Skylar Burris's Reviews > Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons

Boys Should Be Boys by Meg Meeker
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Sep 02, 2009

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bookshelves: parenting
Read in December, 2008

Much of this book involved stating the obvious, and her heavily anecdotal style, which involves introducing every point with a long story about a particular child who may or may not have anything in common with my child, grew tedious. However, the advice seemed fairly solid. I think it would have been helpful to have more specific and detailed advice on raising boys and interesting to have more evidence along the lines of research and statistics (rather than primarily anecdotes).

Her advice seems true enough and is fairly typical: limit television and internet time; don't put too much pressure on your boys to excel; spend lots of time with your boys; encourage your boys to avoid early or casual sexual activity, which has emotional/psychological costs (she links the modern rise in depression in youth in part to growing performance pressure and increased early, uncommitted, and/or promiscuous sexual behavior); forbid overly violent video games and movies; however, do not discourage war play.

The most interesting part of the book for me was to see an explication of this last point, and I wish she had spent more time on it. I have always felt instinctively the difference between the two categories (graphic violent images and imaginative war play), and have viewed war play as healthy based on my own experiences and those of others. I had not seen, however, a succinct, direct, and easy-to-follow psychological/sociological argument for the benefits of war play. All boys, the author insists, play at war if they are "allowed" to. Most parents can probably attest to the truth of this claim, but why should they be "allowed" to? Because "as part of their internal moral order, boys know that evil exists. They know that they themselves can have ugly feelings and do bad things. Therefore, every good parent must provide a means for the boy to deal with the problem of evil and not simply ignore it." She notes that religious instruction is one way to address this need, and she is a strong proponent of religious instruction for boys. But, she says, "playing at war is another" way to help boys cope with this issue. "With proper moral instruction a boy can become not only a victor over evil but a chivalrous one."

She quotes child psychologist Dr. Bettelheim, arguing that through war play the boy "begins to appreciate a lesson which cannot be taught to him convincingly in a purely didactic fashion: that to fight evil is not enough; one must do so in honor of a higher cause and with knightly valor....This, in turn, will promote self-esteem" and spur the child "to become more civilized."

For boys, playing at war is not a mere violent outpouring or a way to indulge or fuel wrongful aggression, rather "for boys, playing at war is a sort of morality play. Playing at war accomplishes far more in helping a boy resolve good over evil than simply watching a film or playing a videogame that touches on the same themes, because he is a participant; and a participant in the real world of the backyard of the woods or the basement...A boy needs to experience the thrill of victory himself...Playing war...helps a boy grow in confidence and optimism."

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Reading Progress

12/22/2008 page 91

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Sharon (new) - added it

Sharon Cartwright Skylar, your review was really helpful and I may check this one out. Certainly, my current read has left alot to be desired. I appreciated your comments about the reasons children play war and that certainly meshes with my own experience as a child playing cops and robbers. How are you handling the issue of kids "shooting" other people, mommy, friends, etc.? I don't appreciate being shot, but at the same time maybe there's a context where it's appropriate. What do you think?

P.S. This is way more fun than facebook for me. : )

message 2: by Skylar (last edited Sep 04, 2009 03:34PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Skylar Burris Well, they only shoot "bad guys," so they only shoot me (or each other) if I'm (or the kid they shoot) is playing the "bad guy," so I don't really have a problem with it. If they just came up randomly and "shot" me without a role play involve, I'd probably have a discussion about it with them. Shiloh has a refrain, "You can only kill people if they're trying to kill you...or your kids." I guess one or the other of us (or both) said that to her at one time, and she brings it up periodically out of the blue...LOL.

I should add, of course, that because of the presence of firearms in our house, we have believed it necessary to have a lot more conversations about these things probably than some people have had; we've had a lot of talk about the difference between real and pretend, gun safety (including showing them gun safety videos), appropriate and inappropriate uses of violence...stuff maybe a lot of people haven't generally gotten into with their 3 and 5 year olds yet. I think these days a lot of kids get exposed to violence (on TV and in video games, etc.) without a moral context, and that is very problematic.

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