“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” Matthew 5:5
Several months ago I attended a community training entitled “Hear our Cry: Boys in Crisis”. It was hosted by a local mental health committee and was attended by social workers, therapists, pastors, law enforcement, and educators. Anyone and everyone who works with boys were in that room. We were all there to learn more about how to help the boys that we encounter in our daily work that seem lost, hurt, and destined to fall through the cracks. Towards the beginning of the day the speaker posed a question to the audience. He asked us to yell out adjectives that come to mind when we think of boys. It started slowly, but things warmed up pretty quickly. People yelled out: aggressive, dirty, hyper, smelly, fidgety… on and on it went with adjectives shared in a tone that implied “bad”. Being a father of three boys, who at times truly are all of the things mentioned above, my heart started to boil. Stepping out of my normally quiet self for a bit I yelled out, “AWESOME”. I was angry with this group of people. The very people that were supposed to offer help and support to struggling boys seemed to have a predetermined view of them as bad. I was fearful that my son who would start school in the coming months would enter a system that views him as a trouble maker even before he walks through the door.
I have the wonderful privilege of getting paid to play games with elementary school kids on a regular basis. I lead groups in several local elementary schools for kids who are struggling with behavior in class. We use fun and engaging games to teach them impulse control, following directions, self-regulation, teamwork, and affect expression. I am currently involved in 3 groups that consist of 21 kids. Of these 21 kids 1 of them is a girl. I am not sure why this was a surprise to me. The majority of kids in special education are boys and according to the CDC’s website 11.2% of boys ages 3-17 are diagnosed with ADHD. While only 5.5% of girls in the age group are given the diagnosis.
What is it with boys? Is there really a boy crisis going on? Are boys bad? Most importantly, what can be done to help our boys grow up to be men? It is my opinion that the aggressive, dirty, hyper, smelly, and fidgety characteristics sometimes viewed as weaknesses in boys should be harnessed as strengths. In her book, “Boys Should be Boys” Meg Meeker offers a unique definition of meekness. The dictionary definition of meekness is “quiet, gentle, and easily imposed upon.” Meg Meeker defines meekness as “constrained power”. She uses the example of a horse. The horse is a very very powerful, energy filled animal. If the horse is left unharnessed however that power and energy cannot be used for good. When the horse is harnessed his power and energy can be used for many positive things. I really like this definition of meekness. It reminds me of the meekness of Christ. Jesus, the all-powerful God, chose to die on the cross, the powerless death meant for criminals.
So, as parents, we strive to harness the aggression, high energy, love of dirt, and constant movement of our boys. If we can channel these traits into constructive activities, boys will learn to view them as positive parts of who they are. They will learn to control their aggression, energy, and movements. They will see that it is not reckless abandon that makes a man but steady self-control.
(upcoming posts will focus on how to teach impulse control, self-regulation, and affect expression)