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News flash - boys are different!
Raising Boys - Steve Biddulph
Member Name: broxi3781
Raising Boys - Steve Biddulph
Date: 20/05/10, updated on 01/03/13 (55 review reads)
Advantages: A book to help parents treasure all the differences that make boys boys
Disadvantages: Very few,
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.
Summary: Sheds real insight on raising happy healthy boys, while being a good enjoyable read at the same time
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