What is happening to our boys?

I’m worried about our little boys. They are delightful creatures who were created to keep the world of wonder and fun alive. Carefully transporting a caterpillar on a stick; jumping out of a corner to scare you; play fighting with a friend; attempting the risky and dangerous are the pursuits of little boys.

Boys are competitive, aggressive, and assertive. They love cars, trucks, guns, and balls. The testosterone that is part of their composition, makes them risk-takers and socially dominant with a desire for status. Boys need to feel that they are leaders even when they act like they have ants in their pants – or wiggly worms! They jump like frogs and waggle like puppy dog’s tails but I think the author of the rhyme has made a mistake when he compares them to snails. They are anything but slow and inactive.


The push to learn to read and write, to do worksheets on math and other academic subjects in kindergarten is especially damaging to young boys. A parent wrote to me about the homework load of her four-year-old son. I couldn’t believe it. Not only does he put in a seven hour day in school and on the bus, but he must carry home work to do in the evenings when he should be running, kicking balls and riding bicycles.

Another mother told me this week about her little fellow who was serious and did his best but became disinterested in school because he couldn’t do well enough to get the stars the girls got. They had to put him in a special school where he regained his confidence and demonstrated how smart he is, even though it wasn’t recognized in primary school.

Since Kindergarten has become the new first grade, schooling is more and more stacked against young boys who don’t mature as early or fit into the mould of school like girls do. They are asked to write before their little hands can hold a pencil properly. They are expected to sit down, be quiet and do hard work. If they follow their natural inclination to be physically active, they are diagnosed with behavioral disorders and given drugs. Those who cannot, or do not want to, follow the pattern are labeled. The labels stick long past the initial evaluation, even when maturation may have taken care of the problem.

Does this contribute to the fact that boys fill special education and behavior classes, drop-out of school more often than girls, and comprise most of our gangs and prison population?

Of course they are! So what is causing this uneven ability to achieve in the early years of schooling? Does it have something to do with our forgetting the nature of boys when they are young? For not making accommodation for their rowdy behavior so that they fail and learn to hate school before they even know what to do to succeed?

Parents and those who work with young boys must recognize the fragile emotional state and need for recognition and physical activity that characterizes little boys. Their sense of humor and zest for life must be appreciated and celebrated until they are ready for academic work. Then their accomplishments will be amazing.

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