Un-Boying Boys…It's Not Just a Gender IssueDanielle Sullivan
A post over at Parenting.com titled “Why Are We Un-Boy-Ing Our Boys?” discussed a typical scenario found in schools all over: A fidgety boy is disinterested in the classroom instruction, and couldn’t care less about the current Phonics lesson. He is soon referred to a specialist who says he may be slightly delayed … or he might simply not be interested.
The author goes on to say:
I do not have a Ph.D. nor one of those satiny Technicolor sashes around my neck, but I know this much: he is not interested. I understand the teacher has a job to do, but the boy turned five in July. He cares about marshmallows and the Fresh Beat Band. He cares about chocolate and Halloween. He doesn’t care about vowel sounds.
She then point out how many girls of the same age will sit down in a desk and follow directions, but asking young boys to do the same is trying to un-boy them.
I agree ….but I disagree, too.
Boys are different, plain and simple and most of them are more aggressive, more hands-on, and more wild than most girls. Like my fellow Strollerderby colleague, Amy Windsor points out in her piece The Recession Of Manhood “I don’t and can’t understand how their little-boy brains work — what seems harsh to me is often exactly what they need to get the message loud and clear.” It’s true, by nature boys act and react differently, find things particular things interesting or boring, and think about the world in a way that is wholly incomparable to how most girls think. I see this with my own son. Although he is a good student, there are so many things about school he finds utterly monotonous and he does his best to sit through them while stifling his pure boy energy. Expecting every preschool boy in any given class to actually want to sit down in a desk and learn grammar lessons might be a tad unrealistic.
Yet to take the debate a step further beyond mere gender differences, I say we need to look at children in general. After all, the same behavior might also be said for a girl. In general, girls might tend to be quieter and better behaved than boys, but it’s certainly not a steadfast rule. I have known many girls who were just as fidgety, just as disinterested, and just as hyperactive.
I understand where the desire to start our children off on the right foot and ahead of the competition comes from. I get it. I live in New York City where if you’re pregnant, you better be holding headphones up to your belly with Mozart turned all the way up because the second that baby is born, he or she needs to be ready for that entrance exam at a good preschool, lest his/her chances at an Ivy League prove nonexistent.
OK, an exaggeration, yes, but not by a whole lot. By age 5, most kids have already been in school for two or three years. The pressure grows with each passing day: standardized tests, near perfect grades so they can make a decent middle school, thinking about college starting on day one of freshman year of high school. And every year, more of our kids are diagnosed with some learning disability, put on anxiety medication, and committing suicide.
Just when can kids actually be kids? I often wonder what exactly we are doing in trying to create the ideal academically gifted, athletically inclined child. We can’t create a perfect child out of sheer will or practice. And every kid should be seen as perfect in themselves, just as they are regardless of academics or athletic performance.
Here’s the honest truth: Not every child likes school or excels at it. Some children who are fabulously intelligent are also wholeheartedly bored by routine, drone-like rhetoric and repetition. Some of these children have a curious mind that will take them to wonderful, innovative careers that will change the world in ways many Ivy League students could only imagine. Some kids will work with their hands, become artists, construction workers, chefs, actors, garbage men, etc…. and have very full lives in which they are loved and make a difference in the world.
So I get it that we are under fierce competition in our global economy where the Chinese are kicking our butts, but in many cases, both boys and girls need to just be kids, get dirty, play, think, imagine, be silly, get in trouble, and yes, along the way learn grammar and math and all those subjects.
Do they need to do it all by age 5? I highly doubt it.
Related: Does my son really need a haircut?