Strengthening the Characters of Boys: What We Know and Can Do

Started by blackmanxxx, Feb 05, 2007, 03:09 PM

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blackmanxxx


Strengthening the Characters of Boys: What We Know and Can Do
Presented at the White House Conference on Helping America's Children," Washington, D.C.
October 27, 2005
Eli H. Newberger, M.D.

I focus today on boys because we've not paid nearly sufficient attention to their particularities and needs, strengths and vulnerabilities, and because I believe that if we don't make an effort to understand them and help them, we'll continue to reap a whirlwind of trouble in American families, schools, and juvenile courts. And I want to zero in on the characters of boys, specifically where character is expressed, in the choices we make at the nexus of moral conflict, when we have to reconcile our desires and impulses against the needs and rights of others.

My research shows that as important is our nurture (how we're raised, what we learn at home, in our faith traditions, and in school about values and standards of behavior), we neglect at our peril our nature. And this is where I want to start, with the nature of one particular boy in trouble in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong, who became one of the greatest American musicians of the 20th century.

Nearly everyone who listens closely to Armstrong's cornet chorus on "Potato Head Blues" is profoundly impressed by its emotional range, that encompasses joy, sadness, pride, and optimism, and his brilliant melodic improvising, featuring masterful timing and amazing technical and harmonic daring. Armstrong's force of character, if you will, influenced the entire subsequent course of American jazz and popular music. He was a relative youngster, in his mid-twenties, when he and his fellow New Orleanians made their "Hot Seven" records in Chicago in 1927.

Let's take a minute to listen to that Armstrong solo, preceded by the beginning of the song (an original composition) with a quick segue to the banjo player, Johnny St. Cyr's lead-in, and ending with the out chorus. Then I want to talk about where this came from.

(cue audio)

Listen: Potato Head Blues

How did this brilliant musician come to make such music? The answer may be surprising to you. Louis Armstrong grew up in a tough New Orleans neighborhood called "The Battlefield" because of its reputation for drunken street fights involving knives and guns. On New Year's Eve of 1912 or 1913, Louis took his grandmother's boyfriend's pistol from its hiding place and went out with friends to fire it during the celebration. They were walking along South Rampart Street when a boy fired a blank in Armstrong's direction. Louis impulsively fired back a real bullet, and a policeman arrested him. The next day, after a short hearing, he was sent to the Colored Waifs' Home to begin an indeterminate sentence.

The home was one of many established as part of the American child welfare movement. To raise money for the home, a band composed of a bass drum and about 15 brass instruments, played by residents in long white pants turned up to look like knickers, blue gabardine coats, black stockings, sneakers, and caps. Louis shone on alto horn, then on cornet, and on his release years later, rented a cornet for gigs on the street and in dance halls. He found a musical sponsor - a mentor - in the bandleader Joseph "King" Oliver, made with him an influential set of recordings on second cornet. The rest is history. And a powerful lesson in what it takes to build character in a boy.

Here, in Armstrong's own words, are two of the many reflections about King Oliver that can be found among the diaries and memoires in the Louis Armstrong Museum, formerly his and his wife Lucille's house in Queens, N.Y. In 1922, in Chicago, he wrote by hand, in his distinctive grammatical style. "It was really "Cute" to see the "Shy" Expression on Joe Oliver's face - when I asked him about how he was "Ribbing" me about he was my 'Step-Father' in the presence of my Mother May Ann. Joe Oliver as well as myself felt that we were very Close Relatives. He was Always Kind And Very Encouraging to me. And Willing to help a poor youngster like me out. - And until the very last day - he drew his last Breath, I stuck right by him -"

Three decades later, in a 1951 Interview published in Esquire Magazine about his legendary Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings, he said of the recording we just heard of "Potato Head Blues:" "My man, Joe Oliver, bless heart . . .Papa Joe (I used to call him) he really used to blow the kind of cornet I used to just love to hear . . .His playing still lingers in my mind . . .there never was a creator of cornet any greater than Joe Oliver . . . I've never heard anyone to come up to him as yet . . .And he's been dead since 1938 . . ."Potato Head Blues" . . .Hmmm. . .Every note that I blew in this recording, I thought of Papa Joe . . .'Yass Lawd' . . ."

Let's now jump to biology. In this area of understanding children, it's essential. Most of the guys in this room have had the unsettling experience of walking into a room full of people, eyeing the other guys, and wondering, "Can I take those guys?" or "Am I going to be a victim?"

Where does this come from? All behavior, and the ways we make meaning of experience, derives from both nature and nurture. Beasts that we are, we also have a capacity for conscious reflection, and for making behavioral choices.

But woven by evolution into our bodies' cells, and scripted into how we respond to the hormones that course through our veins, are some predetermined behavioral tendencies, that differ by sex, and that we ignore at our peril.

We males have a particular, built-in need to locate ourselves in a dominance hierarchy, or pecking order, in every relational situation. In childhood, our genetic heritage affects the major challenges boys must face: forming and sustaining life-giving relationships; maintaining a sense of personal potency; finding fulfillment within and outside the family, school, and place of worship; and coming realistically to terms with the limits of one's capacities.

Deriving from my research on male development, I believe that there are five essential elements in earlier life experience that make for strong and admirable male character. I will list them and give some thoughts on how this foundation applies to the issues of the day for boys and young men: lagging behind or failing in school, drifting into unproductive or criminal adulthood, violence, and responsible fatherhood.

First, and most important, a male in childhood needs at least one adult in his life who is crazy about him, who through love and sustained involvement will assure him of his worth, and who will always respect him and give priority to his needs and views, and who will advocate for him when needed. This person (or even better, persons) need not be a biological kinsman. Think for a moment about that main source of personal sustenance is, or was, for you. For most of us, it's one or both of our parents. But for many, myself included, our parents aren't or weren't or couldn't be there at critical times, and for us, it's a grandparent or aunt or foster parent or teacher. (For me, it was my cherished tuba teacher, William Bell of the Sousa Band, the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and the New York Philharmonic.)

Second, on this relational core, beginning in earliest childhood, males need to learn words - words - with which to characterize, sense, and express a full range of feelings.

In my work on domestic violence, I have been constantly struck by the extraordinary absence of affective sensibility in abusive men, most of whom would not recognize a feeling if they ran into it on the sidewalk. Why should violent men not sense emotion? Because it has been forbidden to them, both by how they were brought up, and because of the rage, anxiety, and, most of all, the powerlessness associated with witnessing their mothers being emotionally and physically assaulted. In search of mastery and a sense of personal power, they seek dominance in relationships and invulnerability to having their nurturing needs cut off.

Selma Fraiberg (1959) coined the concept of "word magic." Just as we can show babies and toddlers picture books of kids expressing emotions, we can help boys "get in touch with their feelings" by, quite literally, insisting that they talk about them and attach words to them. I also believe, from my own experiences as a musician, that performing and listening to music, and engaging in other aesthetic pursuits, can build one's sensory vocabulary, if not create a harmonious balance in one's heavy life (Newberger, 1999).

One academic program that does this brilliantly, channeling the expression of feelings into disciplined arguments, is the Urban Debate League, founded by the Barkley Forum of Emory University in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools. The idea is to use academic debate "as a mechanism for urban education improvement: to increase equity and excellence in urban public schools by helping students become effective advocates, and to improve skills in critical and analytic thinking, oral and written communication, research, computer literacy and conflict resolution."

Third, boys - and men - need to be protected from exposures to violence. It's a mean, cruel world out there for many, if not most, males. Longitudinal research suggests that aggression as about is stable a developmental quality as is intelligence, and it can start as early as two years old (Cairns & Cairns, 1994). These are the boys who, as you walk with them by a movie marquee, have to be pulled away from the violent posters. They become the men who, in adolescence, continue to see the world as a hostile place, and who often misconstrue every social relationship as carrying a portent of threat.

Fourth, children and adults can have their lives transformed by the experience of giving back. Not a few of us go into human service because of our solicitude for our ill loved ones when we were growing up. Robert Coles (1997) cites Dorothy Day, the visionary Catholic advocate for the poor, who spoke of the revelatory moment when college-aged volunteers came to see that the helpless help the helpers more than the helpers help them. Service activity builds a deep sense of reciprocity in relationships.

A mother in New Canaan, Connecticut, took her kids and some friends one Saturday to clean the home of a disabled person. On Monday, the kids told their friends at school how much they enjoyed it. After getting calls from other mothers asking if they and their children could come along the next time, she founded a "Kids Care Club." There's now a national network of these. The evaluation of service activities like these show that when parents and children do them together, the kids' commitment to service - based on a growing sense of reciprocity, that we're here because of what others have done for us and that we have an obligation to give back - is the more sustained.

Fifth, and finally, males need to learn self-control, and "inductive discipline" (Grusek & Goodnow, 1994) appears to be the best approach to foster it.

I use the concept of inductive discipline to distinguish from "deductive discipline," the widespread approach that focuses on the rules for children and for adults, the essence of which is that when, as they always do, children break the rules, it's adults' responsibility to intervene with punishments in order to force children to deduce the rule structure. "Inductive discipline" is a different philosophy, that doesn't place priority on punishments. Research and much experience suggests that it is a far more efficient way to build self-control in boys. The idea takes cognizance of the common word root between "discipline" and "disciple" - "to teach."

Building on, and with an intent to strengthen -- not to weaken --the relationship between adult and child, the task is to work toward agreement on the standards of behavior. The magic word is "agreement," and one arrives at it through communication. You're specific about standards of behavior but neither harsh nor hurtful in your perspective and actions toward the child. Rather, you are kind and interactive, focusing on how breaking certain rules (hitting your sister, for example) hurts others, is neither how we treat one another in our family nor how you'd want to be treated, and requires restitution to restore an injured relationship. There is no place in this style of discipline for physical punishment of children -- spanking -- that, when employed by parents or teachers, is both harsher on boys and associated with more severe adverse behavioral consequences.

There's a widespread misbelief that it is manly to "do what you have to do," even if it hurts someone. Boys and men may feel regret afterwards if this happens, and may be moved to apologies. But they may never come to see that behavior actually involves choices. Nor may they arrive at a point of internalizing a sense of responsibility to others, arguably the most important attribute of admirable character. The task is continually to reflect on one's behavior toward others, and to make amends if one offends.

Walter Lipman, in his 1929 book, "A Preface to Morals," noted: "In all the great moral philosophies from Aristotle to Bernard Shaw, it is taught that one of the conditions of happiness is to renounce some of the satisfactions which men normally crave." And in his last great hit, in 1968, three years before his death, Louis Armstrong, in "It's a Wonderful World," sang convincingly of his belief in the respect for his fellow men and the power of committed relationships:

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?"
They're really saying "I love you"

References

Armstrong, L. (Brothers, T., ed.)(1999). Louis Armstrong in His Own Words: Selected Writings. New York: Oxford University Press, 128-132.

Cairns, R.B., & Cairns, B.D. (1994). Lifelines and Risks: Pathways of Youth in our Time. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Coles, R. (1997). The Moral Intelligence of Children. New York: Random House, 191-196.

Fraiberg, S.H. (1959) The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling the Problems of Early Childhood. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Grusek, J.E. & Goodnow, J.J. (1994). Impact of parental discipline methods on the child's internalization of values: A reconceptualization of current points of view. Developmental Psychology 30, 4-19.

Lippman, W. (1929). A Preface to Morals. New York: Macmillan, 156.

National Association of Urban Debate Leagues; 332 South Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60604 http://www.urbandebate.org/

Newberger, E.H. (1999). The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nurture of Male Character. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing.

Newberger, E.H. (1999). Medicine of the Tuba, in Doctors Afield. New Haven, Yale University Press http://www.elinewberger.com/music_tuba.html


typhonblue

As nice a thought as this was... it seems to be all about making men palatable and useful in female society. Rather then useful to _themselves_.

Funny how we never see these sort of moralistic/ethical proscriptions for girls.

askance2



Strengthening the Characters of Boys: What We Know and Can Do

I focus today on boys because we've not paid nearly sufficient attention to their particularities and needs, strengths and vulnerabilities, and because I believe that if we don't make an effort to understand them and help them, we'll continue to reap a whirlwind of trouble in American families, schools, and juvenile courts.


No, not because as an academic at  Harvard Medical School this is an area that offers opportunities, nor because they cost society money. How about because we are letting too many boys be twisted and tortured, and blighting too many lives.


Quote

Let's now jump to biology.
eyeing the other guys, and wondering, "Can I take those guys?" or "Am I going to be a victim?"


That's fine my good doctor. Ahh, where's the biology -what is your science. What is the evidence, and what does it mean?

Am I the only guy around here who does not walk into a room trying to decide if I can "take" the other guys? Now sometimes I ask, is there anyone interesting here? Sometimes I ask anyone to learn from here? Sometimes I ask, who is the biggest asshole here? But I don't much care about hierarchy in the room, especially a physical one.

Quote

We males have a particular, built-in need to locate ourselves in a dominance hierarchy, or pecking order, in every relational situation.


I see, you are a male so you can assert this? You are a scientist? So you, like, know these things, huh?

http://www.menstuff.org/columns/newberger/archive.html#key

Really...
"We started a battered women's advocacy program in this clinic in 1986 ..."
OK, congratulations. And did you learn, like, anything?


Quote

five essential elements in
lagging behind or failing in school, drifting into unproductive or criminal adulthood, violence, and responsible fatherhood.


what school are we referring to here - I assume standard public school, not the school of life.  So they are at risk for failing in public schools, and the school addresses this how? Which segment drifts into criminality - lets be sure to segment which part of boys turn to criminality, and why. Instead, one specific set of dynamics is brushed across all segments. As for responsible fatherhood - please.

Quote

First,  one adult in his life who is crazy about him, who through love and sustained involvement will assure him of his worth, and who will always respect him and give priority to his needs and views, and who will advocate for him when needed.

Second,learn words - words - a full range of feelings.

with witnessing their mothers being emotionally and physically assaulted.

Third, boys - and men - need to be protected from exposures to violence.

Fourth, giving back.

Fifth, and finally, males need to learn self-control, and "inductive discipline" (Grusek & Goodnow, 1994) appears to be the best approach to foster it.


Judging by his other writings, this person who is the advocate is typically the boys mother. Oh sometimes its a father (but not often), and sometimes its another male figure, but MOSTLY its a mother. Now where have we heard this before (Gilligan and others...)

Words, you mean like those written by Kipling, Shakespeare, Hugo, or do you mean the ones in the Paper Bag Princess...

Witnessing their fathers being castigated and humiliated - might that happen too, doc?

The violence is NOT being viewed by boys as violence, rather than as a cartoon reality. By the boys who are old enough to understand violence, it is most often a question of trying to learn how to react, how to be effective, how to survive.

Giving back - at what age? Six years old, when character formation is still in progress, or 16 when the process is mostly complete?

Finally, self control - and nothing doc offers is helpful. As for inductive discipline, talking does not cut it, and agreement is dubious. People bargain in the shadow of the law. Pretending that the law - the threat of force from an authority figure - does not exist, is simply childish. The agreement you think you have reached MAY be genuine, but often it is an accomodation on the kids part, and rarely does it have much impact on character formation.

Frow what I read on his site, the doc is a clinician - not a hard science researcher. It is his wife who is the developmental psychologist. So where exactly does his character developmental theories come from? And what makes him a spokesman for boys developmental needs - a pedatrician (him) is not a developmental expert. He is a pedatrician.


While I found the story of Armstrong somewhat interesting, the rest of this stuff is drivel. If this is what the Bushes are taking in, then its no wonder that Laura Bush's supposed intervention for boys has withered on the vine.

I don't know what the board feels is the most urgent issue on the table. To me, this is it. I will continue dealing with the circumstances of my life as best I can, simlpy because change, if it comes, takes time, and will not much affect me. But boys need some change now.

Lord, I would hate to be a boy today.

Mike

Blackmanxxx, thanks for posting this -it makes a few things clearer. It also sets up some potential discussion topics.

Dyadic relationships and psychological development - emotional programming
Multi-dyadic relationships and neural net sophistication - mothers and fathers for children
Music and emotional state identification - Fuer Elise and 50 cent
Debate and emotional balance in epistemology
Accomodating Authority, Lies, Deception, and Trust
Leadership and Respect in the Lives of Minority Boys
Boy Gardening: Soil, Light, Fertilizer, Water - matching the Species
The Networks of Ideas - Male Pro-Feminist Developmental Psychology
Emotional Management for Boys - Harnessing the Power Source
Identity Formulation, and Integrity of Values

possibilities are endless...






typhonblue

Society can't teach an individual to stop being violent any more then it can teach an individual to stop being hungry.

Violence is the result of lack of social value, a lack of an effective voice that will be listened to.

People with other options do not become violent.

The Biscuit Queen

Quote
"One academic program that does this brilliantly, channeling the expression of feelings into disciplined arguments, is the Urban Debate League, founded by the Barkley Forum of Emory University in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools. The idea is to use academic debate "as a mechanism for urban education improvement: to increase equity and excellence in urban public schools by helping students become effective advocates, and to improve skills in critical and analytic thinking, oral and written communication, research, computer literacy and conflict resolution."


I do not see what is so horrid about this article. It does make some sexist generalizations, but that is not abnormal for today.

It makes some very good points, and as I highlighted above, some very good solutions. I think that assuming this article is about medicating our boys into submission for female slave use is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. 

And violence is not like hunger. You can be violent out of habit, out of ignorance for other options, out of boredom. Sometimes violence is a necessity, but many times it is not. I agree with looking at why they are violent, and I think you will find many varying reasons, a good many of them which could be handled differently.

According to this:

Violence is the result of lack of social value, a lack of an effective voice that will be listened to.

People with other options do not become violent

and according to the premise you have that women are in complete power, then women would never be violent. We all know that is not the case.
he Biscuit Queen
www.thebiscuitqueen.blogspot.com

There are always two extremes....the truth lies in the middle.

askance2


Society can't teach an individual to stop being violent any more then it can teach an individual to stop being hungry.

Violence is the result of lack of social value, a lack of an effective voice that will be listened to.

People with other options do not become violent.


Hmmm, I don't claim to know much about this issue, So I can't offer much of high value.
Having said that, (you just knew that was coming - right), I would characterize it more like - adult individuals are challenging to teach violence reduction techniques.

Kids - I think they can be taught to not be violent. I tend to view violence as a consequent development from the fact that physical means develop somewhat earlier than mental/strategic means. Even if the physical means are not that powerful, at 3 years old, six years old, and eight years old, physical means can be effective between peers. This is observable in daycare settings... Over time, this is reduced be more developed planning capability. This ties one in to frontal cortex development, and since we are in a gender site, the reported observation that female frontal cortex development is nearly complete (on an asymptotic pattern) by age 18, where as male development is nearly complete around age 25.

Interestingly, as anyone who has been in a school graduation ceremony for kids completing grade 8 (ummm, say 14 or so), many of the girls are taller and physically more powerful than the boys. For boys with older sisters, they are both physically less powerful, and then planning skills are less powerful. The core question is, when do the boys catch up - at what point in their schooling for instance. I ask this because the public systems in Ontario, Canada, recently eliminated grade 13 (say age typically 18-19), and now boys must graduate at ages 17-18  - Grade 12.


Do you mean that  the violent individual lacks social value internally - that they don't appreciate the values of society? Or are you suggesting that society does not value them, and so they are violent... Both are interesting ideas.

As to the options available, you are probably right - those with other options are less likely to be violent, while also noting that even those without options may still refuse to be violent. And of course, some of the damaged LIKE violence for violence sake, but I think they are relatively rare.



typhonblue


And violence is not like hunger. You can be violent out of habit, out of ignorance for other options, out of boredom. Sometimes violence is a necessity, but many times it is not. I agree with looking at why they are violent, and I think you will find many varying reasons, a good many of them which could be handled differently.

According to this:

Violence is the result of lack of social value, a lack of an effective voice that will be listened to.

People with other options do not become violent

and according to the premise you have that women are in complete power, then women would never be violent. We all know that is not the case.


I have a premise that all women, everywhere, are in complete power?

I assumed my premise was more along the lines of... if you look at the women in group X, compare them to the men in group X, you'll find that the women have more options, more social support systems and are, in general, doing much better.

However if you look at the women in group Y and compare them to the women in group X, there will be differences in their options and support systems. Some women have more power then others.

Further, every person on this planet has gone through a period of complete powerlessness. During this period and in the absense of other effective ways of getting their needs met, people can be trained to be violent. Often by being the objects of violent attention.

Thus if you look at group X, infant daughters, and compare them to women in group Y, adult mothers, you will see that infant daughters are as vulnerable to learning violence in the absense of other options as are infant sons. Except that they are somewhat protected by female social value.

The main body of people who control this early training is, you guessed it, women.

So any anti-violence intiative that fails to address the vitally enormous, inescapable and totally overshadowing influence of mothers on the violent behavior of adults, is a failure before it begins.

And pinning it all on adult men and boys is pure scape-goating.

Quote

Kids - I think they can be taught to not be violent.


The normal developmental violence of kids is resolved through socialization. I assume the original author was talking about abnormally violent children. Ones who grow up to become abusers and criminals.

These children are not going to be helped by socialization.

Quote
Do you mean that  the violent individual lacks social value internally - that they don't appreciate the values of society? Or are you suggesting that society does not value them, and so they are violent... Both are interesting ideas.


Society does not value men and does not give men effective alternative options to violence. Because society does not value men, mothers treat sons differently from birth. For middle-class to upper middle class mothers this differential in treatment amounts to less physical intimacy. In some lower-class and sociall-disadvantaged mothers, this differential manifests in greater rates of neglect and violence shown towards sons versus daughters.

Quote
As to the options available, you are probably right - those with other options are less likely to be violent, while also noting that even those without options may still refuse to be violent. And of course, some of the damaged LIKE violence for violence sake, but I think they are relatively rare.


Yep.

askance2


Quote
"One academic program that does this brilliantly, channeling the expression of feelings into disciplined arguments, is the Urban Debate League, founded by the Barkley Forum of Emory University in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools. The idea is to use academic debate "as a mechanism for urban education improvement: to increase equity and excellence in urban public schools by helping students become effective advocates, and to improve skills in critical and analytic thinking, oral and written communication, research, computer literacy and conflict resolution."


I do not see what is so horrid about this article. It does make some sexist generalizations, but that is not abnormal for today.



Well opinions vary.  The author is aligned with the Gilligan-Pollack-APA school that views gender as socially constructed, and that boys are being raised to be emotionally repressed - the so-called Boys Code. I say this because a review of his articles at his web site indicate that

his background as a pedatrician do not qualify him to stand as expert in these areas, but that his wife is a developmental psychologist (APA) "To promote this process, I work from a model created by my wife, Carolyn Moore Newberger, a clinical and developmental psychologist who discovered four different levels of "parental awareness."  http://www.elinewberger.com/words.html#about

that his background as a clincian in Boston Children's Hospital includes testifying in custody cases, where two cases I saw suggested that he is anti-father and very pro-mother (despite evidence of drug addiction, and her registered sex offender boyfriend)

that his professional accomplishments include starting a battered women's center (note "in my work on domestic violence"), an admirable undertaking, but one that makes we question his client population, and so his conclusions

his framing of his first point of advoacte, as being primarily, in his articles - the mother. Not too interested in the father, who claims is mostly absent and irrelevant
"Certainly there were fathers in the environment, and not a few were engaged with their kids. More often, however, they too were being held by the hand and gave every impression of expecting similar love and consolation even as they, too, were being steered to the right office.

The lessons here, of the power of a mother's love ..." http://www.menstuff.org/columns/newberger/archive.html

the smell test of professional advancement - not the ethic I ask of from the caring professions; in part i say this because he says "because we've not paid nearly sufficient attention" - which I read, cynically, as hey-lots of profssional opportunity. To be clear, that underservicing has been true for decades, but not until school shootings became an issue did Pollack become hysterical, Gilligan change focus to boys,  and the "construction of masculinity" become a hot field in academia - this lead to some programs to be changed to gender studies from women's studies. Properly read, it is gender deconstruction studies of men by feminists.

Nor do I agree with his prescriptions.

His first item is the need for an advocate. That's the mother. Why? Because his cited clincial background deals with abuse, and his clients were mothers. Further because he says that an advocate should be "one adult in his life who is crazy about him", and fathers , in the studies he cites are not that demonstrably emotional, and also tend to expect standards of behaviour, and are willing to visibly disapprove of breaches.

Second he wants words. Words are verbal, and many boys do not develop that sophisticated a vocabulary for emotions until late adolsecence.

Third is violence, and I am fed up with this being a topic every time males are discussed. Look at the submissions to the Australian inquiry into education. The educrats told the inquiry, in public, that they had addressed the boy issue - by catigating them for violence!

Fourth is giving back. I don't have a problem with that, but a child's primary task is developing themselves. If this is kept to 3 hrs a month - OK, but making this into the touchstone for healthy development is asinine.

Fifth is inductive discipline. This is bogus. It is primarily verbal, which is ineffective with a great many boys, secondly it turns on enormously complicated philosophical constructs which most adults do not correctly understand - ethics of justice, the social contract, constraints to freedom and liberty, evidential standards and truth investigation... I would not favour corporal punishment either, but I do believe in NOT LYING to the child, and that means that kind and interactive covers up emotional reality. Kid ya opened up a 2 inch gash over your brothers eye because you lost your temper and hurled a glass at him. He got 12 stiches and a permanent scar... I ain't about to be kind and interactive.  I think this guy has kids and spent no time being a primary caregiver.

Lastly as to debating. I was captain of our debate team in high school. At least, captain of one of them - the other team was non-verbal debate (fists), and I wasn't quite as good at that. Debate is  an emotionally  VIOLENT act. It is about winning. Rhetoric is king, and the psychological wins. Making your opponent look like an idiot, and feel humiliated is the object, because it throws them off their game, and you can score more points. It is a competition, that in many ways, is more psychologically damaging than heavy team sports. Further, it is a verbal arena, and many boys have neither the vocabulary, nor the fluidity to debate well. Why must we add yet one more thing to the curriculum that they don't do well. Let boys debate AFTER they have been taught rhetoric, dialectics, and rudimentary argument construction. Maybe as an advanced class at the end of high school, or in early university. Best of all, have their fathers debate with them over the dinner table.

Give me a good coach anyday, or a spell as an apprentice in the building trades




askance2


.... point 1
Further, every person on this planet has gone through a period of complete powerlessness. During this period and in the absense of other effective ways of getting their needs met, people can be trained to be violent. Often by being the objects of violent attention.
.....  point 2
So any anti-violence intiative that fails to address the vitally enormous, inescapable and totally overshadowing influence of mothers on the violent behavior of adults, is a failure before it begins.
......  point 3
And pinning it all on adult men and boys is pure scape-goating.

..... point 4

Society does not value men and does not give men effective alternative options to violence. Because society does not value men, mothers treat sons differently from birth. For middle-class to upper middle class mothers this differential in treatment amounts to less physical intimacy. In some lower-class and sociall-disadvantaged mothers, this differential manifests in greater rates of neglect and violence shown towards sons versus daughters.



as to point 1

Yep. Powerlessness can be relative. When I was a kid, powerlessness was not being able to buy candy. Really, truly, I was hungry.
Now that I'm mostly mature, alright, mature aged anyway, I am powerless relative to my responsibilities, mostly to others... It would make me violent, I suspect, but that I am trying hard to find and create new options for myself. But that is an acquired skill. Many people have more trouble with that, for various reasons. I am presently focused on investigating what happens to kids who are explicitly taught to investigate options, and find creative ways out of their dilemmas.

as to point 2
I am looking furtively around cause for a male to say that, is very dangerous in most venues... However, I am very greatly interested to hear you say it. Its the Jesuit thing - the basic neural programming for character is laid down by the age of six or seven, and changing that programming takes either enormous  self discipline and effort, a traumautic series of events, or brainwashing. Which kinda leads me back to not just mothers, but also elementary teachers - overwhelmingly female.

as to point 3

well, yes, although in some cases, there is abuse, sometimes by fathers, sometimes by older siblings, sometimes by coaches, but more often by mothers boyfriend or a new stepfather

As a general concept, the orthodoxy is that it is male role modeling by fathers, a theme that is played out repeateedly by Dr Eli Newberger

as to point 4

Taking the disagreement first, the physical intimacy thing is often resistance from the boy, and plays out with both parents. I view it is a more an expression of physical autonomy being expressed. Problem is, some mothers take this as a personal rejection, which it is not.
However...

I am in complete agreement with the balance of your point.
On the question of options, I have had success with sports to some degree, ranging from hockey to swimming. I have my best success by diverting the emotions underlying violence to construction - the act of creating or building something provides an outlet for chronic expression of lack of control that has carry-over benefits in other confrontations. Small issues are less important. Projects from tree forts, bike repair, go-cart building, model building, rocketry, guitar, chemistry sets, radio building, landscaping... but then these are all traditional remedies that are used less and less.

And on your last point - the statistics clearly support you. One dynamic that I have come across is the mother's transferral of stress in her relationship with the father, to the son. This can escalate into outright abuse of every kind, and is unbelievably destructive. It gets really bad when the son looks like the father...

but that's just my experience, and I'm not  accredited in this field




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