There is evidence that indicates that boys are rapidly falling behind girls and under-achieving in the regular areas of success – academics, motivation, and self-efficacy. In order to turn this around, boys need education settings suitable for boys learning needs and an environment of healthy emotional relating within the group.
Boys are often seen as socially and emotionally disengaged. Research shows that boys begin to disconnect from their emotions at the age of 3 or 4, when they are told by adults, often parents, to “be a big boy”, “big boys don’t cry”, “don’t be a sissy” etc. This results in boys learning to disassociate from their feelings and shutdown to their true nature. This male code of “stoicism” that creates boys’ wounds also forbids them to acknowledge or deal with them.
While girls tend to do this at 12 to 13 years, and turn it in on themselves with depression and self-hurting behaviors, boys, who disengage further at adolescence, turn it outward and hurt others with anger and acting out behaviors. Boys need to be motivated to learn how to channel their energy and risk-taking behaviors in ways that are disciplined, have integrity and are morally appropriate. Boys need access to safe places, emotionally challenging experiences and caring adults on a daily basis.
Boys often find their need for nurturing to be at odds with the cultural male expectations to be tough, grown up, and independent. The opposite is actually true: when one is being emotionally vulnerable, it is really a sign of strength rather than a weakness. Popular culture encourages boys to be independent, but in practice, too much independence often encourages counter-dependence, where a boy denies his natural need to lean on others from time to time. In the male-cultural myth, dependency on others is often equated with being vulnerable, which itself is confused with being weak.