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Testosterone Tip #2: Let him fight monster.

Let him fight a “monster.” One provider I know really turned up the gas on this to help solve some problems she was having with fights in the block area. There were some cool castle blocks that all the boys wanted. Even before the little guys were in the block area they were sparring about who should get them.

She made it into a story and said to her little guys, “We have a monster in block area. This monster makes boys get into fights and hurt their friends. Here’s a picture of the monster (she printed off a silly cartoon monster from the internet).”

She said that she needed the boys to fight the monster and that only little boys had the power to make him go away. She said that the monster would go away of little boys would hiss at it. She taught them to take really long, deep breaths and let it out slowly with a “sssssssssssss.” Every time you feel like fighting over the blocks, you need to make the “ssssssssssssss” and the monster will go away. “Every time we scare the monster away and get along with our friends, I’ll put a monster on the chart. Lets see how many monsters we can scare away this week!”

Of course, the snake breath is one of the most basic coping techniques for dealing with emotions, but the boys don’t need to know that for it to work. They’re probably still hissing!

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Turning Testosterone Around in Childcare

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I talked recently in one of my workshops about some of the ways testosterone affects boys on a physical and emotional level. In this post I will give a short-list of some of those, and over the next several days offer suggestions for ways childcare providers can turn the power of “T” to their advantage. If you don’t work in childcare, adapt the ideas or get in touch with me about your individual situation.

In boys testosterone is associated with:

  • A tendency toward risks
  • Aggressiveness
  • A tendency to compete/boast–fight/argue
  • Linear problem solving (there’s only ONE way rather then choosing from multiple solutions)
  • Immediate release (no delayed response)

Those things can all cause problems, but testosterone can also inspires boys to:

  • Rescue
  • Protect and serve
  • Defend
  • Be Loyal
  • Assert
  • Stand Up For Others
  • Plan
  • Get Stuff Done
  • Take Action/initiative
  • Fight for a Cause
  • Make a Difference
  • Go on a Mission.
  • It can relate to executive function, the ability to break something down, figure out the steps, and make it happen.

All of these are good things if we can steer them in the right direction. Here’s one practical idea.

Idea #1: Give him a mission. You can do this in simple ways or complex ways. Just telling a boy that you have a special mission for him can be a great way to get some help with a little job. It also gives him a sense of purpose and accomplishment. He will be proud that he has helped you. But you can make it much more fun than that.

I talked to a provider who had a problem with a wet area on her playground. The boys were ALWAYS magically drawn to the water and mud and she was sending them home with muddy clothes daily during the springtime. It’s great to let boys play in the mud sometimes, but it’s okay to know when to say when.

I recommended that she have a talk with the boys and tell them she needed their help. Tell them that she had a special mission for them. It was their mission to keep all the kids safe from “quicksand mud hole.” She asked them for some ideas and if they could help her teach the other children how to stay clear of the water.

They really got into it. They made yellow triangle caution signs, put up cones and ropes, talked to all the kids about the “danger,” and in general became the mud hole lifeguards.  Naturally, they had to set an example for the others as well. In the end, the number of plastic grocery bags being sent home full of muddy, wet clothes was greatly reduced, and the little guys got to have a meaningful role they could be proud of.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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The Difference Between Men and Women

For my Wave Riders course participants, this story is a pretty funny illustration of this week’s course material from Dave Barry.

Let’s say a guy named Fred is attracted to a woman named Martha. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Martha, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: “Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”

And then, there is silence in the car.

To Martha, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.

And Fred is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Martha is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily towards, I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Fred is thinking: …so that means it was…let’s see…February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means…lemme check the odometer…Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Martha is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed – even before I sensed it – that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.

And Fred is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Martha is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.

And Fred is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90-day warranty…scumballs.

And Martha is thinking: Maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Fred is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their…

“Fred,” Martha says aloud.

“What?” says Fred, startled.

“Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have…oh dear, I feel so…”(She breaks down, sobbing.)

“What?” says Fred.

“I’m such a fool,” Martha sobs. “I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”

“There’s no horse?” says Fred.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Martha says.

“No!” says Fred, glad to finally know the correct answer.

“It’s just that…it’s that I…I need some time,” Martha says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Fred, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

“Yes,” he says. (Martha, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

“Oh, Fred, do you really feel that way?” she says.

“What way?” says Fred.

“That way about time,” says Martha.

“Oh,” says Fred. “Yes.” (Martha turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

“Thank you, Fred,” she says.

“Thank you,” says Fred.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Fred gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a college basketball game between two South Dakota junior colleges that he has never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it.

The next day Martha will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification.

They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it either.

Meanwhile, Fred, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Martha’s, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: “Norm, did Martha ever own a horse?”

And that’s the difference between men and women.

http://www.davebarry.com/book-page.php?isbn13=9780449910269

See more awesome stuff by Dave Barry in his ‘Complete Guide to Guys’

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Can boys love their friends?

You Me

This is a picture one of my son’s first grade friends, another boy, made for him. I couldn’t help but smile at the honest, fearless expression of friendship captured in the drawing.

There are some unspoken guidelines for showing affection that boys and men begin to follow at a young age. My first grader already resists hugging, sometimes even touching, his younger brother. Of course, some of this is the normal dynamic between brothers. Some of it is the “boy code.” Some of it is just his natural style. While it’s okay for boys to have different comfort levels with and ways of expressing affection, I believe it’s important for ALL boys to show and experience brotherly love.

Love? Yes. In Greek they call it phileo: brotherly love, the kind that friends, teammates, soldiers, and sometimes even coworkers develop for one another. It’s the kind of love that gets lost in a culture that’s irrationally preoccupied with image, achievement, and homophobia.

The truth is, boys are lost without phileo. It’s one of the ways they find their place in the world. I honestly think they NEED it for healthy development. If we were really honest with ourselves, most men would acknowledge that we suffer from the lack of it as well. We need to stick up for our buddies. Defend them. Support them. Care for them. Feel sadness for them and compassion. We need to know that our comrades feel the same for us.

Phileo is like a magic coin. When you give it away, you find two more in your pocket. I’m thankful that my son’s friend got to enjoy the happy feeling that comes when someone receives and appreciates your expression of brotherly affection. At their age, it’s still okay to do. But even for first graders, fear starts to creep in.

For boys, fear begins to whisper questions like:

  • What if they laugh?
  • What if they say, “Eeeww, they’re holding hands.”
  • What did (insert well meaning adult) mean when they said I shouldn’t give pictures like that to other boys?
  • Am I weird because I feel affection for a friend?
  • Is there something wrong with me?

For dads the questions can be the similar:

  • What if someone teases him?
  • What if others see his drawing?
  • Am I doing my job if I DON’T tell him not to give cards and hugs to other boys?
  • Will I raise him to be gay if I let him do that?

All of these questions come from fear, and living in fear is a crummy way to parent and an even worse way to grow up. It’s important that we lay a foundation of healthy love for our sons and help them feel safe to show their feelings to us and their friends in smart ways.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Tell your son you love him at home. Yes, it can feel awkward. That awkward feeling is fear, and men face their fears. If a side hug and “I love you” aren’t part of your interactions, figure out a way to work it in. Use humor if that makes it easier. Try something like, “What would you say if I told you I loved you?” The more you do it, the easier it gets.
  2. Make a code word. This is especially helpful for downloading love to your son if he needs it when you’re out in public.  For me and my son, the code phrase we agreed on goes like this. I say: “Do you want some coffee?” He knows that means “I love you.” Then he says: ”No, I hate coffee.” I know that means, “I love you too.” Now that it has become a mutually recognized code, he will sometimes initiate and say, “Dad do you want some coffee?” I’ll respond with, “Yes, I love coffee.” I suppose it’s an odd little ritual, but it works for us.
  3. Encourage your son to appreciate his friends. Talk about practical ways to do this, such as:
  1. Do something nice for a friend for no reason (aka pay it forward)
  2. Notice when a friend could use help…and then help.
  3. If someone helps him, encourage your son to tell the person about the difference they made.
  4. Stick up for or defend a friend.
  5. Be loyal, even if others aren’t.
  6. When others reject or mistreat his overtures of friendship (which some will), let him tell you how it feels. Acknowledge the feeling without trying to fix it (“Ouch, that hurts”). Encourage him to keep being a good friend. When boys take the high road, it’s not uncommon for good friendships to grow out of these situations in the long run.

What ideas do you have?

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Contemplative Parenting

 

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Way to go, boys. Welcome to one of the best feelings in the world.

One of the greatest feelings in the world is taking a standing for a friend. “Either men will learn to live like brothers or they will die like beasts.” –Max Lerner

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Contemplative Parenting

 

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Tips for Boys: The Art of Getting Out

little league fanWhen I played as a kid, getting out was assumed, at least for me. When I started working with children, cooperative games became the focus. I understand the benefits of noncompetitive cooperative games (heck, I teach workshops about them), and last night, I was also reminded of the incredible benefits of getting out.

My seven-year-old son Braden had a Cub Scouts Pack meeting last night. There were about 35 boys present, ages 6-10. The activity for the evening was basketball. We started with 4 stations; at one station the boys played H-O-R-S-E.

I won’t go into detail about how to play HORSE. If you aren’t familiar, look it up. The main point for this post is that in the game of HORSE, you get out after missing 5 shots (one for each letter in the word HORSE). Like his dad, Braden isn’t basketball star. Even though there are public hoops that we can see from our house, we’ve never gone over to practice our jump shots. Given my lack of fatherly encouragement and coaching, I wasn’t surprised when most of the B-mans shots sailed under, over, beside and past the hoop without touching it.

The other Tiger Cubs weren’t much better, so he didn’t show too much disappointment in his performance until he got out. Now, there are many different ways I could have handled this. I’ve seen many different techniques used to “soften the blow” of getting out in a game. Here are some of the most common.

  1. Don’t keep track. In this one, you play HORSE, but don’t keep track of the letters. Nobody gets out.
  2. Keep track, but let the players continue to shoot after they get out. Their shots don’t count, but they aren’t “left out.”
  3. Pick a different word. Instead of HORSE, go through the entire alphabet. Then people usually get tired of playing before anyone gets out.

Since it was my own son I was dealing with, I didn’t choose any of those. After he missed his 5th shot, I told him he was out. He looked at me with a nervous question mark on his face as if to say: What does that mean? I said, “You missed 5 shots, so you’re out of the game.“

I knew this would be hard for him to deal with. It was his first Pack Meeting. He was playing with boys that he barely knew. He hadn’t made any shots, and now he was the first one out. He was embarrassed, and Dad wasn’t helping. Tears came to his eyes. His lips quivered, and he made them tight and sucked them in to keep his emotion from showing. He didn’t want to cry in front of the other boys, so he scooted up to me and stood stiff as a board with his face tucked between my arm and my body.

I let him stand there for a few seconds and squeezed his shoulder. Then I said, “I know it’s disappointing. I used to get out every time when I played horse.” After another few seconds I let him in on they key to getting out gracefully. I leaned down so I could see his face and said, “One of the best things you can do right now is to give one of the other guys a compliment. It will make you feel better. When you’re ready, go over there and do it.” It took him about two seconds to blink away the tears and turn back to the group. As he called out, “Nice shot, Ben!” he ran back over with a smile enjoyed the rest of the activity.

For boys, the art of getting out is learning that there’s no shame in it. It’s not a rejection; it’s part of the game.

Tips for helping boys get out with style:

  • Give compliments. When you compliment the play of others, you’re always in the game.
  • Welcome others. More players will get out. Welcome them with a high five (or whatever is cool now) and say something like, “Nice try” or “Close one.”
  • Make a plan. Think about what you will try different next time. Watch how the other players are keeping themselves in the game.
  • Try again. Learning from mistakes and failures is fun, challenging, and the key to success.
 
 

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Dads, mentors, caregivers of boys: Watch this.

Warning: This is kind of heartbreaking, but important to see. It shows 30 seconds of one of those “boot camp my kid” shows. I’m opposed to such shows and think they exploit children for entertainment and financial gain. However, this kid’s answer to the drill sargeant’s question is profoundly revealing and brings the drill sargeant to tears. Dads, mentors, caregivers of boys, don’t let the message slip by you. (You’ll need to turn the volume up)

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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