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How to Turn Boys into Men Without a Man Around the House: A Single Mother's Guide

By Richard Bromfield and Cheryl ErwinFree Spirit; $14.95.

This is a book single mothers of sons should not ignore. I am grateful my boy is still young—though the authors assure us it’s never too late to improve one’s relationship with one’s son.

Though thoroughly informed by development, the book is not organized by developmental stages. Rather it focuses on major issues, such as attachment, discipline, and gender identity. There are  chapters on ways to build character and resilience, as well as school and work success; and a chapter on creating temperament harmony. Discussion of each issue begins with its origins in infancy and “ends” with young adulthood. Much of good parenting, the authors believe, comes down to planning.

Particularly helpful is a discussion of qualities “typical” of boys—high energy, high curiosity, high volume, high aggression, low impulse control, delay in verbal skills, high competitiveness—many of them masking our sons’ struggles to cope with their emotions. The authors advocate getting to know your real boy—not just the public one.

Each chapter is laced with boxed and bulleted sections that are easy to find and easy to remember, on such topics as keeping connected to your son, successful discipline, and building self-esteem. Clearly these authors know the terrain of a single mother’s life. They are sensitive to the ways in which worry, guilt, and weariness can make follow-through, on discipline in particular, extremely challenging. They advise readers to “grab your guilt by the horns, channeling it into avoiding a different regret: not giving your son the discipline he needs, not preparing him well for life.”

Despite the seriousness of the topic, this book is affirming to read. As the authors remind us in the first and the last chapters, their intent is to help us to help our sons grow into strong, loving, and competent men whom we will be proud of and who will be proud of themselves. They are, after all, our life’s work.

—Paula Hajar and her son Emilio live in New York City.

Copyright 2002 Adoptive Families magazine. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

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