Saturday, April 5, 2008

It's a Boy! Understanding Your Son's Development from Birth to Age 18 by Michael Thompson Ph.D.

I rarely read non-fiction books. And it is even more rare for me to read any type of parenting manual. When my oldest son was about six months old my mom and my husband strongly encouraged me to throw everything parenting book I had out the window. It was too tempting to compare every action of my son's against the book. And more often than not, my son and the model in the book were not comparable. But, after reading an excerpt of Thompson's book in my Parents magazine I was intrigued and wanted to read more.
Unlike most posts, I have not actually read It's a Boy! from cover to cover. But, it isn't that type of book. I have read the relevant chapters to me, and I really like what I have read so far. As my husband mentioned, I like the book because I tend to agree with Thompson's philosophy, but I also think that he has some extremely valid points that are worth elucidating.
Michael Thompson is probably most well-known as the co-author of the book and PSB series Raising Cain, which explores the rise of violence among adolescent boys in America. His new book builds on his previous research. It is apparent that he is staring from the perspective that something has gone wrong in the way that boys are raised today which results in an increase in adolescent violence. Therefore, he is looking for address issues before they become real problems.
Much of what Thompson posits is that boys need to be allowed to be boys. He starts by stating that in fact that are psychologically and biological differences between boys and girls despite much scientific research which has long said that gender is a social construct. He believes that boys are more physical, slower to develop, and more like to use physicality to express themselves. Therefore, boys respond to stimuli differently than girls and need to be allowed to be physical. In one section he highlights the differences between being "aggressive" and being "mean." He also discusses the difficulties that arise for boys in a kindergarten setting because they do not have the cognitive and developmental abilities to sit still for long periods of time. As a result, he states that boys can become antagonistic towards school at an early age which can result in a long-term frustration with the education system.
If nothing else, Thompson made me feel better as a parent of two young boys. He confirmed that boys are more likely to hit, to bite, to run, to use their fists than girls. He also said that while they need to be controlled and disciplined, they do need to be allowed to express themselves in ways that are appropriate for them. After reading the sections on boys between the ages of 2 and 7 (I have yet to read the later chapters which are not yet relevant to me), I feel like I am better equipped to understand my boys. While there are no manuals that answer all the questions that a parent has about her individual child, this book has given me a better understanding of the psyche of a young boy than anything else that I have read.

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