What to Do About 'Wired' Boys

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Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 3.08.28 PM

I was recently introduced to the book, Wired to Move: Facts and Strategies for Nurturing Boys in an Early Childhood Setting by Ruth Hanford Morhard. She does amazing work as Ruth Reid & Company, consulting with Starting Point in Cleveland, Ohio.

Whether you are parenting or teaching young children or older children, I think you'll find great value in what she has to share!

What to Do about “Wired” Boys!

by Ruth Hanford Morhard

Recent media stories in the New York Times and NBC talked about fidgety boys who are struggling in school, noting the huge gap in behavioral skills and performance between young girls and boys entering kindergarten—a gap that continues to grow throughout their school years.

The Times article noted, “today’s education system fails to acknowledge the profound differences between boys and girls. It asks boys to sit still for hours and provides them with too few role models in front of the classroom.”

This is an issue that can be addressed early—through simple changes in preschool classrooms and teaching methods—and that parents, too, can use at home to help boys perform—and behave—at their best.

• Why Boys Are Fidgety

Sure, boys are “fidgety”, and there are good reasons why. It begins with the way their brains are wired. Boys are “wired to move.” When a boy is physically active, his brain is active. If his brain is not stimulated, he tunes out. He’s not built to sit and listen for a long time. His attention span and learning ability are directly tied to movement and activity. While there are many other differences in boys’ and girls’ brains, this is perhaps the most significant.

• Why Girls Generally Do Better

Girls’ verbal and listening skills are normally better developed than boys’, and they’re more adaptable to change. Most early childhood programs are geared to the ways girls’ learn. The teachers and caregivers are female and more attuned to the ways girls learn and behave. They expect boys to sit still, listen and follow directions—but they’re not made that way. They learn differently and our teachers need to adapt.

• How to Engage Boys

It’s important to keep boys’ brains awake. Allow enough time for physical activity and incorporate movement into daily routines. If you’re reading a book, let them act out the characters or pretend they’re flying like the airplane in the story. Alternate quiet and physically active times. If they need to sit quietly, give them a squeeze ball or other object to manipulate. And keep verbal instructions to less than a minute.

• How to Help Boys Learn

Boys learn best by doing—so let them learn their ABC’s and numbers by manipulating objects—have them make ABCs out of clay or count objects like coins or blocks or crayons. Give them puzzles to put together. Boys are also visual learners—they see better than they hear—so display pictures of the things they’re learning about and use the bright colors they respond to best. Build on their strengths—like spatial-mechanical abilities. Give them enough blocks so they can make large objects and have lots of balls of different sizes.

• What About Behavior?

When boys don’t sit and listen or when they won’t stop running and jumping and wrestling with one another, it’s easy to think that’s bad behavior. It’s not. They’re just doing what boys do. If they’re forced to sit quietly, they get frustrated and act out. They need time and space to get physical both indoors and outdoors.

Adapting to the way boys’ learn benefits the boys, their teachers, caregivers, parents and even the girls. Everyone benefits from a less disruptive environment. There’s a lot more to learn about helping boys perform and behave at their best. It’s important to their future–and ours.

Check out: Wired to Move: Facts and Strategies for Nurturing Boys in an Early Childhood Setting, available at booksellers everywhere. And if you're in the Ohio area, check out: Starting Point.org


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