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“Boys Will Be Boys?” Cliche Excuses Roll Off the Tongues of Teachers & Parents Alike.

There’s this age-old joke at my son’s school about how the entire Lost & Found bin is full of clothing from one family. A family with three boys. A family of three “wild” boys. So wild, they can’t remember to pick up a jacket after recess. They leave their books behind. Their lunchboxes mysteriously stake out vacant spots in bathroom stalls. And who should bring up the touchy subject that one day, these three boys may want to improve their executive functioning skills? The teacher. And guess what she was told? “Boys Will Be Boys.”

It’s true that the boys in class will get away with one more shove and even some dramatic fight scenes at recess. But that inevitable response, “Boys Will Be Boys”, sends everyone back 40 years. The short saying ends all conversation around how parents and teachers can help a young boy overcome behavior that may be unique to him and a few friends. Rarely is a teacher expressing a concern about ALL the boys in class. If she talks to you, it’s likely about your guy. Don’t stop the conversation before it can start. 

When explaining a scenario to parents, a teacher may re-create a timeline of events that build up to one or two young boys crossing that line of, “I’m here to learn.” to “I’m here to screw around with my friends.” If a teacher feels like the behavior has impacted the safety of other students or the effectiveness of the learning environment, she may bring it up with the parents. This is a perfect time for her to talk about how the behavior is different than other students, specifically boys within his peer group. Parents should avoid looking back into their own past. Times have changed even in the last 20 years. To write off  “boy behavior” as expected and allowed only puts off a very hard conversation until middle- or high-school years. However, many teachers oblige, assuming the parent preaches “Boys Will Be Boys” at the dinner table and it’s a done deal.

Many boys find a pencil in their desk and it magically transforms into a Star Wars light saber during the entire math test. Others have a full-on make-believe batallion ready for recess battle. Such gender stereotypes are still real and evident on every playground….and they’re not bad. But when these boys race inside after recess, the games don’t stop for a few. Many teachers are dying to talk to a parent about the stereotypical behavior, but fear the excuses.

HOW TO WIN OVER THE TEACHER: Parents, omit the cliche excuses from your conversation. Ask the teacher when and how often your boy “misbehaves”. Ask if he makes bad choices more often than others in his peer group. Ask the teacher what sort of activities she has during the day that meet the needs of an active or competitive boy. Ask the teacher if she thinks you can change expectations for behavior at home. Next, ask if she will give you updates on whether this is evident in the classroom. Most teachers would jump at the chance to detail changes in behavior based on experiments for improvement at home. Studies show that focusing on changing one behavior (rather than constantly nagging about all) results in better response from young children.

Other silly excuses used by parents and teachers:
“I can’t control him. That’s your job.”
“So he’s more active and interesting than other boys. It will pay off later.”
“He’s a daydreamer.”
“I was like that as a kid and look at me now.”
“It’s not that big of a deal right now, but keep an eye on it as he gets older.”
“He gets it from having older brothers.”
“He’s fine in my class. It’s just in the hall or P.E.”

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One Response

  1. kathy says:

    You hit the nail on the head! My son is seen as a daydreamer in his second grade class. As his parent, I know that he usually gets the ‘big picture’, but he frequently misses the detail aspects of the information and assignments. During conferences, my husband and I were so relieved that his teachers did not dismiss the ‘off in space look’ by putting it into the category of typical boy behavior. We feel that the teachers see him as an individual who needs to be accountable for his actions or lack there of. There are consequences for him both at home and at school when he is not paying attention.

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