Letting your sons be a little foul-mouthed might help their social development. As you may have experienced, some boys delight in telling "Yo Mama" jokes at the expense of their mother. Some young male kids believe it's how they must connect with their peers and that insulting each other is a compliment. And it seems that research backs this theory. A 2020 study revealed that fighting for fun and using derogatory name-calling, in particular, is a common component of boys' joking culture in schools nowadays. Previous research reported that such remarks are a testimony of acceptance, trust, and belonging for boys - a code that is much less frequent among girls.

Ylva Odenbring, professor of education at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said, "Insults act like glue for boys, bonding them together." It's a way for boys and men to express their vulnerability and affection for one another, impacting their well-being. Instead of nice words and hugs, they tend to connect in seemingly more socially acceptable ways, such as insults, vulgarity, and the typically male potty humor, a behavior called "aggressive nurturance" in psychology circles.

"These bonding strategies aren't just culturally based, they're rooted in biological and neurochemical differences between the sexes. In fact, research has shown that boys don't have as much activity in the verbal and emotive regions of the brain as girls. "That's why this aggressive form of connecting is a worldwide phenomenon - and it should be viewed as an asset, not a liability," says Michael Gurian, a family therapist and author of "Saving Our Sons: A New Path for Raising Healthy and Resilient Boys."

Younger boys like to nurture one another physically through rough-and-tumble play and have difficulties connecting with words. So fart and poop jokes are an easier way for them to test boundaries and establish male hierarchies. "It's most intense during the elementary school years, but let's face it, 80-year-old guys still connect over a good fart joke," says Jennifer L.W. Fink, author of the forthcoming book "Building Boys: Raising Great Guys in a World that Misunderstands Males."

Fink believes that "learning to deflect and handle insults is a critical skill for boys," helping them to manage verbal abuse without resorting to violent behavior. The problem is that education systems globally are built around "empathy and nurturance" with the aim of cutting down on bullying and developing empathy. However, while we encourage boys to share their feelings and emotions, we should not forget that they are biologically driven to jab each other.

Aggression nurturance is "a nature-based approach that builds respect, maturation, and resilience," says Gurian. This does not mean boys should be allowed to bully or cross the line between playful banter and hurtful behavior. Both play fighting and aggression nurturance can go awry. Young boys need to learn the limits and how far they can go.

Picture: Yo Mama! (ChildUp & DALL-E - 2023)