From the New York Times bestselling co-author of Raising Cain, It's a Boy! is the first major parenting book to chart every stage of a boy's life. This upbeat, authoritative, and reassuring guide-written by psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D., a leading international expert on boys' development, and journalist Teresa H. Barker-shows how a boy's inner life progresses through infancy, childhood, and adolescence.
What do boys actually need? How exactly does a healthy boy look and act? It's a Boy! has the answers, providing expert advice on the developmental, psychological, social, and academic life of boys from infancy through the teen years. Exploring the many ways in which boys strive for masculinity and attempt to define themselves, Dr. Thompson identifies the key developmental transitions that mark a boy's psychological growth and emotional health, and the challenges both boys and parents face at each age.
- Expecting a Boy: how our deeply held hopes, fears, and family histories shape our expectations of boys and our parenting techniques
- Baby Boys (birth to 18 months): falling in love with your son, healthy attachment, trust, and temperament
- Toddler Years (18 months to 3 years): boys on the go, bold steps, blankies, budding language, and rambunctious physicality
- Powerful Little Boys (ages 3 and 4): superhero ambitions, penis play and potty talk, learning to manage the force of his anger, and celebrating the power of the boy group
- Starting School (ages 5 through 7): developmental cues for school readiness, transitional challenges, girl cooties and boys-only play, tough talk, tender hearts, and first friends
- Boys on a Mission (ages 8 through 10): striving for mastery in sports, screen games, and boy society, organizing the boy brain for school success, and glaring academic gender gaps
- The Preteen (ages 11 through 13): puberty, posturing and popularity, the culture of cruelty, hidden sensitivity, and stoic silence in the middle school years
- Early High School (ages 14 and 15): the secret life of boys, powerful peer groups, sexuality, school strategies, the shift away from Mom (she knows too much), and yearning for Dad's respect and attention
- On the Brink of Manhood (ages 16 through 18): the quest for independence, sex, love, driving, drinking, and other choices and challenges of life
Practical, insightful, wonderfully engaging, and filled with instructive true stories any parent of a son will recognize, It's a Boy! is the definitive guide to raising boys in today's world, revealing with humor, compassion, and joy all the infinite varieties of boys and the deep and profound ways in which we love them.
Addressing recent troubling studies about boys in the U.S. authors Thompson and Barker (Raising Cain; Speaking of Boys) underscore the developmental differences between girls and boys that often compel boys to underachieve in school and embrace destructive behavior. The authors aim to rectify a sense of parental loss of trust in boys' development by advocating early unconditional love, strong maternal attachment, restraint of corporal punishment and sexist stereotyping, strong father participation and safe places where boys can engage in undirected, outside play. The trend toward earlier academic performance in school does not suit boys' development, as they tend to learn language and reading slower than girls, hear less well and fidget. Educators and psychologists share their opinions, all in the spirit of embracing boys' unique energy and intellect. Ages 11 to 13 bring startling changes, which the authors examine under the five tasks of adolescence, while ages 14 to 15 invite a mysterious inner life, and ages 16 to 18 present challenges regarding independence, sexuality and responsibility. In this upbeat guide, Thompson especially relies on his good-sense experience as a father and educator to remind parents not to criticize behavior that is typical for boys. (Mar.)
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March 24, 2008
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Excerpt from It's a Boy! by Teresa Barker
IMAGINING A BOY
What Were You Thinking?
ANDREW'S PARENTS ARE GRAPPLING WITH THE ISSUES that occupy the mind of every loving parent. They aren't sure how to strike a healthy balance in their son's life between sports and academics, music and video games, friends and family time. Should they let him watch TV before he cleans up his room? When should they stand firm and when should they let their son decide for himself? They agree it's too early to think about college. But while they don't want to pressure him about eventual career choices, the family business does have his name on it. "We'll just take a wait-and-see approach," his mother says gamely as she pats her very pregnant belly. It is two weeks before Andrew's due date. As for Andrew, he mostly busies himself making wide turns in utero, the bulge of his tiny foot tracing an impressive arc across his mother's midriff.
Perhaps you, too, are expecting a boy. And if he is your first child or the first boy in your growing family, your curiosity and concerns about a boy's life fill your thoughts and conversations. You have heard other mothers say, "They really are different!" And, of course, they are. If they weren't, there would be no point at all in my writing this book. "Boys are easier than girls," you hear. "Boys are an open book." "Boys love their mothers." But then what do you make of all those stories about boys being uncommunicative, behaving badly or struggling through school, stifling their inner life or losing themselves on the way to becoming men?
If this is your first foray into the intimate life of boys, you may be excited or nervous at the prospect. If you already have a son, or you had brothers, or you are a dad and remember your own boyhood, then your outlook on parenting a boy may have you feeling all the more confident and encouraged--or wary, bracing for the worst.
Perhaps you are the mother of a five-year-old boy and you are feeling a bit edgy about his interests. "My son really likes to play with guns," one mother told me. "I don't like them and I won't allow them in the house, so one day at breakfast he made a gun with his finger and his thumb and he 'shot' his brother with it! Why does he keep doing that?"
If you are that mother, you may be worried that, despite your great love for your son and the good home in which he is being raised, his interest in guns is a sign that he's going to grow up to be violent and dangerous. That's an uncomfortable feeling.
Perhaps you are the mother of a two-year-old and your little boy is suddenly beginning to seem different to you. He is starting to disobey you, to look right at you when he breaks a rule or touches something he's not supposed to touch. He laughs gleefully when you scold him. He seems so willful and defiant. Is that normal?
Or perhaps you are the mother of an older boy who has begun to pull away from you into a boys-only world that is clearly off-limits to moms. The goodnight chats are getting shorter and details of his day less forthcoming. You've heard that happens with boys, but you and your son have been so close--surely not him, not yet!
If you are a dad, perhaps you are not too proud to admit that you are a bit nervous about raising a boy, even though you were a boy yourself and you should, theoretically, know all about it. Maybe you had a hard time as a boy or have mixed feelings about your father, and you want it to be different for your son. Or perhaps you were a lucky boy and a lucky man, an enthusiastic dad who wants to get it right for your son. If you are a dad or father-to-be and you are making this effort to deepen your understanding about the life of boys, then your son is already a lucky boy, too.
Once you accept the miracle of a child coming into your life, once you embrace the humbling journey that parenting is for all of us, the question that drives nearly every conversation about boys, whether you are expecting your first or you have a houseful of them, is: What makes boys tick?
Development is the fundamental engine of a child's growth, the ongoing process in which nature, nurture, and sheer luck come together and a unique human being emerges. The biological story of growth and advice about prenatal health and the day-to-day care and feeding of infants and children are well covered in general parenting literature and medical checkups. We're here to focus on the psychological development of boys, the inside story of how a boy's inner life takes shape and progresses through infancy, childhood, and adolescence. It's a process that isn't always easy to see or understand, not because boys intentionally hide it (though they attempt to do so at times) but because they show it in ways that adults don't always recognize. But it's all there. In everyday life with boys they are always onstage, showing us what's new. Against that developmental backdrop, in the chapters ahead we'll examine the key issues of psychological development that dominate each stage because that is, for you and your son, where the greatest challenges and drama of childhood--and parenting--play out.
If pregnancy and parenthood have left you much time to think, you are full of expectations and wonderings about your boy. You are imagining your son as he will be in six months or two years or twenty years. You may be reading a lot of parenting literature and hearing advice from family, friends, and total strangers. And every day in the news there is another research finding about child or adolescent brain science and gender differences, but very little on their actual relevance to raising your son. How do you turn all that into intelligent, intuitive parenting for raising a boy? How do you begin to answer the two most important questions for the next eighteen years: What do boys need? What is my son going to need from me?
Those are questions we'll address in the pages ahead, but before we do that, let's look back to the time when your thoughts about boys first took shape long ago.