Experts: Schools should let boys be boys

Experts: Schools should let boys be boys

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by Abbey Gibb, KGW Staff

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kgw.com

Posted on November 9, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 9 at 7:43 PM

PORTLAND-- Some parents and childhood mental health experts believe that schools don't do enough to let boys be boys.

The critics say schools push boys to sit longer than they can and focus and learn like girls.

Some childhood mental health experts have said that boys are not being given enough of the opportunities they need to move around and that makes them more likely to get into trouble than girls.

So are Americans -- as a culture -- "un-boying" boys?

KGW's visit to a local preschool found most girls sitting still, paying attention. Many of the boys were fidgeting and making faces. Some parents describe the scene as the girls behaving and the boys misbehaving.

Experts said the issue will get worse as these boys get older. Boys are far more likely to flunk or drop out of school, and five times more likely to be labeled as "hyperactive."

"I think that is a big issue," said Portland mom Gusty Swift. She came from a family of all girls and now has all boys.

"I have to continually check in with myself because they do jump around a lot more and [I need to] not think it's wrong because they aren't focusing," she said.

But it can be tough at times.

Family psychologist Dr. Dan Rubin said he fields questions all the time from concerned parents, like: "He wants to fight with his friends, he wants to wrestle. Why wont he just sit still? His sister will sit still and color a lot, why doesn't he do that?"

"What's wrong, is to force boys to be something that they're not. They like to make messes for fun, they like to be creatively destructive and that's actually fine," Dr. Rubin pointed out.

Rubin also said it's important to use that "boyness" to the child's advantage, and not against him.

"If the boy wants to make towers, put letters on the towers and talk to the kid about spelling while you do an activity," Rubin recommended.

Kindergarten teacher and the mother of a son Shelley Simonsen said she couldn't agree more.

"He was that kid. Our couch was always a fort, we had sticks in our house all the time," she said, of her child.

"We need to understand what boys like and are in to. So if your child is really interested in forts, there are some really great books about tree houses all over the world," Simonsen added.

Simonsen firmly believes that expectations for children, like how long they can sit, has to be set for each child regardless of gender.

"I have 29 children. I don’t' have the same expectation for all of them," she explained.

And as tough as that is, Dr. Rubin stresses to parents and teachers, not letting these boys run, learn, and play like boys can actually do more harm than good.

"When boys don't have appropriate rough and tumble play, they don't learn how to appropriately self regulate. What we want to do is teach boys good self-regulation skills so they can sit down and pay attention when they need to," Rubin said.

And then go back to making that stick into a sword.

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