"My child is having a hard time in school."
Click HERE or on the image to listen to this short video conversation.
Janet talks with Alison, mom of a 6 yo and a 4 yo, “My 6 year old is having a hard time in school. He is bright, charismatic, and a little nutty. It seems like being in first grade means a whole different set of expectations. He hasn’t made friends. He has a hard time listening. He gets up and moves around the room. He has hit some kids. Last week he was sent home twice.”
“If this school isn’t working for him, I’m not sure what kind of school will. It makes me wonder if there is a school out there that is right for him. Does he just have to tough it out?”
Janet reassures: You are not alone. Many boys (and some girls) struggle with school and this is most apparent in a physical way in the younger grades. Young, active children are adjusting to this new context and the expectations of behavior.
Developmental Trajectory - an important recognition of a child's own developmental trajectory (Not everyone develops at the same rate or in the same areas at the same time - yet we've put same-aged children in the same classroom expecting them to be able to do the same things.) Boys are typically 1 to 1.5 years 'behind' girls in their development - especially heightened in the younger ages. This levels off and boys do catch up but full cognitive development for boys doesn't happen until mid-to late- twenties! For girls, it happens in late teens and early twenties.
Let's put school in perspective. In the 'olden days', which wasn't that long ago…boys (and girls) were active on farms or even if they lived in an urban setting they walked to school, goofing with friends along the way, walking, biking, jumping, climbing, and expending a lot of energy before they were expected to “sit still, listen, and learn.”
What’s a parent to do?
Help your active child before they get to school:
• A mini-trampoline, a basement skateboard ‘park’, a chin up bar – provide acceptable ways to get his energy out at home.
• Walk, bike or skateboard to school – park a few blocks away and go from there – it’ll be a great wake-up for you, too!
• Organize. You aren’t alone – other boys (and girls) crave a physical outlet before school and your teachers may be too busy to make it happen. Check out Boks (Build Our Kids’ Success) for a movement program that you can start at your school.
• Nutrition is essential – include protein and water!
• Help him understand HIS learning style and strategies for success. What helps him be able to focus? Try a fidget or squeeze ball to channel his excess energy.
What’s a teacher to do?
Teachers are busy and striving to do their best. First of all, they’ll see a difference in the wiggly kids as you implement the strategies above. Then, recognize that they likely haven’t been trained to understand fundamental gender-based learning differences. Point them to resources like Boys Alive! and the Gurian Institute who work with teachers showing them how to increase academic achievement while reducing time spent on behavior management.
3 Quick Tips for Success:
1. Water. When ‘flight or fight’ stress chemicals (adrenaline & cortisol) build up, a child can react too quickly in anger, silliness, or wiggles. Water dilutes these chemicals in 5 minutes rather than having them in one’s system for 2 hours.
2. Brain boosts. It takes less than a minute to increase blood flow and energize students. A quick lap around the playground, jumping jacks in place, or a quick ‘happy dance’ increases breathing, laughter, and attention.
3. More Room. Boys generally take up more space for their play and learning than girls. If there are 4 girls seated at a table, it will be more comfortable to have 3 boys at that same size table. Boys can easily feel overwhelmed with too much visual stimuli – minimize the wall art and ceiling decorations.
With about 93% of elementary teachers being female, there are many who don’t intuitively ‘get’ boys. Advocate for your active sons (and daughters) and support teachers to learn more about gender-based learning differences and how to successfully implement active learning strategies. (They’ll thank you for it!)
Above all, reassure your son that he is not bad and not wrong.
He may be in a school that doesn’t fit him.
Then it is your job to advocate and make changes - Let me know how I can help!
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