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    Book Review: Raising Real Men

    September 28, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    Since this is a review, let’s cut to the chase: I give Raising Real Men 4 out of 5 stars. Now I’ll proceed to share with you a few things I liked about the book. {If you missed the favorite quotes I already shared, you can view them here and here.} I am so thankful that Timberdoodle gave me the opportunity to review this book.

    As an aside, I think that the majority of the concepts in this book also work with girls, they would simply be applied in a different way. My girls, by the way, rarely insist on almost dying as a form of fun, so this first point is not for them.

    Boys Climbing a Tree
    by Goya

    Getting Comfy with Danger
    Probably the number one thing I appreciated about this book was the reminder to let my boys be–to let them climb trees, jump off of “great heights,” and otherwise risk life and limb. There was a good balance struck between not dying and yet testing limits and learning to be brave. Of course, you probably know I liked this so much, I wrote a post about it.

    Responsibility and Freedom
    Using the verse which says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much,” the Youngs encourage us to be consistent in giving boys as much responsibility as they can handle well, and then increasing it as appropriate.

    Thinking About Competition

    Raising Real Men:
    Surviving, Teaching,
    and Appreciating Boys
    by Hal and Melanie Young

    There was a whole chapter on the competitive nature of boys. Being a woman, I am not so naive as to think that girls are not competitive. But boys seem to thrive on it in a different way than girls do. In fact, most competitiveness I’ve seen in my own girls is completely unhealthy {“Is she prettier than me?” Ahem.} There was a defense of competition that encouraged me to quit responding negatively when my son makes it clear that he is competing with my other piano students. As an ideal, I’d rather him aim {as CM said} to master the subject {and, in this sense, learn to compete with himself} rather than another child, but I’m not going fight battles {small though they have been in the past} on this hill any longer. The only thing I found lacking in this area was an understanding that competition is more appropriate in some areas of life than others. Yes, boys are naturally competitive. But competition in sports is good, while in other areas, it is not-so-good, or even inappropriate. So, for mothers of ultra-competitive boys, there is no guidance in training them to let go.

    Financial Stewardship
    The Youngs are fairly detailed in their chapter A Faithful Steward, which is all about teaching boys to manage their finances well. My parents were fabulous in this area. By the time my sister and I graduated from high school, we were paying for most of our own tangible things–clothes, shoes, gas, snacks, etc. {To say nothing of Dad’s lectures on compound interest.} This really helped me begin to understand what things actually cost. I look forward to going through this chapter again with my husband, and discussing a plan for teaching our children to understand money as they get older.

    “Women’s Work”
    I thought it was brave for a book about raising boys, obviously directed at the conservative homeschoolers out there, to promote giving boys kitchen duties. Laundry duties. Women’s work. Right? Wrong. Not only do men who live alone need to know how to do these things, but there are plenty of cultural examples of men who do such things. I love that they didn’t shy away from teaching their boys things that some folks consider a girl’s job.

    In All, A Good Read
    If you’ve read a lot of parenting books {and I have}, you will find that at least half of the book is stuff you’ve already heard elsewhere. Sometimes, I find it is good to hear the old ideas over again, in new language. But there are enough unique thoughts here to merit reading, even if you don’t savor the idea of review. Personally, I try to read at least one mothering book per year to keep me from getting sloppy.

    Legal Disclosure:
    As a member of Timberdoodle’s Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of Raising Real Men in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

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  • Reply Hal & Melanie Young October 30, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Brandy, that’s a great point and one we should probably look at in the second edition. We went kind of heavily to the competitive side because it seems to be something mothers struggle with all the time, hating for their to be a loser so much, they don’t want their children to compete.

    When our guys are inappropriate in competition, we point it out to them: “Son, um, you are not in competition with your brother – he’s four years younger than you. *Of course*, you can do math he can’t. Cool it.”

    Some guys do seem to be constantly trying to prove themselves better than anyone else beyond trying to “outdo one another in good works.” Often it is a pride issue and the young man needs to be both reproved and reassured that his value is in Christ, not in comparison to others. It’s a striving for respect in many ways and I have seen it most often in adult men who do not feel respected by their wives – they seek it elsewhere.

    We talked about a different aspect of the strive for respect in yesterday’s blog post at “Somebody’s Behind the Mask.”

    I really enjoyed your review — and especially the quotes you pulled out!

    Much love,
    Melanie Young

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts September 28, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Your new photo is so pretty!

    On the one hand, I think that I can be fussy when I shouldn’t, so I *need* this correction. 🙂

    On the other hand, I was thinking specifically of a man I am familiar with who is just *bad* about this. He is competitive in wrong places–like in his spiritual life, and in his wealth. He’s not a work-a-holic millionaire, but I’ve noticed he wants new and better toys than everyone else, a better family, a better spiritual life, etc. And the latter is all compared to other people, not to the Standard, you know? Anyhow, maybe this sort of problem is so rare it doesn’t need to be addressed, but I’ve enountered a number of little boys lately that lie to make themselves “better” than the other boys on the playground (for instance) and so I wondered how a mother would curb that without being anti-competitive in general.

  • Reply Cindy September 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    “I found lacking in this area was an understanding that competition is more appropriate in some areas of life than others. Yes, boys are naturally competitive. But competition in sports is good, while in other areas, it is not-so-good, or even inappropriate.”

    To be honest, I don’t see this as an issue. We have an extremely competitive group of boys at our house but they seem to know when to put that aside. I mean they would never put it aside in a real game no matter how trivial but they would put it aside if a considerably weaker person was playing. I am not sure we taught them this just as I am pretty sure we didn’t teach them to be so competitive.

    On the other hand many moms tend to find most competitive situations repellant and therefore inappropriate.

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