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Parenting Boys

Parenting boys can be challenging. I have two sons and a younger daughter (all of whom are now young adults) and I found it fascinating to see how differently they developed over the years, starting from the time they were babies.

Of course, all three are very different people but it was clear to me from quite early on that the boys had different needs to their sister, particularly when it came to school and school work.

raising boys, parenting boys, steve biddulphMy twin sons, James and Oliver

Over the past ten or fifteen years, quite a lot of research has been done into issues around parenting boys and educating boys. A lot of this research mirrors what I've observed with my sons and other boys which is that our urban lifestyle and the way we educate our sons in Australia just doesn't seem to suit the majority of them.

The schooling system is largely failing boys, both educationally and socially and parents are increasingly looking at alternatives, such as home-schooling, to help them cater for the unique needs of their sons.

The result of all this research has been a number of books on the subject of parenting boys and what boys need from the adults in their lives to help them grow into healthy, resilient, well-adjusted young men. I've read many, many of these books over the past 16 years and have put together this list of the ones I've found the most helpful. 

The reviews include chapter headings as this is the way I generally decide when flicking through a book at a bookshop or library whether it will be useful and/or interesting. I hope this approach helps you too. Most of these books will be available in libraries and local bookshops but you can also buy most of them from the Book Depository. Just click on the image of the book you're interested in. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)

2018 edit: My twin sons are now just about to turn 23 and there have been many, many more books written about parenting boys in the years since they were small. I've read quite a few of them but I still think the three books on this page are the best. Many of the other books have been written by parents, rather than by psychologists or others who have professional experience with boys over a long period of time. These three books, on the other hand, have been written by people who've worked with boys and who I believe have something valuable to tell us.

I also want to add that, since I first wrote this page about parenting boys, the field of neuroscience has progressed in leaps and bounds so that we now know a great deal more than we did 15 years ago about how children's brains develop and what they need to grow into emotionally-healthy adults. This has resulted in a new approach to parenting which is sometimes called 'peaceful parenting', sometimes 'conscious parenting' and sometimes 'aware parenting'. Some truly wonderful books have been written about this approach and they have changed the life of our family in recent years, very much for the better. While boys and girls are, of course, still different, as I look back over my years of parenting and the challenges my family faced, I am convinced we need to focus less on the boy-related aspects of parenting boys and more on the emotional needs children of both genders share. I still think these books about raising boys are wonderful but, if you are a parent or carer of children, I suggest beginning with the parenting books I've reviewed on my Best Parenting Books page.

Best Books About Parenting Boys

raising boys, steve biddulph

1. Raising Boys
Steve Biddulph is an Australian psychologist who has written widely on issues regarding families and children. He was one of the first to address the special developmental needs of boys and men and now lectures, consults and writes extensively about boys in school and general issues around parenting boys. This book looks at what makes little boys different from their sisters in a developmental sense and what they need to grow into healthy, well-adjusted men. It explores the issues and expectations boys face and how we can help them to navigate their way through them. If you have a son, are expecting a baby boy or are otherwise involved in raising a boy, I highly recommend this book.

The chapter headings are:

  • What is it with boys?
  • The three stages of boyhood
  • Testosterone!
  • How boys' and girls' brains differ
  • What dads can do

  • Mothers and sons
  • Developing a healthy sexuality
  • A revolution in schooling
  • Boys and sport
  • A community challenge

raising cain

2. Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys
This book is about the inner lives of boys and what it means to be a boy in our culture. It's not a book about how to bring up boys - it's more about understanding how boys feel and what makes them behave the way they do. In some ways, Raising Cain is not always a comforting or comfortable book to read. The authors are psychologists and work with boys who are sometimes quite damaged and disturbed so there is a lot of talk about the things that can go wrong in boys' lives. Keep this in mind when you're reading it. Nevertheless, it's a book which I think should be read if you're raising a boy, preferably before your son reaches the teen years.
Chapters include:

  • The Struggle of Young Boys in Early Education
  • The High Cost of Harsh Discipline

  • The Culture of Cruelty
  •  Anger and Violence
  • What Boys Need

speaking of boys

3. Speaking of Boys: Answers to the Most-Asked Questions About Raising Sons
This book talks a lot about adolescent boys however there is also some useful information about raising a boy through the younger years. Written in a question-and-answer format, there are chapters on the nature of boys, fathers and sons, siblings, divorce, friendship, mothers and sons, school and sports. I found I recognised my sons in many of the questions and was reassured to know that many parents share the concerns I have about parenting sons and the problems boys can face.

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