“If grades and sports are good in a boys life, we assume their inner emotions are too, that’s not the case” -RAISING CAIN
I recently watched a documentary regarding the inner emotional life of boys in america. A film that challenges social and cultural expectations and norms as it relates to their development.
What is the documentary about?
America’s boys are in trouble. They are the most violent in the industrialized world. Many are unable to express their emotions. On average, boys are doing worse in the classroom than they were 10 years ago.
Who is responsible for this situation? How do we learn to listen to and support our boys? How can we guide them on the path to becoming responsible, caring men?
The documentary, Raising Cain: Boys in Focus, provides answers, insights, ideas, and hope. Hosted by child psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D., co-author of the best-selling book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys, this documentary explores the emotional development of boys in America today. Thompson consults with some of our nation’s most respected psychologists, social activists, researchers and educators to probe the issues facing boys and find solutions to their dilemmas.
This two-hour documentary provides surprising new research about boys’ inner lives, dispelling a number of commonly held misconceptions, and highlights innovative programs that are bringing out the best in boys. The PBS Parents Guide to Understanding and Raising Boys offers insights and advice from Thompson and other experts on raising boys in America today.
As a teacher and a future parent, I found the film to be informative as well as alarming. I feel such a strong sense of urgency to get the information relayed in this documentary out there to parents. This information is vital in providing parents with the tools they need to be able to support the boys in our country. It is vital for parents to be aware of this stark truth and hopefully with knowledge, comes change.
I think that our society allows so many things to look like the norm – that we, myself included, often think certain methods are ok, when they are actually harmful. Researching, and informing ourselves and finding out what works best for our family is very important.
I appreciated that this documentary was hosted by a psychologist and how it gave a well rounded view of almost every type of boy in america.
The most shocking study to me was the one conducted by psychologist Michael Thompson which showed that baby boys are actually more emotional than baby girls.
Boys in pre-school or kindergarten are often given the message that wanting to kill or hurt others in their pretend play is bad, which in turn makes them think and feel that they are bad. This message, from an early age is shaping their thoughts and image of what is ok to think and feel. At one point the documentary goes into a classroom and shows how one boy was affected by this and how the teacher supported him in a very healthy manner.
One aspect of the documentary that I disagreed with a bit was the part about conflict resolution and how it is handled in the classroom . It gave an example of how teachers in japan handle it, by letting conflict happen and not intervening (suggesting instead to let children resolve conflicts on their own, and amongst themselves). I strongly believe in facilitating conflict resolution so that children can learn skills about how to properly resolve conflicts. The immediate (mid-conflict) guidance and facilitation help to foster the skills needed to resolve the conflicts (that otherwise wouldn’t be addressed without facilitation).
Staying close to children 1-6 (yrs old) during conflicts so that they can see the skill of conflict resolution modeled and start to practice it themselves. It could get a bit dangerous if parents and teachers are not close during conflicts, because children will resort to physical means and continue to think that’s the way to resolve conflicts. Here is a great resource on how to help children resolve conflicts: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1521
Another part of the documentary was about boys diagnosed with ADHD and ADD who were medicated. I believe strongly that the majority of children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD really have Sensory Processing/Integration Disorder which requires Occupational Therapy (Play Therapy). Go here for more information: http://www.sinetwork.org/about-sensory-processing-disorder.html
Our society tells boys that they can’t have emotions, that having emotions is weak, they make masculinity look like the wrong image of what being a man is. The result is devastating. Boys who are hiding who they really are under a mask and suppressing a lot of healthy feelings that need to be validated in a safe way.
Here are some quotes from the documentary that I really loved.”
“Model of manhood with an open expression of affection.”
“When behavior effects their grades it also effects their social life.”
“If grades and sports are good in a boys life, we assume their inner emotions are too, that’s not the case.”
“Boys have SO much pressure to be tough and stoic.”
“An 18 year olds frontal lobe (which determines their ability of judgement) is still maturing.”
“They take dangerous risks because they want to prove their manhood.”
“Acts of violence in play are not real. intervene by getting them to reflect and see if from someone else’s point of view.”
“When we try to stop the behavior they get the message that their inner lives are shameful and scary.”
“Ask them about their feelings and intentions.”
“They get the message that love makes them weak.”
“Emotional courage is courage.”
“They have an emotional life and their own ways of learning.”
“An adult male who can model manhood; responsible, caring and emotionally available.”
During different parts of the documentary, I was teary eyed, sad, yet determined to help be a part of changing this. Our boys need us, whether we are parents, teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or friends. We all have a role in this, and the change has to begin with us.