Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World, by Rosalind Wiseman, is one of my favorite “boy books” ever. In fact, if I had to recommend one book to parents and educators dealing with boys over the age of 10, this would be it. Don’t stop reading, though, if your boys are under the age of 10. Bookmark this page and order a copy of the book. You’re going to need it someday, I promise.
As a mom of four boys, I’ve read a lot of “boy books,” or books about boys. I’ve also amassed a huge body of first-hand (and hard-earned knowledge!) about boys. But like the rest of you, I’m often stumped by how to handle day-to-day interactions with my sons, in the moment. It’s one thing to say that we need to teach our boys to respect others. It’s quite another to know what to do when your own son treats you in a disrespectful manner. One thing to say that we should “help them develop solid communication skills;” another to teach boys how to apologize in Boy World.
That’s where this book excels. Masterminds & Wingmen very deftly explains to parents and educators the world our boys live in, and gives specific, concrete examples of how we can effectively communicate with our boys, while respecting their reality.
According to Wiseman, all boys (and men) deal with the Act Like a Man Box, or ALMB. The ALMB describes how boys “should” act; it’s the social structure that tells our boys that they have to be strong, confident and athletic, the one that tells boys that crying isn’t masculine. And whether we (or our boys) agree with the contents of the ALMB, it’s the reality our boys deal with every single day. Our boys are trying to grow and learn and become successful people, while adhering to the constraints of the ALMB.
Understanding that fact can help you understand your son a little bit better. He might not agree with everything in the ALMB, but because it’s so culturally pervasive, it affects and influences his thoughts and actions. Going against the ALMB takes effort and strength, and Wiseman helps you understand how to guide your son through tricky situations, such as bullying and sexting.
The book takes you into the minds of boys — she includes comments and quotes from some of her 200 editors, boys who gave her input as she was working on the book — and those insights are extremely helpful. I’ve found that it’s much easier to talk to and discipline my sons when I have an understanding of what they might be feeling and thinking.
I’m a born big-picture thinker, so I deeply appreciate Wiseman’s specific recommendations throughout the book. For instance, she doesn’t just tell you that it’s important to deal with a disrespectful son; she gives you dialogue that you can use for the conversation. (“You clearly don’t respect me as an authority figure, and I don’t want to have a relationship with my son where he doesn’t treat me with dignity. It’s your choice if you want to contribute to changing this relationship for the better, but..” — p. 245)
Masterminds & Wingmen includes all of the hot-button issues:
- Popularity & groups
- Body image
- Social media
- Teen rage
- Getting boys to talk
I’ve read it, highlighted sections, dog-eared pages and taken notes. I know I’ll be referring to this book again and again.
Have you read Masterminds & Wingmen? I’d love to hear what you think!
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