Heather Ijames

Saturday, May 26 2012 12:00 PM

HEATHER IJAMES: My battle cry for the war on boys

By Heather Ijames

There were three boys and three girls playing the same game together at a local elementary school. It was called "Prisoner." The little girls wanted to be caught by a bad guy, and then good guys would break them free. When the game was deemed inappropriate, only the little boys got in trouble. They were hands-on, breaking the imaginary chains of the girls, but that was part of the game, as even dictated by the ladies.

I agree the boys are more culpable because they were the ones showing aggression, but letting the ladies off scot-free? Nope. I object. Because then, you're not only punishing the boys for being hands-on, you're also punishing them for acting like boys. If they acted like the docile females in this game, they would have escaped rebuke.

In a society where we flood children with trophies and awards for mere participation, why wouldn't we dole out punishment in equal measure, too? I may be wrong, but I think this is yet another battle in the war on boys.

It may appear I'm stacking the cards because I only have sons, but I cling tightly to my femininity and the scenario still bothers me. Here's the thing that's driving me nuts: Many facets of society, including the educational system, want to discipline the boy out of boys.

NO!

Little boys -- in terms of their crazy factor -- rank up there with caged animals who haven't eaten in a few days and pregnant women in July. Plus, they have more energy, more impulse-driven needs, and a staggeringly small sense of control. Yes Sir, give me another!

I believe it's a parent's job to vigilantly pull on the leash of their little boy at all times and shape them into well-mannered individuals, but completely smoking out the effects of their testosterone by the time they hit the sixth grade . . . what kind of stunted generation of men is everyone trying to marry their daughters off to?

I'm not saying parents should let their little boys run wild all the time, with no parental or societal involvement to make them dial it back a notch. We all know how those little boys turn out. They're called criminals. What I am saying is perhaps we all shouldn't be so blatant about punishing a boy because he's a boy. Yes, it's good to gripe at them about keeping their hands to themselves, but to be so unequal about the criticism and punishment is galling me.

If Jon is a student and he annoys his teacher because he won't sit as still as Sue does, and discipline is given based on that annoyance factor, then I'd like to throw the disciplining adult in a room full of little boys until he or she realizes that God made Jon and Sue very, very different.

Or, if Jon won't behave the same was as Tom, the resident math genius and/or oboe carrying student, I still want the adult thrown into the room full of little boys until he or she realizes that not every little boy is a Tom. Toms are awesome, but they can't all be Toms. If so, the motorcycle, power tool, and bacon industry would simultaneously collapse.

If anyone misreads this to think I'm taking that lazy "Oh, they're just boys" approach to sons, in terms of knocking the snot out of each other and being disrespectful, they're wrong.

I don't spare discipline in my home, and I teach my boys to keep their hands and crazy ideas -- just real nutty stuff -- to themselves. Yet, in the right environments, I let them go hog-wild and let them work out whatever it means to funnel and explore their pre-man manliness. So yes, I have some wound-up boys. But, I'm also one tough momma who will do everything in her power to make them good men.

In the meantime, let's stop punishing boys for their failure to act like girls. I want my boys to be boys and if someone doesn't understand that, they must not have any little boys of their own, or must not remember what their little boys used to be like.

Heather Ijames is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian's. You can send email to her at heatherijames@hotmail.com Next week: Inga Barks.

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