My six year old first grader is wide-open, 100 mph from dawn until dusk. He overflows with energy, laughter and excitement. He also sits in school a good portion of the day. Kameron, like other rambunctious little boys, has trouble sitting hour after hour while he reads, pushes his pencil and colors his pictures. He has a very patient teacher who loves him dearly, yet refuses to allow him to drop below her level of expectation. He is familiar with the principal’s office. He has missed a lot of recess and he has often been deprived of the things he enjoys most in life as a punishment for misbehavior at school. His mother and I insist that he learn to obey and respect his elders and that he learn to cooperate and share with his peers and that he practice self-control. It will be a long and tedious journey but we are very confident that Kameron will learn these lessons well and one day he will develop in a fine young man.
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We are very satisfied with his educational experience but we are also aware of the difficult dynamic of educating young boys. Their rambunctious display of energy is often considered detrimental to learning and desperate attempts are made to suppress it. Little girls seem to thrive in a system that requires they sit still and use cooperative and creative skills. The little male warriors are expected to do the same. If little boys fail to sit still and act like little girls they are often ‘diagnosed’ with a ‘psychiatric disorder’ (ADHD) and fed Ritalin tablets to bridle behavior. Learning and behavioral problems are not cured by Ritalin. Ritalin simply treats the symptoms, the problem is still there. Is it not troubling that so many child psychiatrists begin their diagnosis by claiming that they, too, are ADHD? Our society has become insanely dependent on chemicals to treat the symptoms of their emotional, physical and spiritual problems while ignoring the possibility of discovering and destroying the root cause of their problems.
If a young boy’s raucous behavior can be tempered and controlled it can be a great benefit to the development of the child and to society in general. These energetic, masculine expressions need to be fostered and developed, not chemically suppressed or destroyed. The aggressive, independent boy who is ‘too big for his britches’ may one day be the quarterback of the football team or point guard on the basketball team. He may lead a group of Navy Seals to save innocent lives by capturing or killing of an evil tyrant. He may help colonize the moon, build an empire or change the world in which he lives by making an astounding discovery or invention. Should we not control the development of a young boy’s masculinity rather than try to feminize him?
It is likely my son will advance to the 7th or 8th grade before he finally has a male teacher. By the time he graduates from high school he will have accumulated 14,000 instructional hours in school. His life will be dominated by female personalities. That’s why, as his father, I am determined to teach and demonstrate for him masculinity. Wrestling contests, fishing and camping trips, baseball and target practice are activities that will help him distinguish his masculine role. There are multiple life lessons to learn through competition and adventure. Children with no father in the home are disadvantaged but are often taught to blaze their own trail by surrogate male role models such as grandfathers, uncles and coaches.
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