Some tips from two women in the know on teaching boys

Executive Editors Jennifer Kuhn and Whitney Tang of Nanny Magazine weigh in on caregiving tactics to keep boys in line.nanny mag founders

Boys are more aggressive than girls and are more likely to challenge their typically female authority figures (nannies, mothers, teachers). Broadly speaking, what is the best approach to deal with such situations?

Whitney: Keep them active and busy! I often find that young boys are a lot less likely to challenge an adult female figure if they are kept active. When I nanny boys, I come with a slew of active learning activities and games depending on where they are academically. Once a child does challenge an adult, however, I find you need to be consistent with your discipline. Because females seem softer than males, boys tend to think they can get away with more. If you nip this in the bud early and stick to a consistent discipline plan, the aggression is less likely to become a larger problem down the road.


Boys are more kinesthetic learners than girls, and certainly more fidgety. How do we deal with teaching them anything from table etiquette to how to read if they aren’t sitting still?


Jennifer: Provide a constant reminder for fidgety boys and always set a good example of how to behave during certain times. Remind your young boy charge that there’s a time and a place for everything, and that running around like a madman while the family is having dinner is not appropriate. Try redirecting their energy so they are being helpful rather than destructive. Ask your charge to set the table, take out the trash, or do other simple age-appropriate chores as a way to expel some of their energy. Always give children who have an abundance of energy an outlet for their kinesthetic bursts – let them play outside before dinner to get their wiggles out. Set rules, provide reminders, and offer incentive-based goals for good behavior.


Boys tend to get distracted easily. What are some common things you do to keep them focused on the task at hand, whether it be their homework, chores, or learning activities?


Whitney: Turn everything into a game! This way they won’t feel like they are doing “work” and it will actively engage them in a fun way. I find that chores go by best when I turn them into a race (“Can you pick up your building blocks faster than I can do 10 jumping jacks?), and reading homework gets completed faster if I turn chapters into game levels (“Did you really make it to level 3 last night!?”). Even learning something tedious like sight words becomes something boys want to do when you make a giant life-sized matching game that spans the length of an entire room.


Boys are naturally cognitively behind girls in the early stages of reading by about a year on average, how can parents, care takers, and educators alike give young men a leg up?


Jennifer: Make learning fun for boys. Who likes reading homework? Nobody! Who likes games? Everyone! Find a creative way that will work for the boy in your care or provide appropriate rewards for completing tasks in a timely manner. For instance, try to make reading fun using the following rewards:


Read 1 chapter before bed for 15 extra minutes of his favorite TV show.

Finish reading homework before dinner for extra time to play before sitting down to the table!

Read a new novel just for fun for a one-on-one trip for ice cream or a nature walk with Nanny as a reward!


Given your experiences raising children in general, I am curious as to your thoughts on letting young ones under age 12 use tablets and smartphones, and when that should be the case?


Whitney: I think that, like everything in this world, tablets and smartphones are best is moderation. There are some fantastic learning games and active reading apps out there that are great for children. However, in my personal experience, the best way for children to learn is through interacting with an actual person, whether it be a friend, nanny, or teacher. For this reason, I would suggest avoiding tablets and smartphones unless you are in an environment where silence is encouraged and you need a distraction to keep an antsy child’s attention (think doctors’ offices, post office lines, etc).  In these situations, an educational app could come in handy to keep the young child from getting too fidgety while also engaging his mind.


Tell us about Nanny Magazine and your plans for it.


Jennifer: Nanny Magazine will be the only print periodical published just for American nannies. Bimonthly issues will begin to be published starting January 2014. Nannies serve a unique role; being a nanny isn’t like having a regular job, so Nanny Magazine will support nannies by providing them with a resource just for them that includes articles they won’t be able to find anywhere else. We will have exclusive interviews with leaders in the childcare industry, product reviews, recipes, activity ideas, and hard-hitting articles that are of specific interest to nannies. The magazine is uniquely geared toward nannies, however, teachers and parents can still get a lot out of it.

Have a tip for dealing with young boys? Tell us your thoughts below.

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