Summary and book reviews of Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon

Raising Cain

Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys

By Dan Kindlon, Michael Thompson Ph.D.

Raising Cain
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  • Hardcover: Apr 1999,
    298 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2000,
    255 pages.

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Book Summary

The stunning success of Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher's landmark book, showed a true and pressing need to address the emotional lives of girls. Now, finally, here is the book that answers our equally timely and critical need to understand our boys.

In Raising Cain, Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., and Michael Thompson, Ph.D., two of the country's leading child psychologists, share what they have learned in more than thirty-five years of combined experience working with boys and their families. They reveal a nation of boys who are hurting--sad, afraid, angry, and silent. Statistics point to an alarming number of young boys at high risk for suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, violence and loneliness. Kindlon and Thompson set out to answer this basic, crucial question: What do boys need that they're not getting? They illuminate the forces that threaten our boys, teaching them to believe that "cool" equals macho strength and stoicism. Cutting through outdated theories of "mother blame," "boy biology," and "testosterone," Kindlon and Thompson shed light on the destructive emotional training our boys receive--the emotional miseducation of boys.

Through moving case studies and cutting-edge research, Raising Cain paints a portrait of boys systematically steered away from their emotional lives by adults and the peer "culture of cruelty"--boys who receive little encouragement to develop qualities such as compassion, sensitivity, and warmth. The good news is that this doesn't have to happen. There is much we can do to prevent it.

Kindlon and Thompson make a compelling case that emotional literacy is the most valuable gift we can offer our sons, urging parents to recognize the price boys pay when we hold them to an impossible standard of manhood. They identify the social and emotional challenges that boys encounter in school and show how parents can help boys cultivate emotional awareness and empathy--giving them the vital connections and support they need to navigate the social pressures of youth.

Powerfully written and deeply felt, Raising Cain will forever change the way we see our sons and will transform the way we help them to become happy and fulfilled young men.

A young man is so strong, so mad, so certain, and so lost.
He has everything and he is able to use nothing.
--Thomas Wolfe, Of Time and the River

Emotional Literacy: Education versus Ignorance

If you ask a boy the question "How did that make you feel?" he very often won't know how to respond. He'll talk instead about what he did or plans to do about the problem. Some boys don't even have the words for their feelings--sad or angry or ashamed, for instance. A large part of our work with boys and men is to help them understand their emotional life and develop an emotional vocabulary. We begin by helping them increase their clarity about their feelings and those of others--recognizing them, naming them, and learning where they come from. We try to teach them emotional literacy--the ability to read and understand our emotions and those of others.

This process is much like learning to read. First we must master the letters and sounds of the alphabet, then use that knowledge to ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
FOR DISCUSSION

  1. With what preconceptions of boys did you open Raising Cain? To what extent were your assumptions shaped by firsthand experience, media depictions, cultural stereotypes, or what the authors call archetypes? Which of your views were most challenged, if not changed, by the book? Why?

  2. Kindlon and Thompson state that all boys are born with emotional potential. What obstacles prevent them from giving expression to the range and complexity of their emotional lives? How does our culture construct such barriers? Do the trials that boys face today differ considerably from those confronted by boys a generation or two ago?

  3. The authors express real reservations about reducing the development of boys to a "nature versus ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Daniel Goleman. Author of Emotional Intelligence
Raising Cain gives a long-needed insight into that mysterious, magical land, the psyches of boys. Every parent, teacher--or anyone who wants boys to flourish--should read this book.

Author Blurb Edward M. Hallowell, Author of Driven to Distraction and Worry
If you love a boy, were a boy, or care about boys and the men they become, read this book. Perfectly balancing cutting-edge science with engaging anecdotes and arrestingly useful insights, Kindlon and Thompson have written the book on boys. It is superb.

Author Blurb Eleanor Maccoby, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor of Psychology Stanford University. Author of The Psychology of Sex Differences and The Two Sexes Growing up Apart, Coming Together
Raising Cain is an important book and a fascinating read. Kindlon and Thompson are persuasive in their argument that it would be good for boys to become more 'emotionally literate,' to understand their feelings and those of others more. Parents and teachers will welcome the valuable suggestions for how to stay tuned in to a boy, while respecting his autonomy. Raising Cain gives us a much-needed glimpse into the inner lives of boys. I found it quite absorbing.

Author Blurb Edward M. Hallowell, Author of Driven to Distraction and Worry
If you love a boy, were a boy, or care about boys and the men they become, read this book. Perfectly balancing cutting-edge science with engaging anecdotes and arrestingly useful insights, Kindlon and Thompson have written the book on boys. It is superb.

Publishers Weekly

A genuine enthusiasm for their subject shines through the pages of this enormously compelling book, as the authors share insights on boys' emotional development from birth through the college yearsAan increasingly high-profile topic in the wake of disheartening statistics about adolescent suicide and violence. In much the same way that Reviving Ophelia offered new models for raising girls, therapists Kindlon and Thompson argue that boys desperately need a new standard of "emotional literacy," showing how our culture's dominant masculine stereotypes shortchange boys and lead them toward emotional isolation.

Washington Post

Brilliant . . . This affectionate, encouraging book should be require reading for anyone raising--or educating--a boy.

Reader Reviews
Robert Crawford

Raising Cain
This book was amazing. I am a senior in AP Language and Composition and I chose this book for my final and I do not regret it. This book really captures the reader's mind showing how and what someone, mainly a young boy, is thinking or how he feels ...   Read More

Meli

Brilliant Book...
From beginning to end, I learned something about boys. I thought the authors did a great job explainig what boys go through when they are children and later on when they become teenagers. I truly recommend that soon to be parents that are expecting a...   Read More

MM

Answered prayer
Raising Cain was recommended to me by a Masters in Counseling student/ friend of mine. She was reading it for an independant study. I've shared with her my concerns about my 7 yr old son. She casually recommended me to read this book. So that ...   Read More

Jodi
Mothers, Fathers...and don't forget teachers! Every parent with schoolage boys knows the horror of the notes sent home and the parent teacher conferences. We hope that the people who spend so much time attempting to educate our boys, truely ...   Read More

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