However when it comes to love we tell them it is "unconditionally" and I believe this to be true.
I will now challenge my own previous statement about respect. I have been reading a book called "Love and Respect" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and I think it applies to so much in education.
The premise of the book is simple. It is that girls have a natural feeling to be "unconditionally loved" and boys have a natural feeling of needing to be "unconditionally respected." Not something that has to be earned, but should be guaranteed like love. Think about that a second.
Feeling loved and feeling respected are different emotions and feelings. I think they mean different things to boys and girls. I think each gender holds them up to different levels of importance.
Ask yourself; Would you rather be loved or respected? It is a hard decision, but if I had to choose, I would rather be respected in any relationship. That is just me.
I think, we as educators, especially in elementary do a wonderful job with "unconditional love."
The author would argue that our girls' number 1 emotional need is to be "unconditionally" love... We as educators have mastered this, in my opinion, because our passion to teach is rooted in our love for our students.
He would then argue our boys' number 1 emotional need is to be "respected". This is not as easy as an educator. Don't they need to "earn" it to make sure they are taught a lesson?
Respect is often not given out freely, but why? I think because we tie respect to trust. Trust must be built, I would agree, and it can be broken or damaged. If I can't trust you, can I respect you? Love is not tied to trust, I can love someone without totally trusting them. Why must respect be contingent on trust? How can we separate them? How can we give unconditional respect if we lose trust? I think it is in our actions I will list below.
Respect is also many times taken away in different forms. Sometimes our "love" even becomes the excuse for disrespect. How many times have you said or thought, I am doing this because I love you? Even though it is disrespectful, but you have sold yourself on the idea that it is good for them to learn this lesson. The thought is that if you are disrespected effectively you will grow and learn to persevere. Would you ever unlove in order to push your understanding and growth? I would say no.
Think for a second in your classroom when that student misbehaved, how did you react? Did you look down on them? Did you embarrass them, maybe without intention, did you maybe even tell them that they had to earn your respect back in some way. Did you force them to stare at you when you scolded them for their behavior? Did you demand that they show you forms of respect in appearance, even if your approach, mannerisms, tone, words, etc. didn't show respect back?
Have you ever told a student that they need to earn your love back? That just sounds ridiculous.
Think about how many times you have said, "I will respect you when...." Or you said at a parent/teacher meeting "Respect is earned when...." and the parents agree with you. "You will not get or be a part of this until you...." "I love you...., but...." "Show me..., then you can..."
This is about our boys, and I know... Boys let down over and over again. They do, I did, I was always fighting the battle of "respect".
What if all educators gave "respect" unconditional to our boys? What would that look like? It would not look like talking about them within ear shot of others, it would not mean asking them "how old are you acting?" It would not sound like, "What were you thinking....?!" It would not sound like, "In 4 weeks I will respect you again when you have done..."
*** Full disclosure, these are all things I have done, and although I am aware, will unfortunately in the heat of the moment, probably do again. I strive to be better and improve! ***
This should not be confused with statements like, "you have disappointed me" or "I expect more from you." I believe these types of statements are honest, truthful, and allow a boy to feel shame without feeling disrespect. It is nuance, place, audience, tone, and the relationship you have built that sets apart a healthy feeling of shame for wrong behavior vs. disrespect.
We boys learn from shame - we get angry from disrespect. Then we blame others.
For female students they know their teacher loves them no matter what mistakes they make. That is what they need, that is what keeps them feeling safe, no matter if they make mistakes or do something wrong. For boys a mistake or wrong doing brings on a threat of disrespect, which attacks our number one need. Love is important to us, but I would argue for most boys (the author has research to back this up) respect is more important. In other words to say to a male student, "I love you no matter what..." and then disrespect them does damage that is not understood until you have felt it.
As a male I make mistakes repeatedly with my male students. I know better but I try to live by these rules:
- Keep conversations private. With an audience, you will immediately see male students shut down. Sometimes I know this is unavoidable, and in these cases, put up your hand or book, to block your mouth, turn around and have them face you, not other classmates making faces.
- If you don't believe a male student, don't call another student over to debunk them in that moment face to face. This will almost always guarantee a fight and feeling of disrespect. Talk to that other student privately and report to the first student your findings. Then get them together if that is what is needed in an equal manner and place.
- Keep conversations or check-ins quick. This is not when you are holding them accountable for something, just being proactive.
- When noticing behavior or trying to correct minor things, use looks, hand motions, smile first to let them know you see what they are doing.
- When addressing more serious things, keep it open ended, not demanding responses, allow them to process and come back to it later if needed. Keep them accountable, but understand the pace of this might be different than what you had wanted.
- Don't demand they stare at you. If they have been trained to do that, let it go, but don't demand it. Personally, it is hard for me to stare at someone I have wronged right away. I need to say it and then I can look at them eye to eye. It does not mean I don't own up or am a coward, but the shame prevents me from looking them eye to eye to start. By forcing me to do that, you are in essence "disrespecting" my shame and feelings. With students, it might mean that you and he know he did wrong, but he needs to "get back" some dignity before he will open up. Allowing him to drop his head allows that sense to come back to him.
- Get to their level by bending over if needed. Boys are physical beings and just the sense of being shorter has inherent feelings before anything is spoken.
- Put a hand on their shoulder, if they are okay with it, when you talk. Don't grab their hand or arm, a gentle hand on the shoulder works much better.
- Whisper whenever possible, you can't be sarcastic and your tone is always hidden when you whisper. It is almost impossible to come off wrong when you whisper.
- Use "I notice statements" instead of, "You were doing..." For example: "I notice you were distracting your classmates, or I noticed you weren't working..." vs. "You were talking or you were not working on anything."
When addressing behavior be prepared! Boys may need to push out their chests a minute, a sucking of the teeth, a rolling of the eyes, or that head down in talking. These things never bothered me, I am a man, I know where they are coming from, I know I can bring them back, I know I have built a relationship and I have their respect. Don't find yourself getting caught up and saying, "Then he shrugged his shoulders! He sucked his teeth!"
It is going to be hard to believe me on this, but these examples are not usually disrespect directed at you, although it appears that way. Unless of course you have no relationship or a bad relationship with a particular male student, then it may be directed at you. Assuming the relationship is solid, it is a lack of respect they feel for themselves in that moment, it is personal, not about you.
When I taught, my parents would tell me their children always felt respected and they respected me. This book I am reading now, just brought me back to it. Here is my rhyme. This is important!
Keep this second quote in mind whenever you have to address male students, we don't need love as much as we need to feel respected, I know we are a pain, but the more I read about it, the more I think it is just natural, sorry ladies!
Our girls need unconditional love, our boys need unconditional respect! - Dr. Eggerichs
Conflict makes most men feel disrespected- Dr. Eggerichs
Conflict makes most men feel disrespected- Dr. Eggerichs
My thoughts from writing this: I suggest you listen to the youtube clip as you read along. Just helps with my somewhat spotty flow...
Respect is basic, some think it should earned,
Something gained, We've been trained, plain and simple
It's elemental, no trick, no manipulation, what we want
Most think it comes when you give, take it away,
And watch them fall, based on what you say
This male need can't be taken lightly
Awaken early thinking about this nightly
Respect creates the handsome knight, the sweat stains
Hard at work, got get it right
The provider, we hold this high, with regard
It is the code we know... always on guard
Tribute to our esteem, our well being
Like a mother's assurance.. her love
But what do we want from dads our fathers?
A role model and strong figure, a backbone, go figure
Needs not unconditional, those are actions
Relations not as emotions
Not quite as integral
Respect is needed from boys to men
From lanky tallies, shorties, heavy, and the wise
That are fast, slow, weight lifting, creating
That song was actually written by Ottis Redding
Need to be able to keep their heads held high
Rich, poor, credit needed, not a card
Give me dignity, Give me death
Not man up but who am I,
That is the challenge we manage
Fight and shove, punch to brawl, get me a scar
Thought that would make me a rock star
So we have society telling us we need to earn it
Lean into it, show it, and be a part of it,
Challenge that thought, been at it hours, days
Years counting the weeks
Hazing the idea that man needs to earn respect
What if it was unconditional like the air we breath
What if we gave unlimited, unequivocal, a basic need
That stuff that matters its magical
Like love, like caring, stop staring, start daring
No matter your game, we respect the 4 quarters
Every shot you throw up, every time you step
Every time you speak, every time you mess up,
No embarrass and cherish the difference
This is for the Mr. not the Mrs.
As an educator, how many times you speak about "them"
About "him" where he could see and hear,
You claim to love, but did not matter
You preach in an effort to change behavior,
But deranged your words were not heard
From the 5 to 18 year old larger gender,
We sometimes refer to as Johnny
Maybe you just told yourself it would be better,
To call out, sometimes in a shout
But damaged the meter of respect every time,
Lower the volume to increase the honor
Trust me, as a needer, a speaker of esteem,
A male in fear, I recognize this effect
I know the side eye, the public talk,
Something I have done a thousand times
Don't contribute to the dismissal of the male mentality
Allow us a feeling of respectability
I challenge to treat respect as unconditional
We claim our love has no bounds
Why does respect get the whistle
What we claim to mean
Is often lost in the translation of their dreams
Respect should not be earned, it should be given
Not a donation, commit to an approach, not a hand out,
No doubt, It's how boys get validation
Boys don't need love as much as they need recognition
Especially in mostly female driven education systems.