In a fast paced world with an increased trend in violence it is important to reflect on what are we doing that is contributing to the problems that are in the forefront of our minds.
AFL has always been a physical game and I remember as a schoolboy firmly being part of it. Whether it be in the school team or just playing kick to kick with other boys at lunchtime. The aim of the game was to physically out manoeuvre your opponents to get the ball using whatever means necessary. So where does this need to dominate physically come from, is it simply a primal caveman era inheritance or is it something that we modelled from a very young age?
Boys as young as 1 or 2 are taught to high-five rather than hug when greeting or saying goodbye. So barely our of nappies boys are being modelled direct physical contact without direct connection in a more aggressive, physical form.
At primary school kids are taught foundational skills that set them up to how they interact with the physical world. Development of fine and gross motor skills through physical education and movement programs. It is here at this foundational level that the fundamental approach to bodily interactions are developed and a framework setup for the future.
So the questions we should be asking ourselves are around what are we modelling to young boys? How do we educate them to deal with conflict? How do we develop their interaction skills both physically and socially?
Language plays such an important part, the messages that we send in terms of appropriateness of certain actions lays imprints to how boys see themselves and starts to shape the men they will become. We must also raise awareness and explain to boys what is happening in their bodies and provide them with outlets that allow for the physicality to be expressed but in a way that does not harm others. These discussions are not limited to boys but why is it that girls manage to navigate their physical changes without resorting to physical violence or aggression? What lessons can we learn for how we teach girls that can help inform us in our education of boys.
A growing boys need to express himself physically and to develop an awareness of his changing body. What is needed is more discussion, education and communication with boys as to what changes are occurring and how to become more aware of their actions and reactions. The neural pathways are so ripe and malleable at a young age and it is here that patterns are formed for dealing with situations in the future.
Are we educating the boys of today to be the type of men we want to see in the future?