Authors: Stephen James and David Thomas
Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys opens with a comparison to Maurice Sendak’s classic book, Where the Wild Things Are. Young Max goes through—and grows through—an exciting and perilous journey. The journey includes struggles with independence, behavior, wants, love and monsters.
The authors, both child psychologists who specialize in boys, hold that this timeless story holds in it a symbol of the greater process a boy will go through as he ages. The authors masterfully outline a developmental and emotional roadmap of boys: The Explorer (ages 2-4), The Lover (5-8), The Individual (ages 9-10), The Wanderer (ages 13-17) and The Warrior (18-22).
Each chapter is organized very clearly and is value-packed, based on research and experience. The chapters share a “general lay of the land, who he is, what he needs and putting principles into practice” (9). One of the strengths of the book is it’s format: I can go directly to the age group of my son. Another strength is that information is in-depth, yet applicable. I was taught, empowered and had a deeper sense of love and respect for my own male “wild things.”
Parts I Liked Best:
The chapter on the young male brain chemistry is illuminating: “More activity + less impulse control + testosterone = boys.” Lights came on in my brain, and more patience in my heart. I recognized that my boys have great potential—their activity level is a strength, not an annoyance. What I loved most about reading this is that it gave me a greater sense of hope for myself as a mom and a deeper respect for my son. Often what I’m really reaching for in a parenting book is a greater handle on myself, as well as concrete principles to help me nurture my children. This book provides both.
When reading the chapter on 5-8 year-olds, I was taken back by the list of typical boy traits: bodily noises, defensiveness, competitiveness coupled with tenderness and verbal connection. Both poles exist within the same boy and both are totally normal. Now I can exhale, hide the nice furniture for a few more years, and move on as a nicer mom.
How This Affected My Mothering:
For months I was frustrated and short with my son. Knowing what is typical behavior (not always desirable behavior, but not unexpected anymore) helps me have new patience and love for my boy. I appreciate his heart and see his craziness from a new perspective. I actually enjoy him! It took the positive tenor of this book to help me jump into the fray and celebrate the unique heart of my boy.
One neat resource included in the book is a media list that speaks to the hearts of boys: movies and books that can be used to help guide and inspire boys to reach for their strong, noble side. Overtly using books and movies to deliberately awaken, strengthen, and teach attributes like selflessness was a new concept to me, yet the book points out that a boy’s brain responds especially well to concepts in media. How refreshing to know media could be on my side!
The book teaches moms the skills we need to help our boys navigate the “Where the Wild Things Are” journey. Moms are not helpless and our boys are not hopeless.
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Edited by Aubrey Degn and Sarah Monson.