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Speaking of Boys

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Answers to the Most-Asked Questions About Raising Sons

Written by Michael Thompson, Ph.D.Author Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Michael Thompson, Ph.D. and Teresa BarkerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Teresa Barker

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On Sale: April 23, 2009
Pages: 352 | ISBN: 978-0-307-49120-6
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

My eight-year-old son is the only boy in his class who doesn't have a Gameboy. I don't want him to be ostracized for not having one, but I worry that it's addictive. What do you think?

Our two sons are eleven and fourteen, and they are fiercely competitive. The tension around our house is awful. How can we help them get along better?

We've worked very hard to keep our ten-year-old son in touch with his feelings. Sometimes it seems as if we've put him at a disadvantage, surrounded by tougher boys who can be pretty cruel with teasing. How can we help him protect himself when other boys start to tease?

With his bestselling book Raising Cain, Michael Thompson, Ph.D., at last broke the silence surrounding the emotional life of boys and spearheaded an important national debate. His warmth and humor quickly made him a popular and respected international speaker and consultant. Now he directs his authority, insight, and eloquence to answering your questions about raising a son. With candid questions and thoughtful, detailed responses, Speaking of Boys covers hot-button topics such as peer pressure, ADHD/ADD, and body image as well as traditional issues such as friendship, divorce, and college and career development. This perceptive, informative, and passionate book will leave you not only with useful, practical advice but also with the comforting knowledge that other parents share the same concerns you do when it comes to raising our boys into well-adjusted, responsible men.

Excerpt

Speaking of the Nature of Boys

New Mother of Baby Boy Looks to the Future


Q: This may sound like a stupid question, but I am an expectant mother,
and we know it will be a boy. I've never had any experience around little
boys. I never had any brothers and my sisters never had boys. My only
experience is in seeing other people's little boys, and to be honest, they
look like a handful. I'm just wondering if you have some simple (so I can
keep it in mind over the years!) advice for raising a son to stay out of
trouble and be a good man?

MGT: First of all, congratulations! You are in for an adventure, a
learning experience, and a lot of fun. All you need is a loving heart and
an open mind. As for boys being a handful, all children are a handful!
I have a friend who says, "All human beings are more or less impossible."
I think that is true (it certainly describes me). That's why we all need families who love us. As I have traveled around the country talking to parents about boys, I have had many
mothers come up to me to say, "Take it from me, boys are easy. It is girls
who are tough!" I have had just as many mothers testify that boys are so
hard to read, so competitive, so mysterious, and so cruel.

Why do some mothers find boys difficult and others find them to be a
delight? Certainly, being raised with brothers or having nephews is a
helpful experience, but I don't think that is the crucial element. I have
known some wonderful mothers of boys who were not raised in families with
brothers. To me the two things that I would wonder about in the mother of
a boy are: (1) whether she likes men, and (2) whether she will be able to
adapt to her baby's rhythms and temperament.

In some ways, you have to want the end product of boyhood in order to
raise a son with a sense of full acceptance. He is going to turn into a
man. As our son, Will, has grown up, from time to time my wife has said,
"It doesn't seem possible that he is going to grow up to be large and
hairy." But he is, and I can see she is practicing in her mind,
transforming this sweet, beautiful child into a large, bearded man and
still recognizing him. Practice thinking about the man your son will
become. Who have been the admirable men in your life? Did you love your
father? Did your grandfather dote on you? Do you have a good relationship
with your husband? Think about what you have liked in men and how you
would like to see your son grow up to be like that. If you have a picture
in your mind of the way you'd like him to be, it will help you to guide
him.

Please don't think about boys as a problem; don't brace yourself for their
energy or their competitiveness. Think about what your loving grandfather
must have been like as a boy. Does your grandmother or mother have any
stories about him? Ask your husband about his boyhood. What was he like?
What did he do? Ask your husband enough questions so you get beyond the
polished family stories about his bringing the frog to the table or
throwing a football through the window. Families tend to hold on to
gender-stereotyped stories that do not really illuminate the nature of the
child. Ask your husband how it really was for him when he was a boy. What
scared him, what was he passionate about?

May I suggest that you read books about boyhood? How about Angela's Ashes? You'll read it with new eyes, now that you have a son. It will teach you something about boy grief, boy endurance, and boy humor. Reread Tom
Sawyer
. Read some autobiographies of admirable men. It will be helpful to
discover that Mahatma Gandhi got into fights at school or the Dalai Lama
and his brother were so boisterous and competitive that his brother was
sent away from the monastery.

Of course, you are going to be reading books to your son
at night. The books that he loves will be an education for
you. He will identify with the angry Max in Where the Wild Things Are, and he will admire the elephant, Horton, who steadfastly hatches the egg while
balanced on that little tree, and you will both marvel at the imagination
of that boy fishing in McElligot's pool. You will see your son in all of
these characters, and you will be introduced to things you had never spent
much time thinking about, such as what occupies a boy's mind when he is
fishing. Reading to children is as much an education for parents as it is
for children.

As for my second point, adapting to a child's temperament, that is the
crucial thing for parenting any child, boy or girl. You are going to have
to get on your son's wavelength without his being able to tell you what
channel he is broadcasting from. You will get that from the experience of knowing him as a baby, holding him, responding to his cries, calming him during a plane ride, and holding him back as he is about to run into the street. He will make you stretch your personality and your limits, and you will become more adaptable than you ever thought possible. That's parenting.

For a mother to raise a boy means she gets as close as one can get to
crossing the lines of gender. She will see the world through her son's
eyes, and the world won't look the same. Mothers get to be adored by their
sons, and that is really fun. She'll get to celebrate everything she has
loved in men and help her son to become a good man. She will struggle with
everything she has found regrettable in men, and at moments she will
despair and say, "They're hopeless." It will be an amazing trip, just as
it is for fathers who have daughters. Your son will open your eyes,
broaden your knowledge, and help your sense of humor. I guarantee it.
Michael Thompson, Ph.D.|Teresa Barker

About Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

Michael Thompson, Ph.D. - Speaking of Boys
Michael Thompson, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, lecturer, consultant, and former seventh-grade teacher. He conducts workshops across the United States on social cruelty, children’s friendships, and boys’ development. With Catherine O’Neill Grace and Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., he co-authored Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children and Mom, They’re Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems. With Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., he co-authored the New York Times bestseller Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. He is also the author of Speaking of Boys: Answers to the Most-Asked Questions About Raising Sons. He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Teresa Barker, who collaborated with Thompson on Raising Cain and Speaking of Boys, is a journalist and mother of three school-age children. She lives in Wilmette, Illinois.


From the Hardcover edition.

About Teresa Barker

Teresa Barker - Speaking of Boys
Teresa Barker, who collaborated with Michael Thompson on Raising Cain, Speaking of Boys, and The Pressured Child, is a journalist whose other book collaborations include Girls Will Be Girls, The Soul of Money, and In the Moment. Barker is married and the mother of a son and two daughters. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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