Crew spent the better part of Sunday morning working on this life size replica of himself. (Yes, that is a bloody knife in his gut.)
Now a year or two ago I may have freaked that Crew wanted to trace a knife, bloody the tip, and stick it into his gut. (He asked me if I thought that was enough blood.) But let me tell you why I’m not worried about the bloody knife, the spikes, the guts, the bombs, the alligator teeth, or Crew’s countless other drawings that have to do with violence and death:
I am not worried because he is a boy.
And because I happened to read three books last fall that shed some light on the subject of boys and gender differences and how the differences relate to the education process. See Crew was about to enter kindergarten and I knew he was different than Elle. I wanted to be empowered with knowledge so that his school experience was positive and that we met his educational needs and potential, so I went to the library and started reading:
“Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men” by Leonard Sax
“Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences” by Leonard Sax
“Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System that is Leaving Them Behind” by Richard Whitmore
(Now because this is a blog post and not a research paper, I cannot adequately summarize 1000 pages in 1000 words and I am not going to cite every source. Just trust me that I read it in one of these books. And I understand that just like there are differences in boys and girls, there are also differences within the sexes. I know I am generalizing.)
The books talked about the differences between boys’ and girls’ brains and how that relates to life and their learning and education. They also outlined some problems in our culture. Boys are getting lost. They cited a bunch of statistics about how more girls graduate from high school, college, and with higher degrees than boys. More girls get scholarships and more boys are still living at home (You know the whole Failure to Launch epidemic) . Boys writing skills are slipping and they are disengaged and turned off from the learning process. Basically boys are floundering in our society.
They also explored why this may be so. It may be everything from the feminization of the American classroom to video games to lack of male role models to plastics.
One part that really stuck out to me (and now I know why) was the part about boys aggression and violence. Preference for violent stories seems to be normal for 5-7 year old boys, but the prevailing attitude in many schools is a no-tolerance policy for violence sometimes even in writing. But we should allow boys to read and write and draw about violence because that is what interests them. What do boys have to say if they can’t blow something up or shoot the bad guy?
And there are no studies that support the theory that violent reading and writing equals violent behavior. Actually to the contrary, if boys don’t have a proper way to outlet aggression like in writing or in dodge ball (which is also being banned around the country) than they may be more likely to demonstrate aggressive or violent behavior. Attempting to restrict violent and aggressive acts may actually increase the likelihood of events. But so many teachers are females that can’t see the good in writing about war and alien spaceships and injuries and accidents and are worried about Columbine.
One of my favorite headings was “Girls Draw Nouns, Boys Draw Verbs.” This resonated as truth to me and what I have observed with my own kids. Girls draw people and rainbows and unicorns and flowers and boys draw alien spaceships engaged in an intergalactic war with robots from another planet. The books also talked about how boys and girls choose different color palettes when they draw. Girls often choose warmer colors like red, brown, yellow, and orange and boys opt for cooler colors: black, blue, gray and silver. Boys also tend to use less color when they draw. So it was no surprise when Crew brought me this pictures yesterday entitled “War 6: Level Death”, drawn all in pencil.
Crew wants to draw stuff like this and it doesn’t mean he is a bad kid. In fact, he is gentle and kind. (You should hear him in the middle of the night consoling his baby brother, Locke. “It’s okay bud. I’m right here.” He cried when I talked to him about some of the details about my divorce and he cried when he watched the “Blind Side”. And he just wrote a note to a 55 year old lady in our neighborhood who had foot surgery with a P.S. that said “Your hair is pretty.”) Like I said, he is gentle and kind and good.
At this point I am not worried about him. He is just a boy interested in stupid boy stuff. And if I banned any kind of weapons or violence or potty talk from his writing and coloring he would be disengaged with the writing process and creative process and perhaps ultimately disengaged from learning and society. But as it stands now he spends hours writing stories and drawing pictures about topics that interest a 6 year old boy.
So let your boys wrestle, beat up their buddies, draw pictures of blood and guts, and fart at the dinner table (okay maybe not that), but let them be boys. Also, talk to your sons’ teachers if you see them not accepting gender differences. (Just yesterday, Crew told me his teacher says he should use more colors when he draws. Don’t worry; I’m on it.)
Remember boys are scientifically different than girls, and as parents, we need to acknowledge, respect and honor gender differences without thinking we are being sexist.