According to psychologist and author, Steve Biddulph, boys experience three developmental phases of boyhood that are key to understanding and raising boys:
- 0-6 years: boys will bond with their mothers first and learn to grow in emotional stability
- 6-14 years: boys will bond with their fathers as they navigate masculinity and how to be male
- 14+ years: boys look beyond their parents for mentorship as they experience a huge testosterone surge.
Biddulph, who gained notoriety in 1997 with his book, Raising Boys, believes there are fundamental differences in the way boys and girls develop. While we continue to learn more and more about the ways that boys’ and girls’ brains function, teaching boys is second nature at Trinity.
The brain development of all boys and girls is not necessarily identical, however, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research shows there are some consistent patterns. Here’s what you need to know about boys’ brain development:
- Prefontal cortex: The area responsible for cognitive processes is the last area of the brain to fully mature, and it occurs later in boys.
- Neurological architecture: The areas associated with language and communication are significantly different in boys.
- Hippocampus: The hippocampus plays a key role in the formation and retrieval of long-term memory. It is significantly smaller in males and has a slower speed of neuron transmission.
- Boys are visual learners: Above all their other senses, boys tend to rely more on their visual cortex for gathering information.
- Serotonin: Levels of serotonin in boys’ brains are substantially lower and decline temporarily during adolescence. This is compounded by a surge in testosterone around the age of ten.
- Movement: Movement can act as a neuro-stimulator and a calming mechanism for boys.
SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL WELLBEING
Meeting the social and emotional needs of boys is perhaps one of the most significant priorities for parents. It’s also a key focus for schools. Research has found that a boy’s sense of attachment or belonging to his school environment is a major protective factor against risk behaviours and can also enhance student achievement.
Today, boys experience a wide range of issues that can impact their wellbeing:
- Concerns about body image are increasing, particularly for boys.
- Social skills are vital to helping children make and keep friends.
- Boys can be easily influenced. Promoting positive friendships and knowing what to do when friendships turn toxic is critical to helping children grow into well-adjusted adults.
- Childhood fears are normal and are likely to change over time. The key is to acknowledge fears and help your child face them, rather than protect them from it.
Talking about mental health with children isn’t always easy, but it is important that boys understand:
- what mental health is
- how to maintain it, and
- what to do if it goes wrong.
Research has shown that emotional skills are crucial for children to become successful both socially and academically. The importance of emotional skills cannot be underestimated. A child’s emotional intelligence has a bearing on their decision-making skills, how they behave and ultimately, their happiness and wellbeing.
Mindfulness is a concept that is becoming increasingly popular with educators and employers. Encouraging boys to be mindful can lead to improved attention, memory processing and decision-making abilities; increased self-awareness, social awareness and self-confidence; and increased ability to self-regulate emotions.
Social development is also critical to the growth and wellbeing of young people. Here’s how you can help your son develop social skills.
Risk-taking is a natural development for boys. However, dangerous risk-taking behaviours can have serious negative consequences.
According to child and adolescent health professional, Associate Professor Susan Towns, dangerous risk taking doesn’t just happen. There are signs during early childhood that may indicate that a child is more vulnerable:
- Developmental issues
- Inadequate parenting support
- Personality traits
- Developing mental health problems such as depression or anxiety
- Bullying or peer pressure.
Discussing risks and consequences with your son is something you will need to do on a regular basis. Learn how you can successfully manage risk-taking in boys.
However, taking calculated risks underpins many of the activities of successful learners. Parents can help children experience the benefits of taking controlled risks by allowing them the freedom to exercise personal choice in a safe environment.
Learning to embrace challenge also plays a vital role in managing risk-taking. Viewing challenge as something to overcome, rather than a set-back, will help your son develop resourcefulness and resilience. Defeating a challenge will not only help your son to grow in character but will help gain motivation for the next challenge he will inevitably face.
Some children are naturally resilient, blessed with an easy-going temperament and a capacity to persevere in the face of a challenge. Increasingly, however, we are seeing children fade when faced with seemingly small obstacles. It is possible to foster resilience in children of any age, to help them cope more easily with the inevitable challenges of life.
There are many reasons why resilience and independence are important for boys. As parents, it is natural to want to see our children do well. However, it’s important that we don’t wrap them in cotton wool.
We encourage our students to adopt a growth mindset, the ability to see how a situation can be improved through effort and application. Promoting positive self-talk for children also encourages resilience. There are a number of practices to help your son think positively, including fostering gratitude and developing self-awareness.
Helping boys to develop resilience can make a significant difference in determining their levels of confidence and ability to deal with problems and setbacks. You can build boys up to develop resilience by:
There is a school of thought that suggests boys lack motivation. At Trinity, we challenge this notion by seeking out ways to respond to how boys learn, and bringing out the best in every boy.
Many parents have no doubt at some stage felt frustrated about their child’s lack of motivation toward their learning. There are a number of things that can lead to boys being unmotivated:
- He’s interested in X but has competing priorities.
- He’s distracted.
- He’s not a confident learner.
- Fear of failure.
- Concerns about image.
- He has difficulties contextualising his learning because he’s not clear about future opportunities.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep boys motivated at school. We have found that participation in sport has been particularly successful at motivating boys. Sport can develop and improve skills, building confidence; shape character and build leadership skills; and, help boys to learn to cope with adversity.
From the moment your child is born, their safety becomes your number one concern. As they grow into adolescence, we need to learn how to create boundaries while promoting independence. The teenage years can be particularly challenging as adolescents encounter drugs and alcohol, begin attending parties and start to navigate social media.
“Cyber bullying, harassment and online safety is the number one issue compromising the safety of kids in schools,” said Senior Constable Susan McLean, Cyber Safety Advisor. Raising boys to be smart and safe online is a key issue facing parents today.
Our Education Matters blog covers many tips for raising boys. Some of the latest highlights are featured below:
Raising good men
Ultimately, our aim in raising boys is to raise good men – men of exceptional character and conduct, who respect women and live happy and fulfilling lives. With 30 years’ experience teaching boys, Mr Bradley Barr, Deputy Head Master, offers his view of what it means to be male.
At Trinity, our educational principles are underpinned by a thoroughly Christian foundation. In preparing boys for the future, there is much that can be learned from the teachings of Jesus. Humility, integrity, social justice and compassion are just some of the ways that Christianity inspires boys to grow into good men.
We actively encourage boys to grow in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man, so that they may become responsible and contributing members of society … great leaders.