Parent-Teacher Organizations in Chatham have combined their efforts to once again bring Dr. Michael G. Thompson to Chatham for a parenting presentation Monday entitled “The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child Find Success in School and in Life."
Thompson will also conduct a teacher training on educating boys and will hold three student assemblies: one for high school juniors entitled "College Craziness," and one for fifth graders and another for high school freshmen and sophomores entitled "Best Friends, Worst Enemies."
Thompson's appearance is co-sponsored by the Municipal Alliance Committee of the Chathams (MACC), the Chatham High School PTO, the Chatham Middle School PTO, the Milton Avenue School PTO and the Southern Boulevard School PTO.
Stacey Ewald, a former Southern Boulevard PTO president, said, "Dr. Thompson spoke in Chatham two years ago to about 300 parents and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive."
Psychotherapist Maureen Tillman, who treats adults and adolescents at her Maplewood and Morristown offices, said, "Naturally, most parents think about academics, and now, for sure, bullying. There is so much else that enters into childrens' experiences and Dr. Thompson's commitment and experience in this field is invaluable."
Thompson has authored or helped author eight books, including “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys,” which appeared on the New York Times bestsellers list. "Raising Cain" was also turned into a 2-hour PBS documentary, narrated by Thompson, which aired in January 2006.
A Successful Prior Visit
When Thompson spoke in Chatham in 2010, he addressed the differences and challenges in boys rather than girls. He said boys do not have enough recess time, and are asked to do too much pencil-and-paper work in kindergarten.
"Kindergarten is the new first grade," he said. "We're demanding so much more academically of young boys it overwhelms and angers them. This is the school's problem and teacher's problem."
Thompson emphasizes both boys and girls have the same need for love, guidance, teaching nurturing, and boundaries. When two girls are compared to each other, "there is a greater difference between them than there would be comparing a girl to a boy," he said. The same goes for boys.
"The teacher who makes the girls the standard for the class will find the boys disappointing all of the time," Thompson said.
He went on to say, "boy play is more active and physical, and girls engage in more verbal and fantasy based [manners], which makes them more ready for a language rich environment. The elementary school classroom is four-fifths language based."
There is a need for more physical activity or recess in the schools, particularly for boys, Thompson said. This can be difficult, he said, when state academic mandates get in the way.
The general message was clear: Parents and teachers should try not to interfere too much with free play. Children need to learn to negotiate with each other and work things out on their own, and that includes wrestling and other physical activities. But free play, he said, does not include organized sports where the average child spends approximately two hours a day in a car being shuffled from one place to another.
Thompson's parenting presentation begins Monday at 7 p.m. at the Chatham High auditorium.