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The Trouble with Boys: Have our schools progressed?

Conferences are right around the corner and I'm waiting anxiously; hopeful that this is the first year where we hear more good than bad.  Being a mama to an energetic and emotionally-charged 7 year old boy in grade school has at times been very challenging, if not all-consuming. We've heard it from all sides - teachers, family, and friends - wondering if the level of intensity of his emotional outbursts was appropriate for someone his age.  I cannot tell you how often we've heard, "At (insert age) he still shouldn't be (insert behavior)."  Being the mama to not one but three boys, as much as I've tried not to, I found and do find myself falling into the pitfalls of our society expectations of how boys should behave, leaving little tolerance for the natural high activity level of boys. 

Kindergarten was rough. The traditional school setting definitely was not a good fit for him; and I wonder if it's good for most boys. Even with a change of schools and different teaching approach, 1st grade was still rocky. He had a difficult time in certain classes and with certain teachers.  He was a child that was on the verge of being labeled as special needs. Despite his issues, we really liked his teacher and her willingness to work with him and all the children on creating a cohesive classroom environment.  In hindsight, I wonder if his teacher being gone for a good chunk of school due to illness really disrupted the dynamics of the class.

This year, in 2nd grade with the same teacher and clear expectations, he seems to be hitting his stride.  He's doing much better and the emotional outbursts have been minimal. I cannot say that we've made any huge changes in his life like therapy or medication, but what I think has happened is that it has taken him a bit longer to mature emotionally.  Are you the parent of a boy? What has your school experience been like? Do you feel schools are really progressing to work with boys?


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My son is not yet in grade school, but I have noticed other peoples issues with boy energy. In his preschool last year one of the teachers (while I did like her) had unrealistic expectations of the three years olds and was constantly trying to stop natural boy energy. Daily I would get reports @ my son being to rough, loud, or inattentive. One day she flat out said he was "inappropriate" which I answered "your idea of how little boys should behave is inappropriate" that shut her up! In general I am confident that my active, loud, busy rambunctious son is normal for a four year old boy. I kind of like his wildness, it can e taxing but at least its entertaining and fun!

This year with new teachers things are alot different. I have been very clear with them my expectations and kept the communication open and regular. Its been helpful. Our circumstance and needs are different from other students and its our job as a community to make school an awesome learning environment for each kid.

In general our experience does make me wonder. I do worry for my son and other boys. There seems to be less play allowed and unrealistic expectations and overall its really not okay. I think more parents need to stand up for their kids and say "nope boys will be boys" and fight for what their kids need. Less labels, less medications and more inhabited free time to run and be wild.

My son is 6 and has a (male) teacher who does not require kids to quietly sit at their desks while doing work. If they need to be standing, or sitting on the carpet, or moving around, he lets them. The same teacher sometimes takes the kids out for a short walk at the beginning of the day. I think this is a good fit for my very wiggly active child. It's a challenge to get him to sit down and stay sitting to even eat dinner. I know that this is something he'll grow out of eventually, and he will have many years of sitting still and quiet at desks and tables ahead of him so I don't worry about it.

Since most of the skills that are important to success in schools happen about 18 months later for boys than girls, I've often wondered why we don't split that difference by starting boys in kindergarten at age 6 and girls at age 5?
Watching any group of boys and girls from a young age it is so clear that while most 5 year old girls are ready biologically for the things that make for a successful student in this country (the ability to sit still for long periods of time, follow direction and use fine motor control skills) are very difficult for 5 year old boys. Add the stress of testing and the fact that curriculum that used to be 1st grade is now kindergarten curriculum and it is a recipe for failure for our boys.
I love that some schools are trying to use more hands on or active learning in order to engage boys as much as girls, or use multi-age classrooms where kids learn at their level and not age, but they are still few and far between.
Kindergarten was hard for us, too. I have a bright boy who was just not ready to sit and read in kindergarten. I worked with him but did not push him, based on my intuition as his mother and books I had read about the natural development of boys' brains, and tried to assure him that when he would be able to do it when he was ready. Regardless, the testing and pressure linked to reading in school made him feel "stupid" for not being ready yet and it was very bad for his self-esteem. We were very lucky to find a better fit through a charter school. Without the pressure and with age he's reading very well now, but it will take much longer for the bad feelings of being "behind" to go away.

I think pdxbeth brings up a good point. The teacher can make so much of a difference with regards to expectations. This year, it feels like my son's teacher may not be fully prepared for all the boy energy in her room (my boy included). I try to mitigate things by making sure sleep is had, meals are high in protein, low in sugar in the morning, and starting mornings off on a positive note. But inevitably, if the activity at hand isn't fully engaging in my son's opinion, his mind and behavior will wander. It's a constant struggle for us, who hear about it later and can barely do anything effective at that point, and for her. We're hoping to work out a plan going forward that meets both his and her needs at our conference. Because in the end, unless the relationship between teacher and student is becoming detrimental to one or the other, it's a good opportunity to figure out how to work around personalities that don't quite mesh in an ideal way.

I hate to admit it but from what I have observed in the two different public schools that my oldest son has attended(one in Washington state the other here) I feel there is a punishment mentality with boys. I agree with AJ that we need to stick up for our boys. That being said I have to watch myself with my sons as well. Sometimes their energy is too much for me and I don't know how to handle, channel that energy.

Just here to say that I do think the traditional school setting can be good for many boys. As the mother to three boys, I have watched two enter the public elementary system and thrive. Neither were old for their group so it wasn't an age thing. While I understand that boys mature a bit later than girls I do not think it is unreasonable for boys to understand the appropriate time and place to unleash their rowdiness.
I think we do our boys a disservice to dismiss inappropriate behaviors as "just being a boy." It is never appropriate to be rude, interrupt teachers, distract classmates, or be aggressive with others. I understand all kids (boys and girls) may need to be reminded of these things from time to time, but to assert that these behaviors are normal for boys or to be accepted at the age of five isn't appropriate in my book. I spend a great deal of time of volunteering in a kindergarten class room and the norm among the boys is to be able to sit quietly for short periods, many are reading, and it isn't particularly loud or rambunctious which further leads me to believe that or schools have appropriate expectations of our boys.

Well, uM, you know how i feel on the subject! i encourage EVERY MOM to read the book The Trouble With Boys, by Peg Tyre. It is most relevant to mamas of boys, but has some important information for mothers of girls as well, especially given that boys don't exist in an academic vacuum and that they are in large part raised by mothers. It changed so much about how I think about boys, both professionally (I work in the schools) and personally (I'm the mama of 2 boys). We have a group of moms of boys in the npod that is starting to meet and discuss these issues, and as with anything, it's shocking how common these experiences are. Are *all* of these boys broken, or is the system broken?

Read it. Rise up. Change the system. Our boys deserve nothing less.

Thank You so much kcb for the book recommendation!

you're welcome ;-)

Can I just point out that we're bringing gender into the picture where it doesn't necessarily need to be? There are high and low-energy boys, and high and low-energy girls. It is hard for children of both genders to learn manners, but really, that's all that should be going on. Don't be noisy when someone else is speaking. Be aware of your body and don't move it in ways that endanger or interrupt other people. Be safe and keep the people around you safe. Now I'm not defending the teachers or schools with whom anyone has had bad experiences, but I think sometimes there's a need for a reality check. It's not ok for an older child to be noisy and rambunctious in a classroom during quiet learning. Yes, there are times when noisy and rambunctious is acceptable and even encouraged. And if kids aren't ready to meet those expectations, they need help, "scaffolding" to support them as they learn. But I really don't think it's ok to excuse a child for disruptive behavior simply because he is male. Is that really a standard you want to apply? That you want your children to grow up with? "It's ok Johnny, you don't have to listen or cooperate or learn to be gentle with other people. You're a boy."

So I guess my reaction to these posts is threefold: 1. you turn this into an us vs. them, boy-parents vs. girl-parents, issue when it fundamentally is not; and 2. we live in a society, a community, with other people. We expect certain behaviors from everyone because it makes that communal living possible and even pleasant; and 3. advocate for more activity for all children, not just asking schools to cater to this stereotype of what boys are.

On a side note, it used to drive me crazy when people would describe my son (high energy, athletic, into trucks, etc.) as "all boy." Really? You mean when he's reading or drawing or snuggling his little sister, he's somehow not a boy? His identity is supposed to be limited to that narrow range of activity and expression. And what does that say of my daughter when she does those activities and is noisy and climbing the walls. Somehow she's not a girl? This labeling makes me so angry.

I had very good experiences with my son in K and now in 2nd grade. 1st grade, however, was a struggle because he was put in class with a teacher that has a school-wide reputation for not liking boys. I was and continue to be incredibly frustrated that someone like that continues to teach and is allowed to continue to teach when it's generally acknowledged that she finds half of the population to be unpleasant. My son did ok in her class, but it was not the best year for him and having a teacher without that bias his other two years made a huge difference. I feel a rant coming on about this so will stop writing now ;-)

Well said J. I agree that parents and educators use gender labels too often. All children could use more activity during the school day and all children can learn and apply manners, turn taking and respect when it is required. There is a time and place for everything. Too often I find parents don't teach their children this because it is so hard to do.

Thanks J! I have a high energy girl who has similar behavior characteristics as the original poster's child. Keeping these issues gender-related does both boys and girls a disservice. How about framing the question in the light of, "What does a highly activity, highly emotional, very bright CHILD need?""

What j said, exactly.

As the parent of an older daughter and an eight year old boy, I agree with j as well.

J, you said exactly what I wanted to say. This is not a gender issue.

I will also add that if we take the attitude of "Let boys be boys" we may soon be punishing girls for the same behavior that we feel is ok for boys. Maybe "let kids be kids" is better as long as they are respectful of others, especially the shy and less outgoing children, as well as the teachers.

Thanks J!

As the mom of a not energetic nor rambunctious, but mellow, thoughtful, sensitive 4 year old boy, I often hear the other side of this. "You're son sure is quiet." or "Does he like to play with the other boys?" It's important to find a school with a good fit and to be an advocate when necessary and to be the supportive parent all of the time.

This is our first year in public school and we jumped right into 1st grade. Last year we kept our son in his private school (where he was in preschool) for kindergarten because of these very issues. I am sure that it was the right thing to do as his teacher and K experience were awesome, so the transition to 1st grade has been a surprisingly rough one.
He KNOWS the right thing to do but cannot stop himself. I am not excusing his behavior, but executive functioning and the ability to control impulses develops at different ages. He can tell me exactly what he SHOULD have done in a given situation. If he was using his reactionary/emotional brain rather than his thinking brain it may not have gone that way. We were also given the advice of saying no without saying no by engaging him in thought using questions rather than saying no. It works pretty well. There is a spectrum but it seems that more boys than girls have that high energy/superhero/undefined energy. I know his energy is different than his sister’s and different from my recollections of childhood.
I am increasingly appreciative of his 1st grade teacher who has the patience of a saint and understands how to work w/ my guy to bring out his best.
PPS has a program that they have opened to their general education population to assist teachers in addressing behavioral issues with students. Working with the kids to give them the tools to be able to do what is expected while not classifying them as special needs. I am sure as he matures this will get easier for him (and us) but he is still just a person. People of all ages make impulsive choices all of the time and we expect a lot of our little ones (boys and girls) who may not have the maturity to do it yet. Thank goodness we have recess and PE.

I'm a parent of an active/aggressive boy. I've experienced lack of understanding of his behavior from parents and caregivers since he was a one year old. It seems that there are a lot of cases of parents and professionals that do not understand the developmental stages of our children and place unrealistic expectations on the kids and their parents.

I think it is important to understand that there are many difficult temperaments to deal with from active/aggressive to reserved/withdrawn, and they all need validation and respect and understanding. These kids need advocates in their teachers. And, that so often that isn't the case.

I think that working within the current school system, the success of my son really does come down to the teacher he has. Creative teaching methods and structures and a kind understanding teacher can make all the difference.

I really sympathize with parents whose children aren't fitting the mold. It's rough. Very rough.

Just also wanted to voice my wholehearted support for J's comments above. She eloquently said exactly what I was thinking when I read this post. -Mom to an almost five year old boy and one year old girl.

Adding to what J said -- I wholeheartedly agree. My older son is quiet and sensitive and doesn't fit the aggressive-boy model. He's been coming home from middle school using words like "sissy" and "wimp" to describe activities that he once enjoyed. Where does this come from and how can we stop it? I try to tell him that "real men" show a range of emotions and activities, and thank goodness his father demonstrates that.

To the original poster, I say, been there done that!
And actually, gender does come into play. Read current research on brain differences in boys an girls and how it affects learning. Michael Gurian's books The Wonder of Boy, and The Minds of Boys are eye-opening and I think really get to the heart of why some of our boys struggle in school. He's also written similar works on girls - The Wonder of Girls. Also, I would highly recommend Raising Cain, a great book about the development of boys and also made into a powerful PBS documentary about boys and education.

JM as a woman, a scientist and a mother of both a daughter and a son I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone can advocate for the type of biological essentialism advocated by Gurian.

kcb, thanks for the book recommendation of The Trouble With Boys. It is definitely now on my reading list! Hope you'll share with us if your npod group finds effective ways to change the system and help our boys.

I am a parent to a boy who is sometimes wild and energetic and (usually at preschool) very quiet and subdued. He never has problems at school, although he might come home and climb the walls. Literally.

I am also a special ed teacher who has seen all degrees of this energy we are discussing. Some normal, some problematic and everything in between. Every kid is a complicated individual with many many layers of abilities, challenges, temperament, personality and environmental factors that lead them to the behavior of RIGHT NOW. I'm not sure making generalities helps anyone. The ideal is parents and teachers working together to understand the whole picture of each child and what works for that little person.

I just read Boys Adrift, by Leonard Sax, and I found it extremely informative regarding potential reasons that our boys might be having trouble in schools. Some of his information is out there, but I'm starting to think that he may be on to something when he talks about separating the genders in middle school and beyond. From personal experience, every teacher that has dealt with my 7 year old has described him as "all boy". I totally agree that gender labeling is bad, and I still bristle when I hear it, but it's what I've had to work with out here in the David Douglas school district. I think my son might like school and actually want to go to school if his teacher were specially trained to deal with the often challenging so-called "boy boys". And if he were with other similar boys so he didn't feel like he was so behind and always in trouble. His current teacher is being as flexible as she can be, but I don't have a good feeling about his future in this public school system.

Well my son's teacher (2nd grade currently but he's had her since K at a public charter school in CA) recently lent me her book, "Why Gender Matters" by Leonard Sax. It is *really* opening my eyes to gender differences.

I am 40 and I grew up being taught there were no gender differences. Actually there is lots and lots of science that proves otherwise. Many parents, teachers and doctors do not even understand how great are the differences in our brains.

As the mom of a boy who is very lucky to go to a very progressive school under the care of one of the most progressive teachers who really understands boysl, I am grateful to be learning about boy energy finally, 7 years into motherhood. It is why this post caught my eye today and I wanted to pipe up in the comments.

P.S. I have been a loyal UM reader for years as we have been trying to make the big move to Portland.

I appreciate all the open discussion going on here. I am the mother of two boys who are very different from each other, one is reserved and quiet the other is loud and aggressive. Both are in a nontraditional school (Montessori), in part because I am fearful of how both of them would fare (one being labeled nerdy and the other running into disciplinary problems). In our school, the teachers don't punish or yell or scold the children. They teach them respect by showing them the upmost respect and I have to say, even the rowdiest of boys respond well. Watching them at work has been an education for me as a parent.

I highly recommend reading "The Way Of Boys". It gives very specific advice on parenting boys. It has helped us put things in perspective when issues have come up at school and at home.

You all have such valuable information! I am looking for a full-time preschool for my VERY spirited 3 year old boy. Can anyone give recommendations in the SW part of town?

Im with " j" as well. And while my boys are high energy, they still know how to be still and simmer down when they're supposed to during school. I would never make excuses for acting out claiming 'theyre just boys'. I expect good behavior regardless of gender.

I want to add that while this isn’t an issue that is always gender specific, you have to acknowledge that there are a disproportionate number of boys that are being labeled problematic in our schools. You just can’t deny that. I am a (very mellow) mama to a very energetic 2 year old boy. I am already concerned that, come time for school, we’re going to be in for a challenge. I appreciate the dialogue here and I’m sure that I will be revisiting this topic often in UM.

I'm with momx3 on this one. Unless there are other issues, I don't think it's too much to ask a typical boy not to be rude or aggressive in a school setting. And I agree with her that we do a disservice to boys by dismissing inappropriate behavior as "just being a boy."

I have one pretty mellow boy and another high energy boy who is quite rowdy at home. But this has never translated to misbehavior at school. Possibly because his teacher understands that ALL kids need outlets for that kid energy, and provides it. But also because I think he understands that good behavior is expected of him in a school setting, both from his parents and teacher.

Let me give an example of what we dealt with at my oldest son's school in Washington. I probably should note that my oldest was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at age 3, he entered a developmental preschool program for two years and has been mainstreamed ever since. In his entire academic history he has never had any behavior problems. At one of our annual IEP meetings during his 1st grade year one of the staff who worked with him, I believe it was his Speech Teacher mentioned that he fidgeted a little in his seat. Excuse me, but doesn't every child fidget from time to time. Now I could understand if that was getting in the way of his learning or one of the other students' ability to learn but this wasn't an issue. Then I was stunned when the school Psychologist suggested we talk to our Doctor about giving him medication. Never was it ever indicated by our wonderful Pediatrician at the time or Children's Hospital in Seattle where he was observed (3) times that he needed nor required medication. In other words the staff didn't want to deal with a little "fidgeting." I am happy to say that we haven't had this experience in Portland. My sons though energetic are both extremely well behaved, say please, thank you, excuse me, listen to their Teachers and work very hard in school but I don't nor will I accept them being labeled just because they can't sit perfectly still for the entire day.

I am the mother of a six year old high energy boy who is sometimes aggressive and is often disruptive in his first grade class. He is very bright and is often described as charismatic (which mostly means that he loves to put on a show and have the attention of everyone in the room whether or not it's "appropriate"). In spite of all this, he is very sweet and affectionate at times. He is always kind to smaller children and animals. He has good friends from his old school and the neighborhood (although he has not made any close friends in his new school as far as I can tell).

I want to point out that he's not choosing his behavior problems and they are not the product of overly permissive parenting. We work with him constantly on manners and empathy, and we've tried every sort of approach. It's painful to read some of the comments about "no excuse for bad behavior." All I can say to those people is you should convert that judgement of other people's children to gratitude that your child can cope and meet adults' basic expectations. Not all children can. Mine cannot and it's not because he's not trying or because we're not good parents or because we haven't sought out every possible resource to make things better. Hopefully you will never know how hard and miserable this is.

Second, Michael Gurian (The Wonder of Boys) is so right about the biological basis of "boyness" or "girlness." It's not "biological essentialism," it is just another lens to help us look at the issues (and his books are also beautifully, soulfully written, so much more readable than most of the books in this category). I know several girls my son's age who are just as wild and energetic, but they seem to have working executive functioning--they don't go so far as to hit people when they are mad, and they seem to be able to stay out of trouble at school.

After four years at a private Montessori school (toddler through kindergarten), we left because the school was intolerant and punitive, and it was really hurting my boy's self-esteem. This year he's in first grade at a charter and it's hard. The school and the teacher are much more openminded and compassionate than at the Montessori school. but the curriculum is painfully slow compared to Montessori and rather than working individually, the class does everything together (very slowly). There are a lot of rowdy boys in the class, which doesn't help my boy keep himself in control.

I don't think it helps either that he's not being challenged academically. I can't think of one thing that he's learned since school started. At the Montessori he was excelling in math, reading and writing. Now he doesn't do any of that.

I am despairing. Every day he comes home with reports of his non-stop disruptions and wrongdoings. The school staff want to move him back to kindergarten where they have a more experienced teacher, where where he has seemed to be happier and more confident when they've let him visit. They think the problem is one of emotional maturity (which is undoubtedly one piece). But then he would be put in this same slow first grade class next year. It would be years before he got back to math, reading and writing--when he was excelling in all of these just six months ago. It just doesn't seem right. And how can we expect high energy kids to sit still and listen when they are bored out of their minds?

There are so few options for children like mine. We were recommended to the PPS program for highly gifted kids by a psychologist who did an evaluation for my boy (and by the way, no mental or emotional problems were diagnosed), but that program doesn't start until second grade. And if they put our child back into kindergarten, by the time he gets to second grade, I fear his giftedness will be numbed into non-existence.

I would appreciate any constructive ideas or suggestions from the mamas. No judgment needed. We've already got plenty of that.

Thank you, Mamasita. You said a lot of the things that I was thinking after reading some of the comments. So much judging.
Also, I should have signed my previous post as something other than j...so not to be confused with the first "j" comment.

Amen, Mamasita! You have described much of what I have been through. I appreciate your post very much and and hope it sheds light on our experiences to those who would judge us, and our beloved children, so harshly.

Mamasita, thank you! The original post and yours sound very much like what we have experienced with our son. It's not that anyone says it's okay to be disruptive, it's that they do not yet have the ability to control themselves. They know what they are supposed to do, and feel bad afterward about not doing it, but there is no impulse control yet. I found that my son was academically advanced and emotionally/socially behind. Kindergarten and first grade were struggles, with many conferences and trips to pick him up from the principal's office. Our son felt horrible, we felt horrible. We tried a counselor but that didn't really seem to help. In the end, we've hoped that he would grow out of it, or mature emotionally. He has for the most part, and 2nd grade is so much better. I don't agree with red-shirting boys, but I do think that we need some leniency in the sit-still-at-your-desk-all-day mentality that is skewed towards quieter kids. If my kid is doing the work but needs to bounce from foot to foot, then put him at a table in the back and let him do that.

Well said, Mamasita. Thank you!

Guess I'm a bit rusty at posting; and didn't put enough context and caveats! Actually, the post is intended to talk about educating boys specifically. It's been on my mind lately. The first link is to a Newsweek article by Peg Tyre who is the author of the Trouble with Boys (as kcb pointed out). The second reference is to "Raising Cain" a PBS documentary on raising and educating boys. Both of these are a few years old, but are a really good point of reference. When you see statics like boys are 30% more likely to flunk out of school, or that they are 4 or 5 more times likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, it concerns me greatly! This is huge. It's not a just a matter of boys (or girls being rude) because it's acceptable behavior, there's something else wrong here. I definitely think we ask a lot of our schools - disciplining, teaching, feeding, nurturing, etc. There are many great schools as many great teachers but equally bad ones as well. There are also great parents and equally bad ones. I am glad to hear that there are many well-adjusted boys to help balance out the classroom dynamic.

All of our boys (kids) will undoubtedly do fine. They have good support systems at home, and hopefully will mature and the behavioral issues will get better. But what about the boys that don't have this?

Mamasita, hang in there! I have to say that your situation is very familiar to what I experienced with my oldest son - maybe we are even at the same school. I don't have any answers but you are your son's biggest advocate; and do what you feel is right for him.

Boy!!!! You can write a book on boy behavior...and it is incredible how some shcools can't still catch this drift. I visited your site all the way from mexico since we are visiting Portland for Thanksgiving, and I came upon this article and felt I was practically writing it!! I had to share this: I just atttended a conference of PhD Michael Thompson, who specializes in boys education...he practically talks abut what you are referring to. Make sure to read his book ¨Raising Cain¨ whcih talks about protecting the emotional life of boys! Good luck to all of us!! :)

Thank you, all, for posting: evidence of so much deep love for our wonderful boys.

I'm all over the map on this one: read the books so I'm prepared/understand better any behavioral "blips" of my 5.5 yr old? Ignore those "blips" as simply one flavor of childhood & go w/common sense & the same standards as I'd expect from our girl-child? Wait and see? Panic? Fight? At the end of the day -- even the hard ones -- I tend to come down on the side of celebrating how great a kid he is, right now, in this moment, and hold onto that.

I have a high energy 5 yr. old boy who has struggled, at times, with impulse control, especially as a 3 and 4 year old. While I wholeheartedly agree that we have to keep our focus on the wonderful parts of our boys and work to understand what is driving the behavior and how best to support, I can't help feel that one of my primary jobs as a parent is to help him feel successful in social situations: school, sports teams, etc. In these situations, the needs of the group have to be balanced with the needs of each individual child. At times, it will be reasonable to expect that the group can absorb livelier behavior he works toward self-regulation. Others, it will be my son's responsibility to adapt to the needs of the group. I echo that we must take a compassionate stance in helping our boys along this path, but I don't want to overlook the need to let them know that they are responsible for their behavior and the consequences such as someone getting hurt or having fewer options or invitations due to their behavior. We can understand the limits of their self control but can also help them to see the outcome of some of the big energy. The hope, of course, is that this can come together at some point and, when they are able, can make the choice that will lead to whatever outcome they hope for. I have never hesitated to tell my son, 'if you hit your friend's sister then you probably will not be invited back to play' nor would I be comfortable putting him in that situation again until I was confident he could make better choices. I don't view it as restrictive but as finding areas where he can be successful and not setting him up to fail. I'm happy to say that we have come a long way and he participates in soccer, preschool, etc. and is able to mostly regulate himself. While he may struggle with understanding boundaries or his ability to respond to those boundaries, I have to help him by being absolutely clear about where the lines are and consistent in reinforcing them.

I do think that the pendulum has swung the opposite way in schools. We were so concerned with making sure girls were supported and in a good learning environment, we've neglected the things that would traditionally have kept the boys engaged. I think it's very telling and a bit sad that colleges are having a problem keeping their enrollments balanced because there aren't enough qualified male applicants.

I'm curious - Have any of you considered homeschooling/unschooling? I realize that can be difficult if both parents want to work full time, but it can also be a wonderful joyful way of supporting your active children. I have found that I can enroll my wild 4-yr old in short, active classes with parks and rec, and give him all the social & group experiences he needs for now, while still being able to be the primary support/educator for him. I plan to continue homeschooling for him as long as I feel he needs it. It seems to me that working with the schools would take more time and effort than just keeping him home does.

We have a ball going to the park whenever we want, eating when we are hungry, visiting museums, storytimes, riding trains, and just getting out there and living. He's only 4, but already learning to read, do simple math, and write a few letters. We treat each day as a new adventure, I follow his lead for what he wants to learn, and then we just go for it! I am always amazed at his insatiable desire to learn more, explore always, and even practice certain tasks such as writing and math. I think the key is giving him the freedom to decide when and what - not trying to force him into a group setting where we all have to do the same things at the same time in the order and place that the teacher dictates. Real life isn't like that. Why force it on kids in school?

I agree that homeschooling boys when they are in the younger grades is a wonderful option. Our son didn't go to public school until 3rd grade. He is still academically ahead of his peers and didn't have any of the social/behavioral pressures of being in school too soon. The transition has been very easy and he loves school but I wouldn't have traded those homeschooling years for anything!

Hi mamas,

I felt like I needed to chime in from a teacher/mom perspective. I am teaching a 4th grade at a good school and have a really high amount of high energy, attentional, brilliant boys in my class this year. I do everything that these posts are talking about to try and provide an excellent education for my students. We go outside a lot, have exciting, engaging curriculum, let students work standing up, sitting on balls, have figit toys, use technology, small groups, moving students to quiet areas, etc. Frankly, it is completely exhausting and frustrating. My students are so bright but many of my students cannot listen to the directions long enough to understand the lessons. I have two boys on meds, two boys that most likely would benefit from medication(which in my opinion can be life changing and not evil) but four more that would be doing much better in a calmer environment. It is truly not my fault that I can't provide it. I think many of you would be shocked to see the energy in the classroom. I am really upset for some of my students that they are having to deal with being constantly interrupted and not listened to.

I do feel that often in our society today, some parents are so busy working that they are not giving their active boys the lessons on self control that they need. This starts at two and three years old. Teaching your child how to control themselves in that music together class will help when they enter K. I know so many parents are working so hard with their children and I don't mean these parents. But many others have fallen into the, "boys will be boys" mantra. I hear it all the time and it drives me insane. I see parents having different expectations for their daughters than their sons. Yes they are different but I think as a society we can do better. Please do not expect a teacher who has 39 weeks with your child to completely change them. I can make a major difference in their self esteem and give them tools but it is up to parents to be their life long advocates.

Thanks, Teacher Mom. As a former teacher I very much appreciate your perspective. I agree with everything you said.

Thank you Teacher Mom - that was exactly what I was getting at in my post. Teachers and schools can be flexible to an extent but it is ultimately up to the parents to provide the basis for appropriate social behavior or to choose something like homeschooling/unschooling/freeschooling if they feel that the behavioral expectations are not in alignment with their particular child's abilities or their family's values. At some point, we have to look in the mirror and say to ourselves, "I am responsible for this child" and then begin making parenting/schooling decisions. I have often sat around the park with parents complaining about these types of issues while observing their child acting wildly inappropriately with no response from the parent. I know often there is a biological basis, but in these cases it seems like the child needs even more support to gain the skills of impulse control, etc.

Coming late to this conversation. I'm on this site because I find myself ready to go to our first Parent Teacher Conference and I wondered what to expect or prepare.

The PPS Web site advises that I ask myself "What more can I do?" That's not the role I'm ready to cast myself in right now. I am responsible for raising my child. But the school is responsible for a lot, too. They need to be accountable.

The school my son goes to offers a covered outdoor classroom and a huge, beautiful learning garden. But my son's teacher has decided not to use them. When it rains, she sometimes decides to use the afternoon recess for "centers" instead (activities) so they don't need to go outside. These are the times, it seems, when my son gets into trouble with distracting other kids or getting wiggly.

These are things I feel like I really need to question. Yes, my son is a boy and very energetic and physical. But everyone needs to stretch out and get their energy out during the work day.

So...any advice for a first conference?

Well I most definitely would address the issue of a physical outlet, in a diplomatic way of course. I definitely notice when my boys have inside recess vs. outside because the elements don't allow them to play outdoors. You are fortunate to have the school facilities that you have, and hopefully the Teacher will try to find a solution so that your son and the other kids can get some of that energy out. Best of luck to you.

I've hung back on posting on this thread as I have very strong feelings. For the first time, I won't use my name or initial on a uMamas post. I'm part of the NoPo group that KCB talked about above re: The Trouble With Boys. READ THE BOOK. Quite frankly, statistics don't lie and the most stunning is the fact that, for the most part, the bottom 25% of any class across the board is 90% male. That smacks of sexism in the classroom. Not only that, but at that wonderful "beers and books" meet up that we had, many moms worked in the public school system and openly admitted that they didn't treat boys the same way they treat girls (I'm putting it nicely). It scared the crap out of me. My five year old was in a Montessori that we loved when he was three. When he turned four he became less and less engaged because of his teacher who, apparently, just wasn't wired for preschool aged boys. She said "Well, you know, XXX is a bit of a daydreamer." I said "Whaaat???" I just returned from his first parent teacher conference at his new school today. Portland Jewish Academy for those who are wondering. We aren't Jewish - you don't have to be to attend - and I can't say enough great things about our experience. He's in a pre-k class with 13 boys and 3 girls. His teachers call it the Brodeo. He is absolutely thriving. He's "a friend to everyone," "incredible language skills," "so bright," "excelling...engaged." Yes, that is the kid I know. He loves school. I'm a raging liberal and I walked out of "Beers & Book" seriously reconsidering any support of No Child Left Behind. It's failing miserably by limiting curriculum and destroying the ways in which many boys (and some girls) learn. The saddest part of that meet up was listening to how Rosa Parks Elementary doesn't allow kids to talk at lunch because they have so little time that if they do talk, they won't have time to play at recess. 20 MINUTES. Our education system is broken and we need to fix it and fast. This is a cliff notes version of how I feel and I very much look forward to our next get together and talking about how to affect some real change. Your child's future shouldn't be determined by whether or not you win a lottery.

Sorry if my post above was a little grouchy but I'm pretty emotional about this issue. Particularly because I will most likely be moving next year to get into a better school district. Also, I want to be clear that I understand that No Child Left Behind was a Republican initiative but there was a part of me that wondered how a law that, in theory, treated all of our children equally could be bad. Well, I know now. I truly believe that it's one of the root causes of the failure of our public school system. I'm seriously concerned about the ability of our children to get a decent education. It's a real crisis. How do we fix it?

Bless you Anon for your honesty. It is an emotional subject simply because we care so much about our children. I know I am definitely emotional about it as is my Husband. I want my kids to love school and don't we all want our children to feel excited about learning and to continue that trend their entire lives. I completely agree that the system is broken. My husband and I both work very hard to do what we can at home with our sons. My sons both have good Teachers but there is so much that I see every day that breaks my heart. What can I do to stop a child from falling thru the cracks? I don't know the answer but my husband and I keep on bringing our concerns to the school and school district not to be pests but to try to work with the staff to provide solutions. I've learned the hard way that not speaking up is detrimental for your child.

Anon--my heart goes out to you and your son. We're just now seeing the same inklings at our 5 yr old's Montessori (hmm...wondering if same teacher...or if just the same unhappy trend), and are flabbergasted. It's as though he's pigeon-holed immediately. And we thought we were REALLY ON TOP OF THINGS when we chose this schl/teacher. It's enraging, depressing, frightening, sad, panic-making, frustrating, and, given how neat a kid we have, plain old weird! [ahem; based on other parents' comments, not our own obviously proudly biased opinions].


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