Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Book Review: Raising Cain

In being responsive to our October survey, I am posting a book review for Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.  I read this last February for a book club with some friends who have been reading parenting books.

It was a pretty sobering book:  the premise is that boys aren't receiving the "emotional literacy" to respond to the situations and changes that they face throughout boyhood - instead they often resort to stoicism or solitude.  The topics of sex, alcoholism, depression, suicide, and violence, for this mother-of-a-four-year-old-boy were a bit alarming.  I definitely became more self-aware and probably self-conscious of everyday interactions with my boy...  maybe even paranoid.  Unlike the other books I've read, Raising Cain didn't include a "how to" or guidance to prevent such horrible outcomes that were presented as case studies... until the very last chapter.  I am so glad I stuck with it, but WOW.  The book could have been more instructive throughout.  At least to prevent some hyperventilating.

The following is a great, quick book review from BookBrowse:  http://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/index.cfm/book_number/188/raising-cain

For my matter-of-fact "Cliff Notes", I found the following chapters most helpful/enlightening:

  • Introduction - The authors give you a sneak peak at why they felt this book was important to write, so it gives some good context.
  • Chapter 1: The road not taken: turning boys away from their inner life.  - Here the authors make the case for boys' "emotional illiteracy" - the inability to express emotion without resorting to anger or withdrawal.  This is very interesting stuff, and it may make you see the world in a whole new light.
  • Chapter 2: Thorns among Roses: The struggle of young boys in early education.  - Here is the case that the early education is slanted against boys and boy behavior!  So, you moms of young preschool and early-education sons will find this fascinating and a little disturbing. 
  • Chapter 4: The culture of cruelty.  This focuses a lot on bullying and pressures specifically that boys face.  Again, very eye-opening.
  • Chapters 5 & 6:  Fathers and Sons, Mothers and Sons.  These two chapters explain the importance of male and female role models, and how they provide distinct and critical functions.
  • Chapter 12: What Boys Need.  AT LAST!  I read the entire book to get to this chapter.  Up until this point of the book, I kept thinking, what do I do???  So if you are really anxious, read this chapter.  
I'm over-simplifying, of course.  But what are book reviews for?  If anyone has unique concerns about discipline, anger, solitude, depression, romance, I would definitely advise consulting those chapters - and the whole book for that matter.  I admit that as a mom of a four-year old boy (at the time I read it), I was looking for a softer read about general boy behavior.  This book sure packs a punch.  And I'm glad it did.

One last thought I will leave about Raising Cain:  It encourages us to always give our sons a safe place to express emotion.  Expect and embrace the exuberance and activity that boys exude and then celebrate it!  For me, that provided a sense of relief and a nod that it's going to be okay.  (I was pregnant with boy#2 at the time I read this, and that's what I needed to know).

Has anyone else read this?  p.s.There's also a PBS documentary about Raising Cain, which after reading the book, I didn't think I had the stomach for - did anyone see it?

Thoughts to share?

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