Michael G. Thompson, Ph.D. is a psychologist and school consultant who has made the study of boys and their development the focus of his career. He is the author or coauthor of many books on this subject, including, “It’s a Boy!: Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to Eighteen” (with Teresa Barker, Ballantine, 2008), the New York Times bestseller, “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys”, (with Dan Kinlon, Ballantine, 1999) “Speaking of Boys: Answers to the Most-Asked Questions about Raising Sons” (Ballantine, 2000) and “The Pressured Child: Freeing Our Kids from Performance Overdrive and Helping Them Find Success in School and Life”(with Teresa Barker, Ballantine, 2004).
Dr. Thompson has been talking with teachers, school administrators, and parents for years about the national problem of boy underachievement, which results in boys falling behind in school and fewer young men graduating from college. In his latest book, “It’s A Boy!: Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to Eighteen”, Dr. Thompson offers his top ten reasons for the relative underachievement of boys in school, which include such interesting concepts as “Schools are hostile environments for boys”, as the demands for sitting still, paying sustained attention, and verbal production are tougher for boys to follow; and the notion that “Girls have been getting a more consistent, encouraging message from their parents and teachers for the last thirty years” since educators began focusing on the math and science gap between girls and boys in the seventies.
Also in “It’s a Boy!”, Dr. Thompson includes “Insider Tips from Educators: What Teachers Want Parents to Know”. Here he offers teacher’s suggestions to parents, collected over years of consulting, as to how parents can best support their son’s development in a school setting. These thoughtful and practical suggestions are as follows:
- Listen to your son. There is value in almost everything a boy will tell you.
- Don’t look over your son’s shoulder at every movement he makes and every change of circumstance that happens to him.
- Be generous with honest praise.
- Focus on his gifts and talents, instead of trying to create a boy in the image you want him to be.
- Let your son grow. Be patient with the process, the valuable steps of progress and failure that will shape him.
- Don’t make excuses for your son. Boys desperately need to take ownership of their own lives.
- Create realistic expectations, but let your son fail and figure out how to succeed on his own.
- Model responsible communication for solving problems. If your son complains of a bad teacher or course, contact the teacher in a collaborative way to learn more, and show your son how to engage in that process of fact-finding and, if necessary, respectful conflict resolution.
- Set limits and stick to them.
- Never say, “My son would never do that.”
GCP will be interviewing Dr. Thompson in the coming weeks. We encourage you to take a look at his books and discover, if you don’t know already, the valuable resources that he provides. If you have any questions you would like us to ask during our interview with Dr. Thompson, please include them with your comments on this post.