Worried that her son would grow up to be an insufferable man who believes he knows everything when he clearly doesn't, she turned to the internet for help.
The role of a parent comes with a world of constant worrying, stressing, and second-guessing themselves. The responsibility of raising their tiny humans into polite, civilized, well-rounded, contributing members of society lays heavy upon their minds even as they try to keep up with the constantly updating parenting handbook. It all got a bit too much for a mom recently as a particularly annoying habit of her 4-year-old left her fearing that she's been raising a min "mansplainer." Worried that her son would grow up to be an insufferable man who believes he knows everything when he clearly doesn't, she wrote into Slate's 'Care and Feeding' advice column for help.
"Am I raising a mansplainer? My son is almost five, and he has always been very voluble and also willful. For the past few months, he has taken to interrupting us when we are talking and saying, 'Actually! Actually...'," she explained. "He does this to both me, his mother, and to his father, my spouse. It occurs when we are explaining things to him, and of course, he is always really wrong because he is four and these are often topics that we have a Ph.D. in."
"It also occurs nearly every time my spouse is telling him a story because he thinks the story should go a different way. We are trying to work on the interruptions, and I've tried telling him to ask questions about his understanding instead of saying 'actually,' but he still does it," the anonymous mom continued. "My spouse is not concerned. He notes that we explain things to each other a lot and thinks our son is just picking up on that dynamic. But I think that we need to curb the way our kid is 'explaining' things before he becomes permanently insufferable."
"For context, he has trouble with impulsivity, emotional control, and paying attention to instructions both at home and at school. He has been evaluated and does not have autism, sensory issues, or developmental delays, but he might have ADHD (they saw signs but didn’t want to diagnose him yet)," the concerned mother explained. "He seems of usual intelligence and reads at a first- to second-grade level. He is our only child. Is his behavior age-typical? Will he grow out of it, or should we work on it more? What do you suggest?"
Responding to the mom's plea for help, author Emily Gould assured her that she does not need to worry about her son turning into a mansplainer just yet. "My kid went through a mansplaining phase around that same age, then grew out of it. Was it because we made it clear to him how much his 'actually'-ing annoyed us, or did he just get over the thrill of ad-libbing longwinded, patently wrong explanations? We'll never know. The only thing that's certain is that you don't have to worry (yet!) about raising a 'splainer," she assured. "Maybe you can reframe some of these interactions as opportunities to give your son a receptive audience for his cockamamie theories, at least some of the time."
"If you listen patiently and ask questions, his monologues could turn into interesting conversations! And even if that doesn't happen, merely thinking of what he's doing as 'practicing his storytelling' rather than 'mansplaining' might be a step in the right direction, with the caveat that you don't have to stop being annoyed, or bite your tongue when you're interrupted by Professor Pre-K," Gould added. On the other hand, many online took offense at the mom categorizing her four-year-old as a "mansplainer" while several others shared their own kids' "Actually!" phases.
"All kids do this. I am the mother of 3 and also a foster parent. I think it is because the information is new to THEM and they have little concept of age. Wait until they are teens! They get 'worse!' Then when they move out they suddenly realize that Mum/Dad actually are smart and they call you up for help," assured Facebook user Leslie McCormick. "Good God, he's not mansplaining, he's just an annoying little 4-year-old 'know-it-all.' He'll grow out of it," wrote Lydia Szanyi Boudreaux. "The advice is good, though. I started engaging in conversations with my daughter and we talked through them. Sounds like the kid is in need of human conversation."