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Entries in bookclub (7)


Raising Boys


A friend recommended Raising Cain: Protecting The Emotional Life of Boys. I am about one third through.

I can't stop wondering at how our society is simultaneously patriarchal and yet unfriendly to men. The authors are therapists who have worked with troubled boys in public schools. They paint a picture of small but consistent subtleties that isolate boys from learning, punishing them for their natural instincts to play faster and learn slower than girls. These boys learn to think of themselves as unsuccessful in organized institutions and behave as the "problem kid" that they have been labeled for the remainder of their educational career. 

Is this not also an important step towards preventing school violence? Understanding the "emotional miseducation" of young male students? 

The authors point out that toddler girls are more likely to understand their own feelings and acknowledge them, using words like "love," "sad," and "scared." Young boys feel the same things but are seldom given an explanation for these feelings. They are taught to mistrust and ignore those feelings, to the detriment of themselves and anyone who will ever love them. 

This is an important read and I'm glad it was recommended to me. I intend to bring it up on this week's MommyBeta podcast but in the meantime, here are a few more poignant excerpts that stuck with me:  

  • "Stereotypical notions of masculine toughness deny a boy his emotions and rob him of the chance to develop the full range of emotional resources. We call this process, in which a boy is steered away from his inner world, the emotional miseducation of boys. It is a training away from healthful attachment and emotional understanding and expression, and it affects even the youngest boy, who learns quickly, for instance, that he must hide his feelings and silence his fears." 
  • "If a boy this age were unable to decipher the alphabet or read any better than this, every adult in his life would recognize that he needed help. But emotional illiteracy is so pervasive among boys that no one notices until something drastic happens. It takes a schoolyard shooting, a hole kicked in a wall, a drunk driving arrest, or a suicide for a boy’s emotional needs to get anyone’s attention." 
  • "Many men readily acknowledge that the generalization is true: they do prefer to avoid emotional people and situations. That doesn’t mean, however, that men lack the “wiring” for expressing or understanding emotion. Newborn boys, on average, are actually more emotionally reactive than girls. For example, studies show that baby boys cry more than baby girls when they are frustrated or upset." 
  • "As much as she would like the school environment to be just a place where instruction and expectations present both boys and girls with the same opportunity for success, the fact that it’s clearly easier for girls to adapt to it means that, in some unseen way, the expectations reflect girls’ abilities and sensibilities. This is the reason that David Trower, the headmaster of the all-boys Allen Stevenson School in New York City, says, 'If boys need the protection of the single-sex environment at all, they need it most in elementary school because of the developmental disparity.'"
  • "Studies that track children’s development through the school years suggest that, by the third grade, a child has established a pattern of learning that shapes the course of his or her entire school career.1 We see this clearly with boys: the first two years in school are a critical moment of entry into that world of learning, but boys’ relative immaturity and the lack of fit they so often experience in school set them up to fail. Many boys who are turned off to school at a young age never refind the motivation to become successful learners." 

More to come as I finish this book. 


Using The Village


We all know the adage. It takes a village to raise a child. It turns out that actually utilizing that village is not only good for you, it's good for your child. 

I just finished Positive Discipline for my parenting bookclub. The final chapter has some really interesting points about childcare. 

The authors start by pointing out that in other cultures and generations it has NOT been customary for the mom to stay behind and raise the children alone. In fact, those cultures "might view our belief that mothers and fathers should raise children without outside advice or help as a form of insanity." 

And now some of the benefits of childcare that surprised me: 

"In a remarkable longitudinal study, The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40, researchers examined the lives of a group of forty-year-old adults, all of whom had taken part in a test project during their preschool years. The project found that those adults who had participated in 'quality' early-care programs went on to achieve higher school test scores and had higher rates of high school graduation than those children who had not received 'quality' early-care experiences. The children in the programs identified as 'quality' care also were less likely to be involved in crime as adults and averaged far more in annual earnings. School success, lowered crime rates, and workplace productivity are society-wide goals. Findings such as these remind us how deep the roots of our early experiences are." 

Wow. I found this so interesting that I looked up this study and found even more of this evidence

This does NOT mean that we should take childcare too seriously though. The author points out that childcare comes in many different forms and fashion - from in-home daycare centers, days with extended family members, blocks of time at community centers, etc. They discourage centers with too much focus on academics however. Another relevant study quoted from the Temple University Infant Lab

"The research confirmed that children who attended academic preschools did know more numbers and letters than the children who went to play-oriented preschools. By age five, however, the kids from the play-oriented preschools had caught up, while those attending academic preschools felt less positive about school." 

The lesson here: we should use the resources at our disposal instead of trying to do it all ourselves, yet we should not take it too seriously. No need to push a 2 year-old to read postmodernism. Just let them enjoy their community and eat paste. 


Empathy For Daddy


I sometimes have this notion that my husband Clayton skips off to work to the tune of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. While I am at home with the babies, I visualize that he is frolicking down the hallways at work, whistling, high fiving coworkers, peacefully reading the day's news with a warm cup of coffee. 

I have these thoughts while I am up to my elbows in children. I most likely have not brushed my teeth and probably have spit-up dried in my hair like Something About Mary.

All right for some! I think to myself. 

When I have this vision, I can be less kind to him when he comes home. If he doesn't immediately take a baby off of my hip, I think he's being selfish or doesn't appreciate what I do for our family. 

Then I realize two things: 1) I'm feeling sorry for myself; and 2) I sometimes do not practice empathy for my husband the way I do for my kids. 

I was thinking about this while reading mbook club book, Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child. There is an entire chapter about children of marital discord and one line in particular struck me about practicing empathy for your spouse. Empathy is one of the most emphasized tenets of this book and the author mentions how easy it is to forget to practice in your marriage.  

I've been thinking about this a lot. Clayton surely doesn't prance off to work with impunity. He has to wake up at 3:30 a.m. He has to work hard. Very hard. He has challenges and concerns of his own in addition to my concerns about our family. It's not as if he waltzes out of the house thinking, "Have fun getting pooped on, honey! Sucker!" 

This kind of perspective is important, especially for women who feel that the division of labor is far from fair. Life isn't fair and keeping score is pointless but realizing that we are both trying hard is poignant. 

So today instead of pawning a child off on him as soon as he walked in the door, I smiled at him and let him unload his backpack. And the next time I feel jealous that he doesn't have to go to the bathroom while a toddler tries to paint the bathroom walls with makeup brushes, I will do my best to curb the jealousy or resentment. This life is my choice and I am lucky, not imprisoned for goodness sakes! 

It's easy to forget these little things but important to try to remember them. 


Feelings and Behaviors


Another noteworthy excerpt from my book club book, Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child

"Limit setting is common among Emotion-Coaching parents, who can accept all feelings but not all behavior."

 I like this tenet. Accept feelings but not behavior.

Miles has been a little difficult lately. Having just turned 2, he wants to argue or whine over pretty much everything I suggest. 

Want to put on your shoes and go?


Lets get out of the bath tub and have our story time.


Can you finish your dinner so you can have dessert?


It's starting to wear on me. I know it's a phase. I know that he's trying to exert control over small decisions. I know that living at the whim of your parents is probably frustrating for someone trying to learn independence. So I am trying to be patient and help him figure out what he wants and articulate it without so much explosive emotion. I don't deny him his feelings but I do require respect for the other three people living here. 

I will keep this in mind as we take on another day of independence-seeking tomorrow. He can't be a terror. He can't scream, hit, or throw things. I do not accept that behavior. But I accept his feelings. So if he feels frustrated or disappointed, he can figure out how to communicate that and we'll work on it together. I'll let you know how that goes. 


Quality vs. Quantity



It is no surprise that we have less time for our children these days but consider this fact I came across in my parenting book club

"According to Harvard economics professor Juliet Schor, the typical American family now works one thousand more hours each year than it did twenty-five years ago... Between 1960 and 1986, the time parents had available to spend with their children fell by more than ten hours a week." - John Gottman, Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child

This quantification shocked me! Does it shock you? 

Of course I don't want this to be the case in my family so research like this furthers my resolve to give my children as much time as I can. A friend of my husband's put it this way: With children, it is quantity that matters far more than quality. 

Do you agree?