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Book Review: Growing Great Boys by Ian Grant and Growing Great Girls by Ian and Mary Grant

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Just yesterday there was another story in the news about a teen suicide. Many of my friends and colleagues are struggling with depressed and angry children, and as a parent, I feel that there must be something I can do now while my children are young, to prepare them for the ups and downs of life: to give them resilience, and self-confidence. Despite whatever I might have believed before I had children, as a parent, I’m well aware that boys and girls are innately different. There are different key messages that they need, and different responses that they have to the situations they encounter in life.

Ian and Mary Grant understand these differences, and have geared their books — Growing Great Boys (by Ian Grant) and Growing Great Girls by (Ian and Mary Grant) — accordingly, providing tools and advice for parents of both sexes to ensure that the right messages are getting through in the best way possible. One can at least hope that if we help our children see themselves in the right light, and provide them with the critical tools they need, they will grow up with a resilience that will help them to cope with stress and change.

In Growing Great Boys, Ian Grant looks specifically at the special needs of boys in the twenty first century. Although Grant is a well known parenting expert, the founder of Parents Inc, and author of several books, he writes primarily as parent and grandparent, making his points with compassion and simplicity. He uses his extensive experience and knowledge to provide information for parents on how to validate boys, the differences between girls and boys, the importance of fathers, the value of mothers, parenting without a partner, dealing with preschoolers, middle years, teen years (this is a superb chapter full of insight and guidance that can have a dramatic difference), mastering competence, confidence and initiative, masks and spirituality. The book ends with “Twelve things I want my boys to know” – a useful set of guidelines that could be copied, laminated, and put on your child’s wall as a reminder of what matters in life.

Growing Great Girls has additional input from Ian’s wife Mary. Following a similar format to Growing Great Boys, the book focuses on how to help your daughter be self-reliant and confident, with “inner resilience and outer grace.” There are chapters that look at mapping the future, at dealing with new babies, on what girls need, on developing the all important self-esteem, on the impact of our current culture, on the importance of family, on setting limits, the middle years, the pre-adolescent years, teen years, single parenting, the special role of mothers and fathers, and on raising a strong girl with plenty of character.

Both books are lighthearted and easy to read, avoiding didacticism. In the world of parenting, there are no masters — only apprentices, and the key teachers are our children. The authors recognise that keenly and encourage readers to listen and trust their children to provide the answers. Each chapter contains a “hot tip” with easy and specific advice to try, an “Action Lab” set of practical things you can do, and a summary of the chapter, which is a list that should be revisited regularly (as it’s so easy to forget good theory in the daily chaos and challenge of parenting).

For parents of boys and girls, the two books together form a terrific bible of parenting that will be referred to and re-used again and again. Each of these books provides an excellent guide that looks specifically at the particular needs of each sex, and how to ensure that your child grows up feeling loved, supported, confident in who he or she is, and strong in the face of an often challenging world. Growing Great Boys and Growing Great Girls will give parents a deeper understanding of their children, and a better sense of how to connect, and develop traditions that will last for generations.

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About Magdalena Ball

Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at www.magdalenaball.com.