By Gretchen Althoff Snyder
When Rye mom Patricia Peters first started having concerns about her son’s lack of engagement in school, she never imagined where it would all end up. Now passionately involved in Raising Boys, an initiative co-sponsored by the Rye Youth Council and Wainwright House, Peters reflects on what began as a simple Facebook post.
Her son has always been a bright child, says Peters, but starting in 2nd grade, “his love for school was almost completely gone.” When she spoke to her son’s teachers, they too expressed frustration at his lack of initiative, noting that while he had strong academic potential, he just wasn’t applying himself. As the years went on, Peters, fully aware of her son’s continued failure to engage, and at a loss for where to turn, began researching the issue and found a common theme: “If you want to influence change, don’t go it alone — there is strength in numbers,” she learned.
After her son’s rocky start in sixth grade, Peters decided to seek advice from fellow mothers of boys who might be having a similar experience. In November 2017, she posted on Rye Moms’ Facebook page: “Is anyone interested in a productive discussion group about the engagement of boys in school and activities? It is a daily struggle to keep my son motivated to do his work while my daughter needs very little oversight. My goal would be to have just as much emphasis on engaging boys as we have on the empowerment of girls — I have one of each so both are incredibly important to me.”
Assuming she’d get a handful of responses at most, she was shocked after almost 150 comments arrived within hours of her post. Clearly, noted Peters, this issue resonated with so many moms of school-age boys, and something needed to be done to address the struggle often unique to boys in the educational system. Based upon the overwhelming response, Peters joined forces with several women connected to the Rye Youth Council (RYC) and Wainwright. Ann Malgahaes, who has been teaching Parenting Practice courses since 2008, saw the post and commented: “We are blown away by the collective interest and passion for wanting to support and empower boys in our community. Since Patricia first wrote her post, Beth Gallos, Lexy Tomaino, Lisa Dominici, and I have been working together to create a few events and are thrilled to be working with the Youth Council and Wainwright to bring you two events to launch what will become an ongoing series.”
Beth Gallos, mother of three boys and a RYC board member, said Peters’ post really resonated with her; “I’ve heard this story so many times.” Gallos, a school psychologist, noted that with the emphasis (rightly so) on girls’ empowerment, “there is an emerging concern about boys and their overall well-being.” Since one of the Youth Council’s major directives is responding to the needs of families, she saw a perfect opportunity to highlight an issue that was not currently being addressed in our community.
After an informal meet-and-greet at Wainwright House last November, the group arranged for Troy Kemp, Executive Director of the National Center for the Development of Boys, to speak in December 2017. To a packed audience, Kemp provided some staggering statistics: “More boys are on mood-managing drugs (20 times more today than 20 years ago). In affluent areas, one out of three boys is on medication for ADD or ADHD, and 75% of all learning-disabled students are boys.” Boys are also at a higher risk for stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide. What they need, says Kemp, are positive male role models and a sense of purpose and belonging within their community. Boys, in particular, are “underperforming, disengaging, and falling behind in all aspects of life.”
Going forward, Malgahaes and Gallos will facilitate monthly workshops geared toward providing parents with best practices and strategies for engaging, educating, and parenting boys of all ages. Finally, mark your calendars for Saturday, May 5at Wainwright (Boy’s Day in Japan), where the group will be highlighting their Raising Boys initiatives that “respect boys’ personalities and celebrate their happiness.” For more information, visit www.wainwright.org.