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Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  3,405 Ratings  ·  421 Reviews
The stunning success of Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher's landmark book, showed a true and pressing need to address the emotional lives of girls. Now, finally, here is the book that answers our equally timely and critical need to understand our boys.

In Raising Cain, Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., and Michael Thompson, Ph.D., two of the country's leading child psychologists, share what
ebook, 320 pages
Published August 5th 2009 by Ballantine Books (first published April 4th 1999)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 29, 2009 Roy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Roy by: New Albany-Plain local schhols
I have three boys, so I bought this book several years ago and it sat around. Recently my school disctrict decided to have an open discussion based on this book, so I decided to read it.

This is a depressing and dangerous book. The authors are psychologists who have worked with boys/men, but I truly believe they lost touch with the fact that their patients were troubled people. The conclusions that are drawn are based on the worst examples, and they offer no suggestions about how to solve what th
May 22, 2009 Heidi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a woman raising a son in a 2-mom household, I have found myself very focused on what it means to be a boy in our culture. I consider myself lucky to have a hand in raising a son to be a fine man, while also scared sh*tless about all the ways that it can go wrong. Raising Cain has been an eye-opening read, albeit certainly not a comforting one. This is certainly not a how-to manual (which the authors clearly state in the preface that they don't intend to be), and much more of a why-we-have-to ...more
The authors of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys describe a society our boys are growing up in that is cruel and suppressive, imposing impossible expectations of masculinity. Boys are encouraged to compete ruthlessly, to remain unaware of their inner lives, and to avoid any expression or behavior that smacks of the feminine. Fathers, being emotionally illiterate themselves, are disconnected from their boys; mothers are a bit more involved but at a loss for how to deal with thei ...more
Nov 09, 2009 Deron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I discovered that I was going to be the father of not just one boy, but two I started to scratch around at the "boys in our culture" books that seem to have become a popular genre in the last ten years. I knew going into that it wasn't just my parenting that I was curious about but if these lens would give me insight into my own childhood and ideas about what composes a "good" man.
The basic argument of the book is that our culture teaches boys to ignore their emotional lives and "toughen" u
Oct 24, 2010 Lois rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one non-fiction book that I have read cover to cover, and that is really rare for me. I have been seeking a book that might help me understand my son better and how to help him grow-up to be an emotionally, psychologically healthy man. I finally found a good one, after LOTS of lemons.

This authors of this book are psychologists who bring many years of experience to this topic. They are also talented writers who are able to convey vast amounts of psychological knowledge in easy to underst
Nov 12, 2009 Cheri rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Filled with case studies of troubled boys, this book really had me questioning how boys grow up to be anything but emotion suppressing violent drug/alcohol abusers.

The author/psychologists blame a culture of cruelty and parents/caregivers that "toughen up" boys at a young age, teaching them to ignore their emotions. Heavy handed in laying out the "boy problem," they do little to offer solutions to combat this emotional illiteracy.

Read it for the frank discussion of adolescent boys sexuality an
Beth Quittman
May 19, 2010 Beth Quittman rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing. From the rave reviews I was hoping for more. But instead of constructive preventative suggestions, as the title indicates, what I found was a series of case studies of unhappy boys, an analysis of their problems, and a description of how their problems were fixed by therapy with the authors. That's not particularly helpful or relevant to a parent as opposed to a professional therapist.
As a teacher and a parent, I have found this book extremely helpful in understanding boys.
Jul 18, 2011 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay, so I am obsessed with parenting books. (Could be worse, right?) Anyway, I end up reading a lot of books about parenting in general, and a lot of books about parenting girls, but I've never read one about boys. So, maybe it's because this is the first one I've read, but I adored this book. TONS of excellent things to remember when parenting boys. I felt like this was the boy version of "Queen Bees and Wannabes", which I also loved.
A lot of this stuff, especially about middle school and how
Jun 19, 2010 Alexis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think it was good, but not really for me personally. As a high school teacher, then an academic in education and now as a mother of boys, there was nothing in the book particularly "new" to me. My husband (and, may father) are not typically (or, "stereotypically") masculine men in the way the book describes and both are very able to discuss, respond to, and convey emotions. My husband is very active in our children's lives and embraces easily and comfortably roles that have traditionally been ...more
Aug 13, 2013 Avery rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must-read for fathers, educators, and mothers. It shows unequivocally how our educational system (and to a certain extent, our culture) is structured in a way that will stunt the emotional development of boys.

Upon recommendation of a friend, I spent a surprisingly introspective weekend reading this book. In it, I saw not only my youth, but the childhood of other men I've known, and I came away from this book with much greater insight about myself.

The anecdotal style of the book so
Sherry Elmer
I found this book in my church library, and as I was reading it, I wished everyone who worked with children would read it. I feel like boys are often treated as second class citizens, so to speak. Having worked with 5th and 6th grade boys last year, I came to love the hearts buried in those gruff, active exteriors, and I appreciate the insight this book provided.
Aug 13, 2015 Hanah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting
This is exactly the kind of parenting book I learn the most from. It's not a set of prescriptions for how to treat your kids. Instead, it's a broad but also deep overview of (a portion of) the landscape of child development. Reading this, my eyes were opened time after time to situations, dilemmas, causes, and effects that I was only dimly aware of before. I feel far more prepared to guide my sons through their childhood after reading it.

The authors have a keen understanding of what behavior is
Apr 25, 2010 Abby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Parents
Recommended to Abby by: Teacher
In today’s society, boys are supposed to be tough. They learn to never show their feelings, and they can be aggressive. Parents find them hard to talk to; friends can be a bad influence. Teachers punish them differently than the girls. All these aspects are part of a growing generation of boys who cannot show the world what they want or how they feel. Teasing and lashing out from peers teaches one boy he can gain power from being hurtful, and teaches another not to be emotional in public. The bo ...more
“What do boys need that they’re not getting?” In a compelling success, Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson effectively tackle the toughest issues facing adolescent boys today: identity, self-expression, and “emotional intelligence.” In their book, the two psychologists candidly discuss the ways in which society has systematically suppressed the emotional needs of boys and compressed masculinity into stereotypical ideals, impossible for any boy to meet. By using specific case studies from their comb ...more
Jan 11, 2014 Jes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, highly useful and readable guide to the inner-workings of boys' minds, emotions, and how society's/peers/family's expectations of them (ironically, both too high and too low) affect their ability to manage tough emotions, relationships, life beyond young childhood. Filled with relatable, thought-provoking real-life examples of boys' struggles in these areas, why they happen, how they can be avoided and how they can be helped. And perhaps just as interesting and useful, a very good bas ...more
Deniss Rutseikov Ojastu
“On the one hand, we expect boys to do things they’re developmentally not ready to do, and to be tough ‘little men’ when they’re really just little boys who need goodbye hugs and affection. On the other hand, when they behave in cruel and thoughtless ways, we say, ‘Oh, boys will be boys.’ We let them off the hook over issues of respect and consideration for others.”

I really enjoyed this book. It is written by two psychologists with PhD who practised counselling of troubled boys for many years. I
Nov 27, 2015 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this when I was pregnant with my 2nd son. It gave me a couple of things to think about, but mostly, the perspective of the authors is skewered by being counsellors to troubled boys. They seemed to conclude that the problems these boys were having represented all boys and that the functional kids just weren't confessing.

Now that I'm the mother of 4 boys (and a girl) I think the authors' viewpoint is even less useful. There are so few things you can generalize about when individual children
This was an interesting book. It has been criticized in some reviews for focusing mostly on the stories of very troubled boys and not giving readers concrete steps to take to avoid that often heartbreaking fate. I think this book as many compelling and helpful insights that parents and educators can use, even if it doesn't give a concrete road map or dialog prompts for all of them. I was often brought to tears by some of the stories and explanations I read, and having lived through some of this ...more
Dec 18, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Andrea
Speaking as someone with a background in gender studies/anthro, nothing in this book was terribly new, and although some of the generalizations were annoying and simply not true (boys are more easily aroused than girls, eh?), for the most part they managed to stay pretty well planted in the constructionist mindset. I'm not a parent, so it seems funny to recommend it to them, but - I'd definitely recommend it to parents, teachers, or anyone working with boys. I already told my mom to check it out ...more
Feb 28, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic book written with such compassion. I want to give a copy to every educator my boys come into contact with. One of the great underlying philosophies of this book is that everyone has an innate desire to be better than what they are, or that their behavior does not reflect who they are but is rather a symptom with an underlying cause. If we approach every disciplinary situation with understanding, rather than shame, we won't miss that valuable learning opportunity and our boys will fee ...more
Jonathan Peto
Oct 03, 2010 Jonathan Peto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Apparently, my emotional life as a boy was not under as much pressure as it could have been. There is a lot to think about here, and most of it rang true. Some reviews expected more prescriptions. That surprised me. The book describes a lot of things. With that knowledge, comes the power to make your own prescriptions.

The book has already helped me put myself in my son's shoes. If there is a problem in the future and a prescription I devise doesn't work, I can use the knowledge in the book to co
Meghan Pinson
Feb 05, 2017 Meghan Pinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoughtful, informed examination and exploration of the emotional lives of boys that encourages more of the same.
Jul 20, 2008 Gloria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is one that I pick up every once and a while to skim; it is a good reminder in the throes of parenting, of what to bear in mind. Having two boys and realizing that I myself stopped understanding boys at the age of eight (or in my lingo, "I stopped being a boy around 8"), I find the reminders of the general trends in adolescence helpful, in particular.

It gets a three-star rating because I'm not sure it is a "keeper" by my definition (my space is very limited); probably one to check out
Dawnella Adams
Not what I expected this book to be. Recently read a review that pointed out that the majority of this book focuses on the experiences of troubled boys. That finally clicked for me, as to why the book wasn't what I was really looking for. I did enjoy reading the final 17 pages with the seven points to raise a boy. Wish I had found those sooner. Glad I didn't give up on the book before I read them.
I think it's important that this book exists, but I'm not necessarily the intended audience. I didn't really need to read long sections on how it's not appropriate to hit your son and how it's important to remember that boys have feelings too. I thought the chapter on father/son relationships was really powerful. But overall, I didn't learn as much as I was hoping to learn. There were a lot of cautionary tales without enough concrete, helpful suggestions.
Sep 25, 2008 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look into the testosterone fueled culture that young boys are faced with. I really enjoyed it, not for my children's sake (obviously) but for the sake of the teenage boys that I work with. I had not realized all of the emotional baggage that comes with being tough and a manly.
Aug 20, 2012 Kristin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this instruction manual on boys, at least through the early years. I admit that with 5 year olds, I skipped the whole teenage years...but will keep the book on the shelf until later. I rarely read these guides but this one was readable and is very actionable.
Kara Mehrman
A few chapters really spoke to me as a mother and a teacher. I can say that it challenged some of my practices and provided anecdotes for me to reflect upon that I hope leads to growth. I thought it was a bit verbose at times and I skipped some chapters that I felt didn't suit my needs.
Mar 07, 2009 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a woman, makes you wonder how the normal men you know ever survived their teen years. I am hoping it's overblown because if it's not, it's way too depressing. Lots of case studies and then didn't feel like that much in terms of advice for parents at the end. Felt let down at the end.
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Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., a member of the Harvard University faculty for over fifteen years, teaches child psychology and conducts research in child development. A leading clinical and research psychologist specializing in behavioral problems in children and adolescents, Dr. Kindlon has focused on the diagnosis and treatment of emotional issues, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders in o ...more
More about Dan Kindlon...

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“The most important thing to remember, the guiding principle, is to try to keep your son's self esteem intact while he is in school. That is the real risk to his success and to his mental health. Once he's out of school, the world will be different. He'll find a niche where the fact that he can't spell well or didn't read until he was eight, won't matter. But if he starts to hate himself because he isn't good at schoolwork, he'll fall into a hole that he'll be digging himself out of for the rest of his life.” 8 likes
“He must also be willing to fight. Even if you have never fought,” 1 likes
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