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Book Review: The Way of Boys: Raising Healthy Boys in a Challenging and Complex World by Anthony Rao, Michelle Seaton

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I have two boys. I am not worried about their development — physically, socially, intellectually and emotionally. They are two normal boys making our daily lives a roller coaster of emotions. They laugh, they cry, they throw tantrums and charm us with kisses afterwards. They make me angry. They get angry with me. That’s perfectly normal and my sons are perfectly normal in imperfect ways.

The way I look at my boys — perfectly normal in imperfect ways — doesn’t stop me from appreciating Anthony Rao’s The Way of Boys: Raising Healthy Boys in a Challenging and Complex World. This book attempts to make us understand boys and tries to help in how to deal with them as they are growing up without resorting to diagnose them with disorders as a first recourse when we are confronted with behaviors we cannot solve.

My reading of this book came at a time when I started noticing one of my Firstborn’s friends. I had the strongest feeling that his presence in my son’s life is not healthy to my son’s development. Boys are very competitive, I know. But this particular boy is too competitive for his own good.

He should be the smartest and calls my son the dumbest. I silently observed from a distance when he wanted to attack my son several times because my son won in a game and he lost. He was crying uncontrollably and seething with anger. His mom was clearly embarrassed. And so, every chapter of the book became relevant to me, to my sons, to my sons’ friends and my sons’ future friends (don’t I have a tendency to be a monster mother-in-law?).

Looking at the table of contents, it was easy to be motivated to read on. These are the exciting chapter titles:

Your Problem Is Spelled B-O-Y
Little Girls Aren’t Like This
He Doesn’t Have Any Friends
He’s a Bully
He Won’t Sit Still
He Runs the Household
He Has to Win, or Else
He Wants to Be the Bad Guy
He’s Suddenly Fragile
He Hates School
The Teacher Needs Testing
He Has Already Been Labeled
What Will He Be Like as a Grown Man?

It has always bothered me whenever I hear people say, most often with certainty, that this boy or that boy has ADHD, an OC or is autistic. Before I read this book, I had been taken aback by the arrogance of the certainty of some people’s pronouncements about a certain boy and his behavior. The people who declare their judgment over a certain boy — and labeling them for life — do not have the qualifications to be experts on the subject. And yet, they have inflicted the damage on the boy’s personality by wrongly labeling him.

Rao cautions “making a diagnosis is a serious step and should be thought out carefully.” Noticeably, labels are being thrown around casually. It has become common for people to say of a hyperactive boy he has ADHD without regard to the impact of the words and their lack of qualifications to say so.

Rao’s discussion of boys’ natural tendency to be hyperactive gives parent readers of this book a reassurance that boys shouldn’t be boxed according to how we want them to behave. Let them be free, let them grow naturally. On the other hand, parents of boys on the end of the line should not be too stressed out with their boys’ shyness. Interestingly, even those who are seem to be target of bullying will, at some point, come out of their shell and get tired of being bullied.

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