Boys as Relational Learners

Boys as Relational Learners Summary

Summary By Rene Noga

How Will The Summer Program Help Learning, Organization & Attention?

How Strengthening Relationships with Boys can Help them Learn”  by Deborah Farmer Kris appeared in Mind Shift, Jan 29, 2020
She offers this advice:
  • Strengthen boys resilience to be themselves
  • Avoid stereotypes about boys and learning or boys and emotional relationships
Learning San Diego

Statistics from the Department of education on K-12 boys show:

  • Boys are more likely to drop out of school than girls

  • Boys make up 70% of the school suspensions and expulsions (this rate is even higher for boys of color)

Kris refers to Michael Reichert, author of “How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men” Reichert conducted research including 2,500 teachers in 6 countries over 30 years. His findings:

  • Boys are relational learners
  • Boys learn best in strong supportive relationships
  • Effective teachers use strategies to capture boys’ attention
  • Effective teachers carry that energy into the lesson
  • They have a relationship with the class and use feedback from the class to refine and perfect lessons

Reichert says boys care about the relationship they have with teachers, but do not approach teachers in the event of a relationship breakdown or misunderstanding. Parents, teachers, and coaches need to help them with strategies to use when conflict occurs. He warns not to swoop in and intervene for them, but encourage them to resolve problems for themselves.

For parents, Reichert advises the best way to support boys’ emotional and character development is:

  • Listen to their stories without correcting them, in order to nurture emotional expression. 

  • Create a block of time (30 minutes or more) to do whatever your son wants to do with you

  • Spend this time together consistently; he needs to be able to count on your full attention

When boys do not process intense emotions there will often be some acting out like: teasing siblings or avoiding homework. Reichert suggests the Listen-Limit-Listen model

  • Listen to what is bothering him
  • Calmly set behavior limits
  • Continue listening as more emotions may come to the surface 

The important role of “emotional anchor” can be filled by parents, teacher, and coach. There is room for all of these to mentor emotionally secure boys who grow to be good men.


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