‘Raising Boys’ – A Must-Read Book for Parents

Raising Boys” is a book that the husband secretly takes from his wife. It is simple, direct, and easy to read. It teaches you how to be a good mother to your son, whether he is a baby, a boy, or a young man. It also teaches you how to be a good father, even if your own father was cold and distant. You can play a better role in your own family. If you are a teacher or a professor researching the latest in boys’ psychology, this book will also be beneficial to you.

We often say that girls are more obedient and lovable, and they require less attention than boys. Look at kindergartens, girls gather together to discuss problems, play house, and draw. Boys, on the other hand, prefer to run around and roughhouse with each other. As they grow up, parents worry about whether boys will indulge in drinking, smoking, gambling, or reckless driving. Survey data shows that the mortality rate of boys aged 15 and below is almost three times higher than that of girls. How much do these adolescent boys worry their mothers? Of course, boys also bring relief; they are brave and full of energy, and they are the hope of the family.

The Three Stages of Boys’ Growth

Boys’ growth can be significantly divided into three stages: the first stage is from birth to 6 years old, the second stage is from 6 to 13 years old, and the third stage is from 13 to adulthood.

  1. The first stage: Birth to 6 years old, the gentle years

During this stage, boys belong to their mothers. Just like girls in their infancy, they enjoy being held by adults and being tickled to laughter. They need to form a special bond with their parents, at least one of them, usually the mother. Gender differences between boys and girls become apparent early on. Boys are less sensitive to others touching their faces, while girls tend to enjoy it. Generally speaking, parents tend to be stricter with boys. They hug their daughters more often and have more babbling conversations with them, while boys receive more physical punishment than girls.

Boys should not be sent to daycare too early. Numerous studies have shown that compared to girls, boys are more prone to anxiety when separated. They feel abandoned, and this anxiety and aggression can persist until they start primary school. In terms of care, attentive family members or responsible babysitters are much better than daycare centers. Caregivers play a significant role in a child’s life. Boys learn to maintain an intimate relationship with their caregivers and can feel warmth and understand the goodwill of others.

For children under 6 years old, gender differences are not significant. What matters is that caregivers genuinely love and care for the child, making them feel safe deep within. This will help their brains develop fully, and they will become adept at communication, enjoy learning, and cooperate with others.

Enjoy these early years of your baby, as this beautiful time passes by in an instant…

  1. The second stage: 6 to 13 years old, they are trying to become men

Let’s look at two case studies:

Case 1: Lack of Fatherly Love (DDD) or Attention Deficit (ADD – ADHD)

There was a truck driver named Don whose 8-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD. Don believed that his son’s condition was caused by a lack of attention. So, whenever he had time, Don would engage in activities with his son – riding motorcycles, attending parties with friends, and even going on long trips. After a few months, the child improved significantly and no longer relied on medication like Ritalin (a drug used to treat ADHD).

Case 2: Emotional Illness or Physical Illness

There was a young boy who was frequently ill, and doctors couldn’t find a reason. However, whenever his father came back home, his condition immediately improved, but he would fall sick again when his father went on business trips. This father was a renowned medical scientist who spent 8 months a year traveling for lectures and conferences. The author later suggested that the father change his work routine and minimize his travel. Surprisingly, the child’s recurrent illness disappeared soon after. (On a side note, one wonders what kind of medicine this father specialized in.)

From these two cases, we can see that boys in this stage seek closeness with their fathers. When boys reach the age of 6, they suddenly become more “manly,” playing with toy guns and swords. They prefer to spend time with their fathers or other adult males and aspire to become true men. During this period, boys may exhibit seemingly negative behaviors such as bedwetting, aggression towards other children, or even stealing, but these actions are merely their way of seeking their father’s attention.

Many mothers consciously distance themselves from their sons in an effort to make them more masculine and encourage a closer bond with their fathers. However, this is completely unnecessary. Children need to maintain a close relationship with both parents. Moreover, if a boy loses his mother at a young age (for example, due to working in a different city or sending the child back to their grandparents’ home), he may suppress the gentle and adorable aspects associated with his mother, becoming anxious, fragile, and repressed. Many issues that adult men face stem from this early separation from their mothers.

Boys between the ages of 6 and 13 are transitioning into manhood, and they need to learn from the men around them to understand what they want to become. If fathers are frequently absent, children will seek someone to fill that void. For single mothers, it is important to find an outstanding male role model for their child, such as an uncle, a close friend, a school teacher, or a sports coach. However, it is crucial to ensure that the child is not subjected to abuse.

  1. The third stage: 14 years old and above, advancing towards manhood

Boys around the age of 14 enter a period of rapid development, with their testosterone levels being about eight times higher than before. They become argumentative, restless, and emotionally volatile. There exists a contradiction in this stage – they are ready to progress towards manhood, while parents want them to mature five or six years later. Parents see immaturity, while these young men cannot tolerate their parents’ old-fashioned nagging. They no longer cling to their fathers and may even challenge their idols, which can lead to strained relationships between the two. This requires the mother to mediate, but the problem is that they often grow distant from their mothers as well.

Teenage boys can be quite “stubborn.” They are passionate about their own ideas and interests, easily disregarding others’ feelings and societal constraints. They have their own circle of friends and drift further away from family life. Parents may also have less contact with their child’s teachers compared to before, which can cause anxiety for many parents, especially mothers.

The author provides an excellent suggestion: find a “mentor” for boys. In some countries, family collective activities and community schools play this role. You can consciously choose a close friend to be a “mentor,” but they should genuinely like the child and be good at communication to earn their trust. They become a bridge for resolution when conflicts arise between you and your child. In fact, you can also help your friend’s child, which is quite enjoyable when they are not your own children! If children don’t have a guide in their lives, they may face numerous obstacles. They might argue with their parents, become introverted, emotionally down, and stumble upon issues related to sex, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and online games. Studies have shown that if a child has an adult friend outside of their immediate family, it is enough to prevent them from going down a criminal path.7

Remember, do not let your child spend all day with peers without adult supervision!

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Testosterone in Boys

  1. Testosterone Cycle First

let’s explain the difference between testosterone and what we commonly refer to as male hormones. Testosterone is the main male hormone, accounting for about 95% of male hormones, while the remaining 5% is secreted by the adrenal glands. The difference between males and females is determined by “testosterone.”

All animals start their lives as females, and the Y chromosome begins to play a role in the 7th week of pregnancy, giving boys male reproductive organs while halting the development of female organs. This is why both boys and girls have nipples. Testosterone production begins in the 8th week of pregnancy, and by around the 15th week, the testes have fully developed. If expectant mothers experience too much stress during pregnancy, it can inhibit the production of testosterone, leading to incomplete development of the fetus’s testes and penis.

When a male infant is born, his testosterone levels are equivalent to that of a 12-year-old boy. He needs these hormones to stimulate physical development. After a few months, the levels drop to about 1/15 of the birth levels. During his toddler years, testosterone levels remain relatively low, and at this stage, boys and girls resemble each other greatly. However, around the age of 4, testosterone levels surge, and he becomes intensely interested in boys’ games like fighting, adventuring, and can play ball or help in the garden with his father. By the age of 5, testosterone levels decrease again, and he becomes calm, but still interested in physical activity, adventure, and exploration, but not particularly interested in girls.

Between the ages of 11 and 13, testosterone levels surge again, reaching over 8 times the levels during toddlerhood. This leads to rapid growth of limbs, and excessive levels of testosterone can be converted to estrogen, causing some boys to experience physiological changes similar to females, such as breast swelling and a more gentle personality. Due to rapid development, the boy’s brain tissue will reorganize, possibly becoming dull and sluggish within a few months, with a lack of planning, and a chaotic life.

At the age of 14, when a boy reaches puberty, testosterone levels reach their peak, secondary sexual characteristics become apparent, and acne may suddenly appear. They experience strong sexual awareness and restlessness. However, by the age of 24 or 25, they start to calm down. Although testosterone levels are still relatively high, their bodies have adapted. The hormones continue to promote the development of male characteristics, making them more prone to high cholesterol, hair loss, but also stimulating their creativity, love for competition, and desire to achieve something. Their abundant energy can be channeled through work, sports, and a harmonious sexual life. By the age of 40, testosterone levels gradually decrease, and they may lose interest in sex for several days. At this stage, men become more mature and wiser.

The above description is a general growth pattern for boys, and some boys may not follow the exact timeline mentioned above. Parents should observe similar patterns in their own children.

Understanding the hormones in boys and their effects on males is meaningful as it helps us understand the changes that occur in boys at different stages and provide them with necessary support.

  1. The Effects of Testosterone on Boys

① Why Boys Like to Argue and Fight

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the United States conducted a famous hormone experiment: We know that there is a strict hierarchical system among male members of monkey groups. Male monkeys are very clear about who is the alpha, beta, gamma, etc., and this is determined through fights.

The researchers took a subordinate monkey, injected it with testosterone, and then returned it to the monkey group. The show began, and the monkey immediately provoked its “superior.” Yes, it won the fight! It continued to challenge and defeat others, and after 20 minutes, this small, weak monkey, bloodied and excited, stood in front of the monkey king. A few minutes later, it became the new king. However, the effects of the drug quickly disappeared, and those who were defeated by it effortlessly brought it back to its original state. The director of this fairy tale was testosterone.

It can be seen that it is testosterone that stimulates these young boys to be more eager to argue and fight. Testosterone promotes muscle formation, reduces fat accumulation, and makes them irritable. Testosterone also has a significant impact on the brain, making boys more concerned about hierarchies and more interested in competition.

② Boys Need Clear Organizational Order

In an unhealthy environment, boys may feel insecure and believe that they are in danger. If there are no adults to manage them, they will use their fists to establish order, while girls do not have this problem. Boys’ aggression is sometimes a way to cover up their fear. If they have a “leader,” they will relax. However, if the “leader” is a bully and behaves strangely, they will engage in extreme actions to protect themselves. If teachers and parents are fair and approachable, boys will become calm and focus on their studies.

Testosterone is also related to the environment in which boys are raised. If boys attend schools that are chaotic and full of violence, their testosterone levels will rise. Boys with high testosterone levels often have strong leadership abilities. They dare to challenge, have a strong physique, and abundant energy. Such children are either heroes or complete troublemakers in their classes. If teachers and parents do not provide proper guidance, these troublemakers will cause trouble everywhere, seeking inner balance by challenging adults.

Some studies suggest that men with higher abilities have stronger sexual desires. Some great national leaders have strong sexual desires, and athletes who win competitions tend to have higher testosterone levels than their opponents. Research on adolescent crime has also found that boys are several times more likely to cause trouble and do wrong things within six months before their first sexual experience. Of course, the author also points out that this is not an issue of sexual release but rather that when a boy finds a true partner, he will truly calm down.

Raising boys requires helping them accept their characteristics and providing patient guidance.

Differences in Brain Structure between Boys and Girls

  1. The Amazing Brain

The brain of all animals consists of the left and right hemispheres. In some lower animals, the structure of the left and right hemispheres is the same, so even if one side of the brain is damaged, the other side can still function normally. However, the human brain does not have this ability. We know that the left hemisphere of the human brain is responsible for language and logic, while the right hemisphere is responsible for movement, emotions, and spatial orientation. The left and right hemispheres of the brain are connected to each other through a bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum.

During the fetal stage, the differences in brain structure between boys and girls are already apparent. Firstly, boys’ brain development is noticeably slower than girls’. Secondly, boys have fewer connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, meaning their corpus callosum is smaller compared to girls. Recent studies have shown that boys often have less interest in activities involving spelling and word puzzles because they tend to think with only one hemisphere of the brain, while girls engage both hemispheres simultaneously. This has been confirmed by neuroimaging techniques.

These differences are caused by developmental disparities between boys and girls. The growth rate of the left hemisphere cortex in the brains of all infants is slower than that of the right hemisphere, but boys’ brains develop even slower. The estrogen in girls promotes rapid cell development in the brain. When the right hemisphere of boys continues to develop and tries to establish connections with the left hemisphere, which is not yet prepared, the neural cells extending from the right hemisphere to the left hemisphere cannot enter and can only return and connect within the right hemisphere. Therefore, the internal connections in boys’ right hemisphere are well-developed.

In terms of brain structure, there are indeed differences between males and females. Female brains have more developed interconnections, which is why women recover faster and have better recovery outcomes after a stroke. It also explains why many boys’ academic performance may be unsatisfactory and why they are more prone to autism.

Connections in the brain can be improved through postnatal training. Therefore, parents should not overly focus on these conclusions but provide more encouragement and assistance to boys.

2. How to Help Boys Deal with Brain Differences

Parents should be aware of the differences in brain structure between boys and girls, but they should not exaggerate them. Although there are differences in brain structure between boys and girls, they should be treated objectively and not used as excuses. Firstly, for the vast majority of people, the differences are subtle. Secondly, these differences are not absolute and do not apply to every individual. Finally, it is crucial not to see these differences as limitations for boys and girls.

Help boys establish brain connections. Generally, boys excel in mathematics, science, and engineering, while girls excel in language. The female brain has two areas specifically dedicated to language, which are about 20% to 30% larger than the language-related areas in the male brain. The ratio of boys to girls experiencing difficulties in listening, speaking, reading, and writing is generally 4:1. Parents can help improve boys’ language abilities through the following measures: first, consciously provide oral training to boys. For example, when they learn to say a word, teach them to form words, and when they can form words, teach them to make sentences. Second, take every opportunity to explain everything they see and hear. Third, start reading to children at an early age and create a joyful atmosphere.

Suggest delaying boys’ entry into school. We are accustomed to considering elementary school as a time for girls because boys’ intellectual development is relatively slow compared to girls. They are usually about 6 to 12 months behind girls, particularly in terms of coordination skills like using pens and scissors. They are still in a stage of “gross development” and cannot sit still for long periods of time. The author suggests that boys should spend an additional year in kindergarten so that they can enter school at a level comparable to girls in terms of intellectual development. The current practice of same-age entry into school makes boys feel like failures and leads to a loss of interest in learning.

Teach boys to manage emotional connections. As the right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for action, boys have strong manual abilities and tend to solve problems on their own when faced with difficulties. On the other hand, girls are more inclined to think before taking action. Parents should teach boys how to avoid conflicts and handle disputes in better ways. Here are some techniques:

  • Judging others’ feelings by reading their facial expressions.
  • Learning social skills, such as joining in games or conversations that others are engaged in.
  • How to deal with anger, whether it requires taking some time alone.
  • Teaching these skills helps boys establish connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

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