NY Times Article the Boys in the Back

Updated on February 25, 2013
L.E. asks from Pittsburgh, PA
10 answers

Hi Mamas,
I read this article http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/02/the-boys-... and found it to be quite interesting as the mom of a boy. Before my son entered school I probably would have disregarded this, as he's quite mellow, has no trouble sitting still, loves books of all kinds and is generally pretty laid back compared to the energy levels of most boys. I've been surprised and disappointed to learn, however, that at his school actions like talking in line in the cafeteria, being too noisy or standing up at lunch (he's in 2nd grade), or being too rambunctious on the playgroud are dealt with by taking away recess time. From what my son shares, it's always the boys that end up "standing on the wall" during lunch or recess. In my opinion that only makes the problem worse for boys who are being required to sit still for six hours a day. I'd think something like requiring the boys to write an apology, or do some task at home that requires reading/writing something, would be more effective than taking away their one chance in the day to blow off some steam. I'm curious to hear what others think or have seen at their schools.

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answers from Grand Forks on

Where I am recess is considered to be quite necessary. The kids get 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon and 40 minutes at lunch. Kids never lose recess time as punishment. It would just make classroom management and teaching that much more difficult.

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answers from Miami on

I haven't read the article, L., but I totally agree with you that rambunctiousness should be dealt with in a different way. One of my kids' teachers understood this so well about boys. She had a lot of these type kids in her classroom. At the beginning of the year, she laid a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 construction paper on the floor and had a group of these boys come together and put their toes on the paper. You can imagine the "closeness" here LOL! After the initial pushing around with the shoulders and giggling or fussing, they quieted down to try to find out why they were doing this. She had them talk about themselves for several minutes until they got comfortable with the close proximity. Then she talked about "getting along". These kids who had previously not gotten along (they were too alike, LOL!) became best of friends. My son was among them. Not only did they end up working together well, playing together well and caring about each other, they also took up for kids in other classes when they were bothered by other kids. I would never have believed that my son would step in and take a punch to save another kid, but this teacher's work with these kids helped them empathize with each other and THINK about being a friend.

That's a little ancillary in regards to your post, but I think it was part of the way this teacher "thought" about boys. In addition to this, she would be out at recess running them during part of it - controlled running using math, of all things! They had a ball. One day while I was helping in the classroom, the kids were getting antsy and not paying that much attention. It was stuffy in the classroom and they needed a break. She got up and said "Okay - line up!" She counted backwards from 10, they walked out onto the playground in 20 seconds flat, and she had them run in circles while she sang a song. They were happy as they could be and when we came back in the classroom 5 minutes later, they could settle down and get right back in the groove. She had taught them to do this.

If I were you, I would go talk to the school system's psychologist about this. Ask her if she can get this changed. If that doesn't work, perhaps going to the school board would work. I'd really try to do it with the school psychologist instead, though.


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answers from Pittsburgh on

Taking away recess is a counter productive (I would say stupid if DS would not tell me it's a bad word) strategy to contend with kids' pent up energy. I would argue that no 7 year old child should be required to sit for 6 hours a day. We know sitting is associated with premature death in adults. It can't possibly be any better for kids. When I was in elementary school we did not sit for nearly as much time as it seems kids do now. We moved from class to recess, gym, art class, music. We moved into small groups. Our teachers would have us even get up and do jumping jacks or play musical chairs to mix it up and keep us paying attention.

Why on earth shouldn't kids talk while they are in the cafeteria line? I talk when in line at a cafeteria. And what is 'too rambunctious' at recess? Recess is for running around and playing. If the kids are hitting each other, that should be addressed with additional teaching about empathy. But 'standing on the wall' - no place for that in a school system. I would talk with your son's teacher and if necessary the recess teacher, principal and so on up the chain.

@Amy - I was in elementary school in the 70s too. My son has a longer school day (we had 6 hours, he has 6 hrs 40 minutes). We had gym 5 days a week, he has gym 2 days a week. We had more physical activity in the classroom. We were NEVER ever kept after school and in our district, parents would have immediately hired an attorney, contacted the local paper and the NY Times and the ACLU if a teacher had EVER raised a hand to a child. Forget about a paddle. We did NOT have homework in the first grades and we had very little homework in the higher grades. I think school is different than it was back then. I think back then our teachers expected that we were still learning to get along and follow rules. There was no 'zero tolerance' policy for first graders who pushed or tripped or hit each other. We were little kids and the teachers helped us.

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answers from Washington DC on

it's honestly one of the (many) reasons i chose to homeschool. my kids aren't ADD, or learning disabled. they're just ordinary nice boys who were starting to get checked out of the educational experience because of nonsensical rules and policies.
kids can and should be expected to be quiet, attentive and studious during portions of the school day. but since recess has become more and more expendable, and teachers are trying to cram more and more required material into the same amount of time, kids get very few breaks these days from having their craniums pried open and huge gobs of indigestible information rammed in.
kids are SUPPOSED to be wiggly. they're not wired to sit passively for hours and ingest. a kid doesn't have to be diagnosed with a 'condition' and require medication or treatment just because he's a kinetic learner.
i think the entire traditional education structure is archaic and doomed, and my heart breaks for all the kids stuck in it. it's going to topple, it's just a matter of time. but it's so deeply ingrained in our national psyche that school *should* look this way that we're going to have to beat down and starve out the desire to learn in a good few more generations before the old model finally goes the way of the dinosaur and we rebuild it.

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answers from Kansas City on

amazing article. as a mom of an ADHD kindergartener...i have said from day #1 that it was the super structured environment. before kindergarten, he was allowed to run and play a lot more and we had VERY few problems. the ONLY reason we got on this ADHD train was because he would certainly fail school if we didn't.

S.H. you should check out the article. i think it's dead on. it's not saying that girls are more "well behaved" than boys...more that boys just have a harder time being calm and still.

for my son's part, he is not ill-behaved. not at all. he has a huge heart and tries his hardest. but he is simply incapable of sitting still, controlling his impulses, acting calmly, for as long and as consistently as school requires him to.

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answers from San Francisco on

That's too bad about your school policy. Our school/teachers understand EXACTLY how important recess is, especially to boys and really to ALL children. The principal understands this as well. The taking away of recess is only done in cases of outright disrespect (either for teachers or other students) and for consistently goofing around in class.
Trust me, the teachers WANT the kids to go to recess, it benefits everyone.
If I were you I'd get involved in your school's parents club/PTA, if possible, because parents can have a lot of influence when organized.

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answers from San Antonio on

My opinion is that the reason they probably take recess away is it is one of the only "currencies" a teacher has left to use to deal with problem behavior. The only possible negative consequence they have to help with classroom behavior.

I have been in the elementary classrooms and honestly what 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, year old boy really cares if they "pull a card"...I have seen them go through all five cards in the first few hours of school...so now they have a conduct mark (so what??), oh, now I get to go to the office, where they talk about my feelings and why I misbehave and give me a stack of worksheets to do for about an hour (whew, I am out of that classroom for a while and don't really have to do the worksheets I can draw on them). Then they are back and still misbehaving. The teacher is left with the only option left to her...sit down, get to work, stop touching your neighbor, stop making that silly disrupting noise...or, or , or OR "what"???? "You get no recess!!!"

One of the only things in the whole day that boy (child) is looking forward to...it is the only consequence that they "HAVE" in their ability to use to try and get some order and classwork out of the child.

I am not saying I agree with it...but there sometimes no other discipline they have left to use...

I think all children need to run around and use up some energy...and that only 15 minutes is not enough...but I watch the teachers blowing that whistle at 14 minutes because of the huge load of work waiting to be mastered for the test that effects their job if the kids don't master it back in the classroom.

Give teachers another way to get their attention and maybe recess wouldn't have to be the "answer" to the discipline question.

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answers from Williamsport on

Thank you for article, I've read a couple of similar ones lately. My thoughts are that this is sad if it's really true, and it must be for the statistics in the article. But what I don't understand, is that schools are much LESS disciplinarian than they were in the 70's. When I was in school (70's), both sexes were kept in from recess, kept after school for MORE SITTING and school work, and sent to principal to be paddled. YES, it was more often boys (maybe, bot sort of rare in general actually and I was punished that way sometimes) than girls because boys are more rambunctious, yet they grew into the work force with much higher success rates than girls.

But now NO SCHOOLS are that tough on anyone for misbehavior, and the "sitting time" isn't any longer than it ever was. SO. In addition to the fact that maybe boys should be given more time to blow off steam and be engaged in interesting things (I think that's true for both sexes) what gives? Why are boys doing so much worse now? School is not harder or longer now, but I know kids lack more discipline now. Kids used to behave in school and church and public "or else" and only the "bad kids" with "inept parents" were the exception, and now that's not the case. I just attended a few gatherings over the weekend where my kids had to behave, and I would have had to behave as a kid, but NONE of the kids there were expected to. Their "nice parents" felt it was perfectly normal that they shouldn't have to be burdened to behave. Likewise, every class we attend has lots of poorly behaved girls and boys and very little discipline from parents or teachers.

I do think school lacks major curriculum density in order to focus excessively on standardized tests now and therefore could be much more boring than it needs to be....but I don't know. The problem isn't schools being aimed "against boys" as this article suggests where I live. But maybe true elsewhere...interesting food for thought.

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answers from Las Vegas on

I will tell you something discouraging.. at my son's school, many of the kids don't view recess as we once may have, which is YAY time to play.. many of the kids, prefer to sit on the bench and talk ..... Therefore, taking away recess has become a non-event... which also means, some of those kids whose recess is taken away for (talking all the time in class) isn't really considered a punishment... In which case, yeah how about making them write on the board or have them do some extra credit work.There are a few of the same old people in my son's class who pretty much are disruptive every single day and not much is done about it. In fact, at my son's next parent teacher conference, I do plan on asking what IF anything is going to be done about certain behaviors..

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answers from Honolulu on

I did not read the article.
But, I have a son who is 6... and I also work at my kids' school, and am witness to what goes on in the cafeteria and during recess, and of their school's rules, overall.

1) Per my kids' school, there are behavior rules for in class and at the cafeteria and on the playground during recess.
It is not a public park. It is school.
2) ALL kids, who disrespect the rules, BOTH girls and boys, are given warnings. BUT if the transgression was extreme or involved bullying or harming/hurting/disturbing other kids, the child... is, reprimanded.
This MAY mean, skipping recess. (at my kids' school, there is MORE than just 1 recess). Or as the Teacher sees fit.

3) It is not only boys... that are active or make trouble.
No way.

4) Being "rambunctious" is very subjective and capricious... and can mean- being loud, harassing other kids in a joking way but the other kids see NO humor in it because it is disrupting their eating/lunch/peace, during lunch.
Or, it can mean, throwing food at other kids or across the cafeteria.
Or, it can mean, walking around and bothering other kids and their lunch and causing a disturbance.
Or, it can mean, teasing and loudly, at other kids.
Or, it can mean... grabbing food from others, even if in a joking way, and therefore it is disturbing other kids.
Or, it can mean... that the child does not even sit while eating like he/she should, and the child is walking outside even, because there is a total disregard... for rules and behaving.

EVEN if a boy or girl, is "active"... it does not mean that they do not have to, listen to a school's rules. There is a time and a place, to run around or be rambunctious. But, if it impairs other kids' lunch or appropriateness... then yes, the child may be or is, reprimanded.

At my kids' school, kids are given warnings. First. IF it is habitual and causes a problem for other kids and/or for their safety and/or for their own ability to play or eat happily, a child is reprimanded.
And believe me, some kids just do NOT NOT NOT, think ANY rules, applies to them and they have an excuse for everything.

Again, I have a boy. And a girl. And I also work at my kids' school, supervising kids of ALL ages and of ALL grades through 5th grade.

Keep in mind, that some kids, boys or girls, HABITUALLY... harass or bother or cause trouble... to MANY kids. So, if they had to write an apology note... they would be doing so, for at least 10 kids at a time, per day.
And for some kids, getting extra homework as a punishment, will not do anything.

There is one class at my kids' school, that EVERY EVERY EVERY day, the girls AND boys are SOOOOOOOOOOO "rambunctious." And even if they are kept in for recess, they don't care. They still act up, plain as rain. And they will still say "I didn't." or "I was just playing..." or "I was just joking..." etc. And at a certain age, it is not "cute" anymore. A kid at a certain age, needs to know, proper behavior and, amongst others, and at school. And a kid needs to learn, that a school has rules.
It is not like being at home in your family room.

Again, I do NOT see, that girls behave any better than boys. At my kids' school. And it does not matter what age or grade they are.
Some girls, are just, soooooooooooo ill behaved, too.
In my son's class, where over 80% of the grade level are boys.. it is not JUST the boys, that are ill behaved or too "rambunctious."
It is, ALSO the girls, too.
And on many days, it is the girls, that are too "rambunctious" or making trouble or making too much noise or too much something.

I do not know of any class, in which the kids are sitting for 6 hours straight. Even in the classroom, there are activities. And it is per age/grade. And at my kids' school, they have more than only 1 recess.

And regardless of gender, some kids are just very "rambunctious." Sure kids are like this, especially when young. But, when it is bothering others and their work/concentration/ability to eat peacefully in the cafeteria or to have a nice time in the playground, then... it is TOO "rambunctious." And believe me, some kids will actually "complain" to the adult supervisors, that "He keeps fooling around, I can't eat..." or "She's too noisy, it hurts my ears..." or "Can you move him because he keeps playing and not listening." or, "he keeps tugging at me, tell him to stop." and when I do talk to the other kid who is doing that, they say "I didn't.." or "I'm not making noise..." or "I was just joking..."
I actually, get told these things, by other kids.
So rambunctious kids, can and may, irk others.
Not saying that kids have to be still as statues. But, there is a time and a place.
At my kids school, recess is not a disposable time. It is needed. And they have more than one.

And, if a child is habitually too "rambunctious" and therefore is bothering other kids, there is a process of steps that is taken, if.... the behavior does not stop even if they are kept in for recess. ie: the parents are told. Going to the Principal. And for some kids, they are then (with parental permission) taken under the wing of the school Counselor who works with teaching the child about behavior/choices/right/wrong and appropriateness.

I don't know of any teacher, that expects the kids to be still as statues or quiet as cotton balls. But, once a kid or kids gets too rambunctious, then the Teacher/school needs to do something.
And again, at my kids' school, they do NOT sit for 6 hours straight. And they get more than 1 recess. Plus, the school and Teachers have to meet all curriculum requirements and standards. Too.

There is one kid, at my kids' school... that is just so defiant. Not due to any mental issues. He just "feels" that he can do whatever he wants or feels... and his parents do too. So sometimes he does what he is supposed to and sometimes not. Sometimes doing school work and sometimes not. And at lunch in the cafeteria or at the playground he just goes off and sits and does whatever. And he exclaims "its my right." or "you can't make me...if I don't want to...." So then, why even be in school?

Now, per the cafeteria and expected behavior in the cafeteria.. this is per my kids' school. Kids are NOT expected to not talk, during lunch. Or in line. SURE they can talk. BUT the key thing is, to keep the volume levels to a sane level. And also the behavior that goes along with talking/chatting etc. Because, if there is no rules per talking/volume of the kids... then the entire atmosphere of the cafeteria, becomes like a Zoo. TOO loud. TOO rambunctious. TOO disruptive for other kids. The point is, at my kids' school, lunch time and in the cafeteria, should be a peaceful time and a relaxing time, for the kids to eat and socialize. But if other kids are talking too loud or too much and it compounds amongst others, then that is TOO much. I have kids that even tell me "Its too loud.. I can't even eat..." or "she's talking too much and getting the other kids too hyper..."
So, to me, it is not that the schools EXPECT kids to be mute and speechless and still as statues... but, they need to contain the entire ambiance and atmosphere of the class/cafeteria/playground, because otherwise, without rules or behavioral expectations, the kids would get out of hand.
My In-laws kid, at their school, it is a madhouse. She said this. Kids even throw food around and yell and scream and it is just too loud and they don't even sit still in their place at the table or in line. So, she was surprised, that at my kids' school, that the cafeteria and classes were so.... "quiet" and that the kids, behaved. My In-Law's kid visited my kids' school for a day once. And she was surprised, that the school/kids/areas were behaved. Regardless of gender or age.

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