Boys require different interventions than girls around social conflicts

Boys don’t say “I feel” to other boys…

I started working with Tyler in 6th grade. Tyler is sensitive and emotionally articulate. While he wanted to be part of a group of boys at school he sometimes found it difficult to tolerate the normal back and forth “roasting” that boys in middle school do. He would often seek out his school counselor when upset.

Tyler’s well meaning school counselor would often do conflict resolution work where she would bring him and whichever boy he was having a problem with together. The school counselor would ask Tyler to articulate how he was feeling and to use “I” statements and would ask the other boy to reflect back what he heard Tyler say.

I explained to Tyler’s mother that I thought the counselor’s approach was actually making things worse for Tyler. Boys don’t resolve conflicts by sitting down and starting a conversation by saying “I feel”.

I told Tyler’s mother that my suggestion to him was going to be to stop going to the counselor because her conflict resolution sessions were actually making things worse for him because he was being received as being more unrelatable to the other boys. I told her that we could work on learning how to put other boys comments in a relevant context (figuring out what’s a small problem, medium problem or big problem) and understanding that roasting is sometimes about showing affection and sometimes about establishing hierarchy. We also worked on responding to roasting in a way that helped his social status.

Tyler agreed to my suggestion and things improved for him socially. When he joined my 7th grade group at the beginning of the school year he was more confident and felt accepted by the group of guys at his school. He was well liked in my group as well.

My suggestion that Tyler stop having conflict resolution sessions where he expressed how he was feeling would be considered “wrong” by many mental health professionals and school counselors who don’t understand that boys resolve conflicts differently than females

When Tyler stopped communicating and ways that made him unrelatable to his male peers the other boys had an easier time relating to him, and as a result accepted him more which helped his self confidence and social relationships.

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