Ask any parent: One size does not fit all when raising and educating children. All the more so when dealing with boys vs. girls.
“It’s surprising. You think, ‘I’ve been through this with my daughter,’ but it’s entirely different [with a boy],” said Christina Pink, a Partnership for Awareness board member who has a daughter and a son. “With the same upbringing, the same parents, the same house, the same school district and sometimes identical teachers, I can tell you that the way they learn and the way they’re motivated is vastly different.”
Partnership for Awareness hosted a lecture recently on the nuances, pitfalls and high drama of girls’ social interaction during adolescence. Now it’s time to turn the focus onto the guys. “The Minds of Boys: Helping Our Sons Do Their Best in School and Life” will be presented Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. in the Huntington Middle School Auditorium. Marriage and family counselor Michael Gurian will offer his perspective on gender differences in young people and offer practical strategies for guiding boys through some challenging years.
“What I do is science-based,” said Gurian, who began poring over neuro-biology research three decades ago. “We’ll be looking at boys from the inside out. Scans of the male and female brain show how the male brain is set up. That’s some of the nature part. Then we’ll look at nurture and culture. We’ll be hitting on all three, helping people understand what’s going on with the male brain.”
In “The Wonder of Boys,” one of 28 books Gurian has authored, he warns about how modern society has “enmeshed male development with a female culture in transition.”
Asked to elaborate on how this affects the education of adolescent boys, Gurian said, “The school system has been set up much better for girls than boys. It’s set up for a verbal literacy platform. Males, while we use our words, in general need more experiential and project-based learning. Those who get those are more successful.”
In the talk on Dec. 9, he continued, “I will be talking to parents about how, in the right side of the male brain, we don’t use words there. We use graphics, pictures. If you’re helping your son with his homework in the 4th grade and he’s having trouble writing, he’s using only a small part of his brain, the left front, and you’re trying to get that to light up, and you’re forgetting the whole right side of his brain.
“Girls use words on both sides of the brain. You can get parity if you have the boys draw — a storyboard or a comic book, with an introduction, body and conclusion. And then he’ll write — a half-hour later — after he draws.”
Pink has encountered something similar in math.
“We do homework immediately after school, so I’m the one [my son] comes to when he has questions,” she said. “With this new Common Core math, you not only have to get the correct answer, you have to explain how you did it. My son has a completely different way of working word problems than my daughter and I do. He comes at it from a different way, but it works.”
Gurian’s book also notes that because of male brain chemistry and the hormone testosterone, boys generally are more prone to risk-taking, physical aggressiveness and competitiveness.
Krishna Rao, president of Partnership for Awareness, might nod knowingly at that observation, given her experience with her 10th-grade son.
“With him, if he doesn’t have some kind of sports after school, it’s harder for him to focus,” she said. “It’s trying to find in a public school — and I think our schools do it well to begin with — things we can do to help our boys learn in a better way. For my son, and my daughters also, the physical activity helps them immensely with concentration.”
Gurian’s talk will also address emotional development, discipline, behavioral challenges and motivation as they relate to boys, as well as use of technology — what is the appropriate amount of screen time, and what effect do video games have on the brain?
“Most boys do well in San Marino,” Rao said. “They’re very successful. But if we can make things more effective, let’s try that.”
The talk will conclude with a question-answer period. And Gurian assured his prospective audience that although he has studied gender neuroscience extensively, that doesn’t mean his talk will be dry and technical.
“It’s a comedy act. They’ll laugh a lot,” he said. “They think science is boring, but I make it a lot of fun.”
Admission to “The Minds of Boys” is free for Partnership for Awareness sponsors. Others are asked to make a $10 donation. For more information on how to become a sponsor, visit partnershipforawareness.org. A book signing will follow the talk.