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Other books by William Pollack:

  In a Time of Fallen Heroes: The Re-Creation of Masculinity -

  New Psychotherapy for Men

  A New Psychology of Men -


With Kathleen Cushman

"Just when we need peace and order, our boys may be creating a ruckus we can't control. Just when they need to be learning most in the classroom, they may stop doing their homework or caring about whether they succeed in school. Bombarded with violent images from mass media, they gravitate toward games and movies that make our hair stand on end...

Are boys somehow hardwired to be this way?
Or are we part of making it happen-and if so, can we change it?"

-Dr. William Pollack

In his ground breaking 1999 bestseller Real Boys, clinical psychologist Dr. William Pollack opened our eyes to the national crisis of boys, revealed their unique emotional, psychological and physical needs and gave parents practical advice about how to raise boys today. In Real Boys' Voices, Pollack let us hear boys speak for themselves, and in their own voices, about everything from violence, school, parents, depression, girls, suicide, sports, sex and spirituality.

Now Dr. Pollack, along with Dr. Kathleen Cushman, has created THE REAL BOYS' WORKBOOK (Villard Books; May 2001; $15.95). This unique, instructive workbook is filled with advice, exercises and stories to help parents, professionals and boys themselves understand boys-and how to make life with them better. Through writing down responses in the workbook, using the charts and summaries, and taking part in the provocative question-and-answer sections, you will gain insight into boys and their problems, understand how your own set of expectations can be damaging to them, and ultimately be better equipped to interact with boys in effective and powerful ways.

Dr. Pollack begins the REAL BOYS WORKBOOK by debunking three widely-believed myths about boys, which he calls the Boy Code:

  • BOYS WILL BE BOYS-We're taught that boys' testosterone levels make them "naturally" more aggressive, when in truth a boy's behavior is shaped more by his loved ones than by nature.
  • BOYS SHOULD BE BOYS-Society expects boys to hide "weak" emotions like fear, hurt or shame behind a stoic mask, and only anger is an acceptable emotion. In fact, there are many diverse and healthy ways to express oneself as a male.
  • BOYS ARE TOXIC-We believe that unless they are kept under strict controls, boys are dangerous to society; actually, boys are empathetic and caring with a strong desire for justice.

By perpetuating these dangerous stereotypes, parents and teachers end up hurting-rather than helping-boys, even when their intentions are good. Dr. Pollack tells parents and teachers that they must free boys from this "gender straitjacket of the Boy Code" and instead must give boys "the freedom to act with boldness and courage, to display their physical and intellectual prowess...and express their full range of emotions and capabilities."

Based on nearly two decades of clinical work, fresh interviews and research as well as Pollack's own clinical studies, Pollack delivers a step-by-step manual for interacting with boys and intervening in dozens of difficult situations. The REAL BOYS WORKBOOK covers everything from younger boys' early expressions of sensitivity, sibling wars, aggressive behavior at school and dealing with death or divorce, to adolescent issues of drugs, sex, sports and violent television and video games. For each subject, Pollack provides written exercises as well as advice on what (and what not) to say. As Pollack writes, "working through this book can help you reflect on your own habitual responses-and perhaps reexamine your beliefs about boys."

For instance, the REAL BOYS WORKBOOK section on bullying includes:

introductory thoughts on bullying, a real life bullying anecdote, a chart of warning signs, specific advice on helping a boy who's been bullied, fill-in-the-blank questions for the parent or teacher, and a checklist of things to work on. Pollack asks tough questions: "Is there anything about your response to a student's aggression different when it's a boy, not a girl, who's involved?" And for teachers or youth workers: "Think of the most disruptive boy in the group you work with. Now write down two or three things you like or appreciate about that student." Pollack's questions force parents and teachers to pay closer and more thoughtful attention not only to boys, but also to how they respond to the boys.

The tragic shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado left the nation confused and afraid about the threat of extreme violence and its connection to boys. Since then, instances of copycat shootings have taken place across America. Never before has it been more urgent that parents and teachers communicate openly with boys; yet in many ways the shootings have made this more difficult. In Real Boys Voices, Pollack analyzed the national legacy of fear-the Columbine Syndrome-that remains. He revealed how the violence has made America afraid of boys, how teachers, parents and students are stereotyping types of boys who may be violent, and how boys themselves are afraid-afraid of being victims of violence, afraid that if they are different, they will be falsely accused of being predisposed to murderous rage and afraid to discuss the real feelings they have inside themselves for fear that they will be considered violent.

The REAL BOYS WORKBOOK offers a practical guide to talking with boys about rage and violence. Pollack addresses the different issues believed to be at the root of these repeated school shootings-isolation, loneliness, the need for attention, confusion over how to express hurt, and violent images in the media. By intervening sooner rather than later, Pollack hopes we can avert future tragedies. He stresses that parents and teachers must be on the lookout for signs of depression and sadness; must neither exalt boys who fight nor ostracize boys who show their vulnerability; and that boys, as angry and aggressive as they may become, are highly unlikely to become dangerous in any way.

America's leading authority on boys, Dr. William Pollack has compiled the definitive guide to understanding boys of all ages. The REAL BOYS WORKBOOK will give parents and teachers the comprehensive advice they need to guide boys successfully through the special challenges they face.


William Pollack, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, is the codirector of the Center for Men at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, and a founding member and Fellow of the Society for Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity of the American Psychological Association. He and his family live in Massachusetts.

Kathleen Cushman, Ed.D. co-authored Schooling for the Real World and Circus Dreams: The Making of a Circus Artist, which won the American Library Association's Notable Book Award.

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