The Testosterone Surge

Your guide to the ages and stages of development

My four-year-old son leaped from one chair to another yelling to his imaginary foe, "Bang, bang! You're dead!" I winced as he jumped onto the floor with a tremendous thud rocking the security of my most precious breakables. I thought my home was 4-year-old friendly, but I was wrong. My son has progressed from tranquil to rough-and-tumble and loves every minute of it. What happened to the child who loved Legos and reading books?

Some experts believe that at 4, boys experience a sudden surge in testosterone. Although doctors find it physiologically baffling, it does explain the unavoidable invitation to action, heroics, adventure, and vigorous play. Steve Biddulph, a family therapist and author of Raising Boys, says that although mom may feel more stressed, dad likes his new pumped up preschooler who enjoys more physical play. Biddulph says that the testosterone surge drops by age 5 and a boy will calm down; however, he will still love adventure and activity (the interest-in-girls part comes later). This increased energy level can be a challenge; so how can parents keep in control?

In his book, Biddulph refers to a story of an old scoutmaster who was asked to sort out a hopelessly rowdy scout troop in the city. The boys were always fighting and damaging their surroundings, nothing was learned, and many gentler boys left the troop. On the scoutmaster's first night, he set some rules, invited a couple of boys to shape up or leave, and began teaching skills to the boys in an organized manner. In a couple of months he turned the troop around and it is thriving. This scoutmaster says there are three things boys always need to know:

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