“Do you ever look at someone and wonder, ‘What is going on inside their head?’” asks Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, in the trailer to the hit movie, Inside Out. Raising a boy drives many to answer an emphatic “YES!” to Joy’s question.
What is going on inside their head? Presbyterian Day School (PDS) has been attempting to understand just that for nearly 75 years. Though each boy and family situation is different, we have found general, underlying themes that help us meet each boy’s needs as he grows. Here are some nuggets of wisdom that may resonate with those who are undertaking the wonderful challenge of raising a boy.
Establishing Routines Helps Build Independence
Learning routines and responsibility helps little boys become more independent. Establish a morning and a bedtime routine. Have a set place in your home where his backpack goes. Make it his job to put the bag there when coming home and to get it to return to school the following day. Please give your little one opportunities to put on his clothing by himself and give him a choice of outfits to pick from during the week. He needs to dress himself…underwear, clothing, and shoes. If they don’t match, that’s the small stuff; be glad for progress. Don’t look for perfection. Teach him how to open his own snack and lunch items to help with his confidence. He will be so proud of these accomplishments.
–Sandy Kilgore, PreKindergarten Teacher
Let Him Learn From His Mistakes
Boys often learn from making their own mistakes, not from observing the mistakes of others. This can make for a bumpy ride, but it is all a part of helping them find their path in life. Be a voice of reason and encouragement. Ride out his emotional outbursts with a cool disposition. Stay positive through the moody silences. You are his first and oldest companion. Your involvement in his life will be a guiding force as he learns to navigate life’s highs and lows on his own. Boys need their support network, especially their mothers, to believe in them. Don’t become discouraged! Continue to believe in your boy, and he will come to believe in himself as he seeks out his own path.
-Jason Hewer, 5th Grade Teacher
Set Reasonable Expectations for Online Gaming
Did you know that most electronic games don’t have a pause feature? This is why your son might hesitate to jump into action when you call for him. He isn’t trying to be disrespectful! In fact, he’s demonstrating being dependable and sticking to a defined goal or mission. In most collaborative online games, users play cooperatively, relying on and trusting each other to complete missions. Dr. Shimi Kang, Harvard-trained psychiatrist and author of “The Tech Solution,” recommends giving your son a 5-minute warning when you call him away from his game so he can prepare his team to lose their player.
-Melissa Smith, Chief Information Officer
Develop a Holistic Approach to Manhood
Parents tend to focus on the intellectual and physical growth of boys through school and sports–mind and body. As we seek to guide boys on their journey to manhood, we must remember to tend to their spiritual growth as well. A holistic view of manhood includes teaching and training the spirit, as well as the mind and body. You teach them to practice math facts and sports skills. But compassion, servant leadership, and thoughtful reflection need daily practice, too. Praying with and for your son develops a deep spiritual connection. All boys long to be heroes. Help your son define the traits of a hero and seek opportunities for him to serve others in age-appropriate ways.
-Darilyn Christenbury, Chaplain for Early Childhood and YK-3rd Grade Bible Teacher
Give Him an Intentional Break
After years of educating boys, the words that resonate and describe the day-in and day-out of a boy, are “balanced chaos.” Though they may be perceived as unpredictable, educators of boys have learned to see adventuresome, hilarious, loving, wild, and often completely puzzling individuals. Our job is to identify and coach them on how to regulate and channel this “chaos.” Over time and through research, we have seen that a hug, a short break from schoolwork, time outside, imaginative play, or intentional conversations are tools that can help boys press pause and navigate their feelings, emotions, and behaviors.
-Lindsey Robinson, Director of Academic Support & 1st Grade Learning Specialist
Guide His Emotional Learning
Boys require and deserve intentional, nurturing, and emotional work, just as girls do. This work requires the presence, patience, and persistence of parents over many, many years. By nature, boys are relational learners, crave adult attention, and often ask, “Am I loved?” and “Are you interested in me?” even when you think they don’t care. Boys need parents to help name emotions, model constructive ways to release these emotions, and spend intentional time with them on their turf. Doing this internal work during a boy’s foundational years will set the stage for future relationships and establish healthy emotional responses.
-Emily Lequerica, Director of Research and Innovation for Boys’ Education
Keep It Short and Sweet
If I have learned anything about boys, it’s to keep things “short and sweet.” Anything said out loud (instructions, gentle course-correcting, words of affirmation, etc.) should be kept to the fewest number of words possible. Boys start out fundamentally as tactile and kinesthetic learners; as they grow, they become visual, spatial, and experiential learners. It took me a while to notice that auditory is not one of the primary ways boys learn. As a mom and teacher of boys, I tend to want to cover every detail and reiterate multiple-step directions over and over, but I’ve learned simple yet firm directions, or even visual cues, begin to help boys establish their own sense of independence.
-Lauren Riley, 6th Grade Teacher
Create Space for Him to Tell You About His Day
“How was your day?” “FINE.” “How was school?” “FINE.” “What did you do today?” “NOTHING.”
These are standard answers from boys. When my boys were younger, I learned to take the time to sit at the foot of the bed or lay down by them for a few minutes at bedtime. I would always get more involved and enlightened answers to these questions then. There seems to be a “safety” in talking to your mom when the room is dark, and you don’t have to see her face. Realizing this helped me find a way to really talk about the day and any worries, concerns, or achievements they wanted to share.
-Terri Jarratt, 2nd-4th Grade Science Lab
Help Develop His Fine Motor Skills at a Young Age
Boys and girls are different in many aspects. Boys love being active, moving in many directions, and changing activities very quickly. It can be a challenge to hold their attention, especially when it comes to printing, coloring, and other fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are always a challenge for little boys. Help them develop these skills by using ways that disguise what you are doing. Squirt guns, Legos, small balls, tops, turkey basters, tweezers, kitchen tongs, and everyone’s favorite–Play doh. Summer is the perfect time to go outside and have some fine motor fun!
-Shari Caruthers, Junior Kindergarten Teacher
Allow Him to Build Resilience
Let boys struggle and try again without intervening. Boys often go straight to, “I can’t,” when something doesn’t come easily; help them build a different vocabulary. Help them understand that they can do hard things, even when those things take more time and thought than they expected. Boys need to feel the struggle because that is where the lesson is learned. Often, struggles become successes. Help your son celebrate the journey, even if there is a failure. Don’t allow him to give up. This builds resilience and a growth mindset that lasts for a lifetime.
-Stephanie Taylor, 2nd Grade Teacher
Raising a boy is challenging yet rewarding work, and we hope these words bring some encouragement. You are not alone in raising your son and all the joys and frustrations that come with it. Take a deep breath and smile! You’re doing a great job!
Since its founding in 1949, Presbyterian Day School has striven to glorify God by developing boys in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. The school teaches boys two-years-old through sixth grade on a campus in the heart of East Memphis and takes a holistic approach to education, nurturing the heart, soul, mind, and body of each boy.