Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Today my first book review appeared in the October print edition of Parents Magazine. I would call The Last Boys Picked a wowing and enlightening guide for any parent–especially those of us who have sons.
Author Janet Edgette, a renowned child psychologist, used her twin boys for inspiration. One is athletically gifted and has lots of friends. The other, Jake, is his opposite. Edgette addresses the struggles of the everyday boy who just doesn’t care about–or play–sports. In our culture, sports can be all-consuming socially–it’s how males bond, and it’s the barometer they use to judge each other. If a boy goes into kindergarten with no skill or interest in balls or soccer, “This leaves the child very vulnerable,” Edgette says. “It can lead to teasing which leads the child to be miserable which leads to more exclusion.” What should a parent do with a boy who isn’t athletic–and who prefers reading or astronomy or being alone instead?
Some parents are confounded. They push their little men to practice more to build character. Most sons hate every minute. Dads–even well-meaning ones–are often disappointed. They feel like they’re missing out on a father-son ritual, and it pulls their relationships apart, sometimes with bitterness.
Edgette’s book is about accepting these boys as is and encouraging them in other ways so they don’t feel like the odd man out at home or at school. It’s also about plain, old-fashioned bullying–how to spot it and stop it. Here are some of Edgette’s brilliant suggestions about raising a self-confident male–no athletics required.
Note the signs that he’s not a born sportsman. Does he avoid roughhousing with other boys? Does he complain of bellyaches on game day? Does he frequent the bathroom when he’s supposed to be playing? Does he hang out near adults or on the sidelines looking uncomfortable? He may be the boy this book is about–and that’s okay.
Use supportive words such as, “I’ve worried that you don’t like [insert sport]. What do you think?” Listen to him without judgment and reply, “I don’t want you to feel like you have to do a certain activity to win my approval.” This can be harder for dads, and the book offers first-rate coping advice. Dads have to accept their sons and work hard to find common ground.
Encourage his strengths by asking him what he does like. Maybe he enjoys knock hockey or foosball. If he loves science, reading or drawing remind him how important these skills will be when he gets older and point him to like-minded friends.
“Don’t wait to figure out your child,” Edgette told me. Even if he’s only 1 year old, ask yourself if he’s growing up along the lines of a Normal Rockwell boy, or does he have space to show you who he is going to become? “Tell yourself, ‘I’m going to let my boy be who he is,” Edgette suggests. So many teaching opportunities in parenting can happen so much earlier. Children hear and observe our attitudes toward them even before they can even talk. “We can teach our boys early on to own who they are, and the world will follow them. We can’t have a bully if we don’t have a victim.”Add a Comment