It seems that schools and parents find it difficult to train boys these days and plenty of thought is going into finding effective means to achieve the needed outcomes. I have to smile, or maybe despair, when I hear these discussions, because methinks the real issue is too easily overlooked. But I’ll keep my thoughts on the real issue to later.
For now, let me examine what the experts are saying and what I think lies behind the current predicament confronting those engaged in training boys. Note, too, that much of what is relevant to training boys is also important in training girls as well, so all parents can gain value from reviewing the following notes.
Teaching Boys To Control Themselves
The issue that takes focus for tempering bad boy behaviour is put under the heading of “regulating or controlling one’s emotions”. When a child yells, screams or throws a tantrum they are seen as having a problem regulating or controlling their emotions.
I know that many parents who have seen their children yell, scream and throw a tantrum would not identify the ‘emotions’ as the central issue, but the will. Many children resort to those behaviours in order to get their way, frustrate their parents’ wishes and assert their control over situations. However the psychologists, school administrators and others who confront these behaviours are likely to label the problem as a lack of skills in regulating and controlling emotions.
Professionals not only attribute this lack of emotional control to poor training, but to slow development of the “prefrontal cortex”, so the child “can’t sufficiently moderate the emotional signals of the brain’s limbic system”.
Note that the professional solution to this biological problem is still a matter of learning how to control behaviour. Skilled clinicians are being trained to teach children “how to access rational problem-solving skills”.
Dr Adam Cox
Australia was recently visited by Dr Adam Cox, a USA psychologist who teaches boys how to use what he terms “Executive Thinking”. This type of thinking helps boys in particular, enabling them to better cope with life’s challenges.
Dr Cox’s work comes with high commendation and it is always good to see something that assists in problem areas. And he is very positive about the role of parents in providing discipline to their children. He sees that some parents may give in too much to rowdy behaviour of their children. He also recognises that single-parent homes are handicapped in providing the input needed. Some parents don’t seem to know how and when to discipline.
The Ideal Outcome
The desired result of teaching children “Executive Thinking” is that they gain a level of self-control which regulates their behaviour. Dr Cox points out that children who are without such self-control are in an unhappy situation.
“When children learn these skills, they are noticeably more confident, and generally feel safer. It is a terrible burden to go through life fearing that your emotions may dictate your behavior at any moment.”
Personal confidence and security are the outcomes which Dr Cox recognises in children who do not have behaviour problems. What he is identifying is what every good parent expects and sees in their own children. Well trained and well disciplined children are happy, secure, confident and well-adjusted. Children who must yell, scream and throw tantrums are poorly-adjusted, unhappy, insecure and a misery to deal with.
I have mentioned that Dr Cox is positive about parenting. The following quote affirms his positive approach to quality parenting.
“I am always inclined to give parents the benefit of the doubt. If parents know how to intervene effectively – they generally will. I just wish that, as a society, we didn’t assume that parenting comes naturally. For most people, it requires lots of patience and practice. Great parenting has much more to do with endurance than engineering!”
My book, “Parenting Horizons – Empowering Parents to Build Generations”, is designed as a clear overview of the challenges with practical guidelines for parents. It is based on clear Biblical principles in an up-to-date language and with analogies and descriptions which clarify the key issues.
The Real Issue for Boys
Boys are created to become men and to take on leadership in their marriage, home and the broader community. They are created to answer to God for themselves and those they are responsible for. So, boys are specially suited to proper discipline based on just and moral processes, applied by those who have authority over them.
When boys are not subject to clear guidelines, strong discipline and loving authority which calls them to account they become frustrated. At a deep personal level they do not enjoy being morally irrelevant. They want to rise to their created purpose, even if other parts of them wish to indulge rebellion, selfishness or evil.
The real issue for boys is their need for clear and strong discipline. This is consistent with who God made them to be and it prepares them for the responsibilities and authority which they are destined to carry.
The Bible teaches that boys need clear and attentive direction from their parents. Consider the following verses from the wisdom of Solomon and look for the importance of instruction, discipline and authority in the life of children, and especially boys.
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15
A Critique on the Psychological Approach
Children need discipline provided by their parents. When this fails and the child does no behave correctly this is a major problem for the child’s future, as well as those who must struggle to control and assist the child through life.
While physiological issues such as the “prefrontal cortex” and “the brain’s limbic system” may have a part to play the only real solution is not biological, but involves further efforts to train the child.
The real issue for children, and boys in particular, is Training. Biblical training involves physical punishment as more than a motivator, but also as a therapy which removes foolishness from the child.
When parents employ Biblical training, involving the “rod of correction” they will raise happy, secure, confident and well-adjusted children who will not be a problem to those around them.