Boy Energy – Ages 5/6

If you’ve never been a boy…there are some things to consider when being in relationship with them. If you have been a boy, there is no reason to be afraid of raising one. As the “adults,” our comfort and confidence is drawn from the “zoom out”…remembering that these are important, short-term, life-changing moments in one chapter of the book called, “Life.”

Whether you are a parent to a boy-energy human or a teacher to one, two or three (or eight!) these wonderings might help you remember to put another lens on. Like when you go to the optometrist for a new eyeglass (or contacts) prescription…you have to try on different lenses until you can see clearly. When we look at their play through only one lens (usually our own), we miss the opportunity to connect.

What we can offer at TKG is the antidote to having to sit in a desk all day without play or recess! Here, we trust that teachers and parents are in relationship with boys and seek to connect on love, understanding and brain research. When we talk about “whole child learning,” this is it.

Here are some lenses to try on when living, teaching, parenting with a young, boy-energy human:

Environment. Encourage creative, cooperative play, with lots of hands-on projects and activities plus conversation with an emphasis on how to stick with an idea and explore it. At TKG we take a #slowEducation approach in response to the hurried, high-media lives we are socializing in.

Development. Children at this age are developing more coordination and coherence. The process of myelination accelerates. There is a pronounced growth spurt – the only such phase of rapid growth between infancy and puberty.* Guess what…they may use their new found skills in “disruptive” ways.

Physicality. It can be counterintuitive to say…”hey! Let’s go run around for 5 minutes so you can wiggle out your energy and get ready to come back to your learning plan!” Because…you may not be able to put that energy back in the “container” so to speak. However, it isn’t up to you and in fact, it does work for some children. They can come back to a learning plan after boosting their blood flow. This kind of movement feeds the brain. Vigorous play, or something close to it, helps develop the pre-frontal cortex (used to regulate behavior) – getting up to wiggle it out actually helps people learn.

Passion, Risk Taking and Accountability. Boy energy will want to take risks. It is self-motivated and also serves the purpose to establish place in the community. They are looking to differentiate themselves…sometimes the 2nd borns are even more passionate about this. They want to be nothing like their big brother/sister. And this can be a tool for you to establish your place too. We don’t mean oppressive shaming – we mean clear “I messages” will help you get your point across. If something doesn’t work for you – just say what and why. Less words while holding space for rebuttal or disagreement – without losing sight of the limit you have set – will help them feel powerful and collaborative in solving.

Forget About It. If a boy energy person feels that s/he gets into trouble so much that he will never be thought of as good or never measure up…he might take the outlaw persona and start being good at it. Sometimes, the adult can diffuse the situation with a huge hug, or words of love that can’t do anything but remind the person of how good and capable they are. Seems counterintuitive, but at this age…we want to help them find their truth more than “teach” them about it. “He’s not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time.”P

Invisible Energy. If you’re nervous about interacting with them, they’ll be nervous too. Their nervous can show up in different ways. By the way, this applies to most human interaction, not just boys. How to be less nervous? Another post sometime soon…

*Book Tool: Some of lenses listed above are inspired by multiple readings of It’s a Boy by Michael Thompson. Chapter 5 covers boys ages 5 to 7. These are highlights (cliff’s notes anyone?) but they are generalizations…you must read the book for details. This is not a complete representation of the book:

  • Physical Development
    • boys this age excel at physical activities that involve power and force but can seem clumsy because fine motor is still developing
    • They work hard at things they are good at and lose interest in the things they are not good at
    • Boys who are not very good at sports (or other things) will still claim they are at the top thus, we should try to help protect them from competitive focus as long as we can
  • Attachment
    • Boys are becoming more independent at this age
    • They are noticing the men in their lives and disconnecting from the “mother”
    • They are making decisions about the relatively new abundance of women in their lives
    • They can sense if you like boys and they can be angry with you if they think you don’t…
  • Social Development
    • They are learning about cooperation, competition, posturing and friendship
    • They don’t see ‘best friends’ as mothers might
    • Popularity is important
  • Cognitive Development
    • They are more logical and more connected to object permanence
    • The brain is coming under control of the frontal lobes
    • Key achievement is “conservation” – they are shifting from “magical thinker” to “true scientist” (see 3:30 in the video for conservation explanation)
    • Boys this age imaging things and want to create/build them
  • Academic Development
    • Central achievement is managing the transition to school and the demands
    • Establishing and supporting readiness
  • Emotional Self-Regulation
    • Gaining control over their feelings
    • They are self-conscious
    • The threat of exclusion is real
    • Boys who avoid crying pay a high price
    • Talk about emotions and help release the mounting pressure of emotional tension
  • Moral/Spiritual Development
    • Children in this age have to learn how to share resources (by circumstance!)
    • Feelings of injustice are high and become central to classroom discussions
    • They are trying to define what is good and bad and live up to the code (could sound like scolding or tattling)
  • Identity
    • Gender, name, skin color are permanent and they start to matter
    • Gloom and suffering; negativity happens
    • How a student does “in school” in these early years influences their self-image and success in later years
  • Trust Boys Play and Their Management of Aggression
    • You don’t always have to intervene
    • Free play allows for the experience to work out issues of strength, skill, and hierarchy – for less aggression
    • Peers will check each other
    • Don’t rush to judge, diagnose or medicate
  • Don’t Panic About Early Reading
    • People may already be anxious because they expect boys to “fall behind”
    • Trust reading readiness is a part of a larger developmental process
    • You can’t speed up the process
    • Early reading is not a predictor of success
    • If you panic, he’ll get the following messages:
      • There is something wrong with him
      • Reading matters more than anything else he does
      • Reading is a hugely scary task Don’t Panic About Early Reading Don’t Panic About Early Reading
    • Read to them, a lot
    • Cultivate imagination and ingenuity by exploring, building, creating

What Can You Do To Help with the day to day transition to school? 

  • Minimize the “rush” to school
  • Make time for physical play before you arrive to school
  • Let them talk about their day without judgement or “interviewing for pain”
  • Partner with your student’s teacher to meet group needs
  • Give students quiet, unstructured playtime at home. No TV, videos, etc…good old-fashioned imaginary play. This will help with their focus at school – might feel counterintuitive in the task-oriented world we live in, but quite necessary for independence building and success in the world we live in. Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen has inspired many of our lenses too including the how to help tips, above.

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