Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The World of Boys

I freely admit that I do not understand the world of boys. My only experience is of the men in my family--father, grandpas, uncles, but no brothers. Sure, I know boys. The ones I wanted to date. Kind of. And I think I understand girls. I have friends, plenty of women in my family, a little bit of reading in women's studies, and lots of opportunity to observe. But the world of boys baffles me.

I'm getting ready for parent-teacher conferences with my children's teachers, and that got me thinking about how much more often my son has a less-than-stellar discipline report from school. He's a happy child. He's funny and bright and has a way with words. I often think of how he will charm unsuspecting girls with his quirky humor and easy laugh. He has lots of energy, but he doesn't always know how reign it in appropriately. Lately, he's come home with stories of how groups of boys--sometimes all of the boys in his small class--were on the receiving end of a consequence. I know that sometimes my son doesn't do the right thing because he tells me; but sometimes he tells him that he hasn't actually misbehaved and that he's only been playing with the boys when they all got in trouble. Or that the behavior that landed them in trouble was talking too loud or playing too rough. At their old school, the names on the sad face side of the board at pick-up time belonged to boys more frequently than girls. And I know a boy who stayed in trouble with his teacher because he sat with his knees folded under himself instead of on his bottom in the desk.

I'm wondering if this is because that crazy-inducing hormone called testosterone compells boys to break the rules. But the conclusion I'm leaning towards is that the rules may be breaking the boys instead. One of the books I bought to teach me how to raise a boy (am I a nerdy scholar or what?!) suggests this. In fact, I heard a number of books make this assertion long before I even had a son. What if the loud talking and running around isn't really "bad" behavior, just not easy behavior? What if trying to force them to sit down and be quiet and not punch each other or roll on the floor doesn't serve them best? And what if we don't expect boys to be the trouble makers?

I'm just wondering what it's like to be a little boy.


Anonymous said...

In my son's K, all the boys are super well-behaved, and the girls are the ones who get in trouble for doing things like climbing on the lunch table.

The first-grade class is reversed. Of course, there are only 3 girls in the first grade class.

I don't think it's testosterone, despite the year difference in ages. All through preschool we kept hearing indulgent, "He's such a boy" when a little boy would act up and, "Ladies don't do that" when a little girl would do the same thing. The K teacher doesn't seem to be as shackled to those ideas and the girls in DC's class are brave and energetic.

The Steel Magnolia said...

Interesting perspective, n&m. Thanks for that. So, maybe it's as much the gender conditioning as the hormones, huh?

Anonymous said...

If you're interested in the research, Virginia Valian has a book called, "Why so Slow" that summarizes the research on culture up to the time it was published (about 6 years ago). Failing at Fairness is older, but does an excellent job of showing exactly how schools treat boys and girls differently. Sure, there may be some nature, but given the preponderance of evidence for nurture, there's no way it could just be hormones. Especially not in toddlers.

The Steel Magnolia said...

Thanks. I'm trying not to totally freak out about this, but it is a concern. I'll check out those sources. :)