased noise level is wearing enough in itself, it’s her son’s new found inability to listen that she finds most frustrating.
“He just seems to be able to totally zone out whilst in the middle of parachuting off the back of the sofa, and I have to repeat myself six times before he even registers that I have asked him something. It’s very trying.”
From Ollie’s own perspective though, Burns recognizes that he is struggling with the change too, particularly when it comes to controlling his emotions around his little brother. “He swings from being a beautiful caring older brother one minute, to lashing out at him the next. It’s all a bit of a roller coaster,” she says.
In terms of the strategies that Burns has adopted for dealing with this change in her little boy, she admits that “we are still learning what works.” However, she has found that increasing Ollie’s one on one time with his dad has helped, as well as getting him out of the house more to run, jump, scoot or ride his bike in order to work off his excess energy.
Of course Burns is far from alone in travelling this path. In fact, Amanda Collis echoes much of Burns’ experience, having been through similar with her own son.
“Sam has demonstrated distinct changes in his behavior twice over the past year or so, both of which I believe are linked to the testosterone surge,” she says. “Both times he became extremely defiant, more vocal (raising his voice more often) and a little rebellious, pushing the boundaries even though he knew there would be consequences. He also gets over excited by his peers, particularly older boys, and he finds it difficult to know when to stop being silly.”
Much like Burns, Collis admits that her biggest challenge with Sam is communication, whilst his biggest challenge is learning whether things are a good or bad choice before they happen.
“I do choose my battles with him, as not everything is worth the fight,” she says. “I found the best advice came from his Kindergarten teacher, "keep it simple". He needs to learn that his actions fall into two categories, good choices or bad choices, and both have their consequences.”
Whilst Collis says that this approach is not always effective, she believes it definitely stops some situations from escalating, particularly if a valued priviledge is taken away. On the flip side, Collis says that celebrating good behavior tends to encourage Sam too, so she is quick to acknowledge this as well.
According to Sarah-Jayne McCormick, a psychologist, all of this behavior is completely normal for boys aged between three to four, and generally settles down by the time they are five.
“Boys can become very boisterous and have boundless energy at this stage, becoming particularly interested in very rough and tumble play,” she explains. “All of a sudden they start acting very physically, wanting to run everywhere, and climb everything, and they can also become very strong during this time.”
McCormick acknowledges that such a rapid change can be difficult for parents to adjust to, and can even cause some to start doubting their parenting skills.
“It’s completely normal to feel challenged,” she reassures. “The really critical thing is to ensure that you have firm boundaries, structure and discipline in place for boys at this stage. It’s also really important to stay calm when they become angry, and talk to them about what they are feeling. Give them a pillow or toy they can bash around, but make it clear that hitting, biting, kicking and so on are unacceptable.”
“Exercise is also really important to redirect some of that excess energy, and this is a great stage to enroll your son in a sport as it can also help teach him the importance of team play."
In conclusion McCormick reassures that, whilst it can be a confronting time, it’s all part of a healthy growing boy’s development and to hang in there as, as with all these things, this too shall pass!