Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood
Overview | About the Book
What People Are Saying | Order Now at Amazon
Intro | The Myths
How Boys Communicate | Real Boys in School
"While it may seem as if we live in a man's world," reports Pollack, "we do not live in a boy's world." Many boys today are struggling either silently, with low self-esteem and feelings of loneliness and isolation, or publicly, by acting out feelings of emotional and social disconnection through anger and acts of violence against themselves or their friends and families. While academic performance and self-esteem are low, the rates of suicide and depression are on the rise. As the recent tragedies in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Edinboro, Pennsylvania demonstrated, boys today are in crisis--on a national scale. REAL BOYS explains why.
Much has been written about the plight of girls in adolescence--their decreased self-esteem, increased emphasis on appearance, gender bias in the classroom, and the confusion about what it means to be feminine. Boys, Pollack discovered, suffer a similar gender identity crisis even before adolescence. Reasearch shows that male infants are more emotionally expressive than female infants. However, as a boy ages, his emotional expressiveness decreases. Why? Because 'The Boy Code'--society's definition of what it means to be a boy--demands that boys suppress or cover up their emotions. As a result, boys develop a "mask of masculinity" to hide their shame, vulnerability and the other feelings they cannot express publicly. The inability to show true emotions hardens a boy until, ultimately, he loses touch with them. Today's boys, Pollack writes, are "only allowed to lead half their emotional lives."
REAL BOYS examines:
- How raising boys is different from raising girls
- The truth about boys' self-esteem and how to improve it
- Society's double standard of what it means to be masculine
- How to help boys become more confident and expressive men
- The double standard of masculinity
- The empowerment of boys through a close maternal and paternal connection
- How to help boys find their genuine voice
In REAL BOYS, Pollack debunks the three most pervasive and erroneous myths about boys:
|Myth #1: Boys will be boys
"Where there are boys, there is testosterone, and where there is testosterone there is aggression, and where there is aggression, there is violence, or at least its potential."
|Most people believe that testosterone controls a boy's behavior. The truth is that while it may determine patterns of behavior, it does not determine a boy's behavior. Boys are as much products of nurture as they are of nature.
|Myth #2: Boys should be boys
Boys must fit the gender stereotype or "gender straitjacket" society has for them--tough, dominant, "macho".
|There are many ways to be masculine. Sensitivity, a close maternal attachment and activities that are not traditionally masculine are natural and do not make a boy any less manly in adulthood.
|Myth #3: Boys are toxic
The belief that boys are "psychologically unaware, emotionally unsocialized creatures."
|Boys are just as caring as girls. They may have different patterns of behavior and learn and communicate through action, but they are as capable of being sensitive and empathic as girls are.
How Boys Communicate
As Pollack debunks the myths that boys are less empathic and loving than girls, he exposes the patterns of behavior and emotional responses that are specific to them. While girls communicate verbally, boys express their emotions through actions rather than words, seeking attachment indirectly through activities or play. By understanding the pattern of how boys deal with emotional pain or a blow to self-esteem, parents can, Pollack writes, understand how and when to talk to adolescent boys about their problems. For example, a boy in pain will initially retreat, want to be silent and alone, acting out what Pollack calls the Timed Silence Syndrome. Recognizing the moment when a boy wants to talk is critical, Pollack says, because unlike with girls, it may be a parent's one opportunity to find out what is wrong.
In REAL BOYS, Pollack gives much needed advice to parents including:
- How to recognize signs of loneliness isolation and disconnection in your son
- The Timed Silence Syndrome: How boys communicate differently than girls
- How to handle problems with drugs, alcohol, depression, violence and divorce
- How to speak to a boy and discipline a boy in ways that do not involve shaming him
- How to recognize when a boy is ready to talk about his problems
- How to talk to boys about sex and sexuality
- How to make sports a positive experience for boys
- How to get boys to talk about their friends and social life
Real Boys in School
In REAL BOYS, Pollack goes into the classroom to demonstrate how boys and girls learn differently and reveals that many schools are ill-suited to the educational and behavioral needs of today's boys. The self-esteem of young male students in incredibly fragile, even more so than that of girls. There are "different tempos" of learning between the genders - many girls prefer to learn by watching or listening, boys prefer to learn by doing. Many classrooms are not geared toward the way boys learn and as a result, a boy will act up due to boredom or restlessness and then be labeled as having a behavoiral problem, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or hyperactivity. "Many school systems," Pollack argues, "to a large extent have 'pathologized what is simply normal for boys.'" Among the issues discussed in REAL BOYS are:
- The gender gap in academic performance
- The pros and cons of single-sex education
- How many schools are failing our boys
- Boys' specific educational needs and learning styles
Through case studies, research and the voices of real boys, REAL BOYS explains the emotional, psychological, and physical needs and desires of today's boys and reveals how parents and teachers can work together to better understand them.