Notes and Take-aways from Andrew Pudewa’s Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Build Forts All Day

I thoroughly enjoy whenever Andrew Pudewa speaks. Here are notes from this recent webinar: “Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Build Forts All Day”. This talk was about the neurological differences between male and female. He answers the questions like how we sense and feel differently, and how that changes our teaching. He also discusses motivation and two wonderful secret teaching weapons we all should have. Thank you Andrew!

FIRST PART: Neuro differences between male and female. How we sense and feel differently, and how that changes our teaching.

Hearing & Attention: Most boys need louder sounds to attenuate than girls. This is a measurable studied phenomenon that starts differentiating in newborns. Girls can hear 3x softer than boys on the decimal scale in newborns. At 1-3 years old, girls can hear up to 10x softer than boys on the decimal scale. Barometric pressure, appetite, sleep, temperature, and other issues impact hearing. If you can’t hear what’s going on, you would have a hard time paying attention! If you talk loud enough to engage the boys, the girls might think you’re screaming, yikes! SO, try talking more directly, closer, and with a louder voice to boys.

Vision & Attention: Most males detect speed and direction with greater accuracy, while women detect color and texture with greater accuracy or vibrancy. Convergence of vision, speed, direction, color and texture is how we see and process visual input. This also impacts what we see more easily. Boys prefer to look at things they can see better (movement). Boys tend to draw things in motion… verbs. Girls prefer to look at things they love like horses, flowers, and scenery.

It also impacts the way we perceive the world and write about it. Descriptors, or key words, for males tend to be verbs and adverbs. Descriptors, or key words, for females tend to be nouns and adjectives. You can talk to a boy with an attitude change when you talk to a boy using descriptors that is more in line with their personalities (i.e. “Do you want me to help you add more details to that story?” VS “Do you want me to help you add more action to that story?”.

Stress and Attention. Males have a quicker response to stress with fight or flight, which is regulated by body movement in the sympathetic nervous system. Women have a slower response to stress, and their bodies lower the heart rate and blood flow because the parasympathetic system engages first. We could be giving mixed messages to boys. Boys under stress (stressful work) should stand up and move! Stand at the counter and do your work. Girls under stress may do better curled up in a beanbag when they’re tackling difficult work.

Temperature and Attention. Girls learn best where it’s a little warmer, while boys learn best when it’s a little cooler.

SECOND PART: Motivation. 4 Forms of Relevancy, 3 Laws of Motivation and 2 Secret Weapons

Learning needs to be (1) applicable, (2) meaningful, (3) interesting and (4) relevant in some way, it’s easier to learn. If something is relevant, it’s easier to learn. If it’s irrelevant it’s really hard to learn.

There are 4 Forms of Relevancy according to Pudewa:

  1. Intrinsic: it’s part of who you are… like how boys like weapons and tools. If your children are REALLY interested in something, capitalize on it. Give them opportunities in every way to learn about that topic, because the learning will be very profound to them.
  2. Inspired: it’s environmental… for example, if your family hikes, so you hike all the time, then you will know lots about hiking. Or if your dad loves music, and you want to impress him, so you learn music so you can relate to him. Work hard to inspire your children with those things we love and are inspired by, and outsource the things that you don’t love.
  3. Contrived (games): for example, things you don’t naturally love but you need to learn them anyhow. Create a game to make the learning topic interesting, and have one that’s possible to win, and one in which you experience wins and losses if you have any kind of economic game. Ex: Get Mom’s dollar: A game where the kids fix their own spelling errors. They earn a certain amount based on how many errors they find and fix. Boys seem to be especially wired to these kinds of economic games, and competitive games.
  4. Enforced: you must learn this or you must suffer a penalty. But you won’t get the real learning in this scenario. Students learn fast when they choose to learn.

The three laws of motivation:

  1. Children LIKE to do what they CAN do. And they are always getting better at things, so there is joy in their lives! Allocate 60-80% of their education time learning here, and help them get better.
  2. Children LIKE to do what they THINK they can do. Once they try and are successful a few times, then they like it! Allocate 20-40% of their education time learning here, and help them be successful.
  3. Children HATE to do what they THINK they CANNOT do. Children prefer punishment over failure if they believe they can’t be successful in it. How sad! Kids can fail more than adults can, and are willing to try again. Allocate almost 0% of their education time learning here wherever possible. Instead, back off and go to a simpler level of complexity where they did have success, and when it’s easy, then move up.

Two Secret Weapons.

One, the emotional bank account matters. ‘Deposit love into the child, so you can live off the interest’ – Suzuki. Build a child up so much, so that when you need to offer a correction, the child can sustain it. No one likes constant correction. Balance the correction. Offer 10 positives before adding 1 negative.

Two, the power of a smile is STRONG!! Be unconditionally excited and appreciative of your child’s efforts! Treat your own kids like you treat other peoples’ kids if you have to, in order to find more patience! Be grateful, acknowledge, see their effort!

His other tidbit – Wow!: Primary grades are when learning decisions are made (K-2), so it’s better to segregate by gender. A learning decision answers the questions like this: “Can I please my teacher or not?”; “Am I good or bad at something?”

For more, see books by Leonard Sax for more (though Pudewa doesn’t agree with everything Sax says):

  • Why Gender Matters
  • Boys Adrift, 
  • Girls on the Edge
  • The Collapse of Parenting

P.S. Pudewa warns not to leave these books laying around the house if your children read anything left around 🙂


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