Raising Boys

I recently read an article in First Things by Sally Thomas entitled: The Killer Instinct. The article ponders the modern aversion to the male psyche. Young boys are full of zealous energy, full of spit and vinegar, and have a a proclivity to rough and even violent play. Many modern parents and educators seem troubled by this and often attempt to soften boys, make them behave more like girls. Sadly there is even an attempt by some to diagnosis typically rough-house and energetic boys as having ADHD and they are put on medicines to suppress what is in the end a normal male energy. I do not deny that there can be a true ADHD diagnosis in some cases, but it may also be a symptom of an increasingly feminized culture that finds normal male behavior to be violent and a diagnosable “disorder.”  What I have said here may here may be “controversial” but in the finest male tradition, remember, we can always “spar” in the comments section!

I’d like to present excerpts of the article here and then add some of m own comments in red. You can read the whole article by clicking on the title above.

The default mode of many parents is to be as alarmed by [the] proclivity in their sons [to shoot and stab at things and be aggressive]…..An obvious fascination with shooting things might seem like one of those warning signals we all read about…It used to be that parents waited for Johnny to start torturing the cat before they worried. My generation of parents seems to worry that owning a rubber-band shooter will make Johnny want to torture the cat.  A friend of mine told me that he and his wife had decided not to give their boys guns for toys. What they discovered was that without the toy everything became a gun: sticks, brooms, scissors, their fingers. In the end, they “made peace” with the fact that boys love guns and swords and stopped worrying about latent tendencies to violence. Somehow it was in a boy’s nature and they couldn’t “nurture” it  away.

As a toddler, one of my sons liked to stand behind his baby sister’s chair and pull her head back as far as it would go, to watch it spring up again like a punching bag on its stem….and then she screamed….From my son’s point of view, it was altogether a gratifying exercise. My intervention was always swift and decisive…I implored my son, “Don’t be rough. Be gentle.” …I am struck, now, by the strangeness of what I said to him. We don’t tell someone struggling with lust simply not to want sex; we don’t tell a glutton that his problem will be solved if he stops being hungry. Yet, I might as well have said, “Stop being a boy.”…. What I think I have come to understand about boys is that a desire to commit violence is not the same thing as a desire to commit evil. It’s a mistake for parents to presume that a fascination with the idea of blowing something away is, in itself, a disgusting habit, like nose-picking, that can and should be eradicated. The problem is not that the boy’s hand itches for a sword. The problem lies in not telling him what [the sword and itch] are for, that they are for something. If I had told my aggressive little son not, “Be gentle,” but, rather, “Protect your sister,” I might, I think, have had the right end of the stick.(This is a very brilliant insight. It is essential that we not try to destroy the innate gifts that God gives us in order to “control” them. We must learn to harness them and sublimate them so that they achieve the end to which they are intended).

Anne Roche Muggeridge, who reared four boys in the 1970s and 1980s, observes that 

 prevailing society now thoroughly regards young men as social invalids. . . . The fashion in education for the past three decades has been to try to make boys more like girls: to forbid them their toy guns and rough play, to engage them in exercises of “cooperation and sharing,” …to denounce any boyish roughness as “aggressive” and “sexist.” 

Muggeridge writes of a visit to a doctor who urged on her a prescription for Ritalin, saying that a child as constantly active as her two-year-old son must be disturbed. “He’s not disturbed,” she responded. “He’s disturbing.” It is to realize, as Anne Roche Muggeridge did while watching her sons take turns throwing each other into a brick wall, that what you have in your house is not a human like you but a human unlike you. In short, as Muggeridge puts it, you are bringing up an “alien.”  Yes, it has been very frustrating to be a man in the modern age let alone have to grow up under the tutelage of social scientists and education bureaucrats who scorn and suspect your very nature. Boys are aggressive. That is natural and good. They must be taught to master it and focus the energy of their aggression on the right object, but they should not be scorned for who and what they are. Such scorning has become for too many a sense that they are socially “enlightened.” It is time to see this attitude as a the type of bigotry and sexism that it too often is. To many women (and some feminized men)  a boy in his raw state may in fact seem like an alien, but even aliens deserve respect  🙂

[There is an] initiation rite, devised and performed by our parish’s young priest twice a year in the church. This rite involves a series of solemn vows to be “a man of the Church,” “a man of prayer,” and so forth. It includes induction into the Order of the Brown Scapular, the bestowing of a decidedly manly red-and-black knot rosary, and the awarding of a red sash. What the boys look forward to, though, with much teasing of soon-to-be inductees about sharpened blades and close shaves…is the moment when a new boy kneels before Father and is whacked smartly on each shoulder with a large, impressive, and thoroughly real sword.  Great idea. I’m going to work in my parish about initiating something like this.

These Holy Crusaders are, after all, ordinary boys—sweaty and goofy and physical. For them to take the Cross seriously requires something like a sword. For them to take the sword, knowing what it’s for, requires the Cross. …A boy’s natural drive to stab and shoot and smash can be shaped, in his imagination, to the image of sacrifice, of laying down his life for his friends. In the meantime, this is the key to what brings these boys to church. It’s not their mothers’ church or their sisters’ church; it is theirs, to serve and defend. Yes, yes! Amen. Greater love hath no man that to lay down his life for his friends. Christian manhood needs to be rediscovered in some segments of the Church. Too many men stay away from Church because it seems feminine to them. Sermons about duty, courage and fighting the good fight have given way to a steady diet of compassion, kindness, being nice, getting along, self actualizing and,  did I mention being nice? These are not wrong virtues but they must be balanced by virtues that call us to stand up and speak out with courage, accepting our duties and fighting the good fight of faith, if necessary unto death. Men respond to the call when it is given in a way that respects their manhood. Balance is needed in the preaching and teaching of the Church and it seems that in recent decades we may have lost this in many settings, IMHO. If you think I’m crazy, remember this is a conversation. Hit the comment button and have it.

Sally Thomas, a contributing writer for FIRST THINGS, is a poet and homeschooling mother in North Carolina.

Here’s a video summoning boys unto manhood:


54 Replies to “Raising Boys”

  1. So opposite what I learned in first year English, so beautiful and right. I was always allowed my toy guns, soldiers, battleships, and tv shows about people fighting for good, even emptied a stapler so it could safely be a space ship, and space gun (I repeat, first emptied it). Of course, the flip side was that, while my parents were pleased of it, I was always embarrassed to watch cute or kind programs- like Star Treck or Barney (We’d sing “I hate you, you hate me …” at Catholic school, in case any of the boys didn’t get the message). I do agree with much of the article, except, I’d check both kids wanted to fight or get thrown into the wall. When I was young, I got into a fight and really hurt another kid, who with his friends was bothering me and attempting to bully me. While still PLAYING at violence with toys and reading of it, and writing books on it (child who writes books, is a happy child), after a threat by a teacher at the school that if I had fought as as an adult I’d be arrested, and later with a change in me, I could never bear to hurt someone again outside of martial arts classes.

    I know also that there is a danger of simply ignoring excessive violence. Even before my school days, I was always warned never to be a bully, and I never was- I agree, it is about teaching a child when it is acceptable to be violent, and my upbringing certainly did that.

    Man and women are different and compliment one another. True Manliness is not evil, it is good- when in proportion!

    1. I remember using a stapler for a gun too! You just kinda open that baby in three directions and it takes the shape of a gun! I’d run all over pointing it at family members! Thanks for the memories. It is true, there need to be some guard rails for young boys. Sometimes they can be too aggressive and cross the limits.

  2. I guess, what I am saying, is that pretend imaginary violence may at times be an acceptable outlet, but must always have morality attached. I cannot see as a good thing too much violent play- maybe a sword fight, or pretend battle, but I have never had respect for kids punching each other up, I would never let my kids do that, or anything of that sort!

      1. Sometimes, refusing “punching a kid up” as you say, is cowardly. It is one thing to take the punches of a bully like a man when you refuse to do his bidding, but quite another to cowar to his demands. Sometimes ya gotta fight to be a man, you just need to learn when vitue demands it and when it does not.

      2. Disagree. Live totally in your head and you won’t be able to lead on the field. If you don’t learn to take a punch from your brother and keep going, then how will you defend your sister from someone who will not yield someday?

        The point of boyhood violence is NOT immorality or evil, as the “First Things” article stresses. It is at worst amoral, IMO.

  3. it is about teaching a child when it is acceptable to be violent

    If you ask me, one of the best ways to teach a bully to not be a bully is for one of his “victims” to punch him in the nose. Once upon a time, that was understood in the modern culture. And you even had movies like The Bells of St. Mary’s with Sister Ingrid Bergman teaching one boy how to box! Other examples include the episode on the Andy Griffith Show, “Opie and the Bully,” where Andy doesn’t intervene, but instead lets Opie deal with the bully on his own. And who can forget Ralphie laying into the bully in A Christmas Story?

    And, experience shows that, quite often, two boys who are beating each other up one day are being invited to each other’s homes the next and becoming friends.

    1. I’ve had kids in school for 20 years and I can’t begin to tell you the damage that has been done with this attempt to ‘civilize’ boys. Some have turned their natural boyishness in a different direction and are passive-aggressive pukes who get their digs in by casting aspersions on other boy’s budding manliness and even on their as yet undiscovered, or close to discovered, sexuality as young men. And they are relentless in their attacts. Not much a mom can do, except to tell her son to do what he has to do, which is what I’ve done.

      Don’t even get me started on the girl/girl problems.

    2. Yes, I learned this too. There was a bully bothering me in 9th grade. I finally had enough an in a mement of frustration I hit him in the nose. POW. Actually knocked the snot out of him. He was embarassed because there was literally snot on his cheek. After that he never bothered me and in a few months we became friends. SOme say this violates Jesus teaching about turning the other cheek. But to my mind that passage is not about failing to resist physical violence. Being struck on the cheek in ancient culture was really more of an attack on one’s dignity rather than a serious physical threat or about bodily harm. Hence Jesus surely teached that we should not be so hung up about our personal dignity. It seems when some one such as a bully intends physical dominance and potential bodily harm we are entitled to defend our self.

  4. Being the mother of two goofy, physical boys, I understand what the author wrote and your quotations in red do not offend me in the least. Boys are wild, period. My husband and I let them be, they have swords, they have guns, they have light sabers, they have chest armor and a wild sense of humor. They have daily duals, gun fights, sword fights, and the drama usually plays out in my living room which results in some trinket or decoration of Mama’s being broken. I have one little statue of two boys climbing a tree that has been glued together so many times that the last time I wondered if it was even worth trying to glue it again. But then thought that it would be an interesting coversation piece in the future 🙂 That is what being a boy and being the parents of boys are all about. To grow into a healthy adult male, you have to do all the goofy, wild, physical things that little boys do. The best book I read was by Dr. Dobson and entitled, Raising Boys.

    Now Mgsr. I ask about girls… I’m sick of girls being told or others insinuating that a girl must grow up to be all things – have an outstanding career, a perfect million dollar home, drive the best most expensive vehicles, choose NOT to have children (or if you do have children, have someone else raise them in a daycare)…I find that just as harmful as feminizing the boys. My husband and I just had this converstation this weekend. I told him that at nearly 40 years old, my father is disappointed in me because I chose (and told him my calling by God) was to be a mother. I graduated from college and have a master’s degree. I worked in the workforce full time until I had my children, that is when I basically quit to become a housewife and mother. I do work weekends, but that is because my husband is home to be with the children and I can help take some of the financial load of a large family off my husband’s shoulders. I work in the medical field so there is no shortage of work on the weekends. But my father, I believe, thinks that I should be a manager, a big wig, etc. What he doesn’t understand is that I am a manager and a big wig in my domain at home 🙂 Instead of thinking what a wonderful woman I am for giving up a career to raise his grandchildren to the best of my ability and be there for them if they are sick, hurt, etc. He, I believe, thinks less of me because I chose this route. I think his way of thinking is the norm of society, thus the lower birth rates, single parents, fast track couples without children, etc. To me that is sad. Instead of celebrating a woman that submits to her husband in all things, like God asked, those that choose that way of life are spurned and considered less. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is easier to go to work than it is to stay at home and care for children and house.

    1. Thanks for the image of the broken statue. That says a lot. Thanks too for the reference to the book by Dr. Dobson. I have met him a few times and though not always in our Catholic tradition I find him thoughtful about family issues in particular. Thanks too for your wonderful second paragraph on women and raising girls. I am less “able” to speak to this topic. But I will consider how I might venture in. I also want to run this past some of the women who blog at this sight and see if they’d like to pick it up too.

      1. Vonna,
        My mom sounds a little like your dad. My parents divorced when I was young and I was raised entirely by my mother. She went back to work, became very successful as the president of her company, etc. Now, I’m home, raising six children, and she regularly tells me that I’m too smart to be just a mom. It’s funny though, in my time in the “working” world, I don’t remember my negotiating, time management, and financing skills used as frequently as they are now.

  5. Virtue is manliness, i.e., strength and maturity. This is why Jesus told Saint Faustina that He wants to give people His Strength – the Strength of Obedience – yet few are willing to accept it. So if boys were taught virtue along with faith and prayer, they’d mature, become strong, and conquer the whole world through, with, and in Love Himself.

  6. This reminds me of the books of John Eldredge such as “Wild at Heart” where he talks about masculinity in general and “The Way of the Wild Heart” where he talks about masculine development during the stages of life.

    “The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.”
    – Exodus 15:3

    At first glance stuff like this can easily come across as stereotyped and sexist. However, when I read his books I couldn’t help but notice the chord it struck within me. I felt immense relief when he said that being a Christian man didn’t just mean being a *nice* guy – an insipid, narrow and pathetically limited view of what it means to be a son of Adam redeemed by Christ.

    When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
    – Judges 6:12

    Eldredge’s writing also echos the above article about the purpose of strength (“Protect your sister”) and among the young boys I have looked after I’ve found this to be a significantly better way of handling them rather than simply trying to curb their boisterous and adventurous spirits.

    There is a lovely moment in “Wild at heart” where, after a bedtime story, his son asks if the are dragons still to fight. Eldredge looks at our Enemy and the Christian journey and answers an emphatic “Yes”. The boy’s desire for battle and adventure will not be disappointed.

    “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”
    – Ephesians 6:10-11

    1. Yes, I read Wild at Heart some years ago and got a lot from it. Handed it on to my brothers who are raising boys. Certainly a good book. THanks for the references and Scripture quotes.

  7. I LOVE this post!!!

    This past Saturday, my children were all together for dinner. My younger son was asking my older son about body building to help him with football. My daughters made fun of him, calling him a “muscle head” and so forth, to which my younger son replied, “Yeah, well you’re gonna be happy I have all those muscles when you start dating and you need me to stand up for you!” Protection is a good think to teach boys, even if they do get a bit ridculed by their sisters.

    My younger son plays a lot of sports, and I spend a good amount of time on practice courts and fields. “Soccer moms” get a rap for being excessive about their sons’ sports, but I’m not sure if those who criticize get it. In a world that wants our sons to sit down, be quiet and “be nice,” it’s so good to see them in motion. At the beginning of the football season, my son’s coach called a team mtg. He stated the proper order of their lives- God, family, school then football. He said if they got that order right then they’d get the chance to get out on that field and “beat the snot out of their opponents.” All the boys (and several parents) cheered. Yes, it was pugilistic, but I think many felt as I did, “Finally, they get to be boys.”

    LOVED this post!

    1. Yes, Yes Amen! And God spare us from the daintiness of not keeping score at these games. Kids have stronger egos than we think, plus, they DO keep score and know who won. Finally, learning that sometimes we loose, but get up to fight another day is an essential lesson in life.

  8. Some say this violates Jesus teaching about turning the other cheek. But to my mind that passage is not about failing to resist physical violence.

    There is also the often invoked quote from Jesus, “those who live by the sword, die by the sword.”

    Interesting thing about that last point though — Why was Peter wearing a sword in the first place?? If Jesus meant this quote as people today want to use it, it seems to me that He would have told Peter not to carry the sword before they even went out. He would have asked, “Why do you even have a sword?”

    But the fact that Peter was wearing a sword, apparently with Jesus knowledge (how could He not notice it?) and, hence, acquiesence, indicates that the quote has a meaning other than, or at least greater than, that attributed to it by many today.

    1. Yes the Scriptures are ambiguous at this point. One of the Gospels has Jesus advise the Disciples to buy a sword, the other has him rebuke the sword. etc. It seems that the overall scriptural evidence is a bit more ambiguous about physically defending onesself than the pacifist would like to admit. Clearly violence is a last recourse and in self defense only. But, as we mentioned above with the turning of the cheek, the context of the advice is critical. In the case of adising the sword, Jesus seems to be advising the Disciples to be ready to defend themselves. But when Peter wields the sword he is trying to defend Jesus which Jesus rebukes. The Church has never taught that it is wrong to defend our life even to the point of violent countermeasures.

  9. It’s in Luke 22:
    35Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
    “Nothing,” they answered. 36He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors'[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” 38The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
    “That is enough,” he replied.

    Although a bit later, Jesus rebukes the disciple (Peter?) who used the sword to cut off someone’s ear.

    So I have never understood what Jesus why Jesus told them to buy a sword.

  10. I have previously seen this article and though it was right on . My son was close to one years old when I was contemplating the toy weapons question one day at the dinner table; as usual the Lord interceded with a cinder block. My son took the rolled butter tortilla off its plate, it flopped into an L shape and he said “bang bang”. Can’t (and should not) fight that. Now he and his friends (aged 11) are nerf gun fanatics. And they are all wonderful compassionate boys. But they are BOYS. I think it really messy boys up emotionally to surpress their natural tendencies so well articualted by Sally Thomas. My son, though, is also blessed with a fabulous role model in his dad. Can’t beat that.

    By the way, Monsignor, my husband and I really enjoy your blog – and we are out west. Thank you for taking the time out of busy schedule to do it.

  11. When my daughter was a preschooler, we had over two couples with children the same age. One of the girls announced that she had to go potty. Then ALL of the girls headed to the bathroom.

    The men looked at each other, and one remarked: I can’t beLIEVE they ALREADY are going to the bathroom in GROUPS.

    Ah, yes. Young boys make weapons out of anything. Girls start herding to the bathroom.

  12. When my son was three he bit his toast into the shape of a gun, held it out, and said “bang”! We never watched anything when he was around but programs for very young children, but he saw something somewhere. Since then, I’ve decided that wanting to fight is just part of being a boy, and that the important thing is to teach them about right and wrong, and what is worth fighting for.

  13. I have two boys going on 4 and 8. The older boy is mostly quiet and thoughful, as a result when he was younger my wife began to believe that was how little boys are. Then along came the second son and as soon as he learned to run he would open field tackle his older brother. He jumps over furniture, puts buckets on his head and rams into walls etc. My wife often asks me “is that normal?”. I oft reply that it is the older boy who is the exception not the younger.
    Growing up I remember constantly playing “army”, either with toy guns, GI Joe, or little plastic army men. I must have died a thousand deaths and caused even more. Yet now in middle age (ooh that hurts) I am about as pacificist as one gets.
    In raising boys the trick, as with many things in life, is finding the balance.

  14. Besides not letting boys wrestle, fight, etc. we have also attempted to make every activity they participate in ‘safe’. They wera helmets, elbow pads, knee pads while riding a bike or a skate board, most would not dream of letting their boys run around the woods for hours with the only directive being, “Be home for dinner.” We organize their activities ad nauseam beause if they are busy ‘it keeps them outa trouble.’ With the whole afty industry and mind set nowdays, one wonders how we survived as kids. I remember packing a lunch and leaving the house with a friend (not helmet or any safety gear) and being told to be home by dinner time. I sould have been older than 7! I can’t believe I survived! My son is in scouts. He is 7 years old and I allowed him to get his Whittling Chip badge and bought him a pocket Knife. Other parents did not allow their older boys learn how to use a knife! Who ever heard of a scout that did not learn to use a knife? We need to let boy be boys and we need to teach them to become men. Thanks for the post Msgr.

    1. Yeah I wonder how we did survive. I also remember drinking from garden hoses, riding in the open back of pickups, taking sleds down steep hills with a helmet, I also remember grbbing on to the back of car bumbers when it had snowed and Skiing down the street and in the summer, as you’ve said we set out early in the morning with a bag lunch and often didn’t return until night. How did we ever survive. I suppose some helmets etc aren’t’ all bad but part of youth is getting banged up a bit. I remember some pretty serious injuries. I never broke a bone but many friends did. It was part of the vigorous physical youth that we had. Many young people today don’t have that. We had no computers etc in those days so there was little else to do but go out and play.

  15. Catholic Schools in my opinion are guilty of feminizing our boys. My son went to Catholic School for 9 years. I can not count the number of calls I received from age 4 (can you believe it) to age 15 about aggressive behavior. I thought it was personal until I talked to other parents of boys who attended Catholic Schools who were experincing the same thing. I finally developed a relationship with the priest at my son’s school who agreed with me that these day in and day out phone calls were over the top. He took my son under his wing and rechanneled a lot of his energy. It really made the difference, but he never denied him his boyhood.
    Thank you Father Joe – Holy Trinity

    1. I can’t count the number of times I received calls about my daughter the year she was in a Catholic preschool. If a week went by without me having to pick her up, it was a good week. That school year was one of the most stressful periods of my life, as I was always on edge about whether my daughter would get kicked out of preschool.

      My daughter has always been more active (and, I’m sorry to say, aggressive) than most girls and I’ve often wondered whether part of the reason the preschool couldn’t manage her was because she didn’t fit their image of girls. The school certainly was no help in terms of suggesting resources to help us. And we never heard about what she did well, just what was wrong with her. Oooh, the very memory makes me seethe.

      That experience is one of several reasons my husband and I have our daughter in public school.

      1. Yes, there is some truth to these observations about Catholic schools. It varies a lot of course and not all campuses are guilty. But what seems to have happened is that the refrain echoes about all of us being “peacemakers.” Not a bad virtue. Bit the virtue gets a little out of balance with other balancing features. Youthful aggression in boys especially and as Cynthia points out in some girls too is sometimes in good fun. Joaning on others and poking fun at them is part of youthful humor. Some of it can be cruel but a lot of it is just jostling for position and good fun. It’s a kind of training for life so we don’t have a thin skin (which a lot of people have today).

      2. Oh, Msgr Pope – because you’re a musician yourself I think you’d be amused to know about one of the times my daughter got in trouble: She thwacked another child. Her excuse? “He wasn’t singing the song right. It was the WRONG NOTES.”

  16. “My generation of parents seems to worry that owning a rubber-band shooter will make Johnny want to torture the cat.”

    It’s not a matter of Johnny wanting to torture a cat, if such a curiosity exists in him it will manifest itself via another device.

    And it’s much easier to teach a male empathy while they are young boys, when their skin is not yet thickened by life, than it is when he’s a grown man with a thick skin.

    1. Empathy, yes, but such teaching out to respect the male understanding of it in which empathy is balance by zeal for the truth and that there is a battle to be won for the kingdom.

  17. Msgr. mentioed ADHD, and I wanted to pipe in on that topic. I think one of the greatest sins is the over-medication of our children. Boys are diagnosed as ADHD much more frequently than girls, and, unfortunately, that diagnoses often comes at the request of an educator who doesn’t understand how to manage a class without the children being semi-tranqualized.

    I have a sister, now in her late 40’s, who is hyperactive. I grew up watching someone’s hyperactive behavior, and it’s a far cry from the behavior I see exhibited in many children who have been identified as ADHD. The medications my sister took and still takes to help her be able to stand without pacing, sit without rocking or tapping her legs and feet, even humming are the SAME medications (in the SAME age-appropriate dosages) given to kids who I think are basically itchy from sitting too long listening to someone who doesn’t work to capture their attention. Add to that the fact that some schools have only one, short recess for young kids.

    I’m not anti-medication, far from it- it greatly improved the quality of my sister’s life. But these medications CHANGE kids, and when given inappropriately, the change more than behavior; they change personality. It’s wrong!

    1. Thanks for the story. I have heard similar one and it makes me suspicious about a lot of ADHD stuff while fully admiting that I am neither a doctor nor a psychologist. But boys are naturally energetic and it is a “sin” as you say to medicate this. Teach them rather to direst it and slef-regulate it.

  18. As an old teacher (“educator” sounds terribly pompous) I recognize and celebrate manhood in the young men in my classes. I applaud Monsignor Pope!

  19. A friend has a grandson who is being medicated because he runs around all the time, climbs on things, takes things apart and has “poor impulse control.” He just turned 3! “Poor impulse control” is pretty much the definition of 3 year olds IIRC. This active, curious little boy is being drugged. I have said all that I can say being an outsider. The range of normal behavior is getting narrower and, like Cinderella’s stepsister, what doesn’t fit must be cut off

  20. Having taught for 17 years, I can assure you that there ARE children with poor impulse control. Usually one of two reasons can be attributed: 1) poor parenting skills or 2) ADD with hyperactivity.

    Today, too many parents of children with behavioral difficulties work against the teacher (year after year, teacher after teacher) while using permissive child rearing techniques in the home. Blame it on the culture perhaps, but this phenomenon is far more prevalent today than in the past.

    As for what the medical/psychiatric community describes as ADHD, there does seem to be SOMETHING observable in some children, whatever the cause, whatever the name. Those children, typically no more than two or three per classroom population, can absolutely wreak havoc. For children who have a continued history of this behavior, I recommend intervention by a pediatrician or child psychologist. For those on the fine line between hyperactivity and youthful exuberance, I suggest intervention only when the child exhibits severe academic or social difficulties.

    BTW, I have taught in both Catholic and public schools and overall have seen little difference in how these children and these behaviors are handled.

    1. It was my understanding from teacher friends that a teacher (at least in the public school arena) is prohibited from making any suggestion to a parent regarding medical or psychiatric care. School counselors in the state of MD are required to have their masters in counseling as well as several years of teaching experience because making those kinds of observations requires specialized training. I wonder how any kids are prescribed Ritalin because a parent tells a pediatrician that an experienced and trusted teacher suggested their child is ADD or ADHD. Many doctors rely upon and even defer to the observations of education professionals, well meaning as they may be, who have no mental health training.

      If the “problem” behavior you describe is as you describe, up to 3 students per an average class size of 24, that is almost 13% of our student population exhibiting “problem” behavior. I believe your assertion that there are children with poor impulse control, because there are parents I know with poor impulse control, but having poor impulse control is not the same as having mental health issues requiring drugs that alter brain chemistry.

      Dealing with a few tough kids who challenge the teacher seems to have always been part of being a teacher. I would not presume that you do this, but it seems to me that treating those tough kids as children who have issues requiring outside care has become a big cop out- most especially with the boys.

      1. As the parent of a havoc-wreaking child (although less so as she’s gotten older), I certainly understand that my daughter can interrupt the learning of other children and that time spent addressing her behavior is time not spent on subject matter. I also understand that there are times when a child may have to be removed from the classroom. Believe me we have made every effort to improve our daughter’s behavior, up to and including weekly group-therapy sessions while in 2nd grade (NOT covered by insurance, at $80 a pop!).

        I was enraged by the attitude from my child’s preschool teacher that her behavior was solely OUR problem. Twenty years of teaching little ones, and she couldn’t suggest resources or strategies? [It further enraged me at the three or four meetings with the principal the TEACHER was never there to talk with us face-to-face!]

        I will not, will NOT medicate my child for anyone’s convenience. Least of all for someone who thinks that a child’s behavior isn’t really her problem.

  21. It’s not only our boys that present a challenge. This is in tribute to all the parents that hosted their college aged kids over the break.

    Tribune Voices
    Kids home on college break: Homo studentus universitatus season is winding to a close
    Barbara Brotman
    January 11, 2010

    For nature lovers, this season has brought the appearance of a special species, homo studentus universitatus, a.k.a. the college student on break.

    This highly social creature, which travels in packs and leaves a trail of unwashed dishes, is apparently drawn to return every winter to its parental nest. Researchers speculate that it is attracted to large-screen TVs, down comforters and a ready supply of food.

    The initial arrival of homo studentus in late December is heralded by the appearance of a large pile of dirty laundry. This is followed by other piles of shoes and clothes, as the denim-rumped primate marks its territory by covering all flat surfaces with its possessions. Within days, the floor of its den is nearly impassable, though interestingly, the creature itself seems not to notice.

    It generally remains in its winter habitat through mid-January, displaying the characteristics that make it a particularly intriguing form of wildlife.

    A nocturnal animal, homo studentus is rarely glimpsed before mid-afternoon. Observers are warned: Do not attempt to disturb it before it awakens, as it can become hostile.

    Once it begins to stir, it generally moves slowly to the vicinity of a television and a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Again, do not approach it; at this point the creature appears to be unable to engage in conversation or even to hear sounds such as requests to walk the dog.

    By late afternoon, however, homo studentus becomes fully conscious and begins to interact with other members of its species.

    Homo studentus communicates largely by using its opposable thumbs for texting. The species’ social structure is complex and communal. Individuals gather in collectives, similar to hives, with different individuals fulfilling specific roles. One may buy the beer; another may surf YouTube for funny videos of animals.

    They will often congregate on sofas in family rooms, burrowing underneath fleece throws and blankets. The pack can grow so large and dense that it may be difficult to discern which feet belong to which body. Observers trying to track the populations are advised to count heads.

    Homo studentus is an extremely intelligent species, judging by the creatures’ GPAs, their verbal interactions and their speed with answers to “Jeopardy!” However, scientists are puzzled by their inability to fold blankets or put dishes into a dishwasher. It may be that their brains have evolved to specialize in such tasks as remembering lines from movies and applying to graduate school, to the detriment of those parts of the brain that are involved in such tasks as hanging clothes in a closet.

    They appear to be cold-blooded, judging by the levels at which they set the thermostat. On the other hand, their preference for indoor heat may be a function of not paying for utilities.

    Those who hope to observe this species closely can attract them by providing the right environment. Set out feeders, e.g. pizzas. Scatter indoor areas with pillows. Provide premium cable channels and potato chips. Stay out of sight and don’t touch the remote.

    You may not always see the creatures themselves, particularly if you sleep at night. Some people have gone days without seeing the examples of homo studentus that have taken up residence in their homes. Be patient, and look for signs: A profusion of hair-care products in your bathroom, perhaps, or tire tracks in the snow on your front lawn. Eventually, even the most elusive of the creatures will show themselves, if only to ask you to buy more Honey Nut Cheerios.

    The rewards of the species’ visit are substantial — a window into a complex society, happy noise in a quiet house, an impressive library of funny animal videos and the way your credit card feels so vibrantly alive. Indeed, many wildlife watchers are reluctant to see the creatures depart, and abandon their roles as observers to hug and kiss the creatures.

    But the homo studentus season is brief. No matter how much the creatures have enjoyed the family nest and the use of their own bathrooms, they will soon return to college. Nature lovers must put away their binoculars, turn down the thermostat and bide their time until spring migration.

    [email protected]
    Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune

  22. Fantastic! I love it! I have a two-year old boy and I told him to be gentle towards his older sister the other day. Eek! Now I know. Thank you for bringing this extremely important topic to our attention.

    I’m linking this to my blog. (http://whinersandwimps.blogspot.com)

  23. Oddly, social scientists have found the most feminized men in American society are the clergy. In our own Roman Catholic tradition this has been an issue the Church has been slow to address. Not only the outward signs — attire (cassocks and liturgical vestments that are largly gender neutral); abstaining from the defining male act; (no, not belching!), listening to people’s problems and offering healing (confession and pastoral counseling), and of course, clergy like women are exempt from the draft.

    Maybe this is tolerated to quell opposition to the Chuch’s teaching against ordaining women; I don’t know but I would not think that is a very good reason. I’m trying to remember, but I think a researcher at either CARA or Wesley Theological Seminary found that a signifcant contributing factor to male alienation from both Catholics and Protestant churches was a perception of feminized pastors.

    Are not most of our congreations 60%+ female? It seems millions of men are absent from church life and there seems little response to this sad fact.

    1. My impression of the vast majority of priests I’ve met isn’t feminine. I went to the Youth Rally for Life today and there were MANY, MANY young seminarians there knuckling, high-fiving each other, and (cassocks aside) acting a lot like the high school boys in attendance. Many fell into that category a young girl I know likes to use, “Father-What-a-Waste’s.” In fact, the homilist at the Mass for Life spoke about his dreams of playing ball for the Orioles. No, amid the sea of priests and future priests in attendance, I certainly didn’t feel awash in a sea of feminine men, and I tend to be pretty critical there.

      I also don’t think abstinence promotes an image femininity. In fact, I think sexuality and sexual activity are confused to the degree that boys grow up with “notch on their belt” mentality. A “real man” has control of his urges.

      I also wonder what percentage of the general population in the USA is male versus female, ’cause 60% doesn’t see like an overwhelmingly large number to be indicative of a problem, but I don’t know those stats.

      1. One more thought-

        Regarding the counseling aspect of the priesthood, there was a time (50’s, 60’s culture-?) when problems were discussed and dealt with “when Father came home.” I believe there was once a show called, “Wait til Your Father Gets Home.” Remember the images of Dads with pipes in their mouth doling out wisdom and advice in front of the fire? So, counseling wasn’t always traditionally a feminine role.

  24. Based on sociological research, I don’t think there is any doubt that church attendence is disproportionally female and that a certain portion of males find religion “a woman’s thing”. Further, many men perceive (rightly or wrongly) the clergy as effemine and are alienated by that.

    I don’t have any suggested responses here. I don’t think any of the observations I’ve made justify men staying away from church. I don’t even offer any objective definitions of feminine — it is often a matter of self-perception. Given the homosexual community’s take over of gym culture and male grooming, I would bet that some people would not see the good looking athletic men you mention as what they are most comfortable with.

    Again, I am making sociological observations not judging. God calls us to love Him and to love all regardless of their mannerisms.

    1. Given the homosexual community’s take over of gym culture and male grooming, I would bet that some people would not see the good looking athletic men you mention as what they are most comfortable with.

      Wow- that would mean most would be comfortable with poorly groomed, physically unfit men. I best tell my son to toss his toothbrush, deodorant and comb in the trash as well as get back inside, stop playing bball and start couch surfing. Man, if that is what “research” says, it’s a pretty poor assesment of our “male” culture!

  25. Anon is exactly right when he suggests that teachers are prohibited from “diagnosing” ADD or ADHD. But we MAY point out to parents the vast difference between their child’s behavior and the behaviors of the other children in the classroom. And we MAY suggest the need for intervention by a professional. We would be negligent in our jobs if we didn’t.

    As a teacher, I am always more than willing to work, to the best of my ability, with students whose parents choose not to medicate. In which case I expect those parents to seek professional help with behavior modification techniques or we work out a home-school plan of rewards and consequences. This must be done for the sake of the child, for the sake of the 25 other students in attendance and for the sake of the learning environment itself.

    Teachers get angry and “blame the parent” when an inordinate amount of time must be allotted to that one child because no help is forthcoming, or there is continued resistance to the idea that the child may have a problem in the first place.

    When parents and teachers work together, it’s a win-win. If not, everyone suffers.

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