Booklist: Reading Up on the Secret Lives of Boys

As a female Developmental Psychologist, I heard and read a lot about the specific socio-emotional and academic needs of girls, how we were being marginalized out of math and the hard sciences, and how our self-esteem was being diminished by a global patriarchy.  Only in the past seven or eight years does it feel like the needs of boys are being addressed significantly, and only more recently than that does it feel like the discussion is acknowledging that boys and girls are different but equally in need of accommodation.  It's not as though one gender is dysfunctional in relation to the other (some boys may be energetic, but does that make them troublemakers?  some girls may naturally be more interested in language, but does this make them bad at math?  and does this have to apply to all boys?), it's just that we must understand them for what they are and appreciate each child's individuality.

In any event, I feel like I have much better insight into where my daughters are coming from than my son after reading these books.  A little chat with my husband (sorry Dad, I haven't gotten to talk to you yet!) revealed that I truly don't get it, but I feel like if I want to be the conscoius parent that I regard myself as I really need to get a better idea of what's going on behind my son's alternately charming smile and grouchy scowl.  I'll get to girls soon, but here's a list of books that I've really found to be worthwhile.  Each of these books is provides a unique perspective on learning and socio-emotional development, and what we as parents can do to raise our boys to be happy, successful men.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys:  This book is a great place to start. The authors really illuminate what life as a boy is truly like with plenty of anecdotes about how boys are indoctrinated into male culture, what role the educational system and its methods play in shaping a boy, a great discussion of relationships between boys and their parents, and lots of concrete ideas about how to raise an emotionally whole boy from birth to early adulthood.  Absolutely eye-opening.

Real Boys' Voices: A stunning companion to Raising Cain, this book is a window into the minds of boys and young men.  In their own words they share intimate stories of how societal pressures lead boys into drug use, early sexual behavior, sublimating their emotions, and putting on a mask of toughness.  At times so raw it's tough to read, it gives tremendous insight into what's going on in their heads and how our reactions and opinions fuel this behaviors.  Also provides lots of suggestions to help parents become accessible, trusted allies to their adolescent boys.

Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different - And How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men:  Raising Boys is less about anecdotes and stories than providing approaches to help you raise your boy to be the best he can be.  The author maps out parenting strategies by age, starting at birth and extending through early adulthood, and discusses the role that testosterone and brain development play in boys' behavior and in shaping their needs.  It's a relatively fun, easy read and provides great ideas that you can apply immediately.

The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life:  While the earlier books focus mainly on emotional development, The Minds of Boys is an awesome peek inside how our educational system is at odds with the personalities and needs of many boys leading to low performance and disciplinary issues.  Starting with infancy, the author offers great advice on how parents and teachers can play to boys' unique strengths through play and setting up activities in boy-friendly ways--without putting girls at a disadvantage.  This book significantly influenced the educational choices we've made, and if you have or will be sending a boy to school I highly recommend it!

It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons: I so enjoyed the essays in this book.  They're short (since my time always seems to be in demand!) and insightful, leaving me with something to think about and mull over for the rest of the day.  The stories touch on a range of ages, leaving you reminiscing about when your kids where younger, relating to moms who are sharing your experience, and thinking about what's down the road.

What have you found works for your boys?  Do you find that they're different from the girls in your life and need special accommodation or is this 'boy crisis' just an idea pushed by the media?  Are there other books, articles, or resources that you love?
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