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An Alpha Male's Beginnings

Photograph by Getty Images

Think about it. Every alpha male was at some point a little boy. A 3- or 4- or 5-year-old little boy. What must that have been like for their mom? Their teachers? Their playmates? Their siblings?

Little Donald Trump and a pre-K Vladimir Putin ... or what about Sylvester Stallone — did he go by Sly at the tender age of 4? Each of those textbook alpha males (from the arenas of business, global politics and entertainment) was a little version of themselves at some point.

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I initially thought about the idea of alpha males in the pre-K set when my son’s first teacher talked about it in a very matter-of-fact manner at a parent teacher conference. Something along the lines of, “I love your son and he is not the alpha male of the class.” It wasn’t said as a slight. To the contrary, my boy not being the alpha male of the 3- and 4-year-old classroom meant he was relieved of that particular youthful burden.

It was fascinating, really, to think about it. Developmentally, we all have to start somewhere. Are our most pronounced personality traits present at such a young age? And, if so, how does that impact a child’s development and those caring for and raising that child?

Being an alpha male, at any age, is not something that needs to be squashed, but something that needs to be harnessed.

Dawn Barnsdale, a Michigan preschool teacher with more than 17 years of experience and author of the blog, “It’s a Preschool Thing,” shed some light on this idea:

“There is always that child, generally a boy, who changes the entire dynamic in a preschool class. Not that girls can't play the part, but in my experience it is usually the boys. The one who walks into class, no, saunters in, and all of the other boys gather around him.

The tone of the classroom changes — usually gets louder, and more physically active. This is the boy who usually initiates the fantasy/superhero play, the one who is constantly moving, the one that the other students take many of their cues from. This is also the one whose name is most often said by the teacher!

Generally speaking, these boys are confident and well-liked for many reasons, and as a teacher, I find many ways to give these alphas outlets for their activity levels. Offering authentic praise, and positive, gender neutral reinforcement is key to keeping the 'alpha' confident, and ready for bigger challenges without fostering a 'I can do no wrong' mentality.”

Dawn makes it seem easy!

What I like about the insight she provides is the idea that being an alpha male, at any age, is not something that needs to be squashed, but something that needs to be harnessed and integrated and seen as a strength, not a nuisance or hindrance. And being an alpha male, even a young one, is not the same as being a bully.

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If you are mothering a future alpha male, be aware of the unique responsibility you are entrusted with as his mother. Alpha males are powerful, dynamic individuals. Things come easily for them, they command respect and have an air of authority, even at very young ages. I think about that mythic quote from Spider Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Teach your mini-alpha males the meaning of those words, and the opportunity they have to lead rather than bully.

After training as a clinical social worker and practicing for 10 years, Sheila Quirke, M.S.W., is currently a freelance writer and non-profit administrator at Donna's Good Things.

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