In my last article about boys and schools (See here: Are Schools Failing Our Boys?) you may have gotten the idea that I think all boys in our educational system are doomed. I don’t! Just because the system is stacked against them does not mean boys are automatically doomed. But it does mean parents will have to be on their guard and involved in ways you may not have expected to be involved. Here is how I think boys can thrive in our schools today.
First, let’s start at home so when your son walks through the school doors he is well prepared and ready to be resilient:
- Let your boy be a boy at home! I don’t mean let him go crazy and be rude. I mean allow him to be a boy. For more on this subject read – for younger boys – How to Raise a Gentleman, for teens – Becoming a Man, for all ages – Words of Advice for Raising a Son
- Make sure your son gets plenty of physical exercise and include the following:
- Allow both adventure and risk taking
- Mix Structured or Guided play (sports, hikes, almost anything where the parent is standing close by) and Unstructured or Free play (not guided or directed by any play rules – except of course good behavior rules.)
- Keep in mind that for some children organized sports produces stress and are not as good for your child’s “down time” as is good old fashioned play. So be wise as to how many organized sports and other organized activities you allow your son to be involved in.
- Spend at least 2 hours each week outside. Four to 6 hours is better.
- Limit screen time to 30 minutes per day until 6th grade and then tie screen time directly – minute for a minute – to reading, not to exceed 1 hour per day. (May link with play time on weekends, but I would limit to two hours of screen time per weekend day.)
For more on physical exercise check out some of the other articles on allboy.life.
- Help your son set good routines and get plenty of sleep. For issues with sleep read – http://wp.me/p5AeuU-qX ,
- Make sure your son eats well. This cannot be underestimated. Some diets make children agitated and less likely to listen. Do some research and feed your son well.
- Always be respectful of your teachers and school, even when your child is not listening.
- Set stories and vocabulary as a priority. Read to your son. As you learn his interests, read longer and longer books together. This is the single greatest predictor of good readers so do not neglect this.
- Make sure Dad understands that teaching his son to be a man is his responsibility. As a family you will have less and less support from outside the home as typical “male” role has been demonized or ignored. There is some wonderful material available to help with what should be taught. Check out: http://colossians2.com/1505/are-you-preparing-your-son/, http://colossians2.com/885/becoming-a-man/, http://colossians2.com/808/dads-avoid-common-mistakes/, http://allboy.life/7/recapturing-boyhood/
- Make sure you are hugging, wrestling and allowing your son to get deep tissue pressure at home. This will help him be “calm” in school.
What to do at School
- Understand that there will be some challenges, but don’t become antagonistic. You want to put the fire out, not fan it. So go into school with a good attitude. Ask to work with your child’s teacher and school in letting them know your concerns and the thoughts you have to help your son. Be appreciative for any meetings and concerns that are shown.
- Be involved with your son’s school as much as possible.
- If you are sending your son to pre-school think twice about a highly academic setting. I have yet to see a study that shows any lasting difference from a preschool past third grade. So choose a preschool that allows boys to move.
- Make sure your son’s early childhood educational setting is boy friendly.
- As your child enters elementary school allow for “down time” and loads of movement right after school. Avoid afternoon clubs that have your child sitting or still.
- Most teachers want to help, so make sure you thank teachers for all recess time, movement time and accommodations they are willing to make for your son.
- Respectfully ask if your son can stand to do “desk work.” After instruction and guided practice, teachers will often give students work that they do on their own. This is the time you should ask if your son can stand to do his work.
- If you are hearing how your son is “immature” ask for a meeting. Try to establish exactly what the teacher means by immature. If it has to do with social issues, then take her seriously. If it has to do with his work, ask some questions. Ask your son’s teacher how she gains the children’s interest, and does she use contests, games, or anything to build excitement? Does she use charts/posters/incentives that boys are interested in? Ask her to explain what modalities they are using in their teaching. (Look up “modalities in learning”) Encourage your teacher to use as many as possible to help the children learn better and with more long term memory.
- Take school discipline seriously but gain a good understanding of what is happening. At times a teacher may be disciplining your son for physical traits that boys tend to have. For example squirming: talk to the teacher and try to get them involved in the solution. Politely ask them if your son was in a wheel chair would they help accommodate his physical needs? Then ask if your son must move as a part of his physical nature, what accommodations can be made. If you need to, look up what are typical characteristics of children your son’s age. Teachers often respond to research. Always be polite and always work with your teacher.
- Teach your son that school may have some rules about pretend play. Let him know that certain pretend play will have to wait until he is outside of school. Let your son know that pretend play with guns or whittling with a pen knife have nothing to do with growing up and being violent, but because in real life guns and knives are very dangerous some schools do not want this type of play. Let him know that he will have to obey the school’s rules.
- If your son is having trouble finding “boy” books of interest (for those schools that still emphasize independent, free choice reading) ask his teacher if you can send in books you get from the public library.
- Understand that your son is very capable of learning different roles in different situations. So if the school wants him to be “passive” give him an understanding of how he can still stand up for those who are in need of help, but in a way the School will not object to.
- Praise your son’s teacher for all non “2 dimensional” or kinesthetic learning that takes place. Tell them you support more active learning and will support them, even if a few textbook pages are not completed.
- If your child is corrected for daydreaming, fidgeting, or in general acting like a boy, teach him to smile and tell his teacher “yes ma’am or yes sir.” Make sure he is always polite to his teacher. It has been my experience that teachers are far more tolerant of polite children. So if his boyish behaviors are not appreciated by the teacher, at least she will appreciate his politeness and give him more “grace.”
- Volunteer in your child’s school when possible. Do everything in your power to help make your child’s school a better place and thus a better place for boys.
- Find a family from your school or church that has well adjusted boys a bit older than your son. Especially look for a family that has a boy similar in temperament and personality to your son. Meet with them and ask them how they have been able to navigate the public school.
- If you have concerns about the school or teacher go in a visit with them. Never make accusations, instead let them know how you are perceiving things and ask them if together you can work out a solution. No matter what happens always be polite.
- If you have tried everything and still cannot make your son’s situation better, and your son’s confidence and esteem begin to drop, before making any quick decision, consult with people you trust to see if there is anything else you can be doing or if there is another way to appeal to the school.
- When you have tried everything and your son is still failing or honestly losing confidence, you may need to look around and see if there is a better school setting that will match your son’s learning needs. Sometimes the right school setting makes all the difference.
It can be tough growing up as a boy in today’s education system. But your son does not have to fall victim to the system. Instead be proactive in helping him navigate today’s school world. Many boys have succeeded and with some work, it is likely that your son can make it too.