Interview and Give Away with Janet Allison of Boys Alive!
There has been a buzz around the internet community on the question of boys: boys in the classroom, boys and movement, boys and energy. Today, I am excited to bring you an Interview and give away with Janet Allison. Janet is the author of Boys Alive! Bring Out Their Best as well as an educator and consultant for parents and teachers. Parents sometimes wonder what is normal and what they might do to support their boy’s healthy development. Janet’s work shows us how boys tick and what supports their learning and their healthy growth by providing tips for boys at home and boys in the classroom.
Tell us a little about your own journey and relationship to boys, how did you come to do this work?
My first realization as an adult, that boys were so very different than girls was when my daughter (now 25!) was little. Her best friend was a boy – he didn’t talk at all but was always so busy!
Then I began teaching. My first 1st grade was 10 boys and 2 girls! Well, my University and Waldorf training had not prepared me for the different ways that boys and girls learn! Fortunately, I was able to follow my intuition about what the boys needed. Our school was on a farm property and there were lots of opportunities to be outside – we ran and walked fence rails every morning in addition to an ‘obstacle course’ of activities – balancing, rolling, jumping, and tossing activities. Even with so much movement before coming into the classroom, I still needed to create opportunities within the lessons and during the day to be up and active.
When did you begin talking about boys and their needs?
It began with that first class in the early 90’s…and I haven’t stopped since! In my work as an educational consultant, teachers tell me how frustrated and exhausted they are by the constant energy of their boys. Redesigning lessons, providing for more movement, and changing expectations for boys is necessary. Understanding what they need and why they need it have been important shifts for many teachers.
When parents learn that boys need to be physical first – and how to provide outlets for that energy – they find they can relax and enjoy their boys more. One mom had the complete revelation: “Oh, I can pack my antiques in the attic until the boys are grown! I can stop stressing about the antiques getting broken!”
Does this apply to girls as well?
YES! While I generally focus on boys (and men), I believe it is essential that we learn all we can about each gender. All of it informs our relationships. And, as I like to tell parents: your girls are going to be in relationships with boys – at school, at work, and in life – so better to learn communication skills and understand how they think and approach life as early as possible!
And any changes at school towards more active routines and interactive lessons will benefit girls, too.
What inspired you to write Boys Alive! Bring Out Their Best?
The book is a culmination of what I’ve learned so far. It is a synthesis of all of my training – communication skills, non-verbal communication, goal-setting, child development, brain research, and gender intelligence.
I wanted to give parents and teachers a book that they could interact with. It is about practical application of theory. I wanted parents and teachers to have clear guidance to try a new technique, see that it works, and then – if they have time or desire – delve into WHY it works.
For instance, with eye contact…knowing that boys (in general) do not prefer eye contact means parents can make an immediate adjustment in how they relate and what their expectations are. Then, delving further, it is interesting to realize that men and boys do not prefer eye contact because of how their brains have evolved…when they were hunters and a wild beast looked them in the eye, it was perceived (rightly so!) as a threat. Our brains do not evolve quickly, thus, that primal fight-or-flight reaction is still at play, and boys tend to freeze when an adult says, “Look me in the eye when I’m talking to you.” Yet eye contact is valued in our culture, so we need to teach boys how to make eye contact and be comfortable with it.
Tell us about your clients:
I work with parents who are seeking change, added confidence, and specific strategies for their parenting. We didn’t learn this in school and if we didn’t have a good role model when we were growing up…well, we end up making things up as we go along … which isn’t very effective!
Moms who come to my Boys Alive! workshops may not have grown up with brothers and so are seeking to understand their sons. They are often surprised at how much this information helps them understand their husbands, too! The dads who hear me are often grateful because they understand themselves more…and they ask me to “Please tell my wife!”
I work with individual families in a coaching relationship – both in person and on-line – working with specific issues. Often that third perspective is all that is needed to instigate change. I also do group coaching. The strength of a group environment helps parents feel connected and supported by a community.
I travel and give talks and workshops for parents. I also work with school faculties to help them incorporate changes that support the different ways in which boys and girls learn.
Who, what inspires you with this work?
My biggest inspiration has been Michael Gurian. Author and family therapist, he sounded the alarm in the late 80’s that boys were in trouble. He has written 25 books on the topic of gender intelligence and learning differences.
I’m also spurred onward every time a mom comes to me and says, “Oh, I get it – my son isn’t wrong – he’s just being a boy!”
What do you envision for the future of Boys Alive! ?
With my children grown, I have the time to read all the books that parents are too busy to read. I want to bring those tools and current trends to parents in whatever way they can most easily receive the information.
While I am so inspired – and learn so much – every time I speak with parents in person, I realize the power of the internet and how it can be a lifeline for parents who are too busy to take a class or read a book. And so many of us are parenting in isolation – away from family, disconnected from friends, and so being able to connect online and be a part of a community and a conversation via magazines such as this and events such as Boys Alive! The Online EVENT! (www.boysaliveevent.com) are the way of the future.
And I constantly strive to be available for any parent – that one question, that one idea, that one comment may be just the one that changes a parent’s behavior or expectation or response – and then lives and families are changed…and even grandchildren down the line will benefit.
Please note: The Boys Alive Online Event! is a free series of talks on understanding, connecting and succeeding with boys that runs from July 12 through July 28, 2011. Listeners must sign up ahead of time to receive the connection information.
Thank you Janet!
Thank you, Lisa, for the beauty and wisdom you have captured in The Wonder of Childhood…it is a gift indeed!
For today’s give away Janet Allison is offering ONE copy of her book Boy’s Alive to ONE lucky winner!
To enter, please leave a comment below and sign up for The Wonder of Childhood below in the blue box and sign up for the Boy’s Alive Event at http://www.boysaliveevent.com
Give Away Extended!
Comments will close Tuesday July 12th at 8 am and the winner will be announced here in this post by noon on that same day. Sign up today!
What a great gift. I have already signed up for the online event. Being a mother of two little boys I am looking forward to learning all I can.
Thank you for the post!
Thanks for making this topic a real thing! Mother to a son, I’m sensitive to how boys thrive or don’t thrive within our community and as a teacher am always looking for ways in which they can be supported. We women (and girls) have a lot to learn from boys and raising them to find their place and be the best to grow up to be strong healthy adults full of capacities and self esteem is my wish! So much of our work as teachers is done in preparation beforehand, leaving little opportunity for when things don’t work out to shift gears!It’s wonderful that these resources are available to us so that we can begin to shift the paradigms that are no longer serving us- and our boys.* I’m looking forward to the online class in the meantime! Danielle
Thanks for your comments Danielle! While parents have a foundational role in the change-for-the-better for boys, I believe teachers have to get on board, too! 93% of elementary school teachers in the USA are female – I wonder how can we change the system and attract more male teachers so that boys realize that ‘school isn’t just for girls’?
I can’t wait to listen in to the online talks. Thank you for the chance to win the book. I’m very interested as I have 2 young boys and am homeschooling.
So excited for you to hear these interviews – such great wisdom combined with common sense and practical strategies for you to use right away! Thanks for joining the EVENT!
Thank you for this article! … Janet sounds a very intelligent and empathic person, with great insight on practical parenting of boys based on their approach to life. After my first child, a girl, I was suprised how different my second was being a boy. He is 6,challenging, bright and active. I feel like the way he is is wonderful, but if I had more understanding of WHY he is like he is, I could really enhance his childhood and schooltime. Thank you anyway for sharing on the net, it is indeed revolutionary. I love your idea that just one idea or attitude change can change a child’s life .. it is so true. Crossing fingers for the book!!!
Karen, You are so lucky to be parenting a girl AND a boy – then you can really see that ‘giving him a doll and giving her a truck’ was some seriously misguided behavioral science! They really are SO different! What one difference stands out for you?
I’m so pleased this resource exists! In my family line, I’m the first woman in three generations to have a boy. Needless to say, it’s been a learning curve! I’m eager to learn as much as I can about how to best support and nurture my son.
Hi Elizabeth, I hear so many moms with the same story…they simply haven’t been around boys very much. We do have so much to learn from their energy and approach to life! I think you’ll love the interview about the Temperaments that Dr. Kristie Burns shares with us on the EVENT…even more insight into differences (other than just gender). Enjoy!
I attended a local workshop with a presenter in Petaluma, and was disappointed that the presenter did not seem to be able to seperate boys needs from girls achievements, he seemed stuck in an either/or paradigm. I am so looking forward to this topic, presented by thoughtful and generous women! Thank you so much!
Hi Deanne – Thank you for your comments…and I hope you enjoy the perspective of the EVENT. It most definitely is not an either/or strategy. And, most notably, ALL of the strategies that work for boys also help girls to be more active and look at their world from a different perspective, too. Enjoy the EVENT! Let me know what you think on our fb page: Boys Alive! The Online EVENT
What a wonderful workshop! I have heard a lot about Boys Alive!, but this is the first chance I will have to listen. I have just registered for the event. We have five sweet children, four boys and one girl. I would love to win this book.
Thanks for this, Lisa! Great little glimpse into the book.
Thanks for this great discussion of such an important topic! I have a 2-year old boy and he is so energetic – constantly moving when he is awake! This would be such a valuable resource. I signed up for the event and I am on your mailing list!
I missed her workshop last winter when she came to my area! I would love to read her book.
Hi Carli – If you’re referring to Monterey – I’ll be back in October!
As a mother of two boys I am looking forward to the workshop.
I met Janet at the Gurian Institute last summer in Colorado. We had many interesting conversations about teaching boys specifically. As a mother of a young son and 1st grade teacher, I have enjoyed reading Janet’s book, Boy’s Alive. Thanks again, Janet, for your insightful understanding of the differences in teaching both genders. It does help in lesson and activity planning. I would recommend this book to every one working with children!
I got to see Janet speak once at a Waldorf in the Home conference in Fair Oaks. I would love to win this book and will be listening in on the Boys Alive Online Event. I registered earlier today.
Thanks for this opportunity. I have 4 boys and 1 girl so I will definitely gain a lot from the online event and would LOVE to have a copy of the book. Thanks.
I can’t wait to read this. I have a 4 month old son..and a 3yr daugther. I am a single mom and since there’s no male in close proximity, I need all the help I can get to help me give my sweet son everything I possibly can!! Thanks
Looking forward to hearing all the great speakers!
It will be GREAT to read more about my older ball of fire and my newest bundle of joy – shaping up to be another ball of fire! Redirection can only be the half of it, I want to learn more so they aren’t shorted by what I don’t know!