Thursday, September 11, 2014

Boys Will Be Boys

Norma Logan is the Literacy Coordinator at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read Norma's column in the September 11, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

The day my grandson was born, 6 years ago in September, I knew that the pink frilly clothes, dolls and tea sets from my three daughters would have to continue to stay retired in the closet.

I would have to start all over with collecting cars, trucks, and boy things since I had not had any sons. The first toy/book that my husband and I bought for our new grandson was a board book in the shape of a tractor, wheels and all. More books and toys followed. That was the easy part. As time went on, and I watched his development, it became clear he did not respond or act in any way that resembled my three girls. As he is now approaching his 6th year, it is more apparent.
The energy level is higher, and if he is not outside running around and being active, his inside activities include putting things together (lots of Legos), and running after remote control vehicles. Reading to him has been limited now to bedtime (better than nothing). His only quiet activity is watching a favorite PG show or movie; I am more generous to allow that activity than his mother. One day I came across the book “The Minds of Boys: Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life” by Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens and thought that I may learn something as a grandmother and educator. I learned a lot. Michael Gurian is a social philosopher and family counselor who has written 26 books about his research on the connection of neuro-biology, brain research and gender differences, and how it relates to the behavioral characteristics and learning processes of both males and females.

“What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails,
And that are what little boys are made of.”

Robert Southey

“The Minds of Boys: Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life” is an extensive book outlining the neurological and chemical differences of boys and girls at different ages, and the influence on their learning trends. It reads more academic than his other books but covers much of what teachers, parents and schools can do to help boys achieve better in school and life.

Gurian explains in great detail how male/female brain activity is different, how different hormones affect male/female behavior and how this all develops over time. Often, he refers to these differences as “boy energy” and “girl energy”.

As Gurian puts it, “There are few mothers who don’t notice that their sons are gifted with a way of learning and relating and seeing the world in game groups and learning groups that involve climbing walls, being wild and noisy, trying desperately not to take things personally”.

Gurian’s book, “What Stories Does my Son Need?” is a very resourceful book; it is a guide to 100 books and 100 movies that build character in boys. It covers recommendations from the pre-school years thru high school. An extra plus is that it includes discussion starters (questions) for each book and movie. I was happy to see “The Giving Tree”, by Shel Silverstein, and “Where the Wild Things Are”, by Maurice Sendak , on the list, as they are two of my grandson’s favorite stories, and he never tires of them.

Finally, Michael Gurian’s “Leadership and the Sexes” is one of his newer books which links the science of male/female brain with business practices. Gurian’s theories on this concept may be controversial to some; nevertheless, interesting to read. He begins by reviewing the basic principles of the male brain versus the female brain; the male brain frequently goes into rest mode and is not geared to multi-task. Men’s brains process fewer words than women and are wired to be more aggressive. Hence, men and women lead and negotiate differently. He does not propose to suggest that one does better than another, just differently.

Michael Gurian’s prolific writings have not been limited to the subject of male brain development and its effect on young men’s parents and teachers. He has also written “The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of our Daughters”. Although I figure I pretty much know a lot about raising daughters, if I ever have a granddaughter, it will be the first book I read.