This showed up in my feeds, a link from UPI: Why boys fear physical education. There's lots of reason for boys to fear PE class, most of which revolve around shame and fear. Here is what the article contends (my thoughts below):
If a boy is thinner or heavier than he wants to be, the stress and anxiety of attending physical education may be prohibitive, a Canadian study said.I think we had to take a PE class each year I was in school up until the 10th grade. I was good at sports, and relatively bigger than my peers, so PE was a breeze for me. Not so for everyone.
Michael Kehler and Kevin Wamsley of The University of Western Ontario said most teen obesity research involves inactivity linked to television viewing and the computer, but little research in masculinity, body image and health.
Kehler said that in Ontario all high school students are required to take at least one course in health and physical education. Most boys choose to take gym in Grade 9, but others postpone it to a year later when the topic is related to health and does not include gymnasium or playing field activities.
Kehler and Wamsley along with Michael Atkinson of the University of Loughborough in Britain did one-on-one interviews of high school boys as well as observations in physical education classes and Web logging.
Gym anxiety plays out in a number of ways, from disinterest to genuine fear of being harassed, Kehler said.
"Often boys who don't feel at ease are terrified to go to the locker room or class, fearing they will be mocked for their size, their lack of athletic prowess, or that they will fall victim to homophobia," Kehler said.
The little, skinny kids were picked on. The boys who were bad at sports were teased. The two or three kids everyone thought were gay got it the worst, snapped with towels, called names, whatever else the bullies could think of.
I had been bullied for other reasons -- I was a nerd, an athletic and physically imposing nerd, but geekdom stuck to me like flies on a cowpie. So I didn't pick on the kids with low self-esteem about their bodies, and my guess is that some of them still carry the trauma from those experiences.
When we are just beginning to develop a sense of who we are as males, body image is a big part of that in our culture. Those boys who are smaller and weaker than the rest are bound to suffer beyond the teasing in gym class.
As men (and I am not a father, but I have done some coaching) there is only so much we can do to stop this behavior. If we step in to defend a kid, the kid feels even more emasculated than if he takes his psychological lumps. But we can teach boys to be kind and considerate of others, educate them in the differences in development, and instill in them a sense of empathy for the pain of others. But if you don't think it's a big deal, please consider that bullying can lead to suicide in some kids.
Unfortunately, this type of teasing is going to happen -- it's a part of the process of growing up for most kids. Boys need to test out their strength, determine their social ranking, and physical prowess is one of the ways they do it.
If my son was being teased that way, I might help him find a way to develop his own strength and sense of self, either through a sport or weight training (which any kid can do), or a martial arts. If we instill in our kids a sense of self-worth, no amount of teasing will leave lasting scars.
It might be tough while it is happening, but be there for your son, do things with him that provide a sense of competence. In the long run, it'll pay off in a better relationship with your boy, and with him being more successful in life.