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Raising Confident Boys. Arbor Clinical Associates. Concerns about Boys. Concerns about Boys. The signs of the troubled boys and young men in this country are all around us: The shocking violence of Columbine, Paducah and Jonesboro Bullying and intimidation in schools

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Raising Confident Boys

Arbor Clinical Associates


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Concerns about Boys


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Concerns about Boys

  • The signs of the troubled boys and young men in this country are all around us:

    • The shocking violence of Columbine, Paducah and Jonesboro

    • Bullying and intimidation in schools

    • Popularity of violent, sexualized video games

    • Adult bookstores and domestic violence shelters in our communities

    • Emphasis on material wealth to indicate status and self-worth

    • Rates of addiction 3x that of women


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Concerns about Boys

  • Peg Tyre column in Chicago Tribune (Oct. 08):

    • Boys are 5x more likely to be expelled from preschool

    • Boys continue to lag in reading and are doing worse in writing

    • 2x as likely to be labeled “learning disabled”

    • Compose 2/3 of special ed. classrooms

    • Up to 10x more likely to be diagnosed with a developmental or emotional disorder, and 4-6x more likely to commit suicide

    • In high school, boys are withdrawing from extracurricular activities, like student council and theatre, with sports being the sole exception.

    • In college, there are 2.5 million more female undergraduates than male undergraduates with the gap increasing by 100,000 each year.


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Concerns about Boys

  • Summary: Our boys are hurting. These statistics all suggest we have to look carefully at how we’re raising our boys and attending to their unique needs as they grow up.


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Boys Code


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Boys Code

  • In “Real Boys”, Harvard developmental specialist William Pollack describes a strict ‘Boy Code’ of acceptable behaviors, taboos, rules and words.

    • Be tough – don’t show any feelings except anger

    • Don’t show vulnerability or need – DO NOT CRY

    • Don’t show that you’re close to people physically or emotionally

    • Handle difficulties on your own – don’t ask for help

    • Relationships are about power and control


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Boys Code

  • Problems arise when a boy’s experience or feelings inevitably do not fit the code or its prescriptions. When a boy looks to the code and it doesn’t reflect his actual feelings or give him a realistic option, he’s caught in a true dilemma, because the code cannot be forsaken without the risk of deep shame

    • Results in confusion, isolation, and a sense of despair for the boy.

    • Parents are also confronted by a dilemma: “I sense my son’s needs, but he has to fit into a tough world.”


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Boys Code

  • Example from Pollack: One boy, who was severely taunted at school, grew more and more depressed, even as he told his parents and teachers, “everything’s fine.”

  • We often see boys who are suffering silently inside and hiding behind more acceptable masks of toughness and withdrawal.


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Building Confidence – Alternatives to ‘Boys Code’

  • Focusing on development of a positive, accepting relationship with parents as a foundation for healthy confidence

  • Boys may present as ‘doers’ true to the ‘Boys Code’, but they crave relationships with others, including their parents.

  • Solid relationships can:

    • Help boys better negotiate challenges of growing

    • Allow boys to share and heal emotional injuries

    • Become more authentic, expressive, and caring


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How Boys are Built


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Gender Differences in Brain Development

  • Boys are “Doers” and present as active

  • Gross Motor Development – delayed fine motor skill development compared to girls

  • Cerebellum and Dopamine – increased impulsivity and movement

  • Frontal Lobe – less impulse control

  • “Rest State” - boys require some down time between tasks

    • May present as sleepiness or distractibility

    • Boys may stimulate themselves during this time by pencil tapping, etc…


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Gender Differences in Brain Development

  • Linear Learning - less multitasking, preference for one task at a time

  • Lower Sensory Integration – difficulty attending to verbal tone or subtle verbal cues

  • Corpus Callosum – less communication between brain hemispheres when compared to girls

  • Blood Flow – 15% less blood flow may contribute to more linear focus on tasks

  • Boys make good use of structure – however, they may need more time to memorize


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Gender Differences in Brain Development

  • Relationships/Expression

    • Relate through activity

  • Delayed verbal/language development compared to girls (3 ½ year old girl equivalent to 5 year old boy)

  • Prefer structured and organized activities

  • Conflict – more likely to initially use physical and behavioral ways to resolve conflict


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Gender Differences in Brain Development

  • Development of Self-Image/Self-Esteem

  • Poor motor development and low self-esteem

  • Poor fine motor development and low self-esteem

  • Self Image connected to proficiency in physical activities


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The Dilemma with Boys

  • Boys’ attempts to find balance

    • Authenticity

    • Relationships

    • Functioning/Performance

  • Boys tend to focus on Functioning/Performance if they cannot find balance and may sacrifice relationships and authenticity

  • Risk of shame if self-esteem focused on Functioning/Performance without supportive relationships


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What to Do?

Emphasizing Relationship Building


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Relationship and connection work for parents

  • Power of parental hopes, dreams and fears

    • Can be both positive and negative

    • Where are the boundaries?

    • Acknowledge risk for anxiety, frustration, and anger

    • Potential impacts on your relationship

      • Distancing

      • Performance based


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Relationship and connection work for parents

  • Accept your child’s unique temperament

    • What old scripts are you following?

    • “Progress not perfection”

    • The ‘What if…’ question – naming and considering fears and hopes about the future


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Developmental Awareness

  • Where is my child at and what are his needs?

    • ‘Scaffolding’ Strategy

      • Child can reach higher level with support

      • Question: “What am I scaffolding?”

        • Higher performance, flexibility, independence, etc…

        • Consider that different goals may conflict – it may be difficult to encourage a child’s independence while still maintaining high performance


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Developmental Awareness

  • Where is my child at and what are his needs (cont.)

    • Find balance between challenge, support, and protection

      • Give enough support to climb – don’t carry him

      • When do I let him struggle and learn from natural consequences?

    • Define and measure developmental progress

      • Operationalize progress – clear, unambiguous measures

      • Work with child to develop expectations and rewards

    • Parent transition from manager to consultant (approx. age 11-13)


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Building Blocks for Safety

  • Helping your child to know what to expect

    • Consistency

    • Clarity

    • Predictability

  • Relational structures

    • Expectations

    • Roles

    • Responsibilities

    • Boundaries


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Meeting Boys Where They’re At

  • Using the way boys are built

    • Going where your child is

    • Communicating while and through doing

    • Routines are your friend – boys respond to structure

  • Boys’ Interests and Parental Homework

    • Google and Wikipedia – take some time to familiarize yourself with your child’s interests


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Meeting Boys Where They’re At

  • Mutuality and Creating Common Experience

    • Working and playing together

    • Importance of physical contact – may need to be parent initiated

    • Celebrating

  • Specific Techniques

    • Active Listening

    • Child-Centered Play/Talk – avoiding the performance trap

      • 10-15 minutes of child led or directed play (parent fits child during this time)

      • Schedule consistent and regular time for play/talk


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Authentic Communication/Reducing Felt Shame

  • Principles

    • Openness and acceptance through empathy

    • Engagement of feelings and emotions

      • Reflection without judgment

      • Help child build vocabulary and frontal lobe connections to give non-physical options to manage emotions


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Authentic Communication/Reducing Felt Shame

  • Principles (cont.)

    • Parental authenticity and vulnerability

      • Modeling

        • How you’re thinking and feeling as parents

        • It’s ok to say, “I need time to think about that”

      • Mutual respect and joint problem-solving

    • Realistic praise and encouragement


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Resources

  • Michael Gurian: writes on development and education of boys

    • “The Minds of Boys” – more education focused

    • “The Wonder of Boys”

  • William Pollack: “Boy’s Code” and relating with boys

    • “Real Boys”

  • Leonard Sax: writes on gender differences and implications for boys

    • “Boys Adrift”

  • Carolyn Webster-Stratton: child-centered play and parenting guide for children 3-8

    • “The Incredible Years”

  • David Elkind: importance of play for children

    • “The Power of Play”

  • Mary Sheedy Kurcinka – working with intense and energetic children

    • “Raising Your Spirited Child”

  • Ross W. Greene – working with explosive children; also offers a relational-problem solving approach

    • “The Explosive Child”


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Contact Information

  • Kendra Battaglia, MA

  • Bill Li, LCPC

  • David Rennard, LCSW, CSAT

    Arbor Clinical Associates

    (630) 462-7005

    1725 Naperville Rd., Suite 207

    Wheaton, IL 60189

    www.arborclinical.com


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