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Boys Adrift - A book recommendation for mothers of boys

While discussing parenting with a mom of 6 boys, she mentioned the book Boys Adrift and recommended I read it. I immediately put it on hold at our library. To be honest, boys are so much different than girls and sometimes I can't believe we're even related.

I am still so unbelievably grateful for the many times I have read Bringing up Boys by James Dobson. I read it when I first learned I was carrying a boy and have read it twice since. It opened my eyes to a whole new side of boys I never knew existed and helped me understand why I didn't understand them. It's proven invaluable to me as I've taught my son to read and have been helping him to find his place in this world.

It helps me to know what's normal and how his needs differ from my daughter's and mine. But
Boys Adrift brought up a whole new world of concerns.

The book focuses on the (5) five major factors leading to our culture of unmotivated and underachieving men. I've noticed it in many of the men I know (remember a certain leech that moved into our home for 2 months last year - Grrrr, don't even get me started!) as well as the beginnings of trouble in my own son.

It's an excellent read and very eye opening. Some of the factors were familiar to me, like the impact of video games and environmental toxins. It reinforced for me the importance of making sure our family is eating (and living) as healthy as possible.

But the book also described issues around drive and motivation that are unique to males. Things I didn't really think about before. Amazingly, I also learned a lot about raising my daughter from this book. You can't really effect a generation of boys without effecting a generation of girls, and vice versa.

For example, the book discusses self esteem and learning abilities in girls and boys. After reading the book, I remembered how and why I was really good at math in school. Hopefully you can use this story in encouraging your sons and daughters.

I was an average math student up until the 3rd grade when fractions threw me for a loop. I couldn't figure them out and I stumbled through a few weeks before we got to adding and subtracting fractions. Because I didn't understand the basics, I was completely lost and I finally went to my parents for help.

My mom didn't know how to explain the system and rules for adding/subtracting fractions, so she did something else with me. She cooked with me. She explained what 1/2 and 1/4 looked like. What they meant. When I finally understood that, I could rationalize in my mind what would happen if I took 1/4 out of 1/2 and eventually I figured out "the rules."

But although making it real for me helped me learn the basic math steps, it's not what propelled me to skip a grade in math, and be #1 in all my math courses even throughout the highest levels of Calculus and Quantum Mechanics. No. It was something else.

My mom checked up on my math homework and told me how good I was at math. At first I was skeptical because it was still hard for me. But my mom routinely asked me for help figuring things out. She had me add her taxes. She asked me to figure out budget issues and asked me to cut recipes for her.

For a while I doubted her intelligence, but when I saw that I could do these things and not everyone else could, I started to believe her when she said I was good at math. Then the teacher told me I was good at math. And I became "good at math" for the rest of my life.

According to the book, if you tell a girl that she is good at something, she will be good at it - forever! If you tell her she's bad at something, she will be bad at it - forever. It's not the same for boys. They're driven differently. Take a look for yourself, but my interpretation from the book was that you shouldn't just tell boys they are good at something. You should challenge them and let them show you.

I could tell my son he's a good runner, or I could challenge him to a race and let him strive to beat me. When he beats me (in a hard won race) he will believe he is a good runner.

And there's more - oh, so much more - to be learned from this book. Something I've been ruminating about for quite some time is a quote he mentioned from Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology.

“The foundation of all mental illness is the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering.”

Taken out of context of the chapter, this may not seem entirely relevant. But it's highly relevant in our modern virtual and overprotective society. Children (but especially boys) are being negatively impacted by our instant, virtual, and often unfeeling world. It's prompted me to start reading Last Child in the Woods and I'll share what I discover.

More than ever, boys need to get outside and play. They need goals to attain and a sense of purpose. They need a safe and healthy home to thrive and grow. They need to be treated and taught differently than girls. They need positive male role models. And they need to feel valued. As an independent girl, this last part is hard for me to swallow, but the men in our lives need to know how much they are truly needed.

If you have sons or grandsons, I'd recommend giving this book a read. I'd also recommend Bringing up boys and I'll be the first one to get Bringing up Girls when it finally comes out (April 13, 2010!!) That's where my swagbucks will be going. :)

*This is not a sponsored review. Just my thoughts about an influential book.


  1. I cant wait to read it!! I have three girls :( Thanks for the recommendation!!!!

  2. As I post this, my two younger sons are out playing, soaking in the last of the day's light! Do you think the library would have these books? I'll have to check. I've heard of Dobson's book but never read it. Maybe at a homeschool conference?

  3. My county library has both of these books. I'd check with your library because they most likely have them. I'd highly recommend Bringing up Boys, Boys Adrift, and Last Child in the Woods. Glad your boys are out playing. It's been wonderful here and my kids have almost been living outside. They're having a blast.

    James Dobson also wrote "Dare to Discipline" and "The strong willed child". They overlap a little but both are great reads. I'm sooooo looking forward to "Bringing up Girls".


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