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IT’S A GUY THING
This information came from a feature article in Newsweek magazine about current research into how males develop. In the wake of the feminist movement, even normal boy behavior has come to be considered pathological, and our male children are suffering for it. An abundance of physical energy and the urge to conquer – normal male characteristics that in an earlier age were essential to survival – have come to be reasons for disciplining our sons. The new research is showing that the traditional, unisex way of looking at child development is profoundly flawed. A study at Children’s Hospital in Boston found that boy babies are more emotionally expressive; girls are more reflective. This could indicate that girls are innately more able to control their emotions. Boys have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which inhibits aggression and impulsivity.

Both sexes seem to have “crisis” points of development. Girls seem to hit their first one in the early teens. Boys seem to hit the first crisis point around the age of 5, with an outbreak of symptoms like bedwetting and separation anxiety. At that age, they don’t have the language or experience to articulate it fully, but the feelings are no less intense. Even as early as 4, boys are fully aware of masculine stereotypes and are negotiating their way in and around them. They will pull away from a goodbye kiss or a greeting hug to keep from looking like a sissy. The struggle between a desire and need for warmth on the one hand and a pull toward independence on the other can cause some real problems. When boys repress normal feelings because of social pressure, they’ve lost contact with the genuine nature of who they are and what they feel. Boys are in a silent crisis. The only time we notice it is when they pull a trigger. Researchers think that boys who are forced to shut down positive emotions are left with only one socially acceptable outlet – anger.

The demands placed on boys in the early years of schooling can increase their overall stress levels. Boys’ fine motor skills are usually considerably behind girls’. They often learn to read later. At the same time, they’re much more active – not the best combination for academic advancement. The things at which they excel – gross motor skills, visual and spatial skills, their exuberance – do not find a good reception in school. Some guidelines: channel your son’s energy into active sports, and watch for “teachable moments” to encourage qualities such as empathy and connectedness. Above all, enjoy them for the special, perfect people they are now.

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