When I was a child, I had trouble paying attention. My knees would be bouncing constantly. I would shift in my seat to my knees, to one leg, to standing to whatever I felt like in that moment. (I still do this when “sitting” at a desk.)
I also had (and still have) some symptoms of OCD. I make some noises in my throat until it sounds just right. I keep setting a cup on the table until I do it “perfectly.” These wax and wane depending on the day, or week, or month. I still don’t know what triggers it. I can better control it now.
But I was annoying to have in class. The typical public school environment was not designed for someone like me.
So my parents took me to get diagnosed.
Attention Deficit Disorder. ADD.
They recommended medication to slow my brain down. Essentially lower my blood pressure.
I will forever be thankful for my mother, who reeled back in horror at the thought. No medication for me. We would find another way to deal with it.
Eventually, we found out that I was just bored. Give me a challenge, and I’ll focus for hours. Sometimes I won’t even move.
I often wonder what my life would be like if my parents took the easy way out and simply accepted the diagnosis. If they had allowed medical practitioners to literally dumb me down.
And then I wonder at how many other boys did not escape the mental castration because they didn’t fit just right into the predetermined mold.
Societal OCD demands every child, no matter personality or gender, be forced onto the same Procrustes bed.
Boys are overwhelmingly discriminated against in this regard. Modern schooling is designed more toward the feminine. Double the amount of boys are diagnosed with ADHD, and over 60% of those boys were on medication.
There might be some circumstances to classify a boy with a mental disorder, but are 13% of all boys really dysfunctional?
We are using the wrong measuring stick.
Boys need activity. They need to build. They need adventure. They will tear down something just so they can build it again. That is not a pathology.
That is boyhood.
They also need good men to teach and mentor them. That starts with their father.
We would be amazed at how many behavioral problems disappear when we get this right. Start in your own home.
If you homeschool, don’t have the same regimen for both your daughters and your sons. One of the strengths of homeschooling is tailoring the method to the needs of the child. It’s flexible.
Boys can be harder to teach, at least initially, but that is the responsibility of you, the father, to figure out. It is not for you to abdicate and simply throw medication at them.
Do not make excuses for them. Usually, the problem is with you, and not them. They are simply reacting in a way that ensures their survival in the system you set up.
Once you diagnose them with something, however, homeostasis can set in. You start treating them a certain way and their behavior is locked in based on your expectations. The diagnosis helps you avoid your own responsibility for the situation and creates a nasty feedback loop.
Some quick tips if you are feeling frustrated:
- Short sessions. You don’t have to spend 45 minutes doing math.
- Include activities they do with their hands. Repair something. Hammer some blocks of wood together.
- Include activities that are outdoors.
- Take them for a walk.
- Have them walk the dog.
- Set up cones in the yard and do some running/sprinting exercises.
- Do something they are interested in doing, even if it’s playing a video game with them.
- Only do school for 3 days a week.
- Up the challenge. Maybe something is too easy.
- Raining? Put on some old shoes and go jump in some puddles.
Above all, be worthy of respect. Be a man of integrity.
Your boys will follow you.