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Don’t make boys ashamed of their masculine side

10-19-07 Dr. LaurBerman studio......Rich Hein/Sun-Times

10-19-07 Dr. Laura Berman in studio......Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:37PM

Two weeks ago I wrote an article about the brilliant new film “The Mask You Live In,” a documentary about the pressures boys face growing up.

After my article was published, a reader wrote in with some thought-provoking points. Here is an excerpt from their email: “How about we allow boys to be boys and not emasculate them? By nature, they are rough and tumble, loud, and sometimes will push boundaries. Unfortunately, they receive labels like behavior disorder, ADD, ADHD and so on because most teachers are women and feel intimidated by their actions.”

The reader makes some interesting observations that bear examination. In creating a society that is more empathetic and gender-neutral, it’s crucial that we still allow children to express traits typically associated with masculinity. There is nothing wrong with characteristics such as boisterousness and a love for exploration, but it’s important that we realize that these aren’t just “male” qualities. And, just as boys require the freedom to express their emotions, girls need the freedom to express their wild side — including allowing them to be loud and rough-and-tumble just as we allow boys to be.

I also agree that the traditional educational system with desks in a row and long periods of sitting can be very difficult and set children up for failure, especially boys who, thanks in large part to their hormonal makeup, are less inclined to sit calmly and quietly. The educational system would be more beneficial as a whole if it allowed for more movement and more physical activity (especially considering the rate of childhood obesity in this country). And, instead of punishing children who are “too active” we should find ways to make the educational system equally welcoming and nurturing for boys and girls, instead of reaching for diagnoses like “ADD” just because a child can’t sit still for 8 hours at a time.

As the mother of three boys myself, I also want to advocate for them and ensure that their learning environment is as welcoming and comprehensive as possible. I never want to curb their energy or sap their spirit, but I also want to make sure that I allow them to fully express every aspect of their personality, including the sides of them that want to cuddle, talk, and sometimes even cry. It’s all part of the adventure of raising a child and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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