It's getting worse for boys. And girls as a result. 

I've been a follower of the Gurian Institute in the USA for quite a few years now.   They have boldly gone where few have dared before - focusing on boy issues. And more recently on girls as well - illustrating how boys and girls learn differently.   Their latest research numbers are not encouraging for boys.  Thanks to Michael Gurian confirming what I've felt for a long time.  And for allowing me to share their research as follows.

* Boys have fallen behind girls in every area of education from Preschool through Graduate school. 

* 85% of stimulant-addressing medications (like Ritalin) prescribed in the world are prescribed to U.S. boys. 

* Boys are twice as likely as girls to be victims of violence in America, but in certain age groups the ratio is 6:1. 

* Boys receive two-thirds of the Ds and Fs in our schools but less than 40 percent of the As. 

* Boys are twice as likely as girls to be labeled as “emotionally disturbed” and twice as likely to be diagnosed with a behavioural or learning disorder. 

* Boys are four times as likely as girls to be suspended or expelled from early childhood and K-12 learning environments. 

* Over the last 20 years, the reading skills of 17-year-old boys have steadily declined.

What's the long term affect of this twenty year trend?   

A seriously unbalanced university enrolment,  a shortage of "good men out there" and a lot of unhappy men and women.  Not to mention a serious lack of social skills and just plain respect for the opposite sex.

 

 

Another Nail In The Boy Falling Behind 

In today’s Globe & Mail, columnist Margaret Wente writes about a new scourge on young boys in the education system. Even though Margaret doesn’t quite come right out and say it. She knows the numbers. Apparently there is a new interactive app in use in elementary schools today that allows the teacher to add or subtract points to each student’s “conduct” during the day. It is called ClassDojo. Some 35 million are in use by teachers, parents and students in North America. And it is apparently available to any teacher who wants it – without prior school board screening. Parents can even login and check out little Johnny’s progress during the day. Now, judging by the current trends, little Johnny is probably already behind the little girls in his class. Imagine how he must feel to see his name in the bad books on the whiteboard up front. Let alone have Mom and/or Dad check his progress and text him a helpful nudges at recess. In previous books I have read on the subject, this modern marvel would fall into the “shaming” category of raising boys. Conform or be embarrassed online in front of your friends, peers and family. When the entire nature of a young boy doesn’t fit into that pretty little package. Is this a modern version of the strap administered freely throughout the school day? Or simply an hour-by-hour, day-by-day report card to keep parents at bay? On the other hand, to many American families this might be just the type of competitive tool that they like to see integrated into their own personal child upbringing mission. Competition is in their DNA. For the boys sake, I share Margaret’s anger at this share the blame approach to child development. Has our education system given up when it comes to the sad story of boys falling behind in favour of classroom discipline? Or are parents so completely reliant on modern technological apps on their smartphone that they are missing the key components to the personal and educational development of a successful, happy boy. On both counts, I sure hope not. For their boys sake.

Tale of Two Fathers 


Yesterday it snowed for the first time this season in Montreal. 
 
Like most Sunday mornings, my wife, dog and I were out for our usual walk along the Lachine Canal to our favourite coffee shop.  When the snow started to turn to rain, we grabbed a bench under cover outside to drink our coffee and watch the morning develop.
 
Soon, the sun burst beautifully through the snow/rain clouds.  More and more people started to emerge to do what had to be done this Sunday.
 
First to cross our outdoor observation post was a father who had obviously been tasked with taking his kids for a walk.  From our viewpoint, he looked like he wasn’t enjoying the task at all.  Perhaps preoccupied with his job or just simply not liking  the weather, he trudged ahead of what looked to be a seven year old daughter and five year old son.    The two kids nattered away and jumped and slid on whatever remaining snow they could find.  If they fell behind their marching Daddy, the older sister dragged her brother back into lockstep. Something she was probably used to doing.
 
We finished our coffee, got up and rounded the corner to the sound of squeals and laughter – both kids and adults.  The source of this fun was two young kids chasing their Dad around some benches outside the local library.  Snowballs were involved. Dad would tease them then run just far enough away that their mini snowballs could hit him and cause what looked to be serious (faked) pain on his part.    Meanwhile Mom followed along behind on their way to the library.
 
Guess which Dad got a “good job” tap on the shoulder as I passed by.
 
Happy kids need engaged, big kid fathers.  Be the clown of the family in whatever ridiculous way you can.  Especially on the weekends when there is time for fun, no school to attend and work can wait.  It is a building block of family and child development to explore, learn and laugh together.   If fathers take the time and make the effort to simply play with their children as much as possible in the first 8-10 years of their kids lives, the rewards will last a lifetime.   
 
Which Dad are you going to be?

Put your boys to work 

 

Many years ago I was helping my mother by digging a new garden in her backyard.  It was hard work on a hot day cutting through established sod, clearing it away then prepping the dirt underneath.

In those days, very few of the homes in our neighbourhood had fences so kids could run freely between backyards and out into the nearby fields - where I as a kid used to build underground forts.

By coincidence the neighbours next door were having a party for their son's seventh or so birthday. The boy's father was a nice guy who was an up and comer with a major employer in our southern Ontario city.  So he wasn't home as often as he would like.

The party was pretty much over and the boys were beginning to wander over to where this incredible hulk of a man was tearing away at the lawn. Actually it was more like this tall, skinny, dude in glasses struggling to avoid heat stroke on a humid August day.   

Sure enough one of them said. "Watcha doin' mister?"  

I said " I am making a vegetable garden for my Mom." And in a moment of brilliance (actually desperation), I said "Wanna help?"

Within minutes I had: a) a chief sod roller b) a wheelbarrow dumping team c) a digging crew and a compost captain.  Working together, we managed to do the remaining work in about an hour, happily digging, dumping and spreading dirt... together.  Just as we were finishing the birthday boy's father walked over and said to the boys "Nice work boys, there's more ice cream left."  As they raced away to eat,he turned to me and asked " How the hell did you get them to do the work?"

My answer:  " I asked them."

What I didn't say is that I made it fun,  I gave them specific responsibility and basically left them to themselves once the task was defined.  Plus we were outside in the fresh air working together.

Young boys love this type of physical work.  Especially when you ask them to do it with you and not order them to do it by themselves.  

So get your boys outside, coach them, give them a task for them to be responsible for and reward them with guidance, praise or ice cream.... or all of the above.  Most important, spend as much personal time with them as you can before the age of eight.  They need you then.

But hurry.  Because by the time they turn twelve, they won't be nearly as cooperative.

Monster in a bag. 

 

Not long ago I was walking to my car after a tennis game.  

In front of me on the sidewalk was a young boy about four years old who was staring at an abandoned fast food paper bag on the sidewalk.  His mother was just ahead of him holding a younger brother and watching an older sister.

So I said to him.  "Watch out for the monster in the bag."  So the game began."There's no monster in the bag" he said.  "Of course there is" I claimed, as I kicked it without him seeing me do it.  He ran toward it and was about to open it when I said in my best monster voice " Don't touch me or I will eat you."

His now engaged mother sighed with relief.

We continued on for a few more minutes until I admitted that yes "You were right! There was no monster in the bag."  

Of course, he was now jabbering like a jaybird.  We had become fast friends.  So to encourage his obvious curiosity, I gave him a signed copy of my first book.  He immediately got down on all fours on the sidewalk to flip through all the pages - pretending to read by making up his own story to the pictures.

So what is the message here?

Boys learn through curiosity, imagination and experimentation.  Particularly if it's fun and active.  If you allow boys to do this enough in their early learning years, they will eventually come around to reading - on their own terms and timeframe.

And probably about monsters in a bag.

p.s. I thanked the young wise mother for allowing me to interact with her son without interference on her part.  Children need to be able to speak with strangers and initiate conversations without fear.  It helps their social development beyond family circles.  

And btw, this kind of interaction with kids happens to me all the time. I really don't know why but it is always fun.  Must be my clown nose.

Riding Along On Your Bicycle 

My wife and I often go for St. Lawrence river walks near our home in Montreal.  Along with the changing seasons, we have begun to notice something new - more and more young boys and girls playing outside without parental supervision.  In particular, a boy about nine riding his bike along the river bank and whacking tall grass with his fishing rod - smiling from ear to ear. Yeah!   Are we finally coming back to our senses?  That danger doesn't actually lurk around every corner for our wee ones. 

There is nothing better for a boy to get out and about - either in the city or country.  Every book I have read so far on the subject of boys falling behind identifies physical movement and exercise as an absolute necessity for young boys - in many cases a few years ahead of reading skills.  

I know I am old school but my mother's yells of "Get outside!" still ring in my ears.  Mind you, I had six siblings - all struggling for space.  And there were a million kids outside in the 60's.  Yet 99.9% of us survived those early unsupervised years even though we fell out of trees, flew off our bikes, broke bones, got hit with baseballs and pucks and ultimately slipped into muddy streams - all part of the fun. 

As for our family, every weekend was another outdoor adventure for our two girls and a boy. Camping, biking, swimming you name it.  Was it worth it?   Well all three are healthy, happy adults with university degrees, careers underway and growing families.  None are overweight, have premature diabetes or high blood pressure. And most important, they have taken their outdoor physical activity to an even higher plane - now with their kids in tow.

Remember what my mother said.  And give your boy a chance. Outside.

Boy oh Boys campaign is launched 

I am excited to be trying the Kickstarter route to help fund the production of my third album called Boy oh Boys.  Anticipated delivery date is August 2015 and I hope to be touring the album in 2016.  You can help by visiting and/or sharing with anyone you know who believes as I do that boys have been falling behind for years.  

http://kck.st/10mIzy5

 

 

 

 

Boyhood Revisited 

In my continuing quest to understand why boys are falling behind I went to see BOYHOOD with my wife.  First off, it is a very American movie.  Having toured through the USA in 2012/13 I re-witnessed so many icons of the American family, Texas style.  Love, divorce, work, food, guns and faith.  

Throughout this unique movie, we follow a growing boy who experiences what one book I have read calls "the shaming" way to raise boys.  Whether it involves fathers, peers, teachers, coaches, bullies or just plain idiots encouraging boys to "be a man", "grow up" or "stop being such a wuss" does not help their emotional cause.  

What boys need are gentle, positive mentors to simply help them find their own way.   Just one or two can make all the difference in their world.