The Way of Boys


In The Way of Boys: Raising Healthy Boys in a Challenging and Complex World, Anthony Rao, Ph.D. cautions parents and educators to stop treating young boyhood as an illness.

Dr. Rao has spent 20 years working with young boys. Most boys he words works with are  in need of intervention in some way. Some of his clients are getting in trouble for emotional outbursts, others are being recommended for medication because they can’t stand sitting still for eight hours a day, others are in trouble for bullying or throwing  tantrums, some are too bright and have conflicts with teachers.

Dr. Rao, in nearly every case in the book, recommends social conditioning over medication.

Rao is obviously deeply concerned that boys are being labeled and medicated at alarming rates for what he believes is normal boyish behavior. ADD, ADHD, Manic-Depression, Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders like Aspergers are often misdiagnosed and quickly medicated for normal boy development.

  • Can’t sit still
  • No eye contact
  • Fidgeting
  • Lack of Empathy
  • Slow Language Development
  • Doesn’t Want to Talk
  • Aggression
  • Lack of Focus
  • Emotional Meltdowns

These are all symptoms of normal development in boys, rather than symptoms of some diagnosable condition in need of medication.

He strongly cautions against going along with one professional or quasi-professional’s opinion after seeing a child once or twice or basing a diagnosis on school records. He calls a doctor or therapist writing a prescription for medication right away, without attempting a course of behavior modification therapy first, a Red Flag.

In most instances, Dr. Rao cautions against authority-defeating and child-defeating punishment like withholding recess and physical activity because a child won’t sit still and can’t seem to focus.

Of course, boys can’t focus, he tells readers. They have to run their energy off, boys are naturally and inherently physically active and boys focus and learn better if they are given ample opportunity to run wild and explore.

News Flash: No normal person – boy or girl, male or female – wants to sit still eight hours a day. There is something wrong with the person who does want that for themselves, their students or their children.

Rao even walks parents through dealing with a school system bent on disciplining or medicating their sons, explaining carefully how to deal with school officials, counselors and teachers. He carefully points out what parents should say, how they should behave and what rights they have to protect their children.

Rao convinces parents to view their boys as a work in progress and insists that whatever behavior your child is exhibiting right now, they will be very different in six months. He strongly urges a “wait and see” approach to most problems. Early testing for Autism seems to be the singular instance in which Rao recommends early testing, because early intervention has proven so effective.

Rao convincingly shows parents that while a teacher might point to a tendency to line up and sort objects as “Asbergery,” its more likely a sign that your son will grow up to be an engineer. While a teacher might find your child disruptive and fidgety, it is more likely a sign that your child might be a fabulous athlete than that he has ADHD. An early developmental lag might point to a strength that will truly shine in higher grade levels when the focus shifts.

Sometimes medication is useful for older boys, Rao says, but only if the following conditions are present: the problem persists over time, in every situation or condition, and if it is greatly interfering with your child’s life and development.

I found this book to be an interesting examination of the male psyche.

“I don’t wanna talk,” my three-year-old son, Zack tells me when I ask him how his day was at school. Just like your dad, I think.

As frustrating as hearing “I don’t wanna talk” has been for females, evidently, that’s completely normal for the males of our species.

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