All posts tagged psychologist

Only girls cry?

“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.

Raising Cain is a production of Powderhouse and Michael Thompson, Ph.D., in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting 



My Opinion

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:

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:

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.

Have playgrounds become too safe for kids?

by Lylah M. Alphonse, Senior Editor, Manage Your Life

Playgrounds these days are usually brightly colored things, low-slung plastic-coated structures with short, gently sloping slides, set on surfaces covered with shredded rubber or wood chips. No see-saws. No hand-pulled twirling whirling rides. No super-high jungle gyms to climb. Swings (if there are any) often have safety bars and seat belts attached.
But that wasn’t the case just a generation ago.

“I am still quite nostalgic for the two-, three-, maybe three-and-a-half-story high wooden playground castles I grew up with 30-odd years ago,” says Alex Gilliam, an architect and a national expert on K-12 design education. “We’re now at a point where every playground is pretty much the same. And they’re boring. They’re not challenging.”

Blame a litigious society. Or, maybe, helicopter parents. But the increased focus on safety may have had unintended consequences: a generation of kids who aren’t able to accurately assess risk or cope with fear.

Have playgrounds become too safe?

“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” Dr. Ellen Sandseter, a professor at Queen Maud University in Norway, told the New York Times. “Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.”

In a small 2007 study in Europe, Sandseter observed six different types of “risky play”: playing on high structures or at high speeds, using dangerous tools or playing near dangerous elements, roughhousing, and games where the children can “get lost,” “disappear,” or avoid adult supervision. But instead of allowing children to explore their environment and understand how to interact with it, schools and public officials have been working to eliminate even the smallest risks.

In 2006, some cities and schools banned tag during recess, citing safety concerns; others have outlawed contact sports like touch football and soccer. Dodge ball has been out for years. And in 2005, South Florida’s Broward County school system banned all running on playgrounds. Swings and see-saws were banned there, too. “They’ve got moving parts,” Safety Director Jerry Graziose told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Moving parts on equipment is the number one cause of injury on the playgrounds.”

Actually, according to the National Program for Playground Safety, the number one cause of injury on public, school, and home playgrounds is falling off of equipment. Even so, the vast majority of those injuries—85 percent—aren’t classified as severe.

Moreover, while many parents worry that a bad fall could lead to a life-long fear of heights, the New York Times points out that the opposite is actually the case: Studies have shown that “a child who’s hurt in a fall before the age of 9 is less likely as a teenager to have a fear of heights.”

“Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology,” Sandseter and her colleague,  psychologist Leif Kennair of the Norwegian University for Science and Technology, write in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

Gilliam sums it up this way: “The whole notion of protecting kids has kind of backfired.”

As the founder and director of Public Workshop, an organization that encourages kids to take part in designing the cities in which they live, Gilliam has been involved in the research and creation of plenty of different kinds of play spaces. Modern “safe” playgrounds aren’t interesting enough for older kids, he points out. That leads to an increase in sedentary activity, which has been linked to the spike in childhood obesity rates.

“We carp, as adults, all the time that we’ve lost our kids to video games, we’ve lost our kids to TV,” says Gilliam. “Of course we have. We’ve made the world, the physical landscape, so boring to kids that of course a video game is going to feel more stimulating.”

But there may be hope. “We’re at a weird tipping point,” Gilliam says. On one hand, the way we worry about the risks associated with play are “a little depressing at times,” he says. But on the other hand, it may allow us to reassess the way kids really need to play. Just as so-called free-range parents made others think about the way we foster independence, when it comes to super-safe and boring playgrounds, Gilliam says, “Some people are finally starting to say, ‘Maybe enough’s enough’.”

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Two Men Set Free After 20 Years

Imagine being punished for something that you never did, and almost no one believed you were innocent. What if you had twenty years taken away from you, and you could never get it back? Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens often in the criminal justice system. Many cases are treated as “guilty until proven innocent,” rather than, “innocent until proven guilty.” Maurice Caldwell and Francisco Carrillo learned this fact the hard way, facing serious time in prison for crimes they never committed. Justice eventually prevailed, and these two men were recently released from prison after being wrongly convicted of murder years ago.

Local non-profit, the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP), is behind the freedom of these men. Established in 2001, NCIP operates through grants and donations, with full-time staff attorneys and students from Santa Clara University Law School. NCIP embodies Santa Clara University’s mission to create a more just and humane world through working to exonerate innocent prisoners and pursue legal reforms that address the causes and consequences of wrongful convictions. Paige Kaneb, NCIP Supervising Attorney, and Linda Star, NCIP Legal Director, led the efforts in the overturning of Caldwell and Carrillo’s convictions.

Francisco Carrillo, age 16 when arrested, was sentenced to multiple life sentences after being convicted of murder twenty years ago. After being falsely identified in a 1992 drive-by, Carrillo had spent a majority of his life behind bars for a crime he never committed. Missing the birth and growing-up of his son, Theo, Carrillo tried to make the best of his devastating circumstance. During his time in prison, Carrillo obtained his GED, became a certified optician, and a Braille transcriber. In addition, Carrillo chose art as a method of expression, using his extraordinary talent to create elaborate sketches. Even with the odds stacked against him, Carrillo never lost hope. “I lost sight of barbed wire and ball and chain and just lived my life,” Carrillo said. “I was alive longer inside prison than out. I had a great support system and my belief in God. I’m just grateful for my amazing legal team.” Moving forward, Carrillo is going back to school to become a psychologist, spending time with his son, and learning to have a normal life again.

Twenty-one years ago, Maurice Caldwell was wrongly convicted of the murder of Judy Acosta. The homicide occurred in the Alemany housing projects during a botched drug deal. Since Caldwell’s 1991 trial, another man had admitted to Acosta’s murder. In addition, several witnesses identified the real shooters and said Caldwell was nowhere near the scene of the crime. Caldwell could have been free weeks before his actual release. In an earlier hearing, Caldwell had been offered a deal for his freedom. If he plead guilty to the charges of voluntary manslaughter, attempted murder, and shooting into an occupied vehicle, he would have been released right away, since he’d already served the sentence for those crimes. Caldwell refused to take the deal. According to attorney Kaneb, “He told the judge and the district attorney in open court that he’s been fighting this case for 20 years, and if he were 1 percent involved he would have taken this deal and walked, but he was 100 percent innocent and wouldn’t take any deal.” Upon his release, Caldwell’s first question from the press asked how Caldwell felt about the victim’s family. Caldwell responded that he felt sorry for the family; all these years they thought they had justice, but never did. Like Carrillo, Caldwell is trying to start all over.

Having lost over twenty years of their lives, Maurice and Frankie are each finding their own way back into society. However, the transition has been far from easy. Neither have any extensive job history or education, and Frankie is just getting his driver’s license. What Maurice and Frankie have endured is truly a tragedy, but their attitudes toward the situation are nothing short of remarkable. While they cannot completely make up for lost time, both have made the choice not to waste any more by being angry. I recently had the opportunity of meeting Maurice and Frankie, and was moved to tears by their stories. What impacted me the most was their gratefulness to be free, and the complete absence of anger. I was inspired by the hope they held all of those years, and their decision to never give up, regardless of the injustice they had faced.

What I ask of each of you reading this to place yourself into the shoes of Maurice and Frankie. What if, like Frankie, you missed your child grow up? Or like Maurice, you weren’t there for the final moments of those closest to you? You would think something was owed to you–and rightfully so. However, these two men are only grateful for their freedom. But starting all over is not easy, and these men are in need of help from the community. Frankie and Maurice are in need of the basics–clothing, a job, monetary support, and any other donations and assistance.

If there is any way that you can help Maurice and Frankie, please email Attorney Paige Kaneb, If you know of anyone that can help, we ask that you share Maurice and Frankie’s story. Any help you can provide these two men as they fight to rebuild their lives once again is appreciated.

To read more about Frankie’s case, please visit
To read more about Maurice’s case, please visit

For more information about The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP), please visit