Let’s Talk about the Boy Child
We can all agree that every child has a right to survive and thrive in his or her life.
We often hear that boys need to be toughened up so as not to be sissies. Parents’ toughness toward babies is even celebrated as “not spoiling the baby.” Wrong! These ideas are based on a misunderstanding of how babies develop. Instead, babies rely on tender, responsive care to grow well—resulting in self-control, social skills, and concern for others. Over the years so much attention was put to lift the girl to higher levels, the society forgot about the boy. The low or no concern towards the boy child has led to the deterioration of boys’ performance in several areas including educational performance to social interaction and overall success. The society was comfortable with the boy child’s situation at the time and unconsciously focused on the girl child to the exclusion of the boy child.
Boy Child Struggles
Many boys graduate from high school, make healthy choices, and reach adulthood prepared for the world of work and the responsibilities of family. Unfortunately, for some boys, the transition to adulthood is more challenging. Some boys become victims of crime or even commit crimes themselves. Some abuse substances at a young age or suffer from mental health problems such as depression. Others perform poorly in school or drop out. There are also disparities among boys based on family structure, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and the places where they live. Recent headlines have asserted that there is a problem with boys, a boys crisis, and a new gender gap between boys and girls. But not everyone agrees. Some say that the toughest problems are faced only by subgroups of boys, such as African American and Hispanic boys; boys whose parents neglect them, abuse drugs or alcohol, are unemployed, or suffer from mental health problems; and boys with mental health problems such as to conduct disorder, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
This brief sets aside the debate to present research-based information about the strengths that make boys likely to succeed and the risks, or challenges, that increase the likelihood that they will struggle. It does not make an effort to compare boys to girls; it does not intend to imply that an issue for boys isn’t also relevant for girls. In fact, research shows that many of the same risk and protective factors, as well as interventions, may be relevant for both boys and girls.
- Drug and Substance Abuse;
There are tremendous popularity and use of drugs among the youth and especially boys child. Of the youth engaging in the vice. It has been revealed through a recent study that seventy-five percent (75%) of the boys in drug-related activities dropped out of school. This may support the notion that a poor sense of belonging and direction among boys tends to push them to seek other avenues of support and recognition. Important to note however is that, just like girls, boys also long and dream for freedom, education, prosperity, identity, and success.
Bullying isn’t healthy for either the bully or the victim. “When you have a gender code that says there is only a spot for one at the very, very top, then boys define themselves and make themselves better by pushing somebody else down,” one Dr. Steiner-Adair says. “So we see a lot of subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, lateral aggression and we see a lot of teasing.” Any sign of weakness is fair game, including not being good at sports or even being too smart.
5. Beware of environmental toxins. One other thing I did not address, that Schore does, is the effects of environmental toxins. Young boys are more negatively affected by environmental toxins that also disrupt the brain’s right hemisphere development.
There are too many gender stereotypes that create foreshadowing in lif which explains why kids are the way they are – when in reality every kid is a unique individual no matter how hard you try, your child is who they are. The primal urge to do many things stereotypical of the boys is a hard one to avoid. There’s nothing wrong with simply embracing it. When parents allow kids to learn within safe limits, they gradually develop skills, abilities, and a sense of judgment as they grow. The respective roles that genetics, child temperament, parenting style, neighborhoods, the school environment, and other factors may play in these gender differences are incompletely understood. By changing young people’s perceptions of smoking, drinking, and drug use, educators have been able to keep some adolescents from experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
Don’t avoid the subject of sex. Parents shouldn’t leave their son’s sexual education up to peers as doing so sets their son up to form views about sexuality which are shaped strongly by peer pressure and the media. Instead, talk to your son as soon as he is old enough to understand the subject of sex, setting him up to dismantle the myths which surround male sexuality as he encounters them.
Talk about different, not better. It’s important to emphasize the child’s unique qualities. Boys need to know that we all have different abilities and grow and learn at different rates.
Emphasize empathy. From a young age, parents can encourage boys to be aware of how others think and feel, and take those feelings into account. Busman says that a lot of elementary schools have some sort of social-emotional curriculum, which teaches conflict resolution, and she notes that it’s good for parents to know about them so that they can follow through.
More varied role models. It is important to showcase alternatives to the athletic culture with male role models, say, artists, teachers, chefs, musicians – shows boys there are different, legitimate ways they can follow their talents and still be valued. “If you want to give boys confidence, then you give them the feeling that the skills they have are going to win them the respect of other men and boys.”
Help your child learn how to organize himself. This is a life-long skill that can be taught, but it can be challenging to do so. However, you can help your child discover the organizational tricks that will work for him by sharing some of your own. “It’s very difficult to teach children to be organized if it is not in their nature (or yours),” says guidance counselor Linda Lendman, M.S.W. “Encourage your child to label everything. Develop strategies, like the ‘must-do list’ before you leave school. Schedule a weekly ‘clean out the backpack and clean off your desk’ time so papers don’t build up. Be patient, and try not to place blame.”
Don’t allow trash talk in your home. Let boys know that insulting other kids by calling them weak or wimps or losers (or worse) is not acceptable from them, or their friends, and make sure the adults in your family don’t do it, either.
We’ve been blinded for so long. It’s not too late to let the scales fall off our eyes. The male-child is also a child, the female-child is also a child. A child is a child irrespective of gender and they should all be treated fairly!
How We Can Help the Boy Child
Boys should be encouraged to work well with others (adopting an attitude of cooperativeness rather than competitiveness), to express themselves emotionally to both parents, to assert themselves fairly rather than in a way that is bossy, controlling, or otherwise aggressive, and to know that it is okay to ask for help. Fathers should remain attentive to their sons and remember that it is important to model attitudes of gentleness, openness, and tenderness so that their sons understand such behaviors are acceptable. This is not to suggest, of course, that the maternal role should be minimized: Mothers are just as important to their sons as their fathers are, and because many women are better acquainted with how to express traditionally “feminine” qualities, mothers can do much to steer fathers and sons alike in the right direction.
Provide balance. It’s simply a fact of life that your son will be exposed to messages which encourage him to act “tough”, to use violence as a solution to his problems, and to sexualize females. While it’s impossible to protect your son from such messages, you can help to make him more aware of them, and therefore more critical of them, from an early age.
Give young people ways to support each other. Most parents would say they want their children to hang out with the good kids. In fact, boys whose friends and schoolmates are supportive, rather than mean and bullying, are less likely to get in trouble with the law, to suffer from mental health problems, or to smoke, drink, or use drugs. And boys who have friends who act out in class may be more likely to drop out of school.
Empower boys in the classroom. Boys who feel connected to their schools and supported by teachers do better in their studies and are less likely to misbehave in class. When schools and teachers empower students by involving them in day-to-day decisions about classroom rules and procedures, boys are sent to the principals office less often, have better attendance, and generally do better in school.
Give praise. If a child is struggling in school, teachers should go out of their way to look for opportunities to compliment him when he does do something right, even if it’s something small. Not only does a steady influx of praise make kids feel happier and more confident at school, but psychologists say that “catching kids being good” can help positively shape their behavior, too.
Make attachment a priority. Both parents should focus on being emotionally “available” for their sons as much as is feasibly possible. Listen actively and do so without rushing to give judgment, criticism, or heavy-handed advice; act as your son’s mentor, but allow him the freedom to make his own decisions and remain present to support him even when he makes the wrong ones.
Challenge boys and allow them to develop skills. Dr. Thompson used to teach at Outward Bound, which instills survival skills. “You throw boys as a group into a very challenging situation, and let them figure it out and find their own leadership,” he says. “They’ll come back thinking, ‘We did it. We did it.’ You’ll see a ton of confidence.” But it doesn’t have to get as extreme as that. While boys may be behind girls, they can and should be expected to learn skills, right down to making their own sandwich. “It involves creating a situation in which they can develop a skill and as a result will have self-esteem,” Dr. Thompson says. Parents and caregivers can talk to their children candidly about the harmful effects of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. They also can model responsible drinking by not drinking too much and not drinking and driving. And they can make clear their expectations for their children by not allowing anyone under the legal age to drink in their homes and agreeing with other parents not to allow drinking at their children’s parties. Parents and concerned community groups can make sure school-based substance abuse prevention programs include the elements of effective interventions.
Strengthen family support through school-based programs or in-the-home therapy. Boys who have supportive, involved parents and families are less often bullied and victimized, get into less trouble with the law, and have fewer mental health problems. They are more likely to do well in school and less likely to drop out. Bolstering family support by teaching parents and children to cope with stress and communicate well with one another can improve their behavior in school and help keep boys from committing crimes such as stealing and vandalizing. Similar to the substance use prevention and intervention programs, family strengthening and support programs are developed for general populations but can be adapted to incorporate ethnic values, family values, and other cultural and contextual factors that meet the needs of minority families.
Overall, programs and interventions that prevent adolescent substance use tend to target general populations. However, these programs can be adapted to meet the needs for ethnic minority youth. Of course, we should not just worry about boys but take action for all babies. We need to provide nurturing care for all children. All children expect and need, for proper development, the evolved nest, a baseline for early care which provides the nurturing, stress-reducing care that fosters optimal brain development. Every child in this world deserves the right to strive and succeed in life. Every child also deserves love and guidance. No child is better or lesser, thus we should not prioritize our attention on one and leave the other.