“ Author: Steve Biddulph / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 03 March 2003 / Genre: Health / Subcategory: Advice On Parenting / Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers / Title: Raising Boys / ISBN 13: 9780007153695 / ISBN 10: 0007153695 „
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I picked this book up from my local library after my health visitor suggested it when my son was 3 weeks old.
As the title of the book suggests it's about raising boys and explains why boys are different and how we can help them become happy and well mannered men.
On reading this book I was a little shocked at how blunt and controversial the author Steve Biddulph could be with comments like "If a father routinely works 55-60 hour weeks, you just won't cut it as a Dad".
The book is a very easy read and has some comical pictures and great real life stories/example.
* * * *
Chapter One (What is it with boys?) - Gives an overview on the book and the risks boys face and how we can help.
Chapter Two (The three stages of Boyhood) - Explains stages boys go through *birth - six years, *six - fourteen years, *fourteen - adulthood. It explains the importance of mothers in the early years and fathers in the latter and how to cope if you're a single parent.
Chapter Three (Testosterone) - Explains testosterone and how it changes through the years and how we can learn to notice the signs and help. A little fact I found out from this book: All babies in your womb start out as girls!?!?
Chapter Four (How Boys and Girls Brains are different) Explains the development of the brain and how boys brains develop slower than girls and catch up in later life. How we can help the brain develop
Chapter Five (What Dads can do) - Explains the importance of Fathering and how the mimic fathers activities from respecting women to woodwork.
Chapter Six (Mothers & Sons) - Explains how all babies should be treated the same (love and affection) regardless of sex. How Mothers need to adjust there love approach.
Chapter Seven (Developing a healthy sexuality) - Promotes the benefits of being open about sex
Chapter Eight (A Revolution in Schooling) - This is a chapter all members of staff in schools should read to help improve the development and behaviour of boys.
Chapter Nine (Boys & Sport) - Encourages the involvement of boys into sport to character building and exercise benefits
Chapter Ten (A Community Challenge) - Explains other than family and it benefits for boys to be involved in the community.
"Raising Boys" is a book I would recommend to any parent and child carer. I feel I have gained some tips from this book to assist with me bringing up my baby boy.
I personally found the book very readable and well laid out.
I read this book in 2 days and would be a good reference book so either be prepared to keep getting it out from the library or buy it.
Amazon - £5.60
Some of you may have already grasped this fact, but for quite some time the leading "experts" did everything possible to disprove it, claiming all behavioural differences were cultural. It even went to far as a horribly twisted experiment in which a little boy badly damaged by a controversial new circumcision technique at the time that went too far and basically burned everything off. A psychologist convinced the parents to have the boys surgically castrated - removing the other bits and raised as a girl, claiming the child would be much happier than a boy without a portion of his anatomy. This psychologist became famous, boasting of his great success and claiming this as proof that gender was a myth. This success was nearly every psychology text book around when I was younger.
Sadly this was not quite the truth. While the child seemed happy enough when very young, by puberty he was deeply depressed and suicidal. His parents told him the truth and he immediately changed his name to David and lived as male, however castration can not be undone. When he learned that his case was being claimed as a success he went public in the hopes that it would never be done to another child. Then he committed suicide. Regardless of the amount of effort made to make this child think he was a girl - he could never be happy as something he was not. This is only one case - but it does point to the fact that we are born a certain gender - although in some cases a person may the physical attributes of one gender and the mental attributes of another.
Gender differences are largely explained by hormones,but not just our current hormones. A mother's hormones in pregnancy play a major role as well. The author mentions this with girls. Where the mother had very high level of testosterone during pregnancy, the resulting female offspring had significantly more traits associated as masculine. Although the child's hormones would be the same as other girls after birth, these high levels of testosterone did appear to have a strong affect. The girls preferred boy's toys, boyish clothing, and excelled at sports - in other words the typical tomboy. He does not mentioned that some studies have shown the reverse in boys. Women treated with high levels of female hormones gave birth to boys with more feminine characteristics. At least part of our gender identity is established in teh womb. Please note these characteristics do not refer to sexuality, that is a completely different issue, only to certain behaviours associated with gender.
Biddulph does stress acceptance for all children as they are - not as we wish them to be.
But of course hormonal changes do not just take place in the womb, but throughout life, and Biddulph does discuss how these affect behaviour. Some reference is given to animal studies, but the majority of this book deals with human subjects. This is often anecdotal, he is not citing many detailed scientific studies here, but what this lacks in empirical evidence, it makes up for in common sense and results. Biddulph's suggestion are often so obvious, you can't help but wonder - why haven't more people thought of this.
He makes a very good case for delaying school for boys, so that they would start one year behind girls - or better yet, a flexible scheduling allowing each child to start when they were ready. He points out that boys do not mature as quickly as girls - and I have to pipe in here and say I am so tired of fools saying all they need is discipline to make them mature more quickly. They do not, as a rule, develop language skills as quickly, their motor skills lag far behind girls of the same age, there physical growth is slower as well. If we beat a boy enough will he grow faster? I don't think so. Neither will he be ready to learn to read, write or sit hours at a desk an earlier age. We can not discipline boys into growing at the same rate as girls - we need to accept them as boys and let them grow up in their own time.
He also has some fascinating insight on ADHD, but has really annoyed people by his attitude to this problem, especially in pointing out that it can be reversed without drugs. He has cited one expert questioning whether ADD even exists as a seperate condition, and this is not a popular stance. But if it does exist, as he points out, it just means boys will be a bit more active. He mentions one particular case in which an ADD diagnosis was completely reversed by the father spending more time with his son and speculates that in many cases - it may simply be a need for attention, especially male attention.
I know this isn't a popular opinion, but I have worked with a great number of ADHD kids and although most of them went off their meds on our trips - as I told parents i would hand out tablets but not force anyone to take them, I can say these children all experienced a remission on our trips. they did perfectly well without drugs and had a wonderful time. I also know one father who refused to accept the diagnosis and drug his child, and taught the child to read himself. The child should never have been diagnosed in the 1st place as a child is meant to display symptoms in more than one environment to qualify. The child was most certainly not ADHD, he was calm, quiet, thoughtful and very intelligent. He just ran about at age 4 when he started school. I also know ADHD usually disappears when a child is home educated, so if this condition is physical, and it may be, I believe a very large number of children with this label have been misdiagnosed. I am 100% certain my own boys would have been labeled if they started school at 4 - and another interesting fact is the correlation between ADHD and school starting age. Agree with him or not, he supports his evidence, and I feel he has said something that needed to be said.
But, once we pass the more controversial bits, this becomes very much a common sense parenting manual. Biddulph mentions ways to get more positive results from boys behaviour wise, and I have used some of these, even before reading the book, and they usually do work. he is completely against using violence, and points out that violence begets violence.
He points out the importance of fathers, and also makes clear that just being in the home isn't enough. He has some very valid points about men's rights, and again he is correct. Saying men have rights does not take from women's rights, it adds to them - but how often are men treated as just a paycheck earner with little real input in the family. TV shows make a joke of this with child/ dads like Homer Simpson and Peter Grifith, but how often are men shoved to the side in real life? And if we treat our husbands like useless idiots - what does this tell our sons?
He stresses the importance of Mothers too, but as he feels boys and girls are different, he believes a mother's role and father's are different as well. Of course single parents must make do the best they can, but it is all the more important that a fatherless boy has some good male role models. Again, i can recognise ths from youth work. Many children came from single parent families and I could pick out exactly which ones were missing a father simply by behaviour. Not to say I could pick which ones had divorced parents, but which ones had no father present. The very best thing for these boys is a concerned man or older boy to show them their approval.
He makes a very strong case for mentoring, and suggests families joining forces with other families so that the boys can be exposed to other men. I believe very strongly his assertion that no matter how good a child's parents are - it is very good to have at least one other adult that cares and is always willing to listen.
I like the fact that Biddulph suggest positive ways to work with boys nature rather than against. I like that he really seems to encourage people to care not just about their own, but about all boys. I like Bidduph's very sensitive position on homosexuality as well. He accepts that parents may feel dissapointed - they most likely have dreams of having grandchildren, and many parents feel isolated or shocked. But he also stresses how desperately a child needs to be accepted by their parents as they are - and even more so when the may experience a lack of acceptance in school and society as a whole.
There are a few sections which I do not feel applied to me. I did grow up with brothers and of course I have a husband. I also felt section on how women view men in general would have a major impact on their sons was legitimate, but maybe not as strong as he thinks. I do love my husband dearly, but of course there have been times....... this has never changed my thoughts towards my sons, they are and always will be the light of my life. A woman's past relationships can have a bearing on her treatment towards her sons - but it doesn't have to. We can walk away from an unhappy childhood and take everything that went wrong as something to make sure does not go wrong for our own children.
Sadly while I agree with everything he has written about education, I don't see many schools taking his suggestions on board, but as a home educator, I did find this useful.
The only place I really disagree with Biddulph is on talking about sexuality. Perhaps I am misinterpreting him, but I take it as suggesting we should openly discuss our sex lives in front of our sons, I can assure I most certainly would not want to know about my parents activities , and I strongly suspect that very few men here want to know this about their parents.
I also dislike his section on predicting which boys will be in trouble with the police or involved in drink and drugs by high levels of activity and a lack of fear before age 6. This describes my boys to a T - in fact the lack of fear is starting at times so I really do not like it. But ths still is just an average. Hopefully my sons will put such fearlessness to better use as adults. The same personality traits can have value as well, but I accept that a tendency towards risk taking - which I also suspect is hereditary may lead to greater odds of trouble. I will just hope a strongly developed sense of right and wrong - which my sons do exhibit, and a respect for others will swing the balance. Still, I recognise these energies need to be channeled into positive outlets, and make sure they have ways to let off steam even now.
But whether I agree with Biddulph or not, and I usually do, I have found this book very informative, and I do believe it will leave me better able to cope with situations as they grown , and a better parent for having read this. Considering this, I feel Amazon's price of £6.49 is a real bargain, and the used copies at £3.39 an even better one.
It was with some scepticism that I picked this book up at my local library, but I'd had it (and its partner book, Raising Girls) recommended to me so I thought I'd give it a go.
First off, the introduction. It explains that the book is meant to be read as a whole over a couple of days, rather than religiously followed as an instruction manual. That makes sense to me - every child and every family is different, and nothing eorks for everyone. In fact that was a general theme of the book which I liked; take what works for you and discrad the rest.
There are three main themes to the book as a whole: biological differences between boys and girls, and the effect of testosterone, the stages of boyhood and how boys are generally, and overall good parenting tips.
Firstly, biological differences. There were quite a few interesting points made, none of which seemed particularly relevant to practical parenting. Rats behave in a certain way if their children are treated with testosterone, and then the child rats respond to that treatment. That's nice, but it's hard to see why it's relelvant to me.
Secondly, descriptions of boyhood. My ten year old son just doesn't follow the pattern at all. Maybe if I knew more boys that did, this part woould have made more sense to me, but as it was, it was the weakest bit to me, and could easily have been cut. Sadly, I think this was what the author intended as the main part. There were some interesting stories about real life boys and men, but that's all they were - anecdotes.
Thirdly, general parenting tips. Did you know we kiss and cuddle boys less, and hit them more and harder? Maybe we should treat boys more like girls. That's the gist of it. This was fairly standard stuff about improving self-esteem and thinking about the needs of the child rather than everyone else. Quite nicely written, but the same as every other book.
In general, I was pleasantly surprised, but the book seemed to consist of three seperate strands which didn't really come together well, and what I liked about it is in a lot of other books, too.
When a woman becomes pregnant, most of her friends and family and sometimes even complete strangers suddenly develop oracle virtues.
This happened to me as well; everyone started making "tests" one me to see whether I would have a boy or a girl. Different cultures (and I have friends from all over the place) tend to have different ways of divining whether you are carrying a child of the male or female sex. If your tummy is too high, it's a boy, if you twist your hand like this, it's a girl, if you become ugly (only the mother will dare admit this), it's a girl (apparently, they steal your beauty - if you have one), if you want to eat sweets, it's a boy
I felt it would be a boy, but didn't trust my instincts at first. I wanted it to be a boy, for as little as I understood about men, I felt even more confusion towards women, I did not like the way I was brought up as a girl/ woman and feared I may pass this on to my daughter (if a daughter it was). Of course I was going to love the child whatever his sex, but I was terrorised either way (about not messing up his or her upbringing).
Then when I was 5 months pregnant, I was told it would be a boy, and felt relieved that I would not have to traumatise another little baby girl.
My son was born and I fell in love with him instantly.
Before he was born, I had read as many books about bringing up children as I could get my hands on, not worrying about the child's sex.
And then I became a lone parent and the father of my son was away for long periods of time because of work. I was pretty much alone with my little boy. Until he was two, his dad had been around pretty much all of the time and was great with him. Masculine presence made him feel good.
But then he started talking and asking questions and doing the things that little boys do and I was never sure whether he was harming himself or not (the things boys do to their penises is frightening sometimes). My reasoning was: if it makes him laugh, or at least doesn't make him cry, it cannot be harmful!
I soon began to worry that I did not have the proper knowledge about boys' physical development to start with, and even less about their emotional and personal development. So I started looking for books and talking to a couple of male friends I trusted about this.
When I found "Raising Boys" I bought it instantly (£7.99 from major bookstores, but much less from e-bay). The fact that it was written by Steve Biddulph made it one of my first choices amongst the other books I saw.
Steve Biddulph is renowned for the books he wrote on bringing up children: "The Secret of Happy Children" and "More Secrets of Happy Children", which I do recommend.
I like the way he writes, as he is funny and not patronising in any way, as some American authors tend to be. I find most of his advice "naturally wise" and he always thinks of both the parent and the child.
"Raising Boys" is a great help to any parent (mother or father) bringing up a boy and clearly states that boys are different, but in a very good sense, and that being aware of this difference from an early age, will help a parent not to put a stigma on their sons because of behaviours which are partly driven by a physical change in them.
The role of testosterone is well explained, and every parent should be aware of the changes this causes in little boys. Testosterone is a hormone which is already present in newborn baby boys at a high level. This decreases after birth and then increases again around the age of 4 to 5, which is when boys suddenly become even more energetic than they have ever been. It is a normal stage of development and this energy that overflows needs to be channelled into something positive. Boys like to play fight and rough and tumble and rather violent games, in comparison to girls, who, for the most part, prefer quieter games. But understanding the role of this hormone is vital
Its level gradually goes down after a couple of years, depending on each individual, and at around the age of 13 or so, it jumps up again to a very high level, which is normally when puberty strikes and all boys' sexual awareness wakes up and rocks their world altogether. If I talked rather much about this issue, it is because I feel it has a major influence on boys' development and well being, and ought to be taken into consideration by parents. Many parents are not aware of it and think that there is something wrong with their child, when he is just growing up normally and needs encouragement and proper guidance, as opposed to nagging and putting down and being made to feel like a freak. There is nothing wrong with having energy, there is a reason and a purpose for it.
However, Biddulph explores many other areas, and divides the stages of boyhood into three:
- From birth until the age of six: When the boy "primarily belongs to this mother" to use Biddulph's own words. It is a time when the mother's presence is most essential, which does not mean that the role of the father is useless or needless at this stage, simply that this is the age at which boys tend to be more attached to their mothers and learn to form a strong bond with her.
- From six to thirteen: At this stage, boys have already clearly understood the difference between the sexes and aware that they are boys, have an urge to learn more about what it means to be a man. This is the age when fathers are turned into their son's heroes and play a vital part in their lives. Their presence during this stage cannot be undermined and Biddulph stresses the importance of fathers and this chapter another dedicated to sons and dads, but more on this later.
- From thirteen onwards: This is when boys wish to "declare their independence" and will look more towards influences outside the home. It must be emphasized though, that the role of both parents remains extremely important throughout this period, as indeed throughout the entire boy's development, and Biddulph does make this clear. However, the boy's testosterone level having increased by almost 800% at this stage, his sexual drive becomes an essential part of his life, coupled with his desire to become a "real man" and all the things that come with puberty. It is a time when he will look for role models, and it is important that he has good role models to follow. The parents need to learn to give the boy freedom, while remaining "in control" of him, being understanding and ready to listen at all times. This is the hardest stage of development, as a lot of internal turmoil goes on inside the boy (the same is true for girls!).
As mentioned above, a whole chapter is dedicated to "What Dads can do", and the importance of fathers in boys' life. The effect that the absence of a father can have on a young boy is part of the subject, and there is even advice for lone mothers as to how to deal with this issue.
Likewise, a whole chapter is dedicated to "Mothers and Sons" and enlightens us on the importance of the mother in her son's life. She is the one who teaches her boy how to love, her attitude towards him will greatly influence his attitude towards girls (as indeed the father's way of treating women will!) and his self esteem. A loving mother who does not put her son down and criticise him too much will enhance his development. And the opposite is true, an overpowering mother who patronises her son too much and never seems to be satisfied by anything he does, is likely to create a man with very little confidence in himself and certainly a sad and unhappy one.
One of the chapters is called "Developing a Healthy Sexuality" and I think the title explains itself. Basically it explains, in simple and funny terms, that the sexual development of a boy should not be taken lightly. The role of masturbation is talked about at length, and Biddulph goes to some trouble to convince parents that this is definitely a normal and essential part of a boy's growth and that treating this as a capital offence is certain to create all kinds of sexual problems for him in the future, and at the worst, could create a sex maniac.
Tenderness between a man a woman is something that must be taught, and this is part of this chapter as well.
The role of pornography is also on the menu of this chapter.
"A Revolution in Schooling" is the next chapter. This is a long chapter which explains, amongst many other things, why boys should be made to start school later than girls, as their fine-motor skills develop slower than girls' and instead of being given encouragement, they are often thought of as lazy or not trying hard enough.
Advice is given as to the things that could be done in schools, to target boys' weak areas and allow them to spend their energy in a positive and productive way, as opposed to reprimanding them for having too much of it.
The same chapter explores the role of males in the schoolroom and why communities and societies in general should do all they can to ensure that there are more men teaching and actively involved with children throughout their scholar education. This is very important for boys, but it also is for girls.
Behaviour problems and learning difficulties are also talked about in this chapter, as is the role of parents in helping their sons at school.
Finally, the last two chapters are about the role that sports can take in a boy's life and that of the community the boy lives in.
Not only is sport a perfect way of channelling his energy into something he will enjoy and look forward to, but he will also lean comradeship and be surrounded by other boys/men like him. A good coach is essential as he will be looked upon as role model, and a too aggressive and demeaning one might put a boy off sports for life.
Beware too much competition and a lack of good sports spirit. The bad side of sport is also looked at.
The community in which a boy lives is in a sense, his lifeline. As he grows up and is away from home more and more often, it is important that his community supports him and sees him as a good part of it. Having friends and adults he can turn to for help and support outside his direct family is of great consequence.
"Raising Boys" is definitely a book I would recommend to any parent, to mothers and fathers alike. It has helped me quite a lot with my son and I often refer back to it.
Being someone who sincerely believes that the best way of bringing up a child is to have some common sense, to follow one's instincts and more than anything, to use a lot of love and affection and not to consider the child as a "property", I still feel that some guidance is sometimes necessary, be it only to reassert our initial beliefs.
Often, the things we read about bringing up children are things we are already aware of and believe in. Sometimes though, the constant worries of the material world we live in and the stresses of daily life can make us forget our dearest values and turn us into monsters, this is when we need all the help we can get, a wake-up call; the proper book can make a difference.
Before I end this review however, I cannot help but end it with one of the most beautiful guidance on child rearing I have ever read. Whether you have a boy or a girl, or no children yet, this is worth memorising:
"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His
might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."
The words belong to "The Prophet" of Gibran Khalil Gibran.
Rarely have I read a book as quickly as this one, but rarely has a book been so easy to access. Steve Biddulph doesn’t mess about with fancy words, he writes in a very conversational way that is easy to read. As the title suggests, it is a book about raising boys, and Steve goes to great lengths to describe why boys are different to girls - and I must admit to recognising some of my own traits from when I was younger. Taking this as a starting point he then describes the stages that boys go through when they grow up and what they are looking for in parents and peers. One point that comes through clearly is that many problems relating to boys (violence, sexual deviance, etc) are caused to a great extent by “underfathering”. This means the absence of a positive father figure in the boy’s life. Boys also need rules and need to know that they will be enforced – in fact much of the advice is common sense, but yet it’s not immediately obvious to us! He is particularly sensitive on the area of smacking children, and the potential problems that can bring. Whilst the book is aimed much more at fathers, most of it is relevant to mothers too and there is a chapter devoted to the mother/son relationship. The main text only takes up about two-thirds of the book and it is interspersed with “Tales from the heart” (stories from contributors), practical examples, and plenty of pictures to illustrate certain points. This does help to break up the book and make it easy to read, and it also helps to have different angles on the same subject. Steve Biddulph has a bit of a reputation as a spokesperson for the new “sensitive and masculine” man after his book “Manhood” and this book reinforces that positive image. Fathers and mothers need to really get involved with their sons, actually understand them, and make a difference in their lives. P
arenting is incredibly hard and no one is going to bring up a boy perfectly. Reading this book will, however, give you confidence that the problems you are facing are not uncommon and can be solved. I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who has a son or is about to have one. It’s never too early or late to make a difference.
I never really thought about whether I wanted boys or girls before I had children. ‘As long as they’re healthy…….’, I thought, like countless parents before me. If pressed on the subject I would probably have retorted that the idea of ‘gender behaviour’ is largely cultural and that any children I had would certainly not be stereotypical ‘girlies’ or ‘lads’. I had two boys and nowadays I look back at that childless person and think ‘What on earth did she know?’. Conor and Kieran, like many small boys, have an obsessional interest in all things militaria, if clothes aren’t of combat pattern they won’t wear them, their imaginary games together are all about being snipers or redcoats or cavalry and we have the largest collection of toy tanks in the known universe (well, it feels like it). All this is to the consternation and embarrassment of me, their mother, a dyed-in-the-wool peacenik. On the day when, as toy guns were banned at home, they stole two pork chops from my mother-in-law’s fridge to use as props in some war game or other I finally admitted defeat. Boys are DIFFERENT! I went straight out and bought a copy of ‘Raising Boys’ by Steve Biddulph, an Australian family therapist. This book has sold thousands of copies and has excited much comment but is famous for saying that boys ARE different from girls and the parenting approach should differ for children of each sex. The book is organised into easy to digest chapters dealing with various issues involved in child-rearing; school, sports, values, sex education (very frank) and there is a good summary at the end of each. Biddulph contends that boys are genetically and physiologically different from girls and that in order to bring them up successfully this must always be borne in mind. His aim is to help parents produce ‘more good men’, that is, thos
e who have qualities of kindness, understanding and tolerance, and who are happy and confident. Every parent’s dream, I know, but he does have an interesting and fresh perspective. The book centres around five essential recommendations; spending quantity (not quality) time with your son, play rough and tumble games together teaching both care and control, open expression of feelings and emotions, teaching and showing respect for others, especially women, and, last but not least, making him help with the housework. This is nothing revolutionary but it all makes sense. I’m still not sure whether boys are so very different from girls as a consequence of a few physical differences, or because of unconscious stereotyping from their parents and the world around them. However, Steve Biddulph’s book was an interesting and informative read and did make me think twice about how to deal with my own children. I would particularly recommend it for single parents especially mothers. Don’t expect miracles though, I’ve just returned from a shopping trip to kit Conor out with essentials for the new school term – top of the list was an ‘Action Man’ pencil box and a green camouflage lunch box!
I found this book very interesting and helpful to help me understand my three boys. As a single mum with no brothers, I have often wondered why boys are so different to girls in many ways. This book has helped me to understand why my boys are not interested in pencil and paper activitetes, reading etc and why they are always on the go. Hopefully it will in some way help to guide me on what to do and or say to help them whilst they are growing up