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A Boy's Choice: Purpose or Aggression

There's an excellent interview with Michael Gurian in Scouting MagazineMichael Gurian is author of many books on parenting boys that are based on brain science. I love his approach, which is to channel a boy's higher levels of testosterone away from violence and toward a higher purpose. Remember, boys' brains produce as much oxytocin as girls' brains do; but testosterone tends to mute oxytocin's bonding and connecting effects.

Here is just one of many interesting nuggets from Gurian's interview with Sean Mitchell.

We’ve heard a lot about the importance of self-esteem, but you write that self-esteem should not be conferred automatically on boys.

It has to be earned. And studies show that boys, after a certain age, don’t trust blanket praise. They want praise based on their achievement. It’s a little different with girls. Girls are so verbal, and their oxytocin level is so high, that if you say to a girl, “You’re great! Great job!” that has a different effect on the female brain than the male brain. It immediately stimulates oxytocin, which is a bonding chemical.

With sons, that doesn’t work as well, in general. They don’t get the same surge.

While we're using science in so many areas of life, parenting is too often left completely to the unconscious desires and attitudes of people who may not have been well-parented themselves. Gurian provides compassionate and wise guidance for parents -- and I think his views could change society for the better.

I had the privilege of interviewing Michael in 2007, as I was writing my book. (His work informs the chapter on adolescent love and lust.)  Read the interview here.