I have spent two decades working on raising boys to be good men.
Have I succeeded?
Early signs look good — my 22 year old is living, working and studying independently in another state; my 19 year old recently cooked me a birthday dinner; and all 4 of my boys prioritize time with extended family — but check back with me in another 20 years. Raising boys to be good men is a long game.
It’s also an incredibly important job. Arguably, the most important job in the world.
You don’t have to look far to see examples of men behaving badly, men who have harmed others and the world via their actions. History is littered with examples, and so is the daily news.
A new book promises to help “boy parents” with the overwhelming and apparent task in front of them. Raising Boys to Be Good Men: A Parent’s Guide to Bringing Up Happy Sons in a World Filled with Toxic Masculinity by Aaron Gouveia has been called “gold…Not only…a great parenting book, but…a great book about life in general.”
Gouveia is a dad of three boys, a journalist and the creator of Daddy Files, a parenting blog. His book is the direct result of his efforts to raise boys who are not restricted by repressive gender norms or stereotypical expectations. Gouveia attracted national attention in 2018 after his then-5-year old son wore nail polish to school. The boy’s grandmother, a former manicurist, routinely painted this nails; he enjoyed the bright colors and his grandmother’s focused attention and love. His kindergarten classmates, however, were not impressed with his bright red polish and told him in no uncertain terms that boys don’t do that.
The 5-year-old held it together all day, but disintegrated when his mother picked him up from school Gouveia vented his thoughts that night in a Twitter thread that went viral — and eventually led to a book deal.
What I Love About Raising Boys to Be Good Men
Gouveia doesn’t pull any punches. He straight up admits that the first time he encountered the term “toxic masculinity,” he “rolled his eyes and silently lamented the ‘pussification of America.'” He also admits (and details!) the many times stereotypical beliefs about boys, men and masculinity fueled his behavior and thinking. Like so many parents, he initially parented as he’d been “taught;” he used techniques he’d experienced and noticed in society. He spanked his oldest son — and wasn’t initially swayed by the academic evidence that consistently links spanking to poor outcomes. Then, his second son was born and Gouveia discovered how ineffective and harmful spanking can be.
This is not a book by a self-professed parenting expert; this is a book by a down-to-earth parent who says, “these are the mistakes I made; this is what I learned.”
Also: Gouveia writes openly and honestly about his experience with miscarriage.
You Might Not Like This Book If…
Hard-core, Trump-supporting conservatives will probably hate this book. So will conservative Christians. Gouveia’s Parenting Tip #35 is “Reexamine your religion when bringing up kids” and he admits to being a “heathen atheist.”
You should probably also steer clear of this book if you’re offended by curse words. (Chapter One is entitled, “The Bullshit Starts Before Birth.”)
Those who are looking for super specific, practical parenting tips might want to read another book instead; this book describes the theory and thinking behind how to raise good men, but it’s light on details. If you want to know how to “teach boys to stand up for what’s right” (Parenting Tip #15), you won’t find a lot of concrete ideas here.
However, if you’re looking for a book that will challenge your thinking and inform your parenting, pick up a copy of Raising Boys to Be Good Men.