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Monday, 1 April 2013

Post # 3 - Cutie? On the QT? or QTR???? Huh?

A Little Somethin' about
How Boys Learn
 that Should NOT
Be on the Q. T.!
There's "cutie," and that's your boy dirt-free out of the tub, all pink-cheeked and tousle-haired, freckles fresh and ears clean.  "Ahhhhh, what a cutie!" you exclaim!


Then there's "on the q. t." and it means "on the quiet."  Kind of like when your boys get together and whisper, "Hey!  Let's sit the garden gnome on the neighbor's planter-toilet and stash a few garden slugs in Betsy's bed, and let's do this on the q.t!"


Then there's another QT and that means "quick tension."   Some days your boy ain't cute, or on the q.t. at all.  Like the days when he can't stop fidgeting or sitting still, or when all of a sudden the eraser zooms through the air akin to a heat seeking missile, or when a fist slams down on the table after 20 minutes of calculating angles, or when you turn your back for mere nanoseconds and find him gone, outside, up in a tree, behind leaves, heaving with, if not wrath, then profound frustration. 

 Quick tension!


Blame most of it on quick tension.  Not rebellion, or naughtiness, or "your father's side of the family," or sugar.  Although these things may play a factor once in a while (and a whole lot less "while" than you imagine), quick tension is more often the hugest culprit.



So, here's how it works.  Remember from previous posts that male and female brains are structured and develop differently. 
Boys tend to have greater neural activity in the right hemisphere, increasing their ease in learning and using spatial abilities, which shows up in their preference for mechanical design, math, geography, claiming territory, and watching objects move through space.  
Language centers of the brain are smaller in size, so reading and writing can more easily frustrate a boy – or man. 
Serotonin, the calming hormone, is lower in boys than girls, but testosterone, the aggressive hormone, is higher. 
In addition, their pre-frontal cortices are less developed, thus less impulsivity and restlessness control. 
Lastly, blood flow in the male brain moves from the right side of the brain down to the brain stem, where the fight or flight areas of the brain reside. 
Fresh, warm, energizing, vitalizing,
 activating, and enabling stimulation of the
fight or flight responses!!!


Just what we need!
See the perfect storm building up over the horizon?   YIKES!!!! 

Boys have:
- more aggression,
- more fight or flight tendencies,
- more need for diagrams, numbers, charts, and
- more need for pucks, birdies, missiles, finish lines, bombs and grenades, blow darts, spit balls, curling rocks, Lamborghinis, pirates on planks, sharks in shallow waters –

OK, you get it, things that move through space! 


Sooooo, strap him down to a kitchen chair with Velcro and buckles and an Emily Dickenson poem duct taped to his forehead, or with 200 math questions and a pencil sharpener, or with a 2" thick and glossy book on the history of Egyptian pots, and
 "Houston, YOU have a problem."   
Hurtling erasers. 
Flights out the back door. 
After a good, loud slam. 


Tension by the barrels full, ma'am!  Tension and testosterone and right-brain blood flow all building up like train steam – waiting, waiting, waiting –

So, to avoid more (or alleviate already existing) headaches, stiff necks and shoulders, stomach upsets, and back pains, steam-out-the-ears-and-lid-off-the-top-of-his-head-on-the-ceiling, you gotta know some things. 


1)  He loves you, Mom! 

Honest!  He knows he needs an education or he'll end up "on the streets with no job, begging for pennies from passersby!"   He knows you would rather he be on the q. t. than pull pigtails.

2)  But you gotta know too that he needs quick tension release even more than lectures, threats, and time-outs! 
3) And you gotta know that because his language centers are less developed than his fight-or-flight centers, he is less likely to explain his predicament and more likely to thaaaaaaarrrrr-he-blows
Now, I am not saying that this behavior is always allowable because his brain is built this way.  Not at all,  But what I AM saying is that until your son is more mature, and until he is more understood than punished for being a boy
– just like you aren't punished but understood for getting moody
before, during and or after
your period and chocolate-pickle binges –

... just like you and your hormonal and chemical idiosyncratic needs, your boy's idiosyncratic needs must be respected, accommodated, and trained. Just keep in mind QTR, and things will go much better, that is...
Quick Tension Release.


Quick Tension Release is the discharging of accumulated anger, frustration, and restlessness brought on by testosterone and a brain that finds the piles and pages and projects of schooling overwhelming. 

Quick Tension Release heads off most of the tantrums at the pass and allows for success.  So here are a few of my favorite QTR activities, and should you find others that work, then by all means do share!  
1.  Do not expect your son to react like you would.  The chances of him sobbing, calling up a friend to vent for an hour, and reaching for ice cream (or yoga pants) are slim. He's a guy, remember?
2.  Do not punish, threaten, or dismiss his frowns, clenched jaws, hunched shoulders, arms hanging to the sides, bunched fists, closed legs, drawn knees, and or squinched eyes.   Article Source:
      They are clues, not symptoms of naughtiness!   I mean, if I was describing you, how would YOU be feeling? What would YOU be thinking?  And wanting?
      So look for and empathize.  Acknowledge and act.
3.  Use relaxation exercises to release tension:

Ask your son ("Hey, let's take a break for 5 minutes and try relaxing a bit.  Try this…")  And don't just watch him do this, or put up a poster and have him self-direct here so when he's ready to explode he'll say, "Oh, hey!  I'm ready to explode.  Let's try these cute relaxation exercises so I can calm myself down – even though I am only 6 years old, or 15 and have a hate-on for Emily Dickenson."   
Noooo, relax WITH him, please.  Model relaxation.  Try it, you might like it!

Try saying...

    1. Move your forehead or hairline backwards over the top of your head - the opposite of a frown. It may help to imagine your hand stroking backwards from your forehead over the top of your head and down to the back of your neck.
    2. Open your mouth as wide as you can, hold and release.

    1. Push your shoulders down and back, hold and release.

    1. Stretch your arms up and link your hands above you head.

    1. Open your hands as wide as you possibly can, hold and release.

    1. Lie on your back and roll your knees outwards. No need for a big movement on this one - a few millimeters is all that's needed to relax your inner thigh muscles.

    1. Straighten your knees so that your hip is opened out and stretched. Point your toes downwards as far as you can. Hold and release.  (Article Source:
4.  Let your son know that reading and writing activities (or those that build up tension the most) are time-limited and that at the end of 15 - 20 minutes of work lies their "escape hatch." 

Do not use ticking clocks, please, but soundless egg timers or large wall clocks.  Do not use their watches either; you want to associate pressing through with a school clock, not a personal device so that whenever they look at it outside of schooling they aren't reminded of headaches, stomach aches, tight jaws, etc. 
What happens in the school room
stays in the school room.

After the break, which should not be further than the fridge or bathroom, have your son back to a fresh glass of water with a lemon (or jube-jube snake at the bottom of the glass), a hug, and another escape hatch.
5.  Play very soft background instrumental music. No words, please.  No heavy metal or hymns. 
6.  Boys prefer natural light.  (I think we all do.)  Sit closer to a window, drawn  closed with sheer drapes so as not to distract. 
7.  Cover or move all electronic devices from sight.  No TV, DVD, phone, games, Wii, nothing.  These activities excite a different part of the brain that appeals to past experiences of instant gratification, which is not conducive to analyzing Hamlet, or the 5-paragraph essay, or a page of long division questions.  Outta sight, outta mind. 

And it may as well as be the TV that's "outta mind" than you.  
8.  Establish rewards and celebrations for getting through a day's learning challenges.  If you know something is on the agenda that creates tension, then before you start the day, negotiate.  "What would you like/what do you need to help us get through this challenge?"  "What would motivate you?"  "What win-win deal can we make?"

9.  Please remember to use fewer words. 

You: "So, what do you need to get through the day?  Because we don't want another episode like yesterday.  I mean, I can't take it, and your father won't be home until next week, so he can't be here to punish you.  So, what'll it be?  My way or the highway?  And we're running out of time.  The teacher will be here in four weeks and we're not even through the first chapter yet."


Son:  "I hate math."


You:  "Yes, we all do.  When I was in Grade 6 I hated math too, but I learned how to calculate percentages just by shopping. Oh, we're shopping later, so you'll need to babysit that little brother of yours, Chompers.  It comes in handy, you know, all this math.  It's real life.  I mean, in the real worl--  Hey, get back here!   Right!   This!    Minute!"




You: "So, what do you need to get through this 3-page math assignment after lunch?"
Son: "A miracle!"

You:  (Laugh) "Yah, I know.  So, what would a miracle look like?"

Son:  If I could go dirt-biking, I'd be happy!"

You:  "Dirt-biking is awesome!  OK, get the math done in two 20-minute segments, then dirt-biking for an extra 20 minutes is yours."

Son:  "How about an extra ½ hour?"

You:  "How about 20 minutes, like I said.  By then supper's on.  Maybe extra time on the weekend?"

Son:  "But I still hate math.  It's hard."

You:  "OK.  First, let's see how hard the first 20 minutes will be.  Get at the first 10 questions, and when they're 90% correct, then you can do every other one.  How does that sound?"

Son:  "How about not doing it at all, the second part?"

You: (Laugh)  "No can do, my friend,  Good try, though!  (Writing "dirt-biking this aft" on a sticky note.) Let's just try one small step at a time.  Get the first 20 minutes done with 90% correct - and that's including corrections - and we'll talk.  (Place sticky note on the table by his math book.) Just 20 minutes, 20 minutes closer to dirt-biking.

       Son:  "What if I don't do it?"

You: "Can't imagine why you'd rather sit here all afternoon than trade in 45 minutes of math – with my deal on the table – for an hour of dirt-biking.  Sounds weird."

Son:  "Alright. Twenty minutes and 90%.  And then a break and every other question after that. Right? "

You:  "You're right!  Hey, Knock-knock..."


No arguing. 
No cajoling. 
No diatribes and discourses. 
Just negotiating. 
And you both will learn the
beauty of negotiating!
10.  Laugh.  YOU use a favorite joke book to write out jokes onto sticky notes, and for every 5 questions he completes slap a sticky on his back, or forehead.  Have him then glue the stickies into the math book as a memory.

11.  Write shorter pieces of writing on smaller pieces of paper (index cards, sticky notes, Powerpoint slides, half a sheet of paper, inside dioramas, on paper airplanes, etc.).  Just lessen the space needed to fill with fewer words. 



          Stress for boys is not made up.  They don't WANT to be anxious, restless, resistant, reluctant, and violently angry.  Really!  But how they want to learn is often compromised by women teaching them the way they learn best: with lots of words, lots of pages, lots of dialogue, lots of bonding, tears to release tension and hugs to reassure. 



     Honor your boys.  Don't provoke them by not understanding some of the essential thinking/learning differences. 
   Cater to their needs. 
    Love, and ... 
              ... grow your own teaching skills by researching this topic for yourself.


     OK, I'm off to skewer some crows with spit balls.  They're picking my pole beans!!!