Friday, 14 June 2013

What I’ve Learned From Little Boys (…about what makes a man a hero)

I love little boys. I raised two of them, and as young men, they haven’t lost a whole lot of what it was I loved about them when they were little.

Little boys are honest and tell it like it is. There’s no guessing with them. They’re completely in touch with their feelings, because they have two primary ones. Happy and mad. If they’re mad, they usually know why. If they don’t, then they’re frustrated. And they will usually ask a parent (or other trusted adult) why they’re frustrated so they’ll know for future reference, because little boys don’t like frustration.

They do, however, like a challenge. And this explains so much about them.

Below are my top favorite observations about little boys:

1. Everything is a competition.

Little boys are most impressed by loud body function noises. If you can win this competition, you are a hero. FWIW, grown men are equally impressed by this. They simply don’t brag about it as much.

2. An idea doesn’t have to be smart to be test-worthy.

The outcome merely has to be uncertain and debatable. If you predict the outcome accurately, then you are a wise hero. This includes jumping off rooftops to see which hits the ground faster – a boy or a baseball. And it’s why so many physicists are guys. Boys need hard facts. Seeing is believing.

3. Little boys like pretty girls better than regular girls. 

Their definition of “pretty” is simply not what girls think. “Pretty” is definitely the right word, but little boys don’t use it as an adjective. It’s usually followed by “…good at video games. “…Good at soccer.” “…Good at making loud body function noises.” Ask a boy what color a girl’s eyes are. They may actually know the answer to this, but be sure to question why they know it.

4. Little boys have an instinctive fear of “high maintenance.” 

If a girl is actually physically pretty and thinks this is somehow important, little boys consider her incomprehensible and frustrating, and most likely full of germs (because they need an explanation). She has to work a lot harder to be considered “pretty good” at anything that matters, thus earning their respect. As little boys get older, however, this frustration changes to challenge. But they will continue to be most impressed by pretty girls who can compete with them in their areas of interest. For them, that’s a package deal.

5. Little boys respect physical strength.

Little boys also know the difference between right and wrong. Therefore, little boys don’t like bullies, because regardless of how the situation is portrayed in the press, on average there are more well-behaved little boys (and girls) than there are bullies. And if a boy is willing to stand up to a bully, he is considered a hero. Although possibly a stupid one. It depends on the outcome. (See #2 on this list.)

I’ve discovered that many of these observations carry over into my writing. I love creating my male characters the most, and probably for the same reason I loved raising little boys so much.

Little boys know what makes a hero.

Feel free to add to my list. It’s hardly complete. :)

Paula Altenburg has been a member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada since 2000, and served as president, vice-president, and newsletter editor. Paula lives in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, with her husband and two sons. Once a manager in the aerospace industry, she now enjoys the freedom of working from home and writing fulltime. Paula currently writes paranormal romance and category romance for Entangled Publishing.Visit her at, follow her on Twitter, or find her on Goodreads.

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  1. Paula, this made me laugh out loud! And to me, the most endearing thing about men is that they always, to some extent, remain boys.

    As a teacher, I've always enjoyed working with boys. They're direct and honest, they don't hold grudges and they aren't into drama. They're tough, but they're as emotionally vulnerable as they are physically indestructible.

  2. LOL. True, Jennie. I really miss having a houseful of boys all the time.

  3. LOL

    Boys - so simple.

    I raised daughters - they are incomprehensible.

    But they usually smell better.

  4. Beyond a doubt, Anne. Because those body function noises are even more impressive if they involve odor.

  5. Ah, with a young boy of my own I can definitely attest that these are true!! Especially number 2 ... (ha! I said "number 2" ... see? definitely have a boy in the house).

    Good idea to parallel the similarities between hero and young boy Paula ... loved it!

    1. They don't always have to be so very young, either...

  6. Thanks for the Friday smiles, Paula. Enjoyed your blog and your observations. So true~

  7. This was a great post on so many levels. As the mother of a baby boy it gives me insight into the future, and as a writer, it's a new lense to view hero creation. Thanks Paula.

  8. Thanks for my morning laugh, Paula. And this explains so much...

  9. So true, Paula! I grew up surrounded by boys: four brothers, several boy cousins I adored, a neighbourhood of boys who didn't care that I was a girl and included me whenever they played hockey/football/baseball. So no surprise that some of my closest and longest friendships are with guys. And of course, there's my hubby and son, my two favourite guys of all. Yep, boys rock!!