Monday, February 1, 2016

Wild Things

Wild Things: the art of nurturing boys, Stephen James and David Thomas

I love it when friends recommend books, I get my hands on something I know others have already liked and find out about books I might not have otherwise found.   This book on nurturing boys is exactly that – a little treasure waiting to be discovered.

I seem to return to these types of books every few years, and of course, they are relevant in completely different ways each time.  I will admit there is now a fair amount of joy on my part in skipping over the first 2-3 developmental stages of children in a book (or only skim reading them), knowing we have already passed them by!

Divided into three parts, James & Thomas explore the Way of a Boy, the Mind of a Boy and the Heart of a Boy.

In Part 1: The Way of a Boy they outline their 5 stages of a boy: explorer (age 2-4), lover (5-8), individual (9-12), wanderer (13-17) and warrior (18-22).  All of these made sense, although I could never remember the terms throughout the book and had to keep having to check back to see which stage they were talking about.   I do sometimes wish people would use boring but self explanatory terms (eg, pre-schooler, primary schooler, etc!).  Each chapter deals with the main issues are in that stage, what a boy needs at that stage, and some practical ideas.  So for the teenage years, the key questions they are asking are: Am I loved? and Can I get my own way?  The defining features of this stage are physiological chaos, arrogance, individuation and argumentativeness.  What they need is support through other voices (not just parents), outlets for energy, understanding and boundaries.   Helpful and practical.

Part 2 has 5 chapters dealing with boys’ brains: how they work and their potential strengths and weaknesses, different learning styles and boys within the education system.  This was a helpful section, although I did find myself thinking that not all boys would fit into the scenarios mentioned here and some people might take issue with the gender stereotypes portrayed.  Although realistically most parents of boys and girls are rarely surprised that such stereotypes exist – they see them lived out on a daily basis.

I thought Part 3 was the strongest: the Heart of a Boy.  Idea on how to know your son, draw him out, how to engage with his dreams, help him with his ambivalence and help him to answer the big questions he will ask:  Do I matter?  Do I have what it takes?  Can I really be a man?  There were very good chapters on the role of a mother and a father, and how each have crucial parts to play, which were followed with the importance of marking key moments and rites of passage, something we recently did in our family. 

All in all, a very helpful book for those who parent sons or care for boys.   I was encouraged, given good ideas and things to work on.  That makes a parenting book a winner in my opinion!

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