“The question is: do parents have enough trust in boy development to let them take some risks and make some mistakes?”
Megan Rosker spoke with Dr. Michael Thompson, a psychologist, school consultant, and author. Dr. Thompson is best known by his New York Times best-seller Raising Cain. He is also author of It’s A Boy! and Homesick and Happy, as well as five other books.
What is it about your own development from child to adult that helped you recognize the pivotal necessity of breaking out of the social norm of not recognizing the importance of masculinity?
My life experiences have given me plenty of chances to watch boys grow and develop. As a boy, I attended all-boys’ schools and I am presently the supervising psychologist for the Belmont Hill School, which is also an all-boys’ school. I see the way in which boys behave—and misbehave—every week. For that reason, I am always surprised when I encounter teachers in coed settings who keep hoping that with constant punishment preaching (and lost recesses!) boys will be different, that they will begin to act like girls. They won’t. While there is an enormous range of what it means to be male and female, the average boy is always more physically active, more impulsive, and less mature than girls of the same chronological age. If you want to understand boys, you have to appreciate the differences.
What innate tendencies are being lost as we suppress masculinity in education and in parenting that would naturally allow boys to become healthy, happy fathers and providers for their families?
All over the world, boys play hunt-and-chase games and they wrestle. Many people call this “aggressive” or “violent play,” but I disagree. It isn’t meant to hurt or do harm. Boys are wired for “rough-and-tumble play” and for certain kinds of dominance behaviors; other boys understand that most of that is not bullying.
How would a boy develop a sense of confidence if his education were less structured by the academic community?
A majority of boys seem to learn through experience, not through being told or trying to follow rules. They develop both skills and confidence by recovering from their own mistakes. The question is: do their parents have enough trust in boy development to let them take some risks and make some mistakes?
Originally appeared on Let Children Achieve.
—Photo Pink Sherbet Photography/Flickr