Monday, November 10, 2008

Boys Should Be Boys: A Headmaster’s Reflections


Brian R. Walsh
TMC Books (2008)
ISBN 9780972030762
Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for Reader Views (10/08)

How often mothers, sisters, aunts and female teachers have wondered, "What's wrong with those boys?" How many times have parents of either sex fretted over their sons' underdevelopment and strange interests, asking themselves, "Is my son normal?" Their reactions may range from seeking professional help to simply grinning and bearing it hoping for the best. Well help is here! Brian R. Walsh brings his 42 years of experience as a Headmaster of both a co-ed and a boys K through 9 school, together in his hardback book, "Boys Should Be Boys: A Headmaster's Reflections." This short, 213-page piece is chock full of wonderfully humorous and insightful anecdotal stories, experiences and observations of boys, their antics and their growth from kindergarten to 9th grade.
The format of "Boys Should Be Boys" follows a fairly helpful order. The first two chapters deal with simple aspects of what makes boys tick and how they develop friendships. Walsh brings out some very basic, wholesome clarifications that should calm many a troubled mother's heart. For example, how a boy's self-esteem grows and is strengthened as he gains competence in a given skill. Therefore competition, which is usually not from malice, is a fairly normal aspect of a boy's mindset, whether in math or games. Humor also plays a big role for a boy to deflect vulnerability in themselves, as well as to encourage competence in other boys.
The next section of the book approaches the actions and growth of boys from a more developmental line. Walsh covers in three chapters the boys in primary grades, then intermediate years, and finally on into early adolescence. He lays out the fairly typical places of boys at each stage, giving loads of examples. Walsh also passes on several observations with regard to their academic progress.
The third set of chapters covers relationships with parents, teachers and girls, as well as in regard to leadership and physical contact. Much of the material in these chapters is already anticipated in the early ones, but here Walsh widens his analysis and helpful suggestions. Most parents will be encouraged as they read these chapters, and will simultaneously start seeing how to strengthen their own approach to the boys in their life.
The final two chapters of "Boys Should Be Boys" are more about Walsh's concepts of what manhood means and how it is often distorted in professional sports, movies, and video games.  It is here that the reader will meet Walsh's underlying aim for boys. The idea of being a man, for Walsh, is not ham-fisted bullying, or macho rooster strutting, but having strength and restraint in serving others, and protecting those less powerful.
One of the immediate ideas in "Boys Should Be Boys" is that there really are differences between the sexes, in how they develop, process things, view relationships, and competition. But Walsh has clearly and successfully distinguished the differing traits between boys and girls without falling into sexist stereotypes. Having raised two daughters and now raising two sons myself, his observations have been very helpful for my comprehension of the differences that have perplexed me for years. "Boys Should Be Boys" by Brian R. Walsh is a must-read book for parents, scout masters, teachers, aunts, uncles, sisters, and anyone else who cares about the boys in their life. It will encourage, inspire, correct, lead, and enhance your perception and relationship with your boys.

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