“Dad, I just feel like I need to burn energy.”
This was a real quote from my oldest son today. I’ve heard iterations of it countless times before. The point is clearly made: boys need to move. There are other times my sons don’t tell me they need to run, jump, and wrestle, but their attitude and mood makes it clear that they do.
This isn’t just intuition. The science on this is clear. A recent Inc. article summarized the research:
“The more time kids … spent sitting and the less time they spent being physically active, the fewer gains they made in reading in the two following years. [It] also had a negative impact on their ability to do math.”
The results didn’t apply to girls. I know that sounds sexist; the researchers offered a few possible explanations. Maybe there simply are physiological differences—or maybe the girls were just as eager to move around as the boys, but they were better able to set aside that disappointment and concentrate.
And for that reason, other researchers say, girls are rewarded more than boys in the classroom.
“Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools,” says psychologist Michael Thompson. “Boys are treated like defective girls.”
Thankfully, this is something schools are starting to realize. My oldest son’s school just instituted a second recess. Many other schools are facing the truth of our “boy problem” and are beginning to understand the importance of adjusting how we educate our boys to include more kinesthetic movement, varied seating options to allow for wiggles, among other changes.
The good news for dads is that what’s good for your boys is good for you too. Get those kids moving. If it’s cold outside, roughhouse with them in the basement or get them dancing. If it’s remotely warm enough to be outside, get those boys outside and off the leash. Let them run, climb, hike, dance, and whatever other type of movement helps them feel alive. Boys need to move. Schools need to learn this. But dads do too.