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Boys group behaviour, in school, is this normal?

(26 Posts)
steppemum Thu 04-Apr-13 01:09:37

Sorry this is going to be long.

ds is 10. We are looking at secondary school and one option is a selective all boys school. He is adamant that he doesn't want to go to an all boys school. Over the last 6 months or so, a lot of small things have come out about the way the boys he knows interact and I think this is largely why he is very reluctant to go to an all boys school. I am wondering if he is right, or that his class are just a nightmare (which I know some of them are) or if this is him not the group at all - so what follows is what HE says, how HE perceives the situation.

I am a teacher, and worked in a tough school in the east end of London for several years, and I don't recognise this group mentality, but then (as you will see) maybe as the teacher I wasn't aware of it.

So, what he says happens in his class, is that the boys always have someone who is the 'victim'. Someone who is being teased/picked on. The cause may be some small incident, and then it becomes 'their turn' to be picked on. Once it is 'your turn' then you become the butt of everyone's jokes, and get a rough time. They may switch people every playtime, or one person may remain the butt of the nastiness for days/weeks at a time.

He is afraid of doing anything that may make him stand out from the crowd in case you get to be the next victim. This also means he won't stand up for someone else being teased, even if he knows it is wrong, which means he is then joining in with the nasty crowd.

He says the teachers have no idea they do this, because snitching is the worse thing you can do.
(I have been in to the teacher, who is great, and talked about this and she has been working with them on breaking this down - she had no idea it was going on, and said it made a lot of sense to some of the issues she had been having with the boys)

He says that all boys are like this.

He has also talked about work in the classroom. That if you want to get work done, then you go and sit with the girls and that is the only way to get work done, boys don't really work, and spend a lot of time getting attention from the teacher, so a whole room full of boys sounds like a nightmare. (this wasn't in relation to this teacher, but to all teachers)

He hates any group activity - cubs, after school clubs etc, (with the exception of football) because he says boys have this same group mentality.

He has been at 3 very different schools and he says that all boys are like this.
But - he has had bad experiences at his schools (eg first school Russian school, very different culturally)
He is bright, and doesn't have a friend who is also bright, so with his friends he plays football and x-box etc, but he has never had a good friends who can also talk about books, or play monopoly in the way he does, and so i wonder how much of it is that he is a bit of a round peg in a square hole, and he behaves in a certain way to fit in, hence the desperate 'don't do anything to upset the crowd' is actually his projection, not the whole reality.

I need to add that he likes school, and is doing well, he has friends and seems to get on well with the boys in his class. I am aware that he doesn't have a good friend who he can do everything with, but I am not sure he is aware of it, and I don't think he is aware that he is adapting himself to fit the 'norm' (which I can see)

What is your experience? Do you think boys as a group are nasty? That being in a group of boys is not a friendly supportive place to be? He has said this again this weekend about how horrid a class full of boys would be. I am somewhat baffled. I am pretty certain that it is his class that have this group attitude, due to some strong conflicting personalities. I don't think this is typical, but maybe I am wrong!

(posting this late, so will come back tomorrow to see what people have said!)

AlfalfaMum Thu 04-Apr-13 02:40:12

Wow, I don't know all that much about boys because I have all daughters, but it strikes me that your DS is not just bright, but very emotionally intelligent too. Imagine being that aware at his age confused
Based on what you have said he is beyond his years socially, and he may find he has more in common with other boys once his peers catch up.
I suspect most boys are at their 'worst' when they're around the age of 10 (based on my own fairly limited experience obviously!).

That said, I'd be reluctant to force a child to go to a single sex school when he objects so eloquently, but then I am biased. Personally I prefer co-ed secondary schools, although where I live they aren't an option unless we go private. Which isn't really an option grin

bigTillyMint Thu 04-Apr-13 02:57:21

I agree that your DS sounds quite emotionally aware and is probably quite mature for his years.
I also agree that boys are probably at their worst for this between say 9 and 13 - it's all to do with pecking order and confidence and group culture.
Within my DS"s social group, I know they all tease/joke with each other but I don't think it's as bad as your DS describes. It sounds like the teacher/school need to get a better grip on what is going on.

My DS goes to a coed comp (Y7) At their school the children seem to be in different "tribes" according to interests/personalities, etc. As there are 260(?) in a year group, there are lots of others to "choose from" - your DS is more likely to find likeminded friends, especially with the different clubs, etc to coose from.

PigletJohn Thu 04-Apr-13 03:11:14

possibly the boys behave worse when they are being tough in front of the girls.

If he does go to a mono-sexual school, I think it is important that his out-of-school activities should not be.

nooka Thu 04-Apr-13 03:30:30

I have a 13yr old ds and a 12yr old dd, and I would say that packs of girls are way nastier than packs of boys, and that this sort of age (10/11/12) seems to be a particularly hard stage to go through.

But then I have a sociable sort of girl that struggled for a log time because she wanted to fit in even when she didn't really like the other girls or what they were doing, whereas ds is quite introvert and really enjoys sticking out like a sore thumb. So it might be more of a personality thing.

I'd be a bit concerned that your ds isn't happy with any groups, learning how to hold your own and be yourself is undoubtedly tricky, but it's a very important life skill (that my dd is starting to get after a very hard friendship year).

Personally I really dislike single sex schools (one of the reasons we moved was to make sure we had good mixed options) I like schools to be diverse, because I think that there is more chance of fitting in when more people are different.

Meringue33 Thu 04-Apr-13 04:51:05

Both boys and girls can behave like this IME. Sounds like intellect not gender is the issue here? My DP went to an all boys grammar school and loved it - there was a pro education culture and he had a great group of friends who were all bright like him.

SaltedChocolate Thu 04-Apr-13 06:05:26

I think this is how my DS1 perceives school. A pack of boys endlessly picking on each other.

He's desperately worried about his younger brother being bullied when he goes up to secondary school. Yet I knod all the reported incidents have been very well dealt with. So I gather he's talking about constant low level bullying, much like you describe, rather than anything you can report.

He too is only able to work if he's on a table of girls. Luckily in primary his teacher always sat him like that.

So, yes I agree, boys are nasty. They are certainly far, far worse at scouts where they are less well supervised than at school.

AlanMoore Thu 04-Apr-13 06:31:43

Your DS sounds absolutely lovely! His experience does chime with the way boys at my secondary school behaved (I was often the victim).

If there is a good co ed school I would be inclined to send him as it sounds like he may well make some good female friends. How about St Johns for an out of school activity?

AlanMoore Thu 04-Apr-13 06:32:53

I'm female btw, victims could be either sex at my horrid school. The girls were much much kinder.

Merle Thu 04-Apr-13 07:09:25

My son goes to a selective grammar and it's been great.

My impression, at the top end of primary, was that all the children started to form groups and pick on others, more and more. It was important to fit in.

At the grammar my son does fit in, so it works well. Again, it is only an impression, but his group of friends don't seem to have the same drive to make everyone conform to certain behaviours; they seem more tolerant of difference but obviously the boys are all a bit similar to each other, having been selected by the 11+.

I never really wanted a single-sex school, but so far it has worked out fine (Y9). There is a girls' school next door, so there are joint activities and a shared bus journey.

legalalien Thu 04-Apr-13 07:24:43

Ds is 8 and goes to a large single sex independent school. There are about 80 boys in his year group. From speaking to others, including some whose not so sporty, slightly non-standard boys joined this year, having a larger group of boys has actually helped, as there are critical masses of boys who like eg music, or lego, or whatever, who have something in common and can hang out together. Also, as there are no girls, particular activities are not regarded as being "girly" so much (there is a very popular weving group, for example).

There is a bit of playground banter between ds friends, but not the sort of wolf pack activity that you arendescribing, as far as I know.

legalalien Thu 04-Apr-13 07:25:02


Smudging Thu 04-Apr-13 07:47:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

adoptmama Thu 04-Apr-13 10:56:43

As a fellow teacher I actually do see this kind of behaviour amongst boys and unfortunately sometimes it just takes a few extra years and maturity for the majority of them to grow out of it. It sounds as if this behaviour has become a dominant culture in his current school/class and that will be very hard for the teacher to break down.

He sounds like an able and mature boy, ahead of his peer group in this respect. I think you need to accept his fears and concerns and discuss them with him (as it sounds as if you have). What does he want from school himself; he sounds like a lad who wants to work and do well. Perhaps taking him to view some schools - both single sex and mixed - and giving him the chance to see what the environments are like etc will help. Some single sex schools are plagued by bullying, others have created great athmosphere's and a culture which celebrates academic success. Gove your son the chance to visit schools and even perhaps spend a day visiting, talking to children and teachers and see what feels like a good fit.

steppemum Thu 04-Apr-13 16:38:19

wow, so many lovely replies. thank you
after i went to bed last night I convinced myself that I would come down to a tirade about bullying etc.

So many of the points you all make are spot on

I agree the teacher needs to get a better grip on what is going on, but it is quite an entrenched culture in this class, and the class is a difficult one, so I am not expecting any miracles here. (dds don't have any trouble, this class is a bit of an anomaly)

He is very emotionally aware, I was quite impressed that he came up with this himself!

Nooka - he sounds like your dd, he is very sociable and struggles because he wants to fit in, even if he doesn't like the others or what they are doing! and dd1 is quite happy to be herself and doesn't mind being different!

I am not very keen on an all boys school. But it is the only selective we can access realistically (others are much harder journeys) and the local schools here and not great. I am also worried that this culture is a bit a reflection of the town we are in and the selective is in another town.
I originally thought he would jump at the chance, he is surrounded by sisters, girl cousins and all our friends have girls, so I thought he would love it. I would never push him to go somewhere he doesn't like, but if this is his reason, and it is a false reason, then it seems a shame to miss out because of it.

Merle - I wonder if it is the same school - girls next door, shared sixth form and shared journeys (shared lunches as well I think) - boys school M in town S?

steppemum Thu 04-Apr-13 16:40:23

adopt - we have visited, but he says that you can't tell as all schools put on their best behaviour for visitors.

We do know a couple of boys from the school, and I am going to see if they can answer some of his questions.

steppemum Thu 04-Apr-13 23:22:56

I have also been thinking that a selective school where everyone is 'pro-education' as someone said up thread, is going to be a better environment than any school where that is not a given.

And I love the idea that 'girly' stuff is acceptable because there are no girls around.

The thing I loved about the school (despite not being normally pro single sex schools) was that they were pro boys, that they really liked boys and boys were valued for their boyishness.

sydlexic Thu 04-Apr-13 23:35:38

My DS is at a super selective grammar, all boys. He is year 7 and so far has never been aware of any bullying. He has never been happier.

Merle Fri 05-Apr-13 07:54:59

Hi SM - no, not the same schools, we are in the North.

In our situation there seems, anecdotally, to be a different atmosphere in the Girls' school, which seems, in part to have been set by the Head/staff etc. It is much more pushy, less interested in the whole child etc. If I had daughters I'm not sure I'd be keen. The Boys' school seems to strike the right balance.

xyla Fri 05-Apr-13 10:56:39

my brother was similar to your DS, and went to an all-boys secondary school. he HATED it. however, unlike my brother, the school was extremely focused on sport, the athletes were given all of the recognition, etc., and i think that made all the difference.

madeit Fri 05-Apr-13 11:49:51

i found this thread enlightening and at the same time disturbing. it is good that you little boy feels confident and is able to talk about this situation. It would be troubling if a child could not do this.
I too a teacher and the mother of a boy. My child is 3. I teach children of primary school age and have witnessed bullying and intimidating behaviour amongst children but what your child describes is disturbing.
I think the idea of visiting a variety of schools is a good one. I would listen to what your child is telling you and also be open to your intuition and knowledge of possible schools for the future. It is a challenging problem but definately worth taking time over.

lljkk Fri 05-Apr-13 12:13:55

Do you think boys as a group are nasty?
About as bad as girls, just in different ways.

...then it becomes 'their turn' to be picked on.
Actually that is hugely better than having consistent victims; yes some sharp rivalry unpleasantness is normal tribal behaviour.

work in the classroom.
Yeah, I think girls apply themselves much better on average. By sending him to a selective school you'll be filtering out a lot of the unmotivated boys, though. So really have to try it to see how it will go.

steppemum Fri 05-Apr-13 13:09:27


in a way I agree with you that it is better that the victim takes turns. The downside of that though is that they are prepared to join the group mentality in order to avoid being the victim. The situation first came to light when I heard him saying something to another child which was breathtakingly unacceptable, from there over several days we gradually heard the whole story.

He still says that I don't get it, that is just the way boys are. But we have talked about strategies, and continue to keep on top of it. I went in to see the teacher after I overheard him, and she is working on it from her end etc.

The thing that bothers me is that he says 'all boys' are like this. At my school we just weren't so bitchy. So I do feel a bit out of the loop and wonder how true it is.

Thank you all for your helpful replies. Lots to think about.
We are leaning towards bribery to get him there (phone) with a promise that if at the end of the year he really doesn't like it, we would allow him to move. Still wouldn't go ahead if he is dead set against it though.

lljkk Fri 05-Apr-13 14:10:22

Do you know anyone with boys already there who can talk it up, make it sound less harsh? And ask the school directly about pastoral care & why you are concerned. Relay their answers to your son, or let him ask them questions directly.

I would probably go down bribery path too (assuming I was that bothered about selective education which I'm not anyway).

5eggstremelychocaletymadeggs Fri 05-Apr-13 14:19:06

I think this can happen and my ds2 in yr 6 has had a few issues is not wanting yo tell tales as then you are pucked on. But thebehaviour you describe is stamped on at his school so it does sound like you say, its an unfortunate class.

Not all boys are like this (I have four!) And def not all schools.

No idea about single sex schools, I guess they have positives and negatives.

Your best bet is to visit lots of schools and try and find the best fit for your ds. We ate sending ds2 to an out of catchment high school for this reason, its much smaller than the catchment school and we were worried about whats you describe in our catchment school as ds1 was there for a while and experienced it sad we moved him and he is my hpier and there are none of the same issues so it very much depends on the school and the class/yr group. Ds1 had a particularly difficult yr group.

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