It's a fact that many are overlooking: Boys are simply not
thriving in school. Across all ethnic backgrounds and economic
levels, girls graduate high school at higher rates than boys,
participate in more extracurricular activities and, overall, earn
As Peg Tyre explains in her book, The Trouble with Boys (Crown
Publishers, 2008), "… For the most part our schools, our
communities and our elected leaders are ignoring boys' widespread
underachievement. Yet even as some folks turn a blind eye to the
problem, the way boys struggle in school has begun to set off a
cascade of effects large and small that are likely to change the
fabric of our communities for generations."
Tyre delves deep into the issues that many parents of boys face:
What should I do when Johnny isn't succeeding in school?
She offers some useful suggestions:
• Boys learn more when they participate in active and
hands-on learning. Ask your son's teacher how much time is being
spent "in desk" (i.e. filling out worksheets, quiet reading time)
and how much time is dedicated to hands-on, project-based and/or
group learning activities.
• Boys absolutely need time to let off steam, and many
children today receive less than 20 minutes a day of free, outdoor
play. It's simply not enough. Physical education classes have also
seen cutbacks. Ask your school principal how much time is set aside
each day for active play, a key component in the stress relief and
overall health of our children. When your boys get home from
school, encourage them to head outdoors for play. Better yet, grab
that ball and glove and go play catch or go for a nice family walk
• Boys need to be encouraged to read, and not just by mom.
How do male role models in your family share the importance of
reading with your son? Boys need to know that men do indeed read,
not just for work, but for pleasure. Encourage your son to find
books that match his interests: comic books, graphic novels,
magazines-it doesn't need to be literature. Captain Underpants and
the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1: The Night of
the Nasty Nostril Nuggets may not be War and Peace, but the
important factor to remember here is that your son needs to be
encouraged to read for fun.
Video game generation
Tyre also tackles the issue of video games. Will playing video
games affect boys' IQs? Could video game play time be contributing
to the underachievement of boys at school?
Many teachers will agree, myself included, that boys who
overplay video games can be harder to teach due to lower attention
spans. Sadly, it also appears that video games seem to be
contributing to the diminishing participation of boys in
after-school activities and sports (that in turn improve
socialization and in-school participation).
Kids themselves agree. A recent study by the National Institute
on Media and the Family surveyed children on video game usage.
Fifteen percent of children surveyed stated that they feel as if
they spend too much time playing video games. One in 10 admit
spending so much time video gaming that it has cut into time
dedicated to homework and study.
Such results suggest that parents should limit video game usage
at home. Set limits: If your son (or daughter) spends more than one
hour a day on video games, pull the plug. We all know that kids
secretly appreciate and adore parents that set reasonable limits,
and they will soon learn to fill their free time with other
engaging, healthy activities.
Tyre also points to the research of Judy Chu, who teaches a
class on boys' psychosocial development at Stanford University in
California. Chu found "for boys, having at least one close
confiding relationship was the single best predictor of
psychological health and well-being."
Our sons need to know that home is a safe place where they can
share the ups and downs of school life, be supported in their
efforts and guided in academic life with love and concern.
Amy Bizzarri is a mom of two living in Logan Square. She also blogs at tiramisumom.com.
See more of Amy's stories here.
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