The Wonder of Boys: Part 1
My next boy book is The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, mentors, and Educators Can do to Shape Boys into Exceptional Men by Michael Gurian.
Guiran begins his book explaining similar notions of Raising Cain. Boys are in pain: emotionally. Boys are suffering because society is not raising boys to be the best men; instead, society fails our boys time and again. Through divorce, bad parenting, media, mothers who won’t let go and fathers who are absent, boys grow up disadvantaged and angry.
I was surprised by Guiran’s exploration of brain differences in males and females. Males have larger brains focusing on spatial relationships and activity but females corpus callosum allows for females to be better at reading and interpreting emotions. Boys are better at focusing on single issues rather than multiple issues. I can easily identify with this in my all boys’ class. Getting the gentlemen to do more than one task at a time is almost impossible without proper structure and scaffolding of the tasks.
Guiran expands on these issues of male and female differences later on by explaining the importance of females in young boys lives. In their early years, mothers hold a special connection to their sons, creating and fostering the emotions of boys. Single mothers, of course, struggle more with this as a result of time and lack of support. However, once boys reach puberty, boys need to be “let go” by their mothers and guided by their fathers. Some women really struggle with letting go which can be detrimental to the future growth of the boys. The goal of both parents should be “we can teach him how to develop who he is with confidence, and towards a direction that contributes to our world. In this view, our best choices in nurturing him revolve around knowing who and what he is, then channeling his energy in ways appropriate to him” (Guiran 5). Interestingly enough, “the single most important influence on our boys is how they see their parents be intimate” (Guiran 20).
Connecting Guiran’s opening remarks about boys to my own class, I can see the importance of creating relationships with my students. Boys need to feel valued in order to work hard for someone. They also need purpose behind what they are doing, or are asked to do in order to allow them to see where they are going. Boys need to be involved in the activity: make it a game, a competition, a goal, where they are to move around. Boys need to have a learning environment that allows for them to be open and honest with their emotions. That helps them develop a language to express those emotions. How do boys experience feelings and emotions:
- Action released method: quick bursts of emotion
- Suppression delayed reaction method: solve problem then emotionally react
- Displacement objectification method: project emotions on other objects
- Physical expression method: space and objects to properly deal with emotions
- Going into the cave method: boys need time and space to process emotions
- Problem solving method:solving the problem releases emotive energy
- Crying method: boys only cry under very stressful and safe circumstances
Guiran identifies 7 principles that boys’ culture is based upon.
1. Competition: boys’ need healthy competition. Competition helps boys learn skills and feel success: two attributes that if boys don’t feel, they will feel “lost.” Competition “is a form of nurturing behavior”. This is why it is important for boys to participate in organized sports. The competition must be appropriate for the boy by contributing to his positive self esteem and build his confidence.
2. Empathy: boys struggle with empathy. To teach a boy to be empathetic, Guiran encourages the modeling of empathy or making empathy part of the task in order for boys to grow.
3. Large group: boys prefer groups rather than 2s or 3s. The more people who recognize and see the success of the boy, the more “empowered” the boy feels.
4. Independence: boys even in groups can still maintain their independence. Many single mothers struggle in this area and many families need mentors to assist in fostering independence, “without nurturing by acceptance, discipline, role-teaching, , natural and acculturated tendency toward independent activity, and personal freedom within group functions, we will raise boys for whom independence becomes not soulful solitude but tragic loneliness, and freedom becomes irresponsibility” (Guiran 41).
5. Personal sacrifice: boys need to understand the power they have and that that same power must be connected with others and doing best by and for others. We need to find a way to harness boys’ passion and purpose and direct it in a purposeful direction.
6. Male role models: elder males teach boys how to treat females; how to develop boundaries with females, how to deal with changes to their bodies, minds and souls.
7. Making sport of life and life of sport: boys need structure, skill and focus to deal with their aggressiveness.