Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Raising Real Men

The day I received an email from Melanie and Hal Young was probably like any other day with 3 young boys. Except that the commonplace falls, bumps and bruises of this particular day necessitated our first ER visit (I know, not too bad in 9 combined years of little boyhood).

"Would you be interested in a review copy of Raising Real Men?" They asked.

Still shaking from our first ER visit, I laughed at reading the subtitle, Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys, (at the moment, I'd have taken one out of three) and answered an emphatic, "Yes!" while internally squeaking, "Help!"

And I'm glad I did. Raising Real Men is an enjoyable read. Free from fad/pop psychology theories, this book encourages parents to help boys become men as God (not modern culture) intended with substantial scriptural (NKJV) basis.

With a great sense of humor, the Young's (who have 6 boys and 2 girls) point out the myriad ways that the innate characteristics of young boys (boundless energy, destructiveness, risk-taking, etc.), properly developed and trained rather than stripped away, can lead to strong, responsible, faithful leaders. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of role models and heroes (with Jesus being the ultimate hero) at a time when society's portrayal of men seems to be either feminized or power-hungry.

Sometimes life with boys is pretty overwhelming and the temptation to just get through the day is very appealing. The Young's encourage parents to fight against this writing, "Our focus must be on leading our sons into godly manhood, not just trying to manage them to make our lives more convenient and pleasant," noting the truth that, "when the boys are quiet, someone better check on them."

Acknowledging that supernatural life is a grace from God, the Young's encourage parents to pursue their own life of prayer (and, I would add, the Sacraments) and relationship with Christ as the best way to draw our children to Our Lord. This example, even in its imperfections, is indispensable.

Our Incrediboys are still quite young, so I don't know yet how we will handle some of the issues tackled in later chapters including money, college and courtship, though I appreciated reading those chapters as well.

There is a great chapter on homeschooling boys packed with tons of practical advice (which also reminds me that I wanted to read Leonard Sax's Boys Adrift). Some ideas are things that we have already figured out on our own...our oldest runs laps in the yard when we sense he's getting antsy. He also does all of his writing work standing up. He just can't sit in a chair (literally, he falls out on a daily basis!). One of several reasons that a traditional classroom would be such a challenge for him and many other boys.

Written from a Christian perspective, there is much good advice, friendly humor and biblical wisdom in this book. Raising Real Men (free shipping on their website) is a real and practical book from real, practical parents who know that life with boys is messy and noisy as well as joyful and inspiring.


Kat said...

Sounds like a great book, Tex, thanks for the review! Do you know if there is a similar book for raising little ladies?

Mary Alice said...

Thanks, Tex. I think it is interesting that they point out our desire to "manage" boys -- I think that video games and TV play a large role in that, because they are a way to get rowdy boys to be quiet and out of our hair for a while, rather than teach them to channel their energy and enthusiasm in productive ways.

I also recommend Peg Tyre's The Trouble With Boys for a secular perspective on what goes on with boys who struggle in a traditional classroom environment. Since I had to take my boy out of that environment, the book helped me to understand that HE was not the problem, school was. For parents with boys in school, this book can help you know what to watch out for in the future.

Lastly, I am curious whether anyone has thoughts about boys and fighting. I grew up with two brothers, and I feel like there needs to be a fine but clear line between physical play -- wrestling, tackling -- and beating each other up. Also, because my oldest is so big for his age, I have had to teach him to be careful at physical play with the younger ones. Some argue that this is emasculating, but I think that encouraging correct use of their physical or aggressive nature is an important part of raising boys into men.

For example, the difference between playing bucking bronco (a favorite here), in which people do sometimes get hurt, but also have a lot of fun, and hitting someone because they took your toy.

There is lots to be said about the role of sports, but I will just add that I have found it is very important to have my homeschooled oldest boy in competitive sports so that he has had a chance to LOSE. One problem with being the oldest in a homeschool environment is that you are also the biggest and best at everything, and you can get a false sense of your own competence, and not learn to deal with losing.

Right Said Red said...

Thanks for the review Tex. I will put this one on the "to read" list.

Melissa said...

While I agree that boys are different from girls and that they should be encouraged in the qualities that make them a man, I worry that books like this (having read some of them in the past) create a one-size-fits-all mold for "Godly" boys. Boys shouldn't be pressured to enjoy sports if they have no interest, just to "be a man". And they shouldn't be discouraged if they show some interest in cooking because its not "manly" enough. I think that Mary Alice brings up good points too, violence should never be dismissed as "boys will be boys".

texas mommy said...

Young Mom, I appreciate your point. I perhaps wasn't thorough enough in going over some of the finer points of the book, but I think the authors and myself agree with you. A shy, sensitive, artsy boy in no way is contrary to being Godly. We have one boys that would probably keep on going if he lost a limb and a very sensitive one that needed a bandaid today because he had a minor (invisible) scrape.

Having read, I think, a lot of parenting books over the last year as we try to sort out our eldest son's sensory issues, I think that that there is a androgyny to many parenting books that does not take into account specifically innate boy qualities. Maybe it's just because I have all boys and the homes of my friends that have all girls seem radically different.

MA, this book did include a big chunk on fighting, aggression, play, etc and extends it to real weapons for young adults. The authors said their principle of play is to "stay on the side of the angels." We have a similar tactic here and let the boys slay imaginary dragons, big, scary monsters, etc. but not each other. We also have to draw a hard line with wrestling as our oldest is also very big, strong and aggressive. He can wrestle only with Daddy at this point. I also tell ongoing stories about the three knight brothers, J, J and J who, brandishing their weaponry and resourcefulness go around the world helping people by working together. They are silly and not well-crafted, but the boys seem to enjoy them.

On to the "management of boys". This was the point at which I thought this book really was more than a string of cute anecdotes and verses and really cut to the heart of the matter. MA, I think we've shared that our oldest boys have had some similar experiences and not fit in the mold in different ways. The current educational culture seems to demand that anyone not able to fit leave or be medicated (as has been recommended to us) such that they can fit in (*I'm not saying that there are not certain times when medication is a good thing*). I think this "management" avoids the real issue of training and directing certain qualities into virtues. Thank you for the book recommendation, because this is something I'd like to read more about.

Melissa said...

Thanks for the clarification. I may have overreacted a bit to the title, and Doug Wilson's name is on the front of the book, and I think that kind of sent up red flags for me too. :)

Susan E. Coleman said...

This seems interesting. I do find it difficult to raise a boy rather than girl. Fortunately, I still don't have one, making me exempted of
possible errors.

This book will really be helpful for both moms and the boys to be prepared in their future role in the family as the "man of the house"

Queen B said...

Hmmm, what a valuable review. I am so excited to hear your opinion, and I will try to track down this book too. It sounds so valuable.

Bethany said...

Thanks for the review; I'm on the lookout for it.

And it is impressive that you were able to postpone your first trip to the ER for that long. We visited the ER 6 weeks after my oldest (a boy) was born and have been back on average once a year since. (He's almost 9 and I have 3 boys and a girl) Good Luck! :)

texas mommy said...

I think I would be remiss if I didn't add that the best parenting books we have read are by Jim Stenson. He has a good website with a lot of information and his books are printed by Scepter Publishers. I would recommend reading these before Raising Real Men, as I think Stenson's books lay a great foundation for every parent! I think you can get more out of the practical advice the Young's give after reading Stenson's books on character formation and parent leadership. Really, Stenson's books should be their own post!