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Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys Paperback – April 4, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 231 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher's groundbreaking book, exposed the toxic environment faced by adolescent girls in our society. Now, from the same publisher, comes Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, which does the same for adolescent boys. Boys suffer from a too-narrow definition of masculinity, the authors assert as they expose and discuss the relationship between vulnerability and developing sexuality, the "culture of cruelty" boys live in, the "tyranny of toughness," the disadvantages of being a boy in elementary school, how boys' emotional lives are squelched, and what we, as a society, can do about all this without turning "boys into girls." "Our premise is that boys will be better off if boys are better understood--and if they are encouraged to become more emotionally literate," the authors assert. As a tool for change, Kindlon and Thompsom present the well-developed "What Boys Need," seven points that reach far beyond the ordinary psychobabble checklist and slogan list. Kindlon (researcher and psychology professor at Harvard and practicing psychotherapist specializing in boys) and Thompson (child psychologist, workshop leader, and staff psychologist of an all-boys school) have created a chilling portrait of male adolescence in America. Through personal stories and theoretical discussion, this well-needed book plumbs the well of sadness, anger, and fear in America's teenage sons. --Ericka Lutz --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A genuine enthusiasm for their subject shines through the pages of this enormously compelling book, as the authors share insights on boys' emotional development from birth through the college yearsAan increasingly high-profile topic in the wake of disheartening statistics about adolescent suicide and violence. In much the same way that Reviving Ophelia offered new models for raising girls, therapists Kindlon and Thompson argue that boys desperately need a new standard of "emotional literacy," showing how our culture's dominant masculine stereotypes shortchange boys and lead them toward emotional isolation. The authors turn a spotlight on the inner lives of boys, debunking preconceptions about gender, explaining the importance of nurturing communication skills and empathy in boys as well as girls, and steering boys toward a manhood of emotional attachment, not stoicism and solitude. They also challenge the ways in which, in their view, traditional school environments put boys at a disadvantage (why not hold off on reading instruction a year or two? they ask; why not five short recesses a day?). Such issues as drinking, drugs and the "culture of cruelty" among adolescents, in which "anything a boy says or does can and will be used against him," also meet with sensitive treatment. Separate chapters examine the relationships between fathers and sons and mothers and sons, and show how these can be protected and redefined. This thoughtful book is recommended for parents, teachers or anyone with a vested interest in raising happy, healthy, emotionally whole young men. Agent, Gail Ross of Lichtman, Trister, Singer and Ross.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (April 4, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345434854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345434852
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (231 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By audrey frances TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
While I think men and the parents of daughters would also benefit from reading this book, I want to emphasize that as a woman and the parent of sons this book has become an invaluable resource for me. The authors made many important points about the male experience that were new to me, or vague, and also gave practical ideas and examples for achieving goals or avoiding conceptual traps.

Kindlon and Thompson begin with the story of Cain, which is immediately disorienting. In a good way. I've always been puzzled about why God was so mad at Cain. I believe the fruit Cain offered was beautiful, so why was it of lesser value? I never thought God was fair to Cain, though admittedly Cain did react badly. So immediately you're in the state of mind to question perceptions about males as well as male perception (and reaction).

I didn't find any intellectual oneupsmanship over which gender's got it worse. Instead I saw: Boys are different, and here's what some of the differences are and why that's so, and how you can deal with that. I feel much better prepared for the many talks I hope I'll have with my children over the years. Important talks that I want to be transformative rather than reactionary or alienating.
This isn't just a book for the parents of adolescent boys, either. The authors make the point many times that giving boys an emotional education is imperative -- teaching them to recognize various emotions as physical cues and with emotional consequences. More importantly, the authors then cite cases from their clinical backgrounds and make down-to-earth suggestions about what to do to catch these problems and help our children.
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A few months ago, I read Reviving Ophelia on the recommendation of my wife (a psychologist) and a friend (a social worker). I was frankly stunned at the insight I gained in reading it. I immediately ordered a copy of my own, and in the process discovered Raising Cain. And just like Reviving Ophelia, I read it completely through. As a man, with strong memories of my adolescence, the book resonates with me. The stories it presents of the adolescent indoctrination into male culture (the "Big Impossible" as it's referred to throughout the book) ring true in a personal way. I "knew" many of the boys that they're referring to and who tell their stories. These were my associates, my classmates, my friends. And the more I read, the more I recalled of that period. Kindlon and Thompson present their story in the same basic structure as Pipher in Reviving Ophelia; as a series of topics that can greatly influence a young man, using vignettes of particular children and their stories to develop understanding and insight. And again, these are powerful vehicles for communication; presenting stories of strength and power in the face of unbelievable adversity. Just as powerful, is the understanding it brings as to how and why a child who's been continually disenfranchised can lash out against others (I find I'm in particular agreement with the authors after having been on the minority end of discussions about school killings such as Colombine). The most important contribution of this book; however, is to those who don't (and can't) understand what male culture can do to shape a child. I'm continually at the receiving end (and mostly the participating end) of jokes about the inability of a man to express a real emotion or feeling.Read more ›
3 Comments 156 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I am a father of two boys and I came across this book by searching on Amazon for books that could help me improve my parenting skills. I love my boys and I consider my parenting as a full time job. I read other readers comments and I did some research before I purchased a couple of books, Raising Cain being one of them. My main motivation in buying these books is derived from the frustration that I experience when I know I fail to understand my son on some issues and also from my worry that I do not understand what is going on in a life of a young man in today's world.

Raising Cain opened my eyes in many aspects. It is written well and it makes no assumptions about the level of knowledge of the reader. It talks about the relationship between the boy and the father and between the boy and the mather, then it talks about general attitude of society on boys with short comparisons with the girls world. The books continues in discussing boys' psychology explaining how their inner world is built, what factors influence it most and consequences of their influence. It talks about drinking, drugs, sex and violence.

There are some very good positive points that I took with me and there are some points that are missing from the book despite the fact that they are quite important.

I can summarise the book by saying that it does a very good job explaining the need of talking to our sons and helping them to see their feelings as a way of diffusing tension, but it fails (in my view) in providing the tools that parent can use in implementing this concept.

The books showed clearly that the lack of fathers' positive involvment in sons education causes a lot of damage in the long term.
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