Monday, June 29, 2009

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys (Book Review)

I said an immediate “yes” when Tyndale’s publicist asked me to review the book, Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, by Stephen James, M.S., and David Thomas, M.S.S.W. The authors are therapists who regularly work with boys and their parents. And they’re also fathers, with five sons between them. As a mother of four sons, I couldn’t imagine a book that would be more appropriate for me!

This is a terrific book to help parents, educators and caregivers better understand boys and their behavior. As a parent, it gave me great comfort in knowing that my five-year-old twins’ “wildness” is completely normal, and that my teenager’s argumentativeness is typical for his age.

In the first part of Wild Things, the authors describe the five stages of a boy’s life. He’s an Explorer from ages 2-4, a Lover from ages 5-8, an Individual from ages 9-12, a Wanderer from ages 13-17, and a Warrior from ages 18-22. My twins are 5, but seem to be straddling the line between the Explorer and Lover stages. My 16-year-old is a typical Wanderer, and my 19-year-old is a Warrior! Each of these chapters gave me great insight into why my sons behave the way they do.

In part 2, the authors really delve into boys’ brains, learning styles, and school behavior. I wish that every teacher could read this book so they’d have an explanation for why boys tend to be more unruly and less cooperative in class. We all know that boys and girls are wired differently, but most classrooms are run in ways that work best for girls, not for boys. Thus, boys often tend to be labeled as troublemakers more often. This book could be a great help to educators in designing a curriculum that helps a boy to learn while meeting his needs for activity, visual stimulation, and experiential learning.

The last part of Wild Things tells us how to nurture a boy’s heart. It also speaks specifically about a boy’s relationship with his mother and with his father. And it emphasizes the need for celebrating “rites of passage” in a boy’s life to help him transition between phases.

The appendix of the book briefly touches on specific topics such as spanking, television time, talking with boys about sex and dating, pornography, homosexuality, ADD and ADHD, and much more.

After reading Wild Things, I really feel that I have a better understanding of my sons. As frustrating as their (mis)behavior is sometimes, I know that it’s an essential part of their journey to manhood. The authors provided very specific tips throughout the book for navigating each stage of a boy’s life, and offered much-needed reassurance for parents like me who are raising “wild things”!

Visit Tyndale’s website for more information about Wild Things and to download the first chapter.


  1. Hey Susan,

    Always checking up on your blog to see whats new. I recently picked up a copy and will start reading the book as soon as I get the chance.

    Being a 19 year old male I do see where the author is coming from with his 5 stages of growth.

    I can't seem to find out if you can register to this blog or follow it or get updates, please do contact me if there is a way!

    Other than that I would just like to mention I'm recently starting up a blog regarding parenting from a son's perspective. I feel that there is so much information from a adult perspective, that it is more than necessary to provide one from the opposite point of view!

    Please feel free to drop by and give some ideas or feedback, it would be much appreciated as I am officially new to the "writers" club in the blog community.

    Keep on Rocking!

    Matthew Mercuri

  2. I need to check this book out!! With 3 boys, I have a feeling it'll come in handy!!


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