Tuesday, 14 October 2008

I've had some interesting comments recently and thought I had better clear up any confusion about what I am saying, and what I am most definitely NOT saying!

I am NOT saying that boys should not have structure, boundaries and discipline. My eldest son needs structure like I need chocolate. He craves it. So much so that in the school holidays I have to write a daily planner with him so that he knows, in his words, 'whats happening when'. Not all boys are like this, but lots are. He feels safe within structure. They also need boundaries. Once boys know what the boundaries are, they can feel safe and be free to express themselves, have fun and take risks without fear of reprisals. For example when we go to the local park my littlest boy needs to stay in the play area, but right next to this is a stream which has fish in it. The 2 older boys would rather take their nets and go fishing. I tell them where they can and can't go and make sure that I can always see them. They feel grown up because they have been given boundaries and I am trusting them. They fish there for an hour or more on their own, under my watchful eye from afar. They also know that if they break the rules, which they have done once, I will take them away from the stream and their priviledge will be stopped. Boys need their boundaries to be very clear, and then discipline needs to be enforced if the boundaries are crossed over.

When boys know that we are consistent in our discipline, it also helps them to feel safe. They know exactly what will happen if they break the rules. Sometimes we have been to places where they don't know what is expected of them, and they just run about and shout. It seems that they do this by default. We have learnt this the hard way, and now we try to remember that whenever we go anywhere we talk about it first and what will be expected of them.

I absolutely love boys to feel free, but not necessarily to BE free to do what they want. They need to be free within the structure that is provided for them. If this means sitting nicely at school and listening to a story, then this is what they should do. However, there are things that can be done that will help them to sit nicely. The child that wriggles alot (and I have one of these - in fact, rolling around the floor is probably a more accurate description) can be distracting to other children and although they probably need to move a part of their body in order to listen there are other, more constructive ways that this can be done. These children need clear boundaries. Give them a 'stressball' to squish in their hands, but tell them that they must keep it to themselves, not throw it about or chat to other children about it. If these rules are broken, then it will be taken away. With just a little creative understanding and concise boundaries, I think these wrigglers would change from being a negative distraction to children who learn and join in.

So that's it for now - as yet again I have another nappy to change. The joys. I do hope this will clear up any confusion ( especially for Mr B.... you know who you are!!!).

Friday, 10 October 2008

I have recently been click happy on amazon. I managed to buy myself 3 books all about boys and on reading the first one have become quite excited. There are people out there - real, professional types - who agree with little lowly me!! I am just a mother, so really what would I know?! I would love to buy this book for our school head teacher for christmas.... but I'm not sure how well it would go down. She is a lovely lady. But very in charge (and a bit scary).

Anyway, I digress. So my books arrived yesterday and after school I decided to fling wide the back door and let the boys play in the garden so that I could engross myself in my book. Great idea, I thought. Let them burn off the tensions of the day. They'll get a bit muddy but clothes and children wash well. Everything was fine and dandy for a while and I was totally immersed in my new world of boys and how they learn. Suddenly I heard a very loud and guilty sounding laugh. Daring to poke my head out of the window I discovered that not only were they a 'bit muddy' (they were caked), but my littlest man had a hold of the hosepipe, and was swinging it round whooshing water everywhere while middle boy Max was turning the tap on so it would come out faster. I of course rushed out to turn the tap off. 'It wasn't me', Max said. Hhmmmm. After that I couldn't quite concentrate on my book.

Its all very well buying books, but I need another life to read them in. So now I am preparing myself for another weekend of noise. My husband and I will have to shout at each other if we want a conversation, or wait til the boys are in bed. I don't know why they are so noisy. I have contemplated buying a decibel measuring machine so that I can report them to environmental health. I'm not sure what they'll do about it though. Probably say its not in their remit.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Sorry, it has been a while. 3 little boys = a busy mum! I was talking to my friend today on the way home from school. She has 2 girls and a boy. She says that she shouts her son's name so many more times each day than her daughter's names. What is it about boys and their ability to listen... or lack of it? Why do they find it so hard to listen when we give instructions?

An example. On our walk back from school we unfortunately go past a patch of grass. I say unfortunately because this particular patch of grass is used by the local dogs as a toilet. It is also very tempting for small boys. We are walking along, fairly peacefully, (apart from the fact that I am having 2 different conversations at the same time, which the boys seem to be oblivious to and blissfully unaware that I can't actually listen properly to them both at the same time) when suddenly Toby breaks free and starts running. 'Don't go on the grass Toby!', I shout, just as he runs onto the grass and straight into the dog's toilet. Did he hear me and choose not to obey me? Or did he really not hear me? I don't think I will ever know.

Another example (and then I'll stop, I promise). 'Max, get your shoes on'. A simple and easy to follow request - or so I thought. A 4 year old boy thinks differently. My request was not carried out, even after saying it 5 times and threatening to take away priviledges. It wasn't even that he said no, or argued with me, he just continued playing as if I wasn't there. So I whispered 'Max, do you want some ice cream?' His reply was immediate 'yes!' Aha!! You can hear me then!!

I think sometimes they are so engrossed in what they are doing that they really don't hear us. How many times have you spoken to a man who is watching the football and been totally ignored or given the obligatory 'I am listening really' grunt? Sometimes though, they can hear us but choose not to. We need to make sure we look them in the eye, and maybe get down onto their level and put a hand on their shoulder, every time we give an instruction or make a request. Realistically this can't always happen though. I am not going to chase after Toby, pushing a pushchair, to tell him not to go on the grass.

I do love boys. They are fun. But they are hard work and are most definitely a 'long term project'. Maybe one day when my boys are grown up I wll see some of the results of my hard work. We will have to wait and see on that one.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

One size fits all?

I have spent most of the last week chatting to other parents about their boys (and girls) and have discovered a very familiar theme. Although I would not make a sweeping generalisation about boys and understand that some girls slot into this category, and some boys don't, I have discovered that lots of children, boys in particular, do not seem to 'fit'with school. In school children are taught to sit still, listen well, practice neat handwriting, read quietly, walk slowly..... all lovely things which sound very right, but what if this feels impossible to you? What if you need to move so that you can learn? Ok, now I can hear all the teachers shouting at their computers - shout away! I can't hear you!!

Yesterday I was talking to a friend whose little boy got into trouble for being the 'class clown'. She says he is very bright, but is bored. Apparently he can't sit still. I understand how a fidgety child can be irritating for a teacher, but instead of disciplining them for wriggling, maybe its better to work out how that child learns. Some people, including me, need to move a part of their body so that they can listen better. One example of this is doodling whilst on the telephone. Lots and lots of boys need movement, and not just in Early Years where there is already opportunity for this. If this was provided at all levels, boys would learn more. I am not a teacher and don't pretend to be an expert, but have you ever seen a classroom where the boys are all sitting quietly practising their handwriting, while the girls wriggle, fidget and quickly scribble something down so that they can be let loose to go and play? I haven't. Whenever Toby does his homework (...hmmm homework for a 6 year old is a whole new blog!!) he writes as quickly as he possibly can. I say 'Remember Toby, nice and neat; take care with it; don't scribble; make sure you put a neat line through it if you get it wrong'. What does he do? Ignore me most of the time! He writes it quickly. He doesn't think before he writes. He makes a mistake, so he almost makes a whole in the paper scribbling it out. He doesn't like writing. He doesn't see the point in it. So he doesn't want to waste his time learning how to do it better. Especially when he has to write about something he's not interested in......

Are our schools using a 'one size fits all' approach to teaching our children? If they are, its no wonder that lots of children drop out or lose confidence in themselves. Those are the children who are not being taught in a way that helps them learn.

On a positive note, Max (4 yr old superhero in the making) managed to get into 'silver' today, which means he was very good! If you know Max, that was a lovely surprise for me, bearing in the mind that last week he got into 'red' (very very bad) for strangling someone in the playground...... I blame the parents!

I have been awake in the night (not unusual in my house) worrying about upsetting teachers. I thought I should add that I have had very good experiences of teachers and think they work very hard and do a good job with the 'system' they have to work under. Don't all write in defending yourselves because I genuinely like you!!