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Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood Paperback – May 10, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

What are little boys made of? In Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood author and psychologist William Pollack presents his findings from almost 20 years of clinical work and his recently completed study examining contemporary boyhood and the ways boys manifest their social and emotional disconnection through anger and violence. There's a code of boy behavior, Pollack says--an unspoken "boy code" that teaches boys how to act and demands that they cover up their emotions. But the author submits that boys are lonely, they are loyal, they are depressed, they struggle with self-esteem issues, they are at risk, they need to be understood, and they need to be listened to. Boys can be empathetic and sensitive, Pollack stresses, as he effectively and convincingly disabuses readers of a number of myths: that testosterone controls a boy's behavior; that boys should fit into a gender stereotype of masculinity; and that boys are toxic, "psychologically unaware, emotionally unsocialized creatures."

Real Boys presents more than the problems of modern boyhood, it also provides advice and assistance--ways for parents to talk with their sons, read their moods and emotions, and help them become confident, empowered men with genuine voices of their own. --Ericka Lutz --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a lucidly written primer for parents, Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor Pollack dismantles what he terms "the Boy Code"?society's image of boys as tough, cool, rambunctious and obsessed with sports, cars and sex. These stereotypes, he argues, thwart creativity and originality in boys. Linking clinical insights to practical suggestions, Pollack advises caregivers how to help boys repair their fragile self-esteem, develop empathy and explore their sensitive sides. Drawing on his clinical experience as well as an ongoing Harvard research project, he offers advice on "attention deficit disorder"? which, he maintains, is often a misdiagnosis for normal high-energy behavior? recognizing signs of depression, discouraging violence and helping boys cope with their parents' divorce. In discussing homosexuality, he notes that many of the assumptions of the psychiatric profession have been shown to be incorrect, such as that homosexuality was abnormal, a psychological disorder. Pollack's glorification of sports as an arena for self-transformation and emotional openness is counterbalanced by his recognition that athletics often encourages brutal competitiveness. His proposal that schools adopt curricula "on traditionally 'male' and 'female' topics" to spark separately the interests of boys and girls seems at odds with his own imperative to break through gender stereotypes. On balance, though, his manual is enlightening and stimulating. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Owl Books; 1 edition (April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805061835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805061833
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

154 of 165 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
There have been a number of complaints about this book ranging from thoughtful to narrow-minded and ridiculuous. Among the top three criticisms are: (1) it is based on vague "research" by the author (2) it is repetitive, and (my favorite) (3) it suggests that parents raise boys as effeminate or as "girls".
First of all, many of the people who reviewed this book complained that it was written in a clinical jargon, that at times, made it unavailable to the casual reader. In the same breath, these readers demand that scientific citations be presented every time Pollack begins a sentence with "My research shows". In essence, they are demanding scientific text devoid of scientific terminology. It's in the back, look it up. Furthermore, Pollack is a Ph.d in Psychology, and as such, probably does his research empirically. It is unlikely that he would publish phony results for all of his scientific peers to see and criticize if such results had no grounding in reality or even a kernel of truth to them.
I also feel that Pollack's seemigly repetitive writing style was a necessary ingredient in this book. He is not merely cudgeling us with case study after case study to make us cry, or to fill 400 pages. Rather, he is emphasizing the fact that the problems discussed in the text are problems for a great many boys and not just a few isolated incidences. A few depressed individuals is not news; an epidemic is. He is suggesting an epidemic.
Some individuals also stated that this book is based on common sense, such as don't call your son a "sissy" etc. If it is common sense, why is it still a problem?
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By S. Runge on April 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
I was a boy once. Now I'm a dad. My childhood wasn't even so bad: my father was present, never violent, washed dishes and cooked... a man ahead of his time, I suppose. But I assumed at the age of eighteen that I had no emotional life: a lacuna I thought a virtue.

Having now lived as a man for 20 years, I can attest that the "boy code" of emotional silence about which Pollack writes has hobbled my adult life; it is only because my wife is endlessly patient and forgiving that I am at all whole. She's allowed me to explore a more complex approach to emotional awareness and expression than "happy" "ok," and 'ballistic," which is what many men are stuck with.

When I read this book I found myself exclaiming out loud, "He's right! He's so right!" every other page. Pollack is the first author I've ever read to describe life as a boy accurately. It has changed how I am raising my son in many ways, the most important of which is to help him learn a full range of emotional expression.

Every man should read this book. You will be moved to tears, in recognition of the ways you have been boxed into your helplessness about emotional comprehension and expression, and you will be able to get on and grow. And if you're a father of a boy, you will change how you are raising him.
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89 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Nana Annie on August 1, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having been blessed with all sons (ages 8 to 32), I've been able to see some of the external conflicts and internal workings as my babies grew into young men. This book supports what I've always suspected - boys are just as needy of nurturing (from both parents) as girls - perhaps more so, since to be emotionally needy and male in America is too often interpreted as a weakness.
During the 70's, I sometimes found it difficult to listen to the angry cries of my feminist sisters (and yes, I think women's minds are of equal value to men's) who too often seem to be accusing men of just being born 'bad,' rather than being formed and influenced by the actions and reactions of people, culture, environment.
We women expect our men (sons, husbands, friends and lovers) to be strong, yet sensitive. Their peers often expect them to be 'a man' - strong, not 'a wuss.' Trapped in a double-bind, most men respond to the heavy peer pressure, and turn off most of their emotions.
When a son hits adolescence, with the body and voice of a grown man, we often think that means he is a man, and should act like one. Without defining clearly what that is (for there are often contradictions), just when they need us most, we set them free in a world that is confusing, demanding, and frightening. (And if you find your self thinking there's nothing wrong with that, since that's what being a man means, I beg you to read this book!)
Little boys are expected to move away from their mother by five or six (to not do so means they'll have 'problems' later in life). When a young boy smacks a friend, we might just throw up our hands and say "boys will be boys." Worse, when an elementary school boy kisses a girl he likes, he may be accused of sexual harrassment.
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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Welsh on August 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a book about the pervase, institutionalized child abuse that turns innocent boys with open hearts into shut-down, terrorized creatures of constant shame. It explains beautifully how it is possible that sweet-hearted children, who happen to be male, can grow up into numb dehumanized men, out of touch with affection. It provides one very plausible explanation why so many of our young men are depressed, violent, or substance-addicted. Even if a boy is never raped, hit, or otherwise physically abused, it is possible for him to suffer corrosive abuse that threatens his mental health. Indeed, it is happening right now in millions of homes and schools in North America.
The abuse Pollack describes is something we are all tacitly agreeing to impose on our boys and men. It is something we can change, one boy at a time. But doing so requires a new critical view of mainstream norms of masculinity, and the development of awareness of extremely subtle symptoms of emotionally troubled boys. Pollack provides all of this and much more.
If you are raising or helping to raise boys, and if you have a clue what it means to have an open heart, and to embrace the full gamut of emotional experience and expression, you need to read this book. You will need the framework it provides for raising boys into open-hearted, strong-hearted men with as much familiarity with love, joy, sorrow, and fear as they have with rage and dirty jokes.
You will also need courage, dedication, and willingness to be seen as the local lunatic who allows his son to cry.
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