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Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,485 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Featuring a new preface by the author on how parents can make a difference.

With author appearances on Good Morning America, The Today Show, 20 /20 and NPR's Fresh Air, and featuring articles in Newsweek, Time, and The New York Times, Real Boys is one of the most talked-about and influential books published this year.

Based on William Pollack's groundbreaking research at Har
Paperback, 480 pages
Published May 10th 1999 by Owl Publishing Company (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  1,485 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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Jun 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
Crappy. Seriously, this came highly recommended, but I was totally unimpressed. At the same time as he pushes the obvious (don't tell your son to "act like a man" when he cries, take his feelings seriously, &etc.) the author is also doing whole chapters on the special (and different!) relationships between mothers and sons and fathers and sons. In other words, there's no attempt to repudiate the gender divide, only to ameliorate its negative effects on boys. He's perpetuating the mother/father g ...more
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who knows a boy
I have six brothers and I thought I knew about boys. Nope. I learned a lot. I've heard some complain about this book because boys have had it a lot easier (in terms of not being oppressed in society) than girls. So I'll wield my title as the girl voted biggest feminist in high school when I argue that Pollack makes needed points about boys. All of our kids need help in todays world. Girls and boys.
Apr 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
We are doing a great disservice to our sons with some of the cultural expectations we place on them. This book compassionately explains many of the problems boys face in our society and what we can do to help. I grew up with all sisters and didn't have a lot of experience with boys and men until I married. This book has helped me understand my husband and son better. I especially liked the explanation of active love and how boys and girls express closeness differently at times. I hope it's helpe ...more
Leila T.
Apr 21, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: unfinished
I'm only about a third of the way through this, but I'm finding it such a slog. Last night I picked up "The Tao of Pooh", because I'd left my copy of "Real Boys" downstairs and I couldn't be bothered going to get it, and I was so relieved to read something enjoyable. Not sure whether I'm going to be able to come back to "Real Boys". Because of:

1. It is in serious need of editing: I don't expect a psychologist to be a brilliant writer, but I do expect a published book to be in better shape than t
Feb 20, 2013 marked it as abandoned
I gave this book a fair shake. 100 pages in, and I'm signing out.

Generally speaking, I'm incredibly interested in the broad themes that the author discusses in this book. I'm a feminist and I was a women studies major, and the way that patriarchy binds and silences all of us is an interesting subject to me. Nevertheless, I'm out on this book. Main problems:

1. I really thought that this author would be able to explore these concepts in a new way for me. I'm raising a son, and I appreciate perspec
Kelly Colln
Feb 13, 2008 rated it liked it
I read this book YEARS ago when my son was going into the tween stage. Since we homeschool, I couldn't identify much with what the author said, but....I could really identify with his points from a former public school teacher's perspective. When Columbine first thought was, "I bet those boys were bullied unmercifully growing up." Not condoning what they did, but acknowledging their pain, also. Then this book came out. I thought it had some really good points. I do believe we need ...more
Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Adriana by: Katrina
This was an incredibly thoughtful baby gift, and it's totally fascinating. Basically the thesis is, boys can never be too bonded with both parents, especially mother, contrary to society's stereotypes which promote independence at such an early age as 5 or 6 years old for boys. Also explores how we unknowingly "harden" our little boys to become "little men" leading to all kinds of problems later on. Explores the two (and, with divorce or loss of a parent, sometimes three) traumas of boyhood that ...more
Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Pollack adamantly challenged the idealized tough love, suck up the pain, distant approach to raising boys that has been predominant in the United States for generations. In contrast, Pollack advocated for a new approach to raising boys characterized by compassion, empathy, intimacy, support, and engagement. He offers useful tips, but they must be applied with a artful hand. They seem to be a good step for the development of boys across the country but they are not the silver bullet. Pollack’s wo ...more
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Although parts of this book would now be considered out of date (the chapter about homosexuality comes to mind), I feel this is still an important read for anyone to better understand how society is failing boys & men, with suggestions as to how to provide better support as family members, teachers, and friends. ...more
Ahmed Alumran
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great book with a lot of information. It just needs more practical information for boys of different age groups.
Oct 06, 2008 marked it as gave-up-on  ·  review of another edition
I ended up giving up on this book, mostly because of time issues and it was due back at the library. I may check it out again sometime. It had some good ideas in it and a lot of things I kind of already knew or do anyway. I described it already a little in the comment section. I guess what I took from it was just to be more aware in general of my boys' emotional needs, to try to talk to them more about feelings. One thing mentioned was how even from babyhood when boys are sad or upset we try to ...more
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gender-studies
The forward to this book was written by Mary Pipher and the approach that Pollack too is not dissimilar that that Pipher used in 'Reviving Ophelia'. Oh but Pollack was not as concise as Pipher. I thin he could have made his points in 200 or so fewer pages because he became very repetitive. But I will also admit that reading it in :20 min spurts didn't make it flow any better - but the too when I read more solidly the past few days the last 175 pages was still a slog. The ideas underlying the wor ...more
Jan 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who knows a boy
This is a sort of psychology textbook, along the lines of Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher, except for boys. There are sixteen chapters including the epilogue. The book discusses gender-straightjacketing, shaming a boy into wearing a hardened mask so that we don't know a real boy and what he is truly thinking. It discusses the various things boys need to develop emotionally in a proper way. It discusses how society often confuses boys, telling them to be sensitive and open up, yet at the same tim ...more
Aug 30, 2012 rated it liked it
As the father of two young sons, I was told that I should read this. I think the most memorable thing I take away from it is how times have changed in the 14 years since its initial publication. It assumes that the first day in kindergarten marks the initial separation from a mother and her son and is a traumatic event, whereas preschool is now so ubiquitous as to make this concern either obsolete, or at the least folded into much earlier trauma. It regards stay at home dads as a rare (albeit we ...more
Lisa Butterworth
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brain-books
I decided to read this because my son is having a hard time emotionally right now, and I wanted to better understand the pressures we put on boys in our culture. I really liked this book (other than it being a little repetitive and long winded)and ,it did a great job of putting voice to those niggling worries that there is something off in the way we as a culture treat our boys, and clearly lays out all the pressures boys feel to perform their boyness (he calls it the boy code) in very specific ...more
Andrea Thorpe
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the best parenting books I've read. I was disenchanted by the redundancy in the beginning, but after a couple of chapters it was a wealth of information about boys. Pollack attempts to break down stereotypes surrounding why boys are so "closed off" with emotions, how they get that way, how society perpetrates the problem, and what we can do as parents to counteract it. He tackles important subjects such as the "mask" of masculinity, shame and the trauma of separation from the mother, how ...more
Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
My ex-husbabnd and I decided to wait for birth to know the gender of our child. If I were to have given birth to a girl, I figured I would know how to raise an enlightened daughter. And when I gave birth to a son, I most definately knew I was not prepared.

This book brought up so many good points about the challenges facing boys growing up in the USA. I had no idea of the tests and travails that awaited me in trying to raise a son with a full emotion vocabulary, and the ability to express these
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
I'm of two minds about this book. On the one hand, I agree with the author's contention that we need to stop making boys feel like they should never show any emotion. Having three boys myself, I do understand that emotionally, they are sometimes more sensitive than girls and they should be permitted to work through their feelings with the same freedom we give girls. On the other hand, I felt as if the author wanted us to treat boys *so* carefully that we were almost turning away from normal rela ...more
Chris Gager
Jul 28, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm unlikely to read this whole thing but youneverknow. Right now I'm skipping around and browsing. The generic/cultural failings of my boy-to-man upbringing were doubled down on by the serious dysfunction and chaos of growing up with a father who was low-bottom alcoholic. At the age of 68 I can only look back(and not stare), tell it like it was and try to get better one day at a time.

I've decided that I'm not going back to finish this. There's too much of it and I've got other literary fish to
Jul 20, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a thoughtful book, and I do think it's a wonderful thing that Dr. Pollack is doing in recommending we look at the gender straight-jacketing that boys are suffering. Clearly, we are failing our boys when you look at the statistics. However, it was just a big too wordy and he made the same points over and over. It would have had just as much impact and been more entertaining if it had been more thoroghly edited.
Apr 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: high-school
I re-read this for my first year of college. Boy did it help. It helped me earn my A+ in all three of my Early Childhood Education classes. She even sent me an email asking if I would give her my copy to borrow so she could read it. Along with that email she said I wrote the best Final Essay out of 78 Students. Over half of them were already ECE professionals just taking the class for continued education requirements.
May 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Thoughtful but tends just slightly toward too touchy-feely and too much toward the exceptional cases. About half of the content would relate to the average boy in a two-parent family. It's worth reading once if you parent boys. There are some good points about the inequality in the treatment of boys vs. girls -- girls receive a disproportionate share of the attention and much more leniency in certain matters.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Parts I liked:

P. 39 ~ "I feel as though my only anchor in life is gone" (man describing the loss of his mother).

P. 83 ~ "I don't think I'd be much without her" (Boy talking about his mother).

P. 102 ~ "timed silence syndrome" ~ "A boys first reaction is to retreat and be alone to nurse his hurt".

P. 108-109 ~ "Teach your son about masculinity by talking about the men you love and why you love them" ... "discussing the qualities you admire in these men" ...

"(Don't say) what you don't like abou
Mar 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
I am still in the process of reading. most of the books i read about are the struggle of women and their relationship with men. but, in teaching little boys and watching them strggle to communicate or embarrassed to express themselves, i became curious as to what we are teaching our youth and young men. i know society has certainly done a number on young women.....but what about the boys???
Ashley Wayman
Aug 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
For so long, Doctors have examined the interworkings and complexitites of women in an attempt to describe their behaviors within society. While such documentation has proven to be indightful, "Real Boys" takes a rare (and rather in-depth) inventory into the innate social, phisiological and behavioral dispositions of young men. Very interesting and entirely relevant.
Feb 21, 2015 rated it liked it
I really liked what he had to say about adolescent boys emotions and ways to reach out to them, for both parents and teachers. I think every parent of a son should read this. However, the book was longer than it needed to be, and he overstated his point and stories way too much. Maybe there's an abridged version?
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ian
I learned a lot about boys, which is good since I have two. Another must for parents, educators and those interested by being male or having to deal with those who are.
Renee Reynolds
Oct 13, 2008 rated it liked it
There's so much to this book about dispelling the boy myths. Great information...if only I could get through it.
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A must read for all Mothers of pre-pubescent boys.....
Patrick Cook
A strong candidate for 2.5 stars. Published in 1998, when I myself was a small boy, this book is now *very* dated. It spends a lot of time deconstructing gender stereotypes, but in places seems very stereotyped to today's reader. I'm sure that a book written today would have at least something to say about trans children, and probably would have integrated gay boys more completely into the main volume (instead, they are weirdly isolated in their own chapter). It probably also would have given mo ...more
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