More and more lately I have been hearing comments from parents of very young boys (8 and under) about how they think there is something wrong with their sons. They don't want to sit still, are easily distracted, don't seem to listen very well, and they don't do very well with their school work. On our 6 and under soccer team, 8 of the 10 children are boys, 2 of those boys are already medicated for attention deficit disorders and at least one other mother is in the process of getting her son evaluated to be on medication. I really believe that maybe people's perception or expectations of their boys may be the real problem.
Boys today are expected to sit in a desk at school for 6 hours a day. They are given very little out door recess time and almost no free play time. Then they might get to go home for awhile where they are forced to sit and complete their homework before they are whisked off to various activities or lessons of some sort. Then it's bed and time to start all over again. Are these realistic expectations?
Now I am not an "expert", but I am in the process of raising 4 boys. I also have spent many years working with young children in Sunday School, 4 H, soccer, and other activities and there are some things that are just "normal" for boys.
Boys have A LOT of energy and need to have creative outlets to be able to use it. They need to run, jump, and play outside. They need to have free time to build forts out of limbs in the backyard and climb trees. They need to bounce balls and see who can jump the farthest. They need physical activity several times a day. Sitting still for hours on end is pure torture.
Boys have an internal skill to turn just about anything into a weapon. Really. Blocks, sticks, string, Legos, hairbrushes, kitchen utensils, just about anything can become guns, knives, swords, or a bow and arrow. It is a boy thing and it is completely normal.
Most boys could really care less about completing worksheets. Many boys are hands on learners and being able to go out and do it makes much more sense then circling something on a worksheet.
To get boys to sit still and pay attention for a reasonable amount of time you have to keep their hands busy. Building blocks, Legos, drawing pads, are all great things for boys to do while they need to be listening quietly.
Boys don't care much about cleanliness. Yes it is normal for them to wallow in the dirt and attempt to wear the same stinky shirt 5 days in a row. Baths and brushing teeth are no fun and they try to avoid it at all costs. Not only do you have to remind them to get in the shower, you have to tell them to use soap, AND put clean clothes on when they get out.
They can be easily distracted. We had a soccer game the other night and the kids are running around kicking the ball. A balloon went up over the field and the little boy who was about to score stopped in his tracks. The whole game came to a halt because he was watching this balloon fly overhead. Normal behavior for a 5 year old boy.
I am not saying that we should let boys run around and be wild and crazy all of the time. I am not saying that should never be expected to sit still or pay attention. What I am saying is that we need to be more realistic about what we are expecting from 4,5, 6, and 7 year old boys and what we really should be expecting from them. I thin it is so sad that because a boy is energetic we are quick to automatically assume there is a problem and rush to put them on medication. We need to reevaluate what we think is normal and what really is normal. We need to let boys be boys.
There are two great resources I have reviewed that talk about teaching and raising boys. Raising Real Men by Hal and Melanie Young and Teaching Boys and Other Kids Who'd Rather Build Forts All Day a talk by Andrew Pudewa.