Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Review: Wild Things

I am not usually impressed by parenting books - not any more. I've had too many children and seen too much in life to put any real stock in their advice. But every now and again I come across one that is easy to read in my very limited free time, that seems worth completing and that has some useful words of wisdom. Not only that, but in a house with several hundred books already on the shelves, space is at a premium for books I intend to keep around!

The book Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas is a book I am only about 1/4 of the way finished with and am willing already to recommend it to every parent of boys that I know.

Whether your boy is a toddler or a teen, you are likely to find something of value in this book.

Here is the overview from the back of the book:


A boy's endless imagination, hunger for adventure, and passionate spirit are matched only by his deep desire to be affirmed, esteemed, and loved.

Yet over the past few decades, our culture ahs adopted a model of parenting and educating children that doesn't affirm, celebrate, or embrace a boy's hunger, passion, or wildnes but rather seeks to tame it. As a result, many parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors find themselves frustrated, confused, and wearied by boys' behavior.

The truth is, boys don't need to be tamed -- they need to be understood, loved, challenged, and encouraged.

Wild Things helps parents, teachers, mentors, and others understand and explore the hearts, minds, and ways of boys and the vital role that parents and caregivers play on the journey to manhood.

Based on clinical research and filled with practical tips and suggestions, Wild Things gives fresh insight and much-needed encouragement on the road to raising boys.

The book is split into four parts:
  1. The Way of a Boy
  2. The Mind of a Boy
  3. The Heart of a Boy
  4. Hot Topics
Each of the first three is split into age groups, 2 - 4, 5 - 8, 9 - 12, 13 - 17, 18 - 22. Two of our boys are in the 5 - 8 range and one is in the 9 - 12 range, which I am currently reading. Nine to twelve-year-old boys are described as "The Individual," and parents can expect to see more closed doors, longer showers, and a need to stay ahead of the physiological curve when advising their boys on what to expect.

As one example of "keeping ahead of the curve," the authors tell of a 12 year old who was a patient in their practice. He was miserable because he thought he was dying and didn't know how to tell his parents. Through probing it turned out he thought that his spinal fluid was leaking out at night, every three or four days. No one had told the poor child what a nocturnal emission was and that they are a normal part of the passage to manhood.

Advice in this section is very practical: parents in this age group tend to do x, y, and z; the best way to help them navigate this stage of boyhood is to do p, q, and r. The information is far from dry. The two authors have been in practice as therapists for a number of years and sprinkle real-life examples from their own families (primarily) as well as their former clients throughout the chapters of the book.

These sections include chapters such as:
  • "Sit Still! Pay Attention!"
  • Rituals, Ceremonies and Rights of Passage
  • Different Learning Styles
The fourth section, Hot Topics, discusses issues such as
  • spanking,
  • screen time,
  • boys and money,
  • boys and pornography,
  • single mothers, etc.,
with each topic getting its own chapter.

The book puts emphasis on the fact that as the boy goes through various stages, he will begin to withdraw from his mother and seek more one-on-one time with Dad. In the teen years, the book says, he will still need family, but less likely to admit it and more likely to seek out time with friends. It also emphasizes ways to strengthen family ties throughout each stage.

For all of the advice that is found in the book, each chapter is short and easy to read - and interesting. The book itself is only 336 pages, not including notes, additional resources, and thanks. I bought mine for $15.00 from a local store, but you can always order one online. I have no caveat to offer - I make no money from this endorsement :)

I really hope that you'll look it up - if only to give to a friend when her (or his!) first boy comes along!


  1. Nice review. You echo (or this book echoes) a lot of what I see on the conservative blogs I read; boys and men are both stifled in society now, and discouraged from being what they're supposed to be. This is feminism's effort at gender neutrality. In the south, girls face something similar: they are told "girls don't do that" when they want to be athletic or spirited.

  2. I am really enjoying this book and it's giving me a broader perspective on some of the trials I've encountered with the boys - AND how to deal with them (including P. as he has cried over Zorro all day today.) There seems to be a literary change of the tide going on right now on that front though where writers are trying to reclaim the right to BE a gender and act on the impulses of that gender vs. being neutral. While I don't want to entirely revert to the "stone age" (if that was ever REAL) I find myself welcoming the reversion somewhat as well - it seems... healthier somehow.

  3. Here is a link to the author's blog - they have four or five other books that look interesting too!



I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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