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Monday September 16, 2013 MYT 6:00:00 AM
Thursday August 1, 2013 MYT 3:14:33 PM
by maizura abas
When you visit the parenting section of a bookstore, you will see that there are more books dedicated to raising boys than girls. If you have a boy at home and I suspect that you do hence your interest in this review, you will immediately understand why there is a need for these books.
In the preface to Raising Boys, Steve Biddulph spells the reason for this rather bluntly. Boys are at risk, he asserts. They are “three times more likely to die before the age of 21, and five times more likely to have problems at school.”
It sounds shocking but it is definitely not an exaggeration. Speak to most parents or teachers of boys and ask them if they are anxious about the future of their boys and I believe that most of them will tell you that they are.
I really wish I had read this book earlier, when my son was much younger. Perhaps then, I would have been better prepared to parent a boy and know what to expect.
Biddulph explains in the first half of this book what it is about boys that makes them “special”. They have testosterone surges right after birth, at the age of four and which peaks at 14. Testosterone causes them to be more energetic, restless and boisterous. This is the reason they must have strong guidelines and more structure in their lives.
There is a whole chapter on how boys’ and girls’ brains differ. Basically, boys have a slower rate of brain development and have fewer connections from the language half to the sensory half of the brain. Therefore, a boy’s brain may not be so organised for language and reading. This is why it is important for parents to spend time talking to boys, explaining things every chance they get and reading to them from an early age.
Because of boys' brain composition, Biddulph recommends that boys start school a year later (he is of course referring to the Australian school system where children start school at five) so that they will be more ready for school when their fine motor skills have improved and they can then be on par with the girls. He claims that at that age, “boys’ brains are an astonishing six to 12 months less developed than girls' ”.
In this book, he points out that there are three stages of boyhood. It is important to be aware of these stages and ensure that the right adult plays a pivotal role in each of these stages.
- From birth to six, a boy belongs to his mother.
It is his mother who becomes his first model for love and intimacy. Biddulph posits that it is better for boys to be cared for by their parents or a close relative and not be sent to daycare until the age of three. This view has clearly not gone down well with many readers (evident from Internet reviews).
- From six to 14, a boy is learning to be a male and takes his lead mostly from his father.
Biddulph reiterates throughout the book how important it is for a father to shower love and be involved in his son’s life. It is the father’s responsibility to model correct behaviours and attitudes about being male and how to respect women.
Biddulph even goes so far as to say that if you (the father) routinely work a 55 or 60-hour week, including commute times, you just won’t cut it as a dad. He also proposes that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) could in some cases be the result of a child being “underfathered” or lacking the attention of his own father.
- From 14 onwards, a boy is becoming a man but he needs to take his cues from other male adults or mentors, not from his father anymore.
I don’t know how crucial this is in ensuring a boy’s successful development but I find this idea most alarming. If this is indeed true, where and how do we then find mentors of the right calibre in this day and age from the community for our boys? The Australians however have upon Biddulph’s recommendation, I believe, set up two “rites of passage” programmes (one school-based and the other a camp) to help boys at this stage on their journey into manhood.
Overall, I would say that reading this book has provided me with many insights into the workings of a boy’s mind as well as their behaviour and motivations. This book is a quick read once you get through the slightly tedious initial chapters on brain development and testosterone. After that, the book takes off in a chatty and lighthearted way.
The format of the book makes it very accessible. There are anecdotes, letters Biddulph has received on this subject (being a renowned psychologist with a special interest in boys and their education) and findings to break up the “serious” writing. I could have easily gone right to the chapters that concerned me most (those on “Mothers and sons” and “A revolution in schooling”) and still understood the gist and main messages of the book.
I seriously doubt that this is the most comprehensive book on parenting boys out there as it is only 210 pages long and most of the topics are not covered in great depth or detail but it’s a great starting point.
Steve Biddulph provides enough ideas and instils hope in the pages that as parents or teachers, you can make a difference in the lives of your boys, if you are willing to spend the time and make the effort.
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book, review, parenting, family, Raising Boys, Steve Biddulph, boys, sons
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