Over the past two decades there has been an explosion of new studies that have expanded our knowledge of how boys think and feel. In How to Raise a Boy, psychologist Michael Reichert draws on his decades of research to challenge age-old conventions about how boys become men.
Reichert explains how the paradigms about boys needing to be stoic and "man like" can actually cause them to shut down, leading to anger, isolation, and disrespectful or even destructive behaviors. The key to changing the culture lies in how parents, educators, and mentors help boys develop socially and emotionally. Reichert offers readers step-by-step guidance in doing just this by:
• Listening and observing, without judgment, so that boys know they're being heard.
• Helping them develop strong connections with teachers, coaches, and other role models
• Encouraging them to talk about their feelings about the opposite sex and stressing the importance of respecting women
• Letting them know that they don't have to "be a man" or "suck it up," when they are experiencing physical or emotional pain.
Featuring the latest insights from psychology and neuroscience, How to Raise a Boy will help those who care for young boys and teenagers build a boyhood that will enable them to grow into confident, accomplished and kind men.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||1 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
When my grandson was born, I was taken off guard by how powerfully he claimed me as his. He gazed at me, sometimes for long moments, and searched my face, looking deeply into my eyes. When I talked to him, telling him how glad I was that he was here, I seemed to be speaking a language he understood, even though he himself did not have words yet. He took me in. A few months more into his life, he began to smile. When he arrived at our home, he heard the sound of my voice, peered intently until he located me, and burst into a radiant smile when our eyes met. A little later still, he would actually squirm with delight, his legs and arms swinging rapidly against his daddy’s chest, when he saw me. I appreciated that this is what a child—boy or girl—is: wired to connect at the deepest, most enduring levels.
With the birth of my two sons, I saw that even superhero efforts could not protect them from the culture they swam in. I accepted the offer to become the consulting psychologist at a school for boys partly for their sakes. At least, I thought, they would see me stand on behalf of boys. Once on the job, I discovered great interest in boys’ lives both in and outside of the school. I created the program for boys that grew into the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives in response to this need. Over the years, we have expanded the work, conducting research and undertaking advocacy in partnership with global organizations such as the International Boys’ Schools Coalition, Boy Scouts of America, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Promundo, the gender justice organization.
In the course of this work, I have visited schools and communities around the world and heard conversations about boys that are remarkably similar everywhere. Globally, I realize, families, educators, and youth leaders are searching for sounder ideas to guide their care. Despite the culture wars and its backlash, there are cries for clarity and leadership wherever adults work in the trenches with boys—at a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Nairobi, Kenya; a boys’ school in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; a workshop for Catholic school leaders in Dublin, Ireland; and everywhere I travel in Canada and the United States.
As the world has flattened and become more tightly bound by financial and communication ties, the paradigm for being male has become more homogeneous. Globalization has exported the dominant themes of traditional Western boyhood worldwide. Even as its unworkability becomes more and more apparent and many boys are in revolt, these ideas are stubbornly embedded in family norms and the culture of institutions. It will require concerted effort, a campaign, to uproot them. For my grandson’s sake, for a boyhood he can inhabit with an open heart, I write in hopes that parents and others who care will join together in common resistance.
What would a Campaign for Boys’ Lives look like? First, it would uphold the fundamental worth and integrity of boys. Bringing together researchers, thought leaders, policy makers, and activists, it would paint a grounded picture of boys’ actual experience—distinct from stereotyped and clichéd images—and view their lives through an ethical lens. The campaign would seek not only to interrupt the unconscionable sacrifices imposed upon boys but also to promote sounder, healthier, and ultimately more effective practices in schools, families, and communities. The goal is that boys—boys of all kinds—flourish. A just society cannot permit systematic developmental losses by any group. It is critical that boys—and the men that they become—find our warmest understanding and proudest embrace.
There are inspiring innovations well under way. In Great Britain, the Healthy Minds experiment has been so successful that it has strained resources. Nearly a million people a year have been attracted by the offer of free mental health counseling, and, overall, the number of adults in England who have recently received services has increased from one in four to one in three. The program has gone a long way to erode the stigma of talking about problems in a nation culturally steeped in stoicism. Begun in 2008 from collaboration between a psychologist and an economist, initial funding allowed the program to set up thirty-five clinics across the country. Funding continued to grow to a current budget of $500 million, which will double over the next few years.
In Australia, as in other parts of the world, concern about suicide has become focused on men’s difficulties asking for help when they are troubled. Three-quarters of suicides are male, and suicide rates there have reached new highs. A “national suicide emergency” has been declared. In response, a new campaign, Our Toughest Challenge Yet, has been launched by the crisis support organization Lifeline, to promote men’s asking for help as an act of courage. For younger men, a Father’s Campaign has also been devised by the Headspace project of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, encouraging fathers not to leave observations they make about their son’s mental health unspoken and to intervene if they notice that he has become overwhelmed.
The World Health Organization produced a summary of effective approaches to men and boys. To successfully engage them, programs must “enhance boys’ and men’s lives.” Promundo works from that principle to develop research-based programs, including Program H for young men aged fifteen to twenty-four. Launched in 2002 and now in twenty-five countries, the curriculum encourages young men to reflect on how rigid norms affect them. Program H, renamed Manhood 2.0 in its US version, has been identified as a best practice in promoting gender equality and preventing gender-based violence by the World Bank and the World Health Organization, and has been cited by UNICEF and the United Nations for its demonstrated effectiveness.
In families, classrooms, on athletic fields, and in communities, those in charge of boyhood have daily opportunities to make a difference for boys. Boys clamor to be themselves and reliably take advantage of every opportunity that is offered. What has slowed the project of human liberation is not some deficiency of male nature, nor is it boys’ appetite for privilege at the expense of others. What converts a naturally empathic boy to a hard, emotionally distant, and selfish individual is denying him the connections he needs to stay human and accountable. Holding boys in relationships where they are known and loved is the best way to build good men.