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!