Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys
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In Raising Cain, Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., and Michael Thompson, Ph.D., two of the country's leading child psychologists, share what they have learned in more than thirty-five years of combined experience working with boys and their families. They reveal a nation of boys who are hurting--sad, afraid, angry, and silent. Kindlon and Thompson set out to answer this basic, crucial question: What do boys need that they're not getting? They illuminate the forces that threaten our boys, teaching them to believe that "cool" equals macho strength and stoicism. Cutting through outdated theories of "mother blame," "boy biology," and "testosterone," the authors shed light on the destructive emotional training our boys receive--the emotional miseducation of boys.
Kindlon and Thompson make a compelling case that emotional literacy is the most valuable gift we can offer our sons, urging parents to recognize the price boys pay when we hold them to an impossible standard of manhood. They identify the social and emotional challenges that boys encounter in school and show how parents can help boys cultivate emotional awareness and empathy--giving them the vital connections and support they need to navigate the social pressures of youth.
S. Mednick (New York: Plenum Press, 1997), 271–91, 274. See also J. Archer, “The Influence of Testosterone on Human Aggression,” British Journal of Psychology 82 (1991): 1–28. Archer writes, “Although it has been established in a wide range of vertebrate groups that testosterone facilitates aggression, there is little or no conclusive evidence for primates” (3). And further, “Experimental studies of mice and pigeons have also shown that the animal’s previous experience of fights can override
running laps or punching a hole through the wall—isn’t enough. It discharges the energy around the feeling but not the feeling itself. It lets off steam but doesn’t turn off the burner under this emotional pressure cooker. When school is not a good fit for a boy, when his normal expressions of energy and action routinely meet with negative responses from teachers and classmates, he stews in feelings of failure—feelings of sadness, shame, and anger, which can be very hard to detect beneath that
feeling and responds herself with hurt or anger, the misread cues are compounded and the synchrony of their relationship suffers. The Transition of Touch Almost every mother notices, at some point, that her son shies away from overt displays of physical affection between them. And almost every mother reports that, at some point, she feels uncomfortable hugging, kissing, or caressing her son as she once did routinely when he was younger. Mothers and sons experience this transition quite
boys,” but as his attitude grew uglier, they didn’t like it and over the years had come down increasingly hard on him. Keith’s note to his friends that day was a cry for help, and when his emotional pain was ignored, he lived with it until the day he felt he couldn’t live with it anymore. It took a suicide attempt for him to get his parents’ attention, to bring into the open the painful secret that had ravaged him emotionally for some of the most formative years of his adolescence. Even boys
smoked pot all the time compared to other kids at school, about Elissa and why he was attracted to someone so young. Eric was really working hard at thinking about these things. I watched him debate himself. He would take one position on an issue and then rebut himself. He would, for example, say that he knew pot was hurting his schoolwork, but then he’d say that he thought it made him more creative. Back and forth. An honest look at himself, then a retreat. Then back for more truth. This went on