They can’t sit down for more than six seconds at the dinner table before they are up and moving, and always seem to be going some direction, or fidgeting or generally trying to be any place other than where they are. The only exception to this rule is if you plunk them down in front of a TV, video games or other electronic device, but I’ll get to why that happens in just a moment.
It turns out that boys have a larger amygdala than females. The amygdala is that part of the brain that orders the adrenal glands and other defensive organs to swing into action when there is a threat perceived by the senses (Dobson 26). The amygdala can only respond to what it is in it’s memory bank, it does not think nor reason, it emits an irrational response that may either save your life in an emergency or can precipitate violence and make matters worse (Dobson 26).
Another element that makes boys more restless than girls is serotonin (or lack thereof). The purpose of serotonin is to pacify or sooth emotions and help an individual control his or her impulsive behavior. This facilitates good judgment, something most young boys are not known for and the reason is females typically have much more serotonin than males (Dobson 25).
Combined with high levels of testosterone, we can see why boys are so restless and less able to control their immediate emotional reactions to stimuli. With the testosterone, the enlarged amygdala and low levels of serotonin, boys are designed to do what boys have done for thousands of years which is to go out into the wilderness and hunt for food. In fact, young boys are not that far removed from a group of primates in the wild. If you don’t believe me just watch a group of teenage boys eat sometime. Boys are genetically engineered to provide for their families physically to protect them from harm and danger (Dobson 27). I have seen this in action numerous times when one of my boys, in full superhero regalia, will tell me or my wife not to worry because they are on duty. It’s cute, but its also instinctual.
Also, boys are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder much more than girls. Part of this may be misdiagnoses – the boy is diagnosed as having attention deficit when really they are being just a boy, or it may be their genetic engineering coming to the surface, while they are stuck in a classroom ill-designed to suit their learning style.
One reason that boys can be so riveted to video games is that it provides multiple stimulation of the senses and often, they are attracted to games related to combat or sports, where they can also carry out their desire to dominate an opponent and provide protect. But here are some other frightening statistics:
- Boys are six times more likely to have learning disabilities (Dobson 33)
- Boys are three times more likely to be drug addicts and four times more likely to be diagnosed as emotionally disturbed (Dobson 33)
- Boys are at greater risk for schizophrenia, autism, sexual addiction, alcoholism and are 12 times more likely to murder someone (Dobson 33)
- Boys death rates in car accidents is greater by 50-percent and a full 80-percent of suicides involve males under the age of 25 (Dobson 34)
Equally frightening is the crisis of school shootings which is almost always committed by young white males. When shooters have survived and were later asked about their motives, most of them simply said “I don’t know.” Some referred to harassment by peers – the same type that many of us learned to cope with as we moved to adulthood – but not everyone.
In the early 2000s several books came out that talked about the wounded spirit of a man. One of my personal favorites was “Wild at Heart,” by John Eldredge. Dobson also talks about this as does the outstanding Christian author Frank Peretti – who coined the term “wounded spirits,” and used it as the title of his excellent book, based on his own childhood experience (Dobson 37). For some kids the wounded spirit syndrome begins early, as a consequence of abuse or neglect (Dobson 36). Small boys and girls whose basic needs remain unsatisfied never fully recover and they go on to experience psychological neurological impairment (Dobson 36).
Seventy-seven percent of parents who harm or neglect their children are abusers of their own body through alcohol or drugs; but not all abuse is related to the use of chemicals. Many parents are simply too busy, distracted, immature or selfish to meet the pressing needs of babies and toddlers (Dobson 36) and we’re not just talking about boys here. If you want that precocious, starved-for-attention and getting it in all the wrong places teenage daughter with daddy issues, just keep neglecting her basic needs in her toddler years and you’ll be well on your way. When parents are complaining about their troubled teenagers they may not realize they created their own problem 8 to 10 years prior, by not paying attention when their kids were toddlers.
It is not just parents who are to blame. The media and entertainment industry are largely responsible for the assault on our kids that we are seeing today. They laud images of bodily perfection including supermodels, playmates, ridiculous abs, and Photoshop faces on the covers of every magazine. When Western satellite-TV finally made it to the islands of the South Pacific, it featured the actresses of Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210. Within just four years a survey 65 Fijian girls showed how their attitudes have been shaped by what they had seen.
Almost immediately the girls begin to dress and fix their hair like the women on the show, but they also adopted eating disorders and were more likely to perceive themselves as either too big or too fat. More than half had attempted to diet in the 30 days prior to the survey (Dobson 38). Another study at the University of California revealed that 80% of girls in the fourth grade were attempting to diet because they perceived themselves as fat (Dobson 38).
Boys have the same issues but in a different context. They want desperately to be big, powerful and handsome and by the age of four will flex their biceps, holding up their arms and pointing to where muscle will someday grow (later this could negatively manifest in steroid use if it’s not addressed properly). They don Superman and Batman capes to show how “bad” they are (Dobson 39). But this is also why when a boy is slow in developing or smaller than his peers he will suffer from self-image problems, taunting and name-calling. Most of us have been taunted or ridiculed by our peers but never underestimate the stress that can occur to a young boy (Dobson 40).
Boys should not be allowed to stay in an abusive environment. And bullying on Christian campuses can be just as prevalent as public schools. A change of scenery or even homeschooling, which can be done completely online now, may be in order. This may not be the image you had of raising your kids, with them sitting at home in front of a laptop learning algebra, but remember that a parents’ responsibility is to raise young men and women to be strong, independent adults, not become active shooters at the local high school. Do what it takes to protect them.
Dobson, James C. Bringing up Boys. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001. Print.