Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Raising Boys

If you have boys I highly suggest this book to you: It's a Boy: Understanding Your Son's Development from Birth to Age 18 by Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

I actually started reading this book when I was pregnant with Lawson and then life took over when he was born and I suddenly found myself too busy to bother with books. Now almost 2 years later, I have picked this book back up and am SO glad it didn't keep collecting dust on the shelves.

If you think raising a boy is not all that different from raising a girl you are WRONG! I have heard it time after time the old addage that boys are easier to raise than girls. This is JUST NOT SO.

After starting this book, I was lucky enough to stumble upon an interview in Parents magazine with the Author of this book,(genius-yes my own words) Michael Thompson,Ph.D. I will share with you some of this article in hopes that you will pick up his book and learn the best ways to nurture boys and to raise a loving, confident, successful son.

Q. Lots of parents may wonder: Is raising a boy really all that different from raising a girl?
YES. Until recently, we assumed boys and girls needed mostly the same things from their parents. But recent research has demonstrated that their brains are actually quite different. This may provide a biological explanation for the things people have said about boys for centuries. Boys are immature in comparison with girls, they grow up at a slower pace, and they tend to be much more physical than girls are and to take more risks than girls do.

Q. Boys are thought of as "easier" and more emotionally straightforward than girls. Is that accurate?
If this stereotype was ever true, it no longer is. It's difficult to be a boy in our culture because the demands for toughness and athletic prowess are so pervasive. Parents-particularly dads-are often concerned with the idea of "making a man" out of a boy. One study showed that we're likely to let a boy cry longer before picking him up and that we'll also comfort him for a shorter time. This gender stereotyping makes us more likely to miss the vulnerabilites of boys. Little boys need just as much loving and cuddling as little girls do. Studies also show they're not as resourceful if they don't get it. I'm not suggesting that you should glue yourself to your son, but play with him, look at him, and hug him often so he feels secure.

Q.You've observed that toddler boys have a distinctive play style. How would you describe it?
Little boys tend to become so focused on their play that they don't check in with their parents as often as girls do. That actually makes your job a little trickier. You need to constantly shift between participating when your child wants you to and supporting him from a distance when he doesn't. The best situation is to be in a room where you can do your work while he plays. That way, the initiative rests with him-both to design his own play and to call you when he needs you.

Q.Boys don't have any trouble keeping up physically, do they?
No, they don't. Boys are constant movers, with higher activity levels than girls. They love to roughhouse-to jump into dad's arms and be swung around. This also makes them less compliant, more easily frustrated, and likely to have greater difficulty adjusting to situations. Parents often see boys as intentionally defiant and deliberately destructive, but when toddler boys throw things, kick someone, or disobey us, its because they haven't yet developed the abilty to resist their impulses.

Q.You say parents don't "trust" the group of play boys enough. What do you mean by that?
Boys are distinctively drawn to rough, physical play, especially when they're with thier peers. They play hunt-and-chase games, they shout, they wrestle, they make machine-gun noises, they throw sand at eachother. This behavior is quite normal, but we're afraid to let boys run free because our tolerance for physical activity is so low. We tend to stop fights and intervene when play gets physical, even though it's often better to let boys work out conflicts on their own.

Q. Can you discuss how the structure of the modern kindergarten class works against boys?
It used to be all about play and social development. Now, because of the increased emphasis on state testing in the lower grades, kids are expected to read fluently, write legibly, and listen quietly. Boys lag behind girls in all of these areas. They also lack self control compared with girls the same age, so they are more likely to be singled out for bad behavior. Since there are fewer free play and recess opportunites today, its no wonder boys are being left behind.

Q. What can parents do to encourage their boys to read?
You've doubtless heard people say that "boys don't like to read." and theres some truth to that:in their early years, boys struggle with reading more than girls do. But every child will learn to read on his own schedule, and no parent-no matter how dedicated-can speed up that process significantly. If you panic about your son's reading, he'll conclude that there's something wrong with him and that reading is a hugely scary task. I don't recommend drilling your child at home. Instead, read to him when you put him to bed at night. Hearing his favorite stories over and over until he knows them by heart will give him confidence that he can master language because he holds the whole story in his own mind.

Q. What's the way to improve your son's focus in school?
Boys have always had trouble paying attention in class, but they don't have trouble focusing for long periods of time on things they love. The best thing you can do at home is to provide him with quiet time to engage in fantasy play with his favorite toys. This means turning off the television, providing a clear space, playing games with your son regularly, and not scheduling too many after-school activities. Play is his natural sanctuary, and you need to protect it.

Again, if you are raising a boy I truly encourage you to read this book. It will no doubt calm your heart as to some of the obstacles you may feel you are facing with your son (at any age.) You may not realize that you are "going against the grain" in how you are handling some of your son's developmental issues and stages. I highly recommend this book!

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