As a young boy, I did not sit still for long. I’m tempted to use the word “couldn’t”. In order to get me to eat, my mom would cut up a hot dog, put it on the plate on one end of the coffee table in the living room and let me do laps, eating a piece every lap or two. When I went to school, they didn’t know how to handle my rambunctiousness so I was held back a year. School was an environment that would only let me move a half-hour a day during school. I went from hot (dog) laps to sitting still all day.
My story began more than four decades ago – and the prescription for me wasn’t “keep him moving”, it was “give him Ritalin” to get me compliant. My mom refused and worked with me all through school to help me conform to a world that wouldn’t let me move. I was told, from four-years-old, that it was me. That I was the problem.
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland recently tried to document whether boys actually achieve less in school when they’re restricted from running around and being physically active.
They studied 153 kids, aged 6 to 8, and tracked how much physical activity and sedentary time they had during the day. Sure enough, according to a report by Belinda Luscombe in Time, the less “moderate to vigorous physical activity” the boys had each day, the harder it was for them to develop good reading skills:
The more time kids … spent sitting and the less time they spent being physically active, the fewer gains they made in reading in the two following years. [It] also had a negative impact on their ability to do math.
Now here’s the best part – and this is what really fries my bacon:
The results didn’t apply to girls. I know that sounds sexist; the researchers offered a few possible explanations. Maybe there simply are physiological differences—or maybe the girls were just as eager to move around as the boys, but they were better able to set aside that disappointment and concentrate.
And for that reason, other researchers say, girls are rewarded more than boys in the classroom.
“Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools,” says psychologist Michael Thompson. “Boys are treated like defective girls.”
The emphasis above is mine. What is sexist is expecting boys to behave like girls and treating them as “defective girls” in school if they act according to their nature. Now, I’m sure all of the open-minded people out there who have the delusion that sexism only works one way will complain that what the study found is not right – maybe the sample size wasn’t big enough so more study is needed, but I lived it. I’m here to tell you, if you multiply this out over time, the ramifications are devastating.
And, according to the article linked above, it gets worse: The punishment for being rambunctious is more time sitting still which compounds the problem, especially for boys, rather than fix it. It appears as though there might be hope. One school in Texas has implemented four recess periods into the school day…
Result? Students are “less fidgety and more focused,” one teacher said. They “listen more attentively, follow directions, and try to solve problems on their own instead of coming to the teacher to fix everything.”
Well imagine that.
Good piece. As you know, one size fits all!
That’s how they like us.
Good for your mom for not putting you on drugs. Sounds like a very smart woman.
Nurse, she’s dedicated. No doubt about it.
Wow! This went in a whole different direction for you. Kudo’s to your mom.
I, a girl had the same problem and was held back for the same reason. There was no Ritalin in those days.
We, had the same problem with our son and the public school system. Not a day went by that we didn’t receive a call from the school to put our son on Ritalin and we replied that drugs were not the solution. We finally took him out and found a private Christian school to put him in. He excelled with honors there until he aged out. By then it was high school and we tried two before we found one that would work with us. He did fine then.
You are absolutely right, in your assessment about sexism when it comes to certain behavioral patterns. Girls tended to be more compliant in those days, though I think less so now.
Society now encourages girls to be more like boys and boys to be more like girls, hence there appears to me to be a big push to neutralize the sexes. I get it but don’t get it. I like our differences and if everyone behaves the same then we become nothing but robots. Just one old lady’s observation.
Seems like a great observation to me.
Hot dog laps sounds like a running sport I could get into! 🙂
As a parent of one of each gender – yes to this! We’ve been in elementary schools both in CA and in TX and they both used recess as a tool for classroom management; that is they take away the one recess they have to try and control behavior. It’s asinine to me.
Thank you for commenting, Lori. It truly does boggle the mind.
I don’t know much about schools in the US but in the UK they’re making the days shorter and shorter and that means less “play time” (that’s recess to you.) At the school here in France it’s a long day relatively – the school day is from 9am til 4.30pm – but they have lots of time to play, about 2 hours out of the whole day! When we see them in the morning ALL the older children are running around. They have long periods of sitting too but also get to brun it off. I can’t imagine how they’d manage without that time.
In the US, the system simply demand kids sit still, then wonder/complain when the kids are kids. It sounds like France does it right. Thanks for commenting and expanding my understanding of how the World works, Emma.
My son was this way and his mother jumped on the Adderall bandwagon when the doctor suggested it. I said no. He didn’t need it. He was just being a boy.
Yep. Happens way too often.
I had a hard time sitting still in school also. Still do! I couldn’t imagine sitting in meetings all day!