Teacher Tom Talks About Boys, Emotions & Play

Like us, Teacher Tom is concerned about how we raise our boys.

“In our culture, we have a society where men are lonely, men have higher suicide rates and  men are more prone to violence, and sexual abuse. And I don’t think that’s in the nature of men. I think it’s somehow in the nature of how we’re raising men,” says Tom Hobson, aka “Teacher Tom,” a preschool teacher at Woodland Park Cooperative Schools. “A big piece of it — and huge piece of it — is around emotions.”

The only negative emotion males are allowed in society, he says, is anger. Boys as young as 4 and 5 begin walling off their emotions.

“We treat boys and girls differently, and we treat their emotions differently,” Tom says. “We need to let them know that whatever they feel, it’s OK to feel that.”

Of course, giving kids time and space to experience their emotions isn’t always easy when you’re being pulled in a thousand different directions. Whenever possible, though, Tom suggests prioritizing the people who need support with their emotions.

Allowing wrestling and roughhousing can also help boys manage their emotions and friendships.

“Wrestling can be an act of love between boys,” Tom says, noting that many adults (especially women) misunderstand boys’ motives and stop what they view as aggression. “It you watch two boys wrestling, most of the time, they are paying such close attention to each other, to one another’s bodies and their facial expressions. Half the time, they’re looking into each other’s eyes as they’re wrestling, and it is a beautiful thing to see.”

In this episode, Jen, Janet & Tom discuss:
  • Males in early childhood education
  • The influence of gender expectations on emotional development
  • Helping boys deal with emotions
  • Societal changes that have made it difficult for families to thrive (“We’ve made parenting unnecessarily difficult,” Tom says.)
  • The role of bickering in boys’ development
  • Creating a “yes space” in your house
  • Boys’ friendships
  • What female teachers & parents misunderstand about boys, wrestling & roughhousing
  • Agreements vs rules
  • Why you have to give boys time to respond
  • Teaching boys consent
  • Encouraging curiosity, wonder & questioning
  • Loose parts play
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

Teacher Tom — Tom’s blog

Teacher Tom’s Facebook page

It “Works” Every Time — Tom’s 2019 blog post about creating space to finish a cry (mentioned at 13:47)

Teacher Tom’s Play Summit 2021 — FREE online summit, June 20-25 (mentioned at 50:17)

The Art of Roughhousing (w Dr. Lawrence Cohen) — ON BOYS episode

Why Boys Do What They Do – classic Building Boys blog post, mentioned at 43:46

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