By Guest Blogger Stacy Leighton

Whether you have a son, or a daughter, or one of each, this is the kind of post every parent should take time to read. Thank you, Forsyth Family magazine, for letting us re-run Stacy’s post on TMoM today!

It seems like only yesterday that our son started kindergarten. He was so excited! It was a wonder he made it to the school entrance all by himself, his backpack was twice his size. He turned, grinned and waved to me. I watched him getting smaller and smaller in the distance. I remember thinking, “there goes my heart.”

That day I was counting the minutes. At exactly 2:15, I grabbed my keys and dashed for the door like I had been shot out of a cannon! How was your day? I asked. “Great!” He told me about their routine, new friends, the class fish and Flat Stanley. Every day this went on, but each day there was a little less excitement. I knew something was up. Then the school called. “We need to talk about your son.” It was excruciating, MY son? Didn’t his teacher see the boy that I saw?

“He is not taking school seriously, he asks too many questions. “ She said. “He won’t sit still for more than 20 minutes. His handwriting is atrocious. He’s too busy and is distracting others.” “Well,” I thought, “It’s time to do a little research.” I found out our son was exactly where he should be developmentally, only better, because he was still excited about learning, happy and kind. The challenge was how to preserve “him” while helping him to be successful in school.

So here are some facts: most teachers are women, who were once girls. Boys do not learn, play or process like little girls. So therein lies the disconnect. Historically, girls score higher in school, fewer are recommended for ADHD testing and behavior modification. Traditional classroom instruction is 4/5 language-based, a female strength. Girls are more conceptual and social. Boys are more practical and tactile, and they learn best when movement and hands-on activities are incorporated.

These are facts. Instead of lamenting over this immutable reality, I chose to give our son the tools he needed to navigate these waters such as they are and to succeed in and out of its confines. Here are a few ways you can help your son to be successful in school.

~ Rules are everywhere; he should know them and why they’re important.

~ Boys are tactile; support his learning by incorporating varied techniques (mnemonics, movement, hands-on).

~ Language skills develop later; spend time every day talking, reading and writing together about topics that interest him.

~ Boys can be competitive; talk about “good sportsmanship” and “leadership”—praise his successes and when he’s courageous in his failures

~ They like all things gross; and it’s funny! Provide appropriate opportunities for this humor and discuss when it’s not appropriate

~ He should choose friends wisely; teachers will make assumptions based on his choices; anyway, it’s cool to be smart.

~ They prefer practical explanations, they are more emotionally internal than girls; avoid lectures, set clear rules, values and set boundaries. Ask open-ended questions, be patient, provide opportunities to listen (while cooking, camping, just hanging out together).

~ They learn by example; identify good role models and why they’re important.

~ Foster the love of learning; get caught enjoying reading and learning; create learning experiences together; let them teach you.

~ Boys should resolve their own conflicts; ask them what they think they should do, help guide them towards positive outcomes, and then let them reach them. It’s a respect thing and a life skill.

~ They need to feel “respected”; never underestimate the power of words: “You never gave up! I respect your tenacity”

There may be times when you disagree with your son’s teacher or coach. Avoid criticizing them publicly. It’s important that your son value and respect authority. Find out what he thinks and trust his judgment. Our son is getting ready for college now. He graduated with respect and admiration from his peers and instructors, and with honors. Knowing and supporting your son may never be boring, but it will always be rewarding.

This article has been reposted with permission from Forsyth Family magazine.