Book Review: Wild Things, The Art of Nurturing Boys

I have discovered the joys of a Kindle. First off, there are a slew of free books available and I’ve found several that I’ve gotten and enjoyed.

And, with amazon prime, you can ‘borrow’ books! For free! Woot!

Recently, I borrowed the book “Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys”. I generally enjoy the books that talk about relationships or psychology or sociology or some such. And my desire to read about parenting was began about 2 years ago, and my desire to read about parenting boys has peeked recently. Peanut is a handful these days. He’s not quite walking, but he is cruising with confidence and is amazing mobile. More than once, he’s dashed out the garage door and he’s halfway out the garage before I can catch him. He loves to be outside and pine at the back door looking out the window for 10 to 20 minutes at a time several times a day. A a girl, who only has a sister, boys baffle me. I’ve learned a great deal from Hubby, but his memories of being a 1 year old boy is vague.

So, after reading “Bringing up Boys” a second time, when I saw this book, I thought ‘go for it’.

I’ve really enjoyed the book. The authors have some good things to say that resonate with stuff I’ve read before. They are fans of “Wild at Heart” which is about what true masculinity is, and this book is about parenting your boy so that he is comfortable and confident in his masculinity and you maintain your sanity while doing so. Though the book isn’t specifically written to just moms or dads, several times they address the single mom directly.

My first frustration with the book hit when they defined the first stage of being a boy, the ‘explorer’, as ages 2 to 4 (or so). Well, I thought, what about the pre-2 year old!?! That is my primary frustration with most books these days… their parenting strategies don’t start till the child is 18 months to 2 years old. The one book I have that addresses the pre-2 year old is “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”, and they only say “teach the child that he is under authority”. Okay, makes sense, sounds good… how? Yes, yes, I understand that you can’t give specific instructions like “at 9 months your child will…” because kids don’t work that way. But to hear “we did [this] with our kids and we saw [this]’ would be really nice. Come on folks, lets get down and dirty when talking about disciplining and parenting.

Okay, back to this book.

It is split into 3 parts with an appendix called “Hot topics”. Part 1 is about the stages of development a boy goes through as he grows up. Part 2 is about what a boy’s mind is like, and part 3 is about a boy’s heart. Unfortunately, these author’s also conflate the mind and the brain, but that is such a common error, that I wonder if its worth really taking notice of.

The ‘hot topics’ are various specific topics that parents will, perhaps, deal with as their son grows. For example, spanking, screen time, sensitive boys, competition, ADD, emotional literacy, and several others.

Now, my opinions… First, I appreciated getting a glimpse of how a boy’s focus and tendencies will change as they get old (part 1). As they talked about the age 2 to 5 year, the explorer, I could see some of how Peanut is.  And it was enlightening to see a bit of where Peanut is heading — development wise.

Much of what they said in part 2, about a boy’s mind/brain, I’ve heard before. I don’t think there was anything new in that section.

Part 3 was particularly interesting. The author’s discussed specific ways of interacting with a boy that will nurture his heart and ways of interacting that won’t.  The example that stuck with me was one where a boy is 15 minutes late. Dad has been waiting in the car for those 15 minutes. When boy comes out, Dad proceeds to berate the boy, “Do you realize you are 15 minutes late? I’ve been sitting in the car, waiting for you. Do you realize that your coach is also waiting? What will he think?” Don’t spar with the boy, says the authors. Instead have him suffer natural consequences. Perhaps he doesn’t go. Maybe he owes the coach or Dad time. Maybe this is the first time, so he just needs a warning “when you are more than 5 minutes late, you aren’t going to go”. I know my tendency would be to lecture. I must break that. ‘use only a few words’ say the authors. Goodness, I am a woman of many words, that’s not going to be easy.

I also enjoyed several of the ‘hot topics’.  Specifically, ‘screen time’, ‘masturbation’, ‘ADD and ADHD’, and ’emotional literacy’. I thought they had some good thoughts and got me thinking more about each topic. I know a fair bit about the first 3 topics, and I thought they presented the material in an effective manner. I’d never thought about emotional literacy as something to be learned (even though Hubby and I have talked about learning to use the f-word — feelings), so I learned a lot about teaching emotional literacy and the value for doing so.

One reviewer on amazon said something about “wish I’d know it was a religious book”. In part 3, the authors discuss giving your son something bigger than himself to believe in. Other than God, I’m not sure what would be, and the authors make the assumption that you, the reader does believe in God (of some sort, at least). But I’m not sure how that makes it a religious book. Well, I can guess.

I don’t know if I want to buy the book. Haven’t decided if its worth it. But, if you can get it at the library, I think its worth a read if you are one who likes to read these kinds of things. If you generally don’t like such books, it might just drive you crazy.