Child psychologist Michael Thompson, PhD, weighed in about boys’ emotional lives and masculinity on NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday” with host Scott Simon on September 29th. The flash-point was Brett Kavanaugh, allegations against him that were set at high school and college parties, and parental concerns about raising boys in America. What is acceptable male bonding and what crosses the line into toxic masculinity?
Thompson is co-author of the 1999 book “Raising Cain: The Emotional Lives of Boys” and the 2012 book “Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow.”
Simon asked Thompson about the boys he works with at an all-boys school in New England. Thompson answered that many of his students get no instruction from their parents about sexuality and consent and caring treatment of girls. He went on to say that we have to “require kids to be empathic… But when the person whom we are hurting comes from a different tribe, a different gender, a different party, our capacity to identify and empathize is diminished.”
Simon then asked how to help a child learn and behave with the belief that another person is as precious as he is. Thompson replied: “Well, if I were in charge of everything, Scott, every boy would take care of children at some point in his own boyhood… And boys who have been camp counselors, for instance, 18-year-old boys who’ve taken care of a cabin of 10-year-old, 11-year old boys – they’re different because they’ve had to take care of somebody’s hurt and loneliness and homesickness and pain. And it changes the older boy, and it makes him a better young man.”
At Birch Rock, we teach boys how to become respectful, empathic gentlemen. Senior campers are encouraged to rise through the ranks to become counselors-in-training, and then counselors on staff. The best way to pass on our traditions, rituals and values is through the next generation of Birch Rockers who follow the call to serve.
––Francie Campbell, Trustee