Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kids and recess.

A great article about the importance of recess was just written in the New York Times.
Check it out.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My son the Unibomber???

Yesterday afternnon my wife called me at work to inform me that our six-year-old son came home pretended to put a bomb in his sisters room--which caused his older sister some frustration. We were relived to discover that his "bomb" was a piece of paper with scribbles on it. Whew!

This morning when we were having breakfast I asked him about his bomb making activity. He went on to tell me how he had "planted an explosive device" in a girl's backpack at school too. Inside I was like, "YOU DID WHAT?????!!!!!" while on the outside, I said "Really buddy, what made you want to do that?" He went on to tell me that the girls in the class where trying to "capture" him at recess and so he wanted to "develop some technology that could stop them." So he invented an "explosive," a "listening device," and a "laptop." He went on to explain in great detail how these three devices would work together so that he and his mates could play freely on the playground without the interference of the fairer sex.

Of course we had to have a long talk about the school system in no way likes the talk, idea, or mentioning of any kind of weapons (including IEDs) while at school and this would get me a certain trip to the principal's office. Willing to please and obey, he sadly said, "I guess I will have to go to school and get the bomb out of her backpack." He genuinely looked really really sad. To make matters worse, we had to pick up two neighbors on the way to school (both girls) and he had to ride in the back with them.

Boys will be boys.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Boys and Parental Involvement with School

We are often asked how involved a parent should be in his son’s academics. Our first response to this question is to commit yourself to a long, consistent journey of nurturing an independent learner. Our mission as parents is to empower our sons with a belief that he can monitor and own his academic life well. We need to always be a resource to him when he needs help, finds himself stuck, stumbles into an area of deficit or just needs some encouragement. However, we should never care more about his academics than he does.

When we start caring more than he does, we take ownership of what’s his to own. We are then nurturing a dependent learner. We see this young man every day. He doesn’t attempt homework, prepare for tests, focus on organizing his schedule or work, unless nagged, prompted, questioned, screamed at, stood over, or strong armed. Homework can be one of the more unnecessary battles parents take up with boys. So, how does a parent avoid stepping into this quick sand?

One, frame your involvement from the earliest moments in his academic experience as support. Make sure he knows you’re available, but only if he gets stuck and needs assistance. Don’t train him to need you present for his work or projects, but available to review assignments upon completion or drill him in preparation for tests or quizzes if needed.

Two, in order for him to develop organizational skills (which is half the battle for school), he’s going to have to experience some natural consequences along the way. You shouldn’t be available to run to the store at 9:30 pm when he announces he just opened his back pack for the first time and needs glue sticks for a project due the next morning. Allow him to be docked a grade for turning in a late project or even fail a project for the sake of developing skills around organization.

As we discuss allowing him to struggle and fail, it’s important to note that no college or university in our country cares about your 5th grade transcript. Not even Ivy League schools will pay attention to your 7th grade math scores. Therefore, K-8 is a pivotal time for him to begin developing these skills, passing and failing, succeeding and bombing.

Next, we’d recommend you work in tandem with his teachers in double teaming him as he develops in this area. He needs to experience you being on the same page, giving similar consequences and supporting one another in seeing him develop as an independent learner.

We’ve officially lost count with the number of young men we’ve worked with who were Valedictorians, National Merit Scholars and ranked in the top percentage of their classes, who within two semesters managed to flunk themselves out of college. You may wonder (as have we) how it is possible for a young man with those cognitive abilities could find himself in this scenario. It’s possible if he has no experience as an independent learner. If boys only know how to perform with an adult standing over them and then are cut loose to an environment with that much freedom and that little structure, it’s very possible.

It should start early. Next time you walk the halls of your son’s school observing 2nd grade projects that were clearly done by a contributing adult, smile and imagine your son armed with his messy work and imagine him as an independent learner.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Boys and Dating

By the time boys hit the end of middle school or the beginning of the high school, they will likely begin to express more interest in girls. There are a few things to keep in mind in terms of boys and dating.

1. There are no magic ages. Girls mature faster than boys. A boy is ready when he can articulate to you a plan for handling the situations that concern you.

2. Remember when we spoke to the importance of knowing your son’s friends and his parents? The same is true for relationships with the opposite sex. Insist that he bring her home to dinner before the date, and he should introduce himself to her family as well. Don’t give in on this issue. Show interest even if you don’t approve of everything about them. Showing interest doesn’t always equate with giving permission.

3. Free up her father (through a phone conversation or in person) to get to know him, here his expectations clearly in terms of your son spending time with his daughter.

4. Keep in mind what is taking place developmentally. (You wouldn’t ask a toddler to multiply). Let this help you set limits AND provide opportunities (don’t turn them loose to their peers and also don’t eliminate opportunities for them to fail).

5. He needs education in terms of the way girls think, how they interpret things differently and also how some girls gravitate toward manipulation as a pattern of relating. Use role-play with him as tool and involve some other individuals he might here from better on this topic (a youth director at church working with girls, his aunt, a family friend with a college-aged daughter you trust, etc.)

6. He needs strong information in terms of physical boundaries, sexual experimentation, how “no” means no when spoken by a girl regardless of his interpretation, and how to respect his own body and hers.

7. Keep in mind what we said earlier within the book that although it’s normal for him to express an interest in dating and to have experience with dating, it should never exclude his having and maintaining relationships with his male peers. If he becomes obsessed with a single relationship with a female at the expense of developing and maintaining relationship with his male peers, this is of concern.

Monday, February 9, 2009

More about Boys and ADD/ADHD

To piggyback on a blog we wrote on Feb 7, here is some more info on Boys and ADD/ADHD. For more information on boys, check out our book WIld Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys.

If a boy is having a hard time at home and school, often parents will worry if he has attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And while he may, he could also be struggling with a learning disability or maybe even depression, anxiety, or another psychological issue, or some family or school tension. Despite how widely known they are, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD) are extremely uncommon disorders affecting only four percent of all kids (although estimates vary widely from three to eleven percent more. And because over-diagnosing and overmedicating are common, there are a number of families that have significant concerns when attention deficit shows up on the radar.
How do you know if a boys has ADD or ADHD? A boy may have ADD/ADHD if he has a majority of these symptoms.
• He shows trouble paying attention and becomes easily distracted
• You notice that he makes careless mistakes.
• When he is spoken to directly, he doesn’t seem to hear.
• He struggles with following instructions.
• It is clear that he has trouble planning, organizing, following through on assignments or activities.
• He avoids certain tasks or chores (or does them begrudgingly)—especially the ones requiring sustained mental focus.
• He is forgetful or he frequently misplaces the things he needs for tasks or activities, things like homework assignments, books, etc.
• When he is in a place where he has to sit still (such as in restaurants, while at church, or during class) he squirms in his chair or fidgets, gets up, runs around, or climbs,
• He acts like he is the energizer bunny and cant stop moving
• If he seems to talk incessantly and to blurt out answers before questions have been completed (or he interrupts, intrudes, on others’ conversations and can’t wait his turn).
A boy with a majority of these symptoms may have ADD/ADHD—he may—or he just may be a boy. Many, many, many boys are diagnosed with this disorder that don’t have it. But ADD and ADHD are real, and sadly there are many boys who would be gratefully helped in their ability to manage daily life if they were treated for this significant brain malady.
Making an accurate diagnosis, deciding how to treatment, and when to begin treatment kids are some of the greatest challenges in treating children. In considering if a boy has ADD or ADHD, a boy’s parents and his doctor must consider things such as,
• A boy’s normal age-related development. (For instance, it’s normal for a five-year-old boy to not sit still in church or in a restaurant).
• Keeping realistic expectation of a boy’s ability to pay attention, control his restlessness, and manage his impulses.
• Are the symptoms severe enough to impair the boys normal life (not just make a parent’s life or teachers job difficult).
• Are the symptoms frequent enough that they show up significantly in all areas, such as home, school, scouts, sports, etc. (A boy can’t be ADD at school and not at soccer practice or with his grandpa.)

So what is ADD or ADHD?
We have to answer that question on two levels. The first level is diagnostically. The diagnosis of ADD and ADHD is a cluster of specific unwanted behavioral symptoms that co-occur in enough frequency and intensity that psychiatrist can draw a ring around them and call them an “It.” In this way ADD and ADHD diagnosis are largely subjective and can only be made by a trained and licensed mental health care provider—preferably a pediatric psychiatrist or child psychologist. (And be cautious of anyone that tries to diagnosis a boy with ADD or ADHD who is not yet through kindergarten, because there is limited information supporting the validity of the diagnosis among preschool children.)
The second way to understand ADD and ADHD is as a medical brain dysfunction. As science teaches us more and more about the brain, we are learning that ADD and ADHD are actually medical brain disorders that have to do with the brain’s neurotransmitters (the things that transfers the all of the information along the pathways of the brain and tells the body to do what the body does). What researches are beginning to see is that ADD and ADHD are likely a problem with how the brain process and holds on to information. The good news is that we are very close to being able to diagnose ADD and ADHD at the source with brain imaging technology instead of symptomology. (In fact more and more physicians won’t diagnose ADD or ADHD without ordering brain scans.)
The long and the short of it is that if a boy you love has most of the symptoms listed above much of the time, he needs to have a visit to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Boys and ADD/ADHD

When we spoke at Wheaton Grammer School we got several questions asked to us about ADD/ADHD. Every time we talk to parents and educators about boys we get asked questions about ADD or ADHD. For sure this can be a frustrating and difficult reality for both boys, parents, and teachers. Here are five tips to keep in mind. For more information on this topic or on boys in general check out our book WIld Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys. We also highly recommend the book Driven to Distraction, a great book on ADD/ADHD

1. Set the right expectations at the right level. Accept the fact that no boy is perfect. Realize that ADD or ADHD is not the end of the world. Boys with this disorder need parents who will see them as they are (limited in some ways and gifted in others). Parents need not hold on to Pollyanna ideals, but neither do they need to carry around resentment and pessimism. Every boy needs to feel accepted and supported for who he is—this is especially true for kids with ADD. He needs to feel that his parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors have confidence in who he his.

2. He needs more than medicine. For sure many boys diagnosed with ADD or ADHD need medication to function well—but medicine is not the only thing that can make big differences.
• Loving Authority. Childs behavior is more impacted by how we nurture their nature than by anything. Boys with ADD need a supportive, loving, and consistent structure from those who have authority in their lives.
• Good Diet. We all need to watch what we eat, and boys with ADD need to steer clear of the types of foods that drive unwanted behavior: caffeine, sugar, and excessive carbohydrates,
• Plenty of Rest. One of the major contributors to ADD-like behavior is lack of sleep. Good sleep is food for the brain and without it; boys with ADD will really struggle.
• Daily Exercise. There are so many benefits to this for boys with ADD we probably don’t need to mention them, but without the chance to move and exhort himself might be too obvious to say.

3. Discipline toward Character. For boys with ADD it is easy to focus on correcting behavior and ignoring their hearts. Let’s face it sometimes you just want a boy to “sit down and shut up.” And while wise a loving discipline alone won’t cure ADD, without it a boy has little hope of succeeding in his childhood. A lot of people interchange the terms “discipline” and “punishment.” But the truth is that they are really different. Punishment relies on mostly fear and shame to force the will of a child into an outcome. Discipline is focused on teaching and has a variety of characteristics,
• Curiosity about the boy and the behavior in question i.e. “John, I noticed that you didn’t put your dinner plate in the dishwasher after dinner.”
• Explanations of how the boy misbehaved. I.e. “It’s really helpful to the whole family when we each take responsibility for our own messes.”
• Suggestions of how the boy could do it differently the next time because their will be a next time) i.e. “How about next time, when you get up to leave the table take your plate with you.”
• Logical consequence that bring a measure of loss into the life of the boy. I. e. “Since you didn’t take your dinner plate to the kitchen, you don’t get to have dessert tonight.”
• Redirection of the energy of the boy toward acceptable behavior. I.e. “Instead of watching TV right now why don’t we go for a walk.”
• Positive feedback when the boys does something well. Especially with ADD boys, by rewarding positive behavior we help foster feelings of success for boys and steer their motivation toward doing the right thing. i.e. “I noticed how you put your shoes away when you came home from school. Great job!”
Punishment does have a place but only when a child show little effort or willingness to change within a framework of discipline. For example, if a boy continues to tease or pick on another child inspire or being repeatedly instructed toward some other behavior. When a boy is being opening defiant, punishment is warranted. Similarly, we need to never punish a child for behavior that he is unable to control. When an ADD child fails to follow the rules of follow a command because he was distracted, he needs reminded not punished. He needs logical consequences (at worst) not reprimands.

4. Keep an Eye on the Horizon. Boys with ADD need the adults in their lives to anticipate potentially difficult situations for them. For example, if you are taking a boy with ADD to church, it’s probably a good idea to bring a bag of comics or a drawing pad, and to sit near the back of the sanctuary. Formulating a plan before you head into problematic environments will save everybody involved a lot of heartache. It also helps to talk with a boy before heading into a situation like this, letting grim know what challenges he may face and some ways to navigate those. Its also good to let him know what will happen if the appropriate behavior is not seen.

5. Be Consistent.
ADD kids must have consistency. A sudden change in the routine or an interruption in the rhythm of things can throw them for a loop. It’s best for boys in this car gory for adults in their life have as much of a routine as possible, and to set rules and consequence for them to follow and stick to them. This means that parents of ADD boys must be on the same page. When mom and dad present a united front, a boy knows exactly what to expect.
Boys and Sexual Abuse

Friday, February 6, 2009

Whirlwind in the Windy City

The day started with a 4:30 wake up, a rush to the airport and quick hop to C-town.

We spent the day with Anita Lustira and Melinda Schmidt at Moody Midday Connection. It is always great to be with this women. This is by far our favorite radio show to do. We did one live show based on our new book Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, and then we taped another show that will air in March on some really hop button topics concerning boys. We covered everything from porn, to single moms, to sexual abuse, to father issues, to ADD/ADHD, and more.

We then raced (literally) to Wheaton Christian Grammer School where we did a teacher inservice, stuffed our face with Gino's East stuffed pizza, and then did a community outreach event that attracted over 250 parents, grandparents, youth workers, and educators. It was great to see so many people interested in the art of nurturing boys. This a an incredible school that is obviously engaged on the front lines of loving and educating the next generation of leaders.

We signed a bunch of books and then went to the hotel and collapsed.

This morning we had breakfast with our aquisition editor at Tyndale House and then went over Wheaton College to meet with a great man Dr. Stanton Jones. Dr. Jones and his wife, Brenna, have written a series of books that we often recommend to parents on talking to kids about sex.

Then it was off to the airport, but not without first stopping at Giordano's for more stuffed pizza. Oh the excess!!! Then off to the airport where we are trying to get on an earlier flight back to Nashville.

Our manager, David Huffman, took some great pictures of the last couple of days that we will post later.

Stephen and David

Moves for Boys Ages 10-12

Continuing on blog we wrote last week on movies for boys ages 5-8, here is list of movies for boys 9-12.

• The Rookie (10+ years old)
• The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) (10+ years old)
• North by Northwest (1959) (10+ years old)
• It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) (10+ years old)
• Apollo 13 (10+ years old)
• The Princess Bride (10+ years old)
• Hoosiers (10+ years old)
• Remember the Titans (10+ years old)
• The Goonies (10+ years old)
• October Sky (10+ years old)
• The Karate Kid (10+ years old)
• TO Kill a Mockingbird (10+ years old)
• Stand By Me (12+ years old)
• Lord of the Rings (12+ years old)
• Chronicles of Narnia (12+ years old)
• Rudy (12+ years old)
• Glory (12+ years old)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Virtual Book Tour

We just finished an hour long interview, virtual book tour, on the new book Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys. Visit our website for a link to the interview. There is a free parenting plan too!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wild Things at Central Baptist Church Bearden, Knoxville, TN

Just got back to Nashville from a fantastic weekend in Knoxville at Central Baptist Church Bearden. Saturday, we spoke twice on the development of boys to over one hundred and fifty parents, grandparents, and teachers. This morning on Sunday we spoke to about two hundred parents and grandparents about “A Boy and His Mother “and “A Boy and His Father.” We also fielded questions from parents about the development of their sons.

It was refreshing and encouraging to see so many parents, grandparents, and teachers get so deeply involved in the life of the boys we loved. We met some fantastic people. We also got some great sushi for lunch at Sobu on our way out of town. Go figure, great sushi in Knoxville.

We gathered some great questions that attendees submitted from the events and we will be posting answers to them over the next several days.

Stephen and David