Friday, April 20, 2012

Boys & Bullying

We need to talk about bullying.

My news feed this morning contained not one, but two, disturbing stories of boys who were bullied. Boy #1, a 10-year-old, has been charged with a crime after taking a BB gun to school to intimidate his bullies. Boy #2, age 9, has been suspended from school after allegedly punching his bully in the face -- after the bully kicked and punched him.

These stories are not isolated. Close to home, I know a teenage boy who was suspended from school for physically standing up to the bully who'd harassed him for the better part of a year. I'm willing to bet that you've head similar stories in your hometown.

What's the answer?

I don't know. But I do know this: What we're doing isn't working. Telling our boys to ignore bullying, to walk away, to use their words and to tell a teacher isn't working. Our anti-bullying programs aren't working; if they were, there wouldn't be anymore bullying.

On my Homeschooling Boys Facebook page, we recently discussed the Daily Kos article, "'Bully': Getting Past 'Boys Will Be Boys,'" an article about the new movie Bully. The article notes that:

Bully is also concerned with how bullied kids are penalized for fighting back. Most powerfully, Ja'Meya faces more than 40 felony charges; obviously no one sane would argue that pulling a gun is the way to handle teen bullies, or that her action should go unpunished, but it's striking how the routine harassment and abuse bullied kids face is tolerated in contrast. Ty, the 11 year old boy who killed himself did so, his father says, after he was suspended from school for fighting—fighting back. Alex never fights back himself, but when his parents complained, backed up by the filmmakers' footage of Alex being assaulted, it was Alex, not the bullies, who is made to ride another bus.

I agree that we absolutely need to teach bullying prevention. And I agree that all children need to be taught multiple ways of handling conflict. But I do not agree that bullied children should not be allowed to stand up for themselves.

I am anti-violence in almost every way, shape and form. But I am also the mother of four boys, and as the mother of boys, I've learned a little bit about boy culture. For better or for worse, boy culture includes competition and dominance. Walking away from a fight almost never engenders respect among other boys; instead, it marks the walker as an easy target.

When my boys' father was in high school, one boy picked on him frequently. Finally, their Dad stood up for himself physically. The bully never bothered him again. How many of you know grown men who have similar stories?

I'm not saying we should encourage our boys to fight. I'm saying that we need to stop imposing the same penalties on both bullies and the bullied. Hitting someone (or physically intimidating them) once is not the same thing as consistently harassing, belittling and assaulting someone.

What do you think? How do you help your sons deal with bullies? What would you have done if you'd been the school administrators in the cases above?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Virtual Book Club: Thoughts on The Mama's Boy Myth

Have you ever been counseled to push your son away? To create some psychological distance between yourself and your son? To stop "babying" him or kissing or hugging him?

Ahmeritt, a Blogging 'Bout Boys reader was. Her son is now 18, but she distinctly remembers "a church deacon counseling my husband to not let his son be too close to his mother."

Such advice -- and the fears represented by such misguided advice -- is examined closely in Kate Stone Lombardi's book, The Mama Boy's Myth. For decades, Lombardi says, women have been counseled to back off from their sons, lest they somehow contaminate, corrupt or otherwise interfere with their sons' development. But those misguided messages, she argues, are harmful to both boys and their mothers -- and to the society at large.

She starts with society's current mythology regarding moms and boys:

Mothers who stay emotionally close to their sons for "too long" are seen as those smothering moms who won't let their boys grow up. Instead of pushing them out of the nest to make their way in the rough-and-tumble world, these moms hold their sons too tightly. They create effeminate "mama's boys" who will invite contempt from their peers and will be forever maladjusted.

Think about that for a bit. I personally never felt pressured to push my sons away, and I certainly haven't stopped hugging or kissing them, despite the fact that my oldest is now 14. But it has been implied that I have "too much influence" over them. And realizing that, I realize that there are definitely still people who believe that a mother's continued influence over her sons is somehow a bad thing.

The good news, Lombardi writes, is that most moms are ignoring the advice and following their instincts instead:

This is...the story of an underground movement being conducted by a generation of mothers. It's not only that women are keeping close to their sons; it's that in rejecting decades of accepted "wisdom" about how to raise boys, mothers are questioning the very nature of masculinity and redefining assumptions about gender. By nurturing close bonds with their sons, mothers are developing in boys traits like sensitivity, emotional awareness, tenderness, and the ability to articulate feelings...

Intrigued? Check out or buy a copy of book and join us! We're reading it this month, and will be discussing it online; the author will also be joining us soon for a Q & A. Got a question you want to ask? Leave it below, in the comments. Meanwhile, keep loving those boys! You matter, perhaps more than you think.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Virtual Book Club: Mama's Boy Myth

I ordered my book. I contacted the author. And we've got some fun things planned here at Blogging 'Bout Boys!

This month, we're going to be reading The Mama's Boy Myth, a new book by Kate Stone Lombardi. This book examines the mother-son relationship, and concludes that being close to your son isn't a bad thing at all. In fact, having a close relationship with his mother may make a boy a stronger man.

Want to join in? Here's how you can be a part of Blogging 'Bout Boys first-ever book discussion:

  1. Get your hands on a copy of The Mama's Boy Myth. I just ordered a Kindle version. (It's $13 less than the hardcover copy!) If you don't want to buy a copy, ask your local library if they can get a copy for you. Many libraries now offer e-book loans too.
  2. Start reading! I'm going to start reading tonight. (Have you started already? If so, tell me about it in the comments!)
  3. Send me your questions, thoughts, comments and concerns. As you're reading, jot down your thoughts and questions. Do the author's words remind you of a similar story? Write it down! Send any thoughts, comments, questions, concerns or stories to me at (Of course, some thoughts are purely private. Feel free to keep two lists -- one of thoughts to share, and one just for you.)
  4. Check back on Tuesday, April 10. Next Tuesday, I'll run a blog post that includes a few of my thoughts based on the book -- and, hopefully, some of your thoughts and stories as well.
  5. Watch for an author Q & A during the week of April 16. We're still working out the details, but it looks like some sort of author Q & A will go live during the week of the 16th. Got a question for the author? Send it to me at
  6. Stay tuned for a wrap-up event towards the end of the month. Still working out the details on this one too, but I promise you something interesting, enlightening and informative.
  7. Spread the word! Got any friends who have sons? Tell them about our book club! Encourage them to join us. (Feel free to spread the word via your social networks as well!). The more, the merrier!

Questions? Email me ( or leave your question below.