At our recent Boys & Coyotes Course in Minneapolis, I asked a group of therapists, teachers and other educational professionals, “What do you know about boys?” Some of their answers:
- They are active.
- They like to play superheroes.
- They make exploding noises.
- They act first, then think.
- Their love is very strong.
- They like to be silly.
- They are attracted to danger and risk.
Do other ideas come to mind when you think of boys?
One thing that may not have come to mind is that nationwide, boys are nearly twice as likely as girls to be suspended, make up two-thirds of special education students, are 1.5 times more likely to be held back a grade and are 2.5 times more likely to be given diagnoses of ADHD. Mirroring these national statistics, I noticed that 80-90% of the children being referred to my school counseling sessions were boys.
Which led me to ask if we are missing something vitally important in the education of boys and how can we better serve their needs?
An answer came to me one day when a group of 6th grade boys were in my counseling office. I had just received a beautiful new doll house as a gift from a parent. The girls in my counseling groups immediately rushed to fill it with furniture and design the inside of the house.
The boys had a different response to the doll house.
When one of the boys asked if the others wanted to play in the doll house, they responded by rolling their eyes and giving him the are you kidding?! look. Then the one boy said, “It doesn’t have to be nice. There could be a flood.”
So began months of lively play in the doll house.
The boys didn’t play inside the house; they played outside of it. It was loud and energetic. There were tsunamis, earthquakes, evacuations and “giant baby attacks!” Their play was fascinating to me. They had a sense of humor and found more ways of attacking the house than I could imagine
What I began to realize is that their play wasn’t as much about destruction but what to do in response to these emergencies. They were practicing being protectors and warriors.
Suddenly, all those characteristics listed above began to make sense.
For centuries, men have been the protectors and warriors of the community. And what are the skills needed to be protectors? Strong love, action, physical strength and sometimes weapons. When I began to understand this, I began to look at their play in a very different way. Instead of fearing their desire to use weapons, play monsters and be loud and aggressive, I began to see it as warrior training.
Getting back to the question of why there is such a high percentage of boys in my counseling groups, I thought that part of it could be that my school and many others were now limiting extroverted, physical play by cutting back on PE and recess – all while requiring kids to sit more and more during the school day. And worse yet, though elementary school children developmentally have less self control than older children, these schools now have less tolerance for “rough play” than high schools. Making this even more difficult for young boys (and girls) is that that modern media encourages, even romanticizes, violence as a solution to conflict.
Video games in particular have captured this attraction in boys (and adult men, too) with their creation of extremely violent warrior games. In addition to more than 1,000 studies pointing to causal connections between media violence and aggressive behavior in children, another problem with these games is that they missing the story of the essence of the warrior.
At the heart of warrior actions is protection of community, love, ethical behavior. In history and in mythology, great warriors and heroes are revered for their sense of loyalty and honor. Here is one example we mention in our Boys & Coyotes course about the ethics of a warrior taken from martial arts:
The Code of a True Warrior includes
Courtesy, Honesty, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit, Humility, Loyalty and Sportsmanship. Aggression and violence are always the last resort of a true warrior, because protection of life is hallmark. When the true story of the warrior is missing, and violence is trained for violence sake, the greater qualities of the warrior are undeveloped and this is a dangerous to society and the world at large.
Here are a few of our favorite activities to help children to explore and develop their personal power in a responsible way and in support of community and the world we live in; to develop their strength and character in order to meet challenges in a way that honors life and the true warrior in each of us:
Activate / Relax Walk
Our Activate / Relax Walk is a great activity that can be used in classrooms and other settings to help children develop self-regulation, focus and ability to follow directions, make transitions and shift attention. It is also a great movement break or warm up activity that that develops imagination and is accessible to a wide range of students. Kids love this activity, and so will you. We teach this activity in our Integrated Approach to Wellness 1 course.
Archetype Game Lesson Plan
Our Archetype Game from our book Yoga Calm for Children is another excellent activity for helping children develop personal awareness and the ability to discriminate between different aspects of ourselves and use them in positive ways. Download a copy of the activity from our book, as well as this wonderful class plan Certified Yoga Calm Instructor Stephanie Swift created with the Archetype Game that includes a writing assignment.
This lesson plan, and hundreds more like it, are available through our Yoga Calm Membership Program. This program for Certified Instructors also includes dozens of training videos with children’s health and wellness experts, clothing and product discounts (e.g., Prana, Lucy, Lululemon) and discounts on courses and workshops.
Find out more about the benefits and process of Certification here.
And to learn more about the importance of movement and “rough” play and the need for boys to find meaning, initiation and physical connection to the world, join us at our next Boys & Coyotes course here in Portland, Oregon, October 26-27, 2013. Using traditional stories of animals and current mythology such as Star Wars, we explore the warrior archetype and its importance in addressing the global challenges of this era. We also learn how to provide healthy alternatives to violent media and video games, where boys can explore their power in safe ways and learn that the true heart of the warrior is to protect goodness and help instead of harm.